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Create a Winning Flier

Catapult your marketing efforts into the stratosphere with these 7 essential tips to get your flier working for you.

A flier should be a magnificent marketing tool for your startup. It's easy to produce and use, kind to your budget, and versatile enough to mail, put up, hand out or leave behind. So why is it dismally ineffective for 9 out of 10 businesses?

Unfortunately, many business owners rush to produce fliers without investing enough thought and effort. To ensure your next flier is a winner, follow these tips:

1. Communicate why your audience needs your product or service. What's the first and biggest thing you see on the "before" version of the sample flier? Would it make you wild to find out who Patty is and why her projects are important? Or would it make you reach for the recycling bin?

A scandalous number of entrepreneurs routinely slap their company names and/or logos in the most prominent spot on their fliers. But an effective flier isn't about your business--it's about the people who look at your flier. And they're not interested in your name, how long your company has been around or how hard you've worked on perfecting your offerings. Their question is always, What's in it for me? Your flier has to answer that question at first glance, or you'll lose them before they even start reading.

2. Sharpen the visual hook. Your eyes leap to pictures before they see words, and the visual element is the sharpest hook your flier has. So make sure it's pointed straight at the heart of the most imperative message you need to send your future clients--the benefits they'll get from you.

If you can manage professional-looking photography and high-resolution printing, pictures of people are great because your audience tends to feel more connected to them than to a drawing. However, fuzzy pictures that look photocopied cheapen your image.

Your visuals should have an obvious relationship with what you're marketing. Resist the temptation to get too creative. Attention spans are short, and your audience won't spend time deciphering clever or symbolic imagery.

Before

After

Ideally, your visuals should make your point even without the text. The graphics on the "before" flier tell you nothing about its contents. On the "after" version, they tell an entire story without a word.

3. Sell sizzle, not steak. Don't expect to wow your audience by rattling off all the terrific features of your product or service. That's like trying to sell steak by saying it's made of meat.

The "before" flier lists the office workers Patty's Projects can supply, but it says nothing about why this is supposed to be a good thing. You should certainly include a list of your business's best features, but you need to take it one critical step further and clarify how these features benefit users.

Instead of "We have a large selection of baby products," try "Too busy to shop around? Here, you'll find every baby product you need in one quick stop." Rather than "Two trained aromatherapy masseurs," say "Melt away muscle tension and stress with an aroma-therapy massage."

4. Exclude exaggeration. Fliers have long been the medium of choice for dodgy companies and scam artists. So anything you say that sounds like hyperbole risks conjuring up the wrong image. Don't damage your credibility with any claim you can't back up ("best in the world!"), don't run down competitors, and don't put quotation marks around something that isn't a quote from a real person. Use exclamation points only where you really need the emphasis, and never use more than one in a row.

5. Think simple and spacious. Your eyes bounce away when you hit a solid wall of text. There's no point in cramming in triple the information if none of it gets read, so break up your text into digestible morsels with lots of white space.

Whenever possible, use bullet points, lists and tables instead of paragraphs. Stick with two or, at most, three fonts. And keep most of your text in a high-contrast, easy-to-read color. Avoid using lots of bright, clashing colors, or ALL CAPS except in short headlines.

6. Ask for action. Don't leave your readers thinking "OK, now what?" at the end of your flier. Ask them to do what you want, whether it's visiting your website, calling you for an appointment or placing an order. Don't just imply--invite.

If you can afford it, take it one step further and offer them an incentive, preferably time-limited. A small gift, a free consultation or a discount on the first order are all effective lures. Make sure the offer and your contact information are clearly visible.

7. Hire a proofreader. Under no circumstances should you underestimate the power of bad writing. It can destroy the effectiveness of the best-designed flier and wreck your credibility. There are relatively few words on a flier, so there's nowhere for an error to hide. Can you catch the common mistakes in each of the following rules?

  • Poor spelling and typos compromice your image, so if you're not absolutly sure of you're English skills, consult a proofreeder or a dictionery.
  • Make sure you're not misusing words that sound similar but our written differently.
  • Don't omit apostrophe's when you need them, or use them when you dont.
  • Bad grammar makes your entire company look badly to your clients.
  • Never use un-necessary hyphens; or semicolons to separate incomplete sentences.
  • Capitalize Words only when Needed (except in Headlines).

Follow these tips, and prospects will likely notice your next flier--which is the first step toward making the sale.


Isabella Trebond is a marketing consultant who specializes in startup business planning and copywriting.

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This article was originally published in the May 2005 print edition of Entrepreneur's StartUps with the headline: Frequent Fliers.

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