How to Plan Your Flyer Distribution

January 29, 2017 - 33 minutes read

flyer on door

This is the sixth article of a 7-step training series about flyer marketing. Have you read the previous article Track Your Flyer Marketing ROI?

Hopefully you have read the first five articles in this series about how to establish a flyer marketing system for your business. We covered how to choose your target audience, design and print your flyers, and even incorporate tracking options into the campaign. Now, you’re ready to start the flyer distribution to homes! I hate to break the bad news, but this is the most difficult part…

Although any business with a printer can put a flyer together, getting your materials onto the right front doors is TOUGH. In fact, it’s why most of our clients hire us! Fortunately, I’m going to outline a step-by-step process for setting up your own effective and scalable flyer distribution system.

Figuring out the flyer distribution timeline

calendarYou have already chosen your target area and know the approximate number of households. How long will it take you to deliver a flyer to each house in that area? Start by assuming you’ll deliver 100 flyers per hour. That number varies based on how close the homes are to one another, but it’s a good average for planning purposes.

Dividing the number of flyers you printed by 100 should give you a total number of hours to expect to work. I’d also suggest planning to finish the flyer delivery within a one-month time period. That way you can begin a new flyer distribution the next month. Plus, if you can complete the delivery in a timely way, you can include an offer on your flyer with an expiration date that will make sense for everyone who receives it.

Let’s say there are 1,000 homes you want to hit with flyers. For many small business owners, that might sound easy. Setting aside 10 hours a month isn’t much, right? In my experience, though, people never properly consider what that means. This is tough work. If you’re not a daily jogger, you’re going to struggle at first. Every 100 doors is about 1.5-3 miles of walking, and this isn’t normal walking. You will be carrying a bag full of flyers that often weighs 10+ pounds.

Plus, there are stairs. LOTS OF STAIRS. I honestly never thought about how many stairs there are in front of some homes! If you’ve ever used a Stair Stepper at the gym, you can see where this is going…

dealing with stairs while flyer droppingIf you’re delivering flyers to 100 houses an hour and walking two miles to hit them all, you’re also walking at least 20 stories of stairs each hour! In my neighborhood, it’s not uncommon to see an entire story worth of steps in front of homes! That means we do closer to 100 stories worth of steps each hour when delivering around here. That is a lot of exercise, especially in the 90 degree summer heat!

If you intend to do the flyer delivery yourself, plan on working in two hours shifts at first. Even if you plan to hire a team, I suggest doing a minimum of ten shifts yourself first. That way, you will fully understand the job and type of person you’re looking for on your team. Plus, you’ll appreciate how hard your team members are working and why they’re worth paying well.

Ok, so distributing flyers is hard. The point of this guide isn’t to discourage you from doing a flyer marketing campaign though! Fortunately, systems make everything in business much easier. The rest of this article will teach you exactly how to set up a system that makes flyer distribution straightforward and easily scalable.

Planning flyer distribution routes

Let’s start with the basics of efficient mapping and routing. We all know that a good plan prevents many potential problems. Mapping out the exact routes for your flyer distribution will usually prevent several big issues. Without solid maps and routes, you can expect people to get lost, miss entire streets, and even quit in the middle of their first session when they get frustrated. Let’s avoid that if possible!

You should already have your neighborhoods selected. Simply print a map of each neighborhood using Google Maps. Zoom in close enough to see each building outlined. This level of detail makes it much easier to plan the routes.

flyer delivery routing

Once you have printed the maps, clearly outline the exact areas you’re targeting with pen or pencil. I then suggest practicing your routing abilities by drawing a line with arrows to show the path you plan to follow. Eventually, you can train your team to find their own best routes. For the first few weeks, though, I suggest doing it for them. Here is how I would suggest routing this area.

flyer delivery routing example

There are a few things to notice in this example map. First, you want to park somewhere in the center of your map. The star in the middle represents where I would park. That will allow you to create a route that ends right back at the parking spot! This reduces time walking back at the end of the session. If you park at the edge of the map, you’ll spend at least ten minutes walking to the car. That is wasted time since there aren’t any houses left to hit.

You will also notice that this map is drawn for a team of two people working on either side of the street. I strongly recommend working in pairs for a couple reasons. The first reason is basic safety. If someone gets hurt, there is a second person there to help or dial 911. Second, the job can get boring. Walking around by yourself isn’t as interesting as having a partner. Trust me that a team that works in pairs will stick around much longer than people working alone.

I also try to combat the repetitiveness of the job by listening to audiobooks or music. I suggest you allow or even encourage your team to do so as well. Just make sure the volume is low enough to still hear external sounds. A headset like this would be ideal.

Because our flyer droppers work in pairs, we are careful to draw routes with no dead ends. If you aren’t careful, and direct the pair of flyers droppers into a spot where they have to double back, you’re wasting time (and paying for inefficient work). There are multiple ways I could draw this route, but I took time to ensure there were no dead ends. Honestly, I’ve seen a difference of almost 30 flyers per hour when I’m careful about this issue.

As the team works their way through your route, ask them to fill in the streets on the map with a pen as they are completed. This prevents any confusion about where they are or what has been done. It also makes it easy to pick back up at the right spot the next day if they don’t finish the area. By spending an hour planning your routes, you will save tons of wasted labor cost and time!

How to Hire Flyer Droppers

Once you have developed your route planning skills, and have completed a few sessions yourself, it’s time to hire your flyer distribution team! To start, you need to think about who makes a good flyer dropper. It’s a physically strenuous job so hiring individuals who are in good shape is obviously beneficial.

It’s also a team job. You need people who will show up on time and work well with their partner. You also need employees who own a vehicle and a smartphone (to track their route — we’ll get to this soon). Fortunately, we’ve discovered the perfect technique for finding these type of individuals!

Honestly, I cannot believe it took me almost three years to figure this out. I tried hiring family and friends. I tried using temp agencies. I tried posting ads on school job boards. I paid hundreds of dollars to get applicants on job boards and Facebook. None of it failed, but none of it worked very well either. I almost gave up on finding good employees until I had an epiphany and posted this ad…

flyer dropper job posting example

The Right Ad Messaging

This hiring ad worked so well that I had to take it down in just three days! We had generated over 300 applications for less than $60 in that time period.

I wasn’t sure if they would be good applicants until I interviewed them though. Usually when I schedule interviews, approximately 50% of the scheduled applicants actually show up. Of those, only half are qualified. After sending emails and making calls for hours, I was often only seeing three or four decent candidates. Not this time though!

After just an hour of work, I had 20 people set up for interviews! Then, nearly all of them showed up and a few brought friends! After the interviews, around 70% were qualified and excited to work. Plus, at our first trial session the next day, all of them showed up again. That is when I knew we had figured out how to recruit the right people!

What made this ad different from everything else we’d tried? There are two things that I think stuck out. First, we decided to raise our wages to pay $15/hour for flyer distribution. In some cities, it may already be common to pay that much for part-time workers. In St. Louis though, most entry-level jobs pay $10/hour or even less. The cost of living here is fairly low, but it’s still very difficult to live on those wages. If I hadn’t spent a few weeks doing the job myself, I wouldn’t have realized how necessary it was to raise our wages. In the end, it didn’t cost us much more for labor because we hired better employees.

The second key aspect of this ad was our messaging about getting in shape. When we presented the job as a way to get in shape, it appealed to the right person. It attracted people who wanted a job that would physically challenge them. Because of that, we eliminated the chance of people quitting after being shocked at how strenuous it was. Instead, they were excited that they would be simultaneously working and working out! Considering that we previously planned on heavy attrition within the first week, we ended up with more people than we really needed!

Although you’ll want to write up your own ad for your business, use my ad as a template. You can post this on any job board you like. I use Indeed.com, which is the largest job board in the U.S. You can set a budget and bid on clicks just like most ad platforms online. With this ad, I think you’ll find plenty of applicants with just $20.

Interviewing Flyer Dropping Applicants

The next step is scheduling interviews. For a while, I tried to simply schedule people to attend a trial flyer session in the field. I later added a 20-minute interview beforehand because we were having too many no-shows or unqualified applicants. The interview allows you to screen for the best applicants. I grant an interview to anyone who wants one.

I also like using Indeed because of their messaging template feature. This feature allows you to save a message and use it with all of your applicants. My standard response message to an application is pretty simple.

response to flyer dropping applicants

Responses to this message are forwarded to my email and I schedule a time to meet from there. I asked for their contact information in the message because you don’t automatically receive it. On Indeed, you can let people apply without a resume or answering any questions. This increases applications, but means you have to ask for their contact information. Schedule the interviews in 20-minute intervals so you don’t have much down time between meetings. Leaving large breaks on an interview day can really sap your energy.

The interviews have a pretty simple purpose. You’re only trying to determine if they have the basic requirements for the job. You’ll also set expectations with each applicant. However, you are not trying to determine if they can do the job or not. That happens in the first flyer dropping session.

During the interview you’ll want to ask the following questions. Make sure to add any culture fit questions and anything else that is important to your business. Consider this list of questions as a rough outline. Add your own questions as needed.

  1. Do you own a vehicle and if so what kind? Is it reliable?
  2. Do you own a smartphone and if so what kind? Can you download the Runkeeper app on it? (Runkeeper works only on Android and iPhone)
  3. Why do you want to work outside?
  4. Why do you want a job that will get you in shape?
  5. Can you handle walking for several hours and up and down stairs?
  6. Have you ever worked a manual labor job? How long did you work that job?
  7. What days and what times are you available to work?

The goal here is to determine if the applicants have transportation and the right kind of phone. You also need to determine if they are responsible. If an applicant shows up late to the interview, I’d suggest sending them home. You’ll have plenty of applicants, so you don’t need to bend rules for anyone. If they seem responsible and meet your basic requirements, go ahead and hire them!

Give them a W-4 and any paperwork necessary to add them to payroll, your business insurance or workers’ compensation insurance plans. We add all our flyer droppers to our payroll as official part-time employees, not independent contractors, to abide to Missouri employment laws.

I would suggest using the first flyer delivery session as a trial to see who does good work. Schedule these trial sessions with either four or six people at each session. You want an even number so everyone can work in pairs. At the end of the interview day, you should have a stack of completed payroll paperwork and everyone set up for a trial session the next day. If an applicant cannot work that day, place them on a list of backups so you can call them later if needed.

Acquiring Permits for Flyer Distribution

There is one major legal obstacle to consider before starting a team. You’ll need to understand your local permit requirements for flyer distribution. In most cities, this isn’t a big deal. In fact, you often don’t even need to register as long as you don’t knock on the doors while delivering flyers. However, some cities are strict and might ticket you if you don’t acquire the right permit.

In the St. Louis area. we have a unique issue. There are 90 different municipalities in our county and each has it’s own law! That’s a lot of city codes to read through. For most businesses, though, you’ll only have to check out a couple of them based on your location.

Usually you can simply visit city hall to get your permits. In some cases, you’ll need a photo and ID for each flyer dropper. The flyer droppers may also need to visit in person to get their permits. Although this step is obnoxious, we recommend you get the permits wherever you think it could be an issue. In many cases, you can deliver flyers without an issue because the law doesn’t restrict flyer delivery or count it as “solicitation.” Here is an example of the type of law you will find in many cities. This is a law from Chesterfield, Missouri. As you can see in the wording of the law, it doesn’t ban any activity that will not disturb the homeowner. This might make flyers a gray area, but awareness of the law can help you address concerns if anyone asks while you are working.

Flyer Distribution Trial Session

Once you have hired your team and collected the necessary permits, it’s time to get them started! I suggest a very hands-on management style for at least the first few days. Make the job as easy as possible. If they see success on Day One, they will come back. Once the flyer droppers have worked a few days, the team will stick together and quickly become more independent.

Here is a short checklist for each flyer dropping session:

  1. Print the maps ahead of time. Bring one copy of each area for each flyer dropper that will work in that area. Print an extra copy so you have backup. Draw all the routes out ahead of time.
  2. Provide each flyer dropper with a pen or pencil so they can track what areas they have completed.
  3. Provide each flyer dropper with a durable bag for the flyers. Backpacks or messenger bags are ideal. Buy used ones at a local Goodwill or thrift shop to save money.
  4. Bring a bag of rubber bands and distribute a few handfuls to each flyer dropper. They may rarely need to use rubber bands to attach flyers to the door.
  5. Give a couple of your business cards to each flyer dropper. It not only has your contact information for safety or emergency reasons, but also allows them to hand cards out to any homeowners who want to get in touch right away.

Tracking the Flyer Distribution

tracking your team's flyer distributionWe use a free mobile app called Runkeeper to GPS track our flyer droppers’ activity. Each flyer dropper starts the app’s activity clock when beginning the flyer session and saves their activity at the end of the session. The app runs in the background on their smartphone and uses minimal data (mostly location tracking). Runkeeper tracks on-foot physical activity well (down to the street level) so you can see exactly when your workers are working, which streets they walked down and their overall walking pace. I always tell my team to treat Runkeeper like a clock in/out system. We usually pay our flyer droppers based on the hourly activity that is saved each session.

Create a Runkeeper account for each flyer dropper in advance. You can create additional Gmail addresses for free if you need them to create multiple accounts. Log each team member into an account when they arrive. Once logged in, they won’t have to do it again for several months. After they save their activity at the end of the session, you will have direct access to their work data. Make sure to save the login information so you can access their accounts later.

Next, demonstrate how to start, pause, stop, and save the routes. Here are instructions if you aren’t familiar with the app.

In-Field Management Process

Once each person is set up on the app, show them the maps and the routes. Explain why you drew the routes the way you did so they can start learning how to plan routes themselves. Make sure they understand that any time they spend walking without delivering flyers is a waste of time. To incentivize our team, we offer bonuses when the team averages over 100 flyers per hour. It’s important that the team understand why they need to keep moving fast. One of the few reasons I fire workers is if they consistently deliver under 100 flyers an hour for several sessions.

flyer distribution of sticky flyers

Now that the team is ready to go, the rest is simple! Just walk door-to door-with them for 10-15 minutes and show them what to do. It might seem obvious, but it’s always best to assume that people don’t know how to do it. Show them how to safely walk up to the front door without tripping on the stairs or sidewalk. Show them how to remove a flyer from the bag without damaging it at all. Show them how to apply the sticky flyer (if you’re using them) to ONLY glass on the front door or near it. Make sure they understand how to leave a flyer on a door that doesn’t have any glass by showing them how to roll and place the flyer on the handle (we usually do this without a rubber band so that homeowners don’t need to take that off).

You should have learned exactly how to do all of this by completing several flyer sessions on your own first. Honestly, it’s all very simple stuff, but it has to be taught. Once you have shown your team exactly what to do, you can hold them accountable to doing it. Make sure to walk several streets with each team so they understand how to follow your routes. At the end of the day, bring the team back together to discuss issues or observations. I suggest a two-hour shift for the first day.

After the trial session, you will want to ask each of them how they feel both physically and mentally. Make sure they still want the job so you don’t schedule them if they don’t like the work. If you’ve done everything right, very few will dislike the work. Go ahead and schedule the rest of the flyer distribution sessions for the week, or at least collect availability from everyone.

Finally, collect the flyers and bags from each team member before they leave. You don’t want new workers leaving with your materials and never coming back; after you know and trust them, this issue usually doesn’t arise anymore.

Once the team is established, you can gradually remove yourself from the equation. At first, simply show up for the beginning and end of each session. After a few more days, you can assign a team captain and have them start bringing the supplies. Eventually, you might even put your team in full control of the recruiting processes. In my opinion, it takes about one month to develop a team manager who you can trust. Once you do, though, you will have a fully functioning flyer program up and running!

Conclusion

Getting the first few team members is always the hardest. If you put the right people in place, you will find it gets much easier over time. Once you think you have a good flyer distribution team running, document everything that you do so you can repeat your success again! Then, sit back and enjoy the consistent and predictable stream of business your flyer program will deliver!