Written by Chris Lambrinides


I would venture to say a huge portion of service companies get their start in business with the use of a flyer. It’s their first advertisement for so many reasons. It’s cheap and straightforward, and most people can do it.

Almost anyone can open up a word processor document on their computer and type up and create an ad in minutes. Oh yeah, you can also print that ad in a matter of seconds and then have it distributed to your target audience an hour later. I wouldn’t recommend you move that fast, but you can if you want to. And that’s why flyers are so popular.

Go to windowcleaningresource.com and enter the word flyer or flier into the search box. You will see hundreds of pages in the results. Thousands of window cleaners are talking about the creation and distribution of flyers.

Unfortunately, because of this ease of use, flyers are everywhere. Your market, like mine, is completely saturated with flyers and handouts. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a viable marketing method for you. It just means you will have to do things a certain way to stand out. It’s still possible to have great success with flyers.


How I Got My Start

I started with a simple black-and-white flyer jammed into newspaper boxes. A lot of service companies use door hangers. I never used them myself. Here in our area of New Jersey, typical driveways are long, and homes are set back. People in New Jersey, you could say, are also not so open to unwelcome visitors walking on their property. But I know it’s not like this in all parts of the country, for I hear the success stories.

My business was built on flyers. I had the company doing $400,000 a year by just passing them out. We didn’t make the switch to paid direct mail until we were making that much in gross revenue. In the United States, mailboxes are off limits; you can’t touch them. But when I got started, everyone had a newspaper box next to their mailbox. We built our whole strategy around getting flyers into newspaper boxes. I started driving around and attempting to put out one hundred flyers a day in them. Once I got a little traction, I set a new goal of putting out five hundred flyers a day with the help of my girlfriend. She would drive up to the box, and I would hang out the window and jam a flyer in it. That led to hiring her and her friend for full-time distribution. The goal for them was to attempt to put out five hundred a day without me while I was out cleaning windows with the crews.

I started realizing it would be more affordable and efficient to mail into these areas. Official post office mailings proved to be more cost-effective. But when I first started and time was a more available resource than money, using flyers made a lot of sense.


The Testing and Measuring Advantage

One of the real advantages of flyers is the small at-home print runs and the ability to test and tweak copy and design. We talked about testing, measuring, and retesting earlier. Flyers are the perfect medium for this. Here’s how you can start. Make two similar flyer designs, with one subtle difference between the two.

For example, test the following:

Two different headlinesTwo different calls to actionTwo different price structuresTwo different pictures

The key is to test only one difference at a time. Print one hundred flyers, and then print one hundred more that are nearly identical. The only difference is the headline. Take your two hundred flyers, shuffle them together, and head out to distribute them all in the same area on the same day. Analyze the results for a week. Which of the two flyers gets the highest response rate? Take that winning headline and move on. Print out a higher quantity—maybe two hundred fifty to five hundred—send them out, and see if you can duplicate the results. When a customer calls, be sure to ask which flyer caused them to call.

Test again! Move on to the next element, take your winning headline, and move on to test the call to action. Use one hundred flyers with one call to action, and use one hundred with another. Rinse and repeat. See what element wins, and keep going. Test and measure four to five different elements on your piece over the course of a month. When you are finished, you are likely to have a higher-than-normal converting flyer on your hands. It’s almost guaranteed to produce better results than its previous iterations.

Flyering is a great way to practice this testing-and-measuring concept. You can print flyers at home, you can make the small changes and tweaks, and you can do it all for almost no cost. It’s going to cost you only time, gas, ink, and paper. It’s a small investment for the potential return.


Two Different Types of Flyers

You have the standard, full-page, 8.5 × 11 flyer. This can be black and white or full color. If you’re printing them at home and just testing the waters, it’s fine to have a black-and-white design. In fact, it’s the only cost-effective way of doing it at home, although full color does add an element of professionalism. Some of my highest-converting flyers have been simple black-and-white designs.

The following are the essential elements to have and include in the design

HeadlineOfferPhone numberCall to actionCoupon

The other kind of flyer you can use is the community bulletin board type. This is like the first type but with perforated, precut tabs on the bottom, like this

Have your contact name and number on each tab. Also, make sure you precut the tabs so that they tear off with ease.

These are the type of flyers to distribute around town. Think supermarkets, delis, etc. If done right, this community bulletin board type of flyer can be a tremendous way to get a nice, steady stream of work.

By “done right,” I mean test in small doses in a few different designs. Over a couple of months, refine to one good design that has proved to convert higher than previous iterations. Then, duplicate in mass!

Hop into Google Maps and Google Sheets to map out a hit list. Generate a list in the spreadsheet of the top one hundred to two hundred fifty places in your service area to post a community flyer. Sort them into a driving route. Then, spend a weekend or have a trusted staff member or friend help you distribute them. Attempt to put out two hundred fifty of them at once, spread out all across your service area.
Note on your marketing calendar to follow the same route back around in a couple of weeks or a month. Take note of the status of your flyer. Are all the tabs taken? Is it completely gone? Has it been untouched? Use this info to decide if you will continue to redistribute to this location.

This method costs almost nothing and can be great rainy-day work when someone has some downtime. Test and measure your results, and tweak where necessary. I used this method for many years and had up to five hundred locations on our distribution list. Someone from the company replenished the flyers and took data on an almost monthly basis. It generated thousands of dollars a year and was a well-worthwhile investment in time. The return on investment was amazing. Flyers work.


Ten Different Legal Locations You Can Leave Your Flyers

Delis, job boards, libraries, grocery stores, post offices, church es, community centers, bakeries, restaurants, pharmacies—you get the idea. You can post flyers in many free places. When you’re just getting started, this can be an excellent technique. Print one hundred, and see how many you can put up in a day. Think about places you can put these up where your target or ideal customer will most likely see them. What kind of locations are your ideal customers frequenting? Give it some thought, brainstorm a list, and check the places out.

I didn’t put places like laundromats and auto repair shops on the list. Those are not places your target market is likely to frequent. Go into it with that mind-set, and the difference between good and bad places will become clear.


Door Hangers

These things usually are full-color prints with a precut hole in them to stick on to a door handle. As I mentioned, these aren’t popular in my area because of the long driveways. But they are popular in other parts of the country, and I can see their appeal in certain situations.

Here is an example:

I don’t think it’s a good idea to walk on to someone’s property to put one of these on their door. But I could see it working well at apartment and condo complexes. Old folks’ homes and assisted living facilities work, too. The key is to do it legally and with permission.

Here is one way we have used them with success. A couple of sweet, higher-end, condo-type developments are in our area. We got a good amount of organic work from the communities to begin with, so we decided to accelerate it. We contacted the condo board and offered to do the windows in their office twice a year for free.

We had only two conditions: we got to leave a stack of business cards in the lobby, and we had permission to put door hangers on the units. We had four or five of these deals in regular rotation, and they generated a large amount of work.

I would send three people to the community for the day. One would do the windows while the other two would drive around in the company vehicle. They would place a door hanger on every home unit of the community. By the time they were back for the day, we had usually booked more than enough work to cover the costs of the project. The calls that rolled in that day and the days following always made it worthwhile. Sometimes we would complete the whole development in half a day. By the afternoon, the guys who were sent to post flyers were busy making even more money cleaning windows—all in the development they just worked in. Some people called right away, so we tried to get them on the schedule as quickly as possible.


Don’t Be Annoying

It’s easy to annoy people with flyers. Use common sense and your best judgment. If you have a feeling someone is going to be annoyed in the place you’re putting a flyer, you’re probably right. Skip it. Don’t be the guy who puts flyers in car windshields at the grocery store parking lot. You will only be wasting the paper and annoying the people.

Have you seen the plastic bag method? The marketer puts a flyer in a ziplock bag with a rock. Then, they drive around and throw these bags on driveways. I can’t believe anyone would think this is a good idea. You’re littering at this point. Although I can see the appeal of this method for rapid distribution, I would be annoyed if someone did this at my house. Please don’t do this.


Legal Concerns

The demographic research into your service area was our first step. Then we looked at whom we are up against in that market with our Check your local laws first. Many towns have ordinances and laws on the books prohibiting the distribution of flyers. Mailboxes are off limits across the United States. Use caution, common sense, and good judgment, and you will be OK.


It Doesn’t Scale

Unfortunately, because flyer distribution relies on labor, it doesn’t scale well. You also have to navigate various legal concerns. Because of this, it’s not a great long-term strategy. But it is an excellent short-term strategy to help get your new company off the ground. On top of that, it’s a great way to get good at processing, testing, and redesigning pieces. If you are more interested in methods that scale check out the chapters on Paid TrafficEmail, or EDDM.