A Comparison Between Flyer Marketing and Online Marketing for Local Businesses

Flyer marketing or online marketing? Should you do one or both? Which should come first? These are questions any local business – especially small-to-medium local enterprises – must answer. We’ve done both and learned a lot, so read on to find Naga City Guide’s answer to this question.

If you have ever started a new business in Naga City chances are you have also tried flyer marketing at some point. Why not? It’s relatively easy to do and it gets you a somewhat decent amount of exposure for your business. This is why spas, property developers, restaurants and a whole lot of other types of businesses give out flyers on a regular basis.

I myself have used flyers to market a business in Manila 10 years ago and more recently 3 years ago here in Bicol. Over the years, we must’ve had over 100,000 flyers printed to market our business. Being the expensive things that they are, I was very much on top on how well our flyer campaigns were performing, which places yielded the best results and what shortcomings it had when it comes to gaining exposure for our business.

The past 10 years have also seen the rise of search engines and social media as a marketing tool for business owners – first in the US and more recently, on our own shores. It just so happened that I also began working online 10 years ago first, as a blogger, then as we created and marketed our own websites, as an online marketing consultant for foreign business owners. 3 years ago, when we were marketing our own local and offline business, I was able to make a direct comparison between flyer and online marketing. I’d like to share some of my observations with you in the hopes of opening your eyes to marketing alternatives for your own local business.

Flyer Marketing vs Online Marketing Observations:

1. Exposure

Flyer Campaigns: There are over 220,000 people living within Naga City. Let’s say that your target market is a fraction of this at 50,000 people. To reach this many people would mean getting 50,000 flyers printed [I’m assuming here that people don’t normally share flyers they get with friends]. So 50,000 flyers at let’s say P4.00 each translates to P200,000 to reach your target market! This cost doesn’t even include the salary of your promotions team, their transportation costs, etc.

Online Campaigns: Online marketing is CHEAP! (That is, if you know what you are doing). Using online marketing, you can reach 50,000 people with a budget of just P9,000 – that’s P191,000 in savings if you plan on reaching 50,000 people through flyers.

2. Flexibility

Flyer Campaigns: Flyers, once printed, are more or less permanent. There’s no editing of errors, wrong numbers, graphics, etc. Of course, you could always have a few thousand flyers printed first but that would mean a higher cost per flyer. I have been guilty of this a few times – realizing too late that we forgot to include one important detail or realizing later on that the flyer’s information have become obsolete.

Online Campaigns: Online marketing campaigns are flexible. As all materials are digital, you can edit errors or change your graphics anytime within the campaign period. Note however that for social media campaigns, photos cannot be edited so all you can do is stop the campaign and start anew. At least in this case you won’t have any leftover flyers.

3. Engagement

Flyer Campaigns: Flyers are classified under traditional marketing for the fact that.. well.. Businesses have traditionally used them for marketing and customers have grown soo much used to it. Be honest.. when was the last time you really felt any excitement in receiving a flyer when you were at the mall? And out of the last 10 flyers you have received, how many of them did you throw to the trash? The truth is, more and more people are associating getting flyers with negative feelings with some even rejecting flyers outright. In the information age, people have grown used to getting information at their own pace and at their own time – not before. Would you like your initial point of contact with your potential customers to be like this?

Check out the trash bins at the vicinity of your flyer marketing area. Chances are, most will have your flyers in it. That’s P4.00 per flyer in the trash.

Online Campaigns: Online campaigns, especially social media campaigns naturally attract more engagement than flyer campaigns. This is because in online campaigns, people are the ones who choose if they will or will not engage with your ad. This element of choice generates more affinity with your brand and less negative feelings should they choose to engage. Couple this with the social nature of social media networks and you can see that engagement may grow exponentially from fans, friends of fans, as more and more people are exposed to your ad as it goes viral.

As an example, online marketing campaigns in Naga City that I have run have an average per engagement cost of P0.50 to P1.00.  Note that this is engagement cost not exposure cost.  This means that the cost of finding a person interested in your product or service online is much less than the cost of getting one flyer to someone who may or may not be interested in your business.

4. Barriers to Distribution

Flyer Campaigns: When you do flyer marketing, you’ll inevitably run into some barriers to distribution. I’m talking about the security guards, the secretaries, and the government authorities who will question your promoters’ right to distribute flyers at certain places on certain times. Try distributing flyers in front of a school and a school guard will eventually talk to you – more so if you try distributing your flyers inside a mall!

Online Campaigns: The barrier to distribution in online marketing is minimal and the only factors affecting distribution are the size of the target audience, the availability of the correct targeting parameters and following the correct format in posting your ad.

5. Logistics

Flyer Campaigns: There’s getting to the distribution venue on time, arranging the schedules of your promoters, getting permits from the proper authorities, arranging transportation, etc. More than 10 years ago, we distributed flyers to more than 300 schools in metro manila on a 1 hour window every morning before classes – the logistics alone is a nightmare and could be expensive!  Add to this the fact that you can never be sure that all your flyers were indeed distributed to people instead of being thrown into the trash by your promoters (Yes, sadly it happens often) and you’ll appreciate how complex a seemingly simple flyer campaign is.

Online Campaigns: With online campaigns, logistics are just a click away. Want to target a new demographic? Just set up a new advert set. Want to increase distribution? Just edit your ad budget, etc.   And since there is no human factor involved, you are sure that your ads will indeed be distributed to your target market.

6. Targeting

Flyer Campaigns: Ah yes, let’s talk about getting these expensive flyers into the hands of people who are actually inclined to try out your product or service. How exactly do you do that? Is there a way of making sure that only expecting moms are given the flyers? How about mothers with children ages 3-9 yrs old? How about only those who are actually living within Naga City? How about those who are inclined to try out new food?

Remember, each flyer costs about P4.00 and each mistake could easily build up to thousands of pesos of marketing money lost through poor targeting.

Online Campaigns: Targeting is actually one of the major strengths of online marketing especially social media marketing over traditional flyer marketing. Social media marketing makes available to business owners rich targeting options due to the very nature of networks where people share their personal information.

Want to target people who are engaged for your wedding provider business? There are actually 4,000 to 4,500 people living within 15 miles of Naga City who have set their relationship status to engaged. Want to target people who will most likely engage with your food photos? Try targeting people who are also into food TV programs and are fans of famous restaurants or dishes. Want to target people who are most likely avid travelers? There’s a targeting option capable of identifying people who have traveled to other countries or local tourist destinations within the past year.

A more personal example is the fact that I can target resto food posts to every fan of Naga City Guide who have engaged with all our food posts in the past.

7. Touchpoints

Flyer Campaigns: With flyer campaigns, you only have one touch point with your potential customers – your flyers. In most cases, this will not be enough as studies show that you need at least 5 touch points to convert someone into a customer. In laymans terms, this means that your potential customers have to encounter your business on 5 different and meaningful occasions [referral of a friend, radio ad, tv ad, poster, encounter with business owner, etc] for him or her to seriously consider trying out your product or service.

Online Campaigns: With online campaigns, it’s easy to create those 5 different touchpoints using just one or two online platforms. For example, your potential customers’ first encounter with your business might be a photo of your resto, the second may be a photo of your food shared by his or her friend, the 3rd may be checking out your website, the 4th may be encountering an online contest sponsored by your business, etc. Couple this with the ability to track web visitors and you can laser focus your marketing to creating that conversion funnel that will create those 5 impressions.

8. Accuracy of Data and Data Gathering

Flyer Campaigns: After spending tens of thousands of pesos on Flyer marketing, what data have you gathered about your campaign? What are your most responsive demographic? Which groups actually converted into paying customers? What flyer design was most effective? Chances are, like most business owners, you did not set up any controls to track the effectiveness of your flyer campaign so you won’t have any data beyond how many people responded to your flyer ads.

Online Campaigns: Online marketing campaigns are innately data rich. Here you will be able to see how many people have actually engaged with your ad, where they are from, what the most responsive age range and/or gender is, what keywords they used to search for your products or service, what percentage engaged with your ad over the total people who have seen it, etc. This makes it very easy for you to do the next step which is –

9. Adaptation

Flyer Campaigns: After gathering the post campaign data, how easy is it to change your flyer headlines? Target promising groups? Again, if you did not set up data gathering for the campaign, you won’t have any actionable intelligence after.

Online Campaigns: Given that you have at your disposal critical data to assess the performance of your last campaign, you can now tweak your next online campaigns to optimize its reach, engagement rate or conversion rate. This is also where the ease of doing AB testing in online campaigns come into play, you can simultaneously run 2 versions of your ad, or target 3 distinct set of demographics and check later which are performing better. After enough time has elapsed, you can then deactivate the less effective campaign and increase your budget on the one performing well.

This is a very important advantage of online marketing. Consider if one of your ads [whether because of its graphics or targeting] is performing 30% better than the other one. This translates into P30,000 savings in a P100,000 campaign.


All the above points do not fully say though that online marketing trumps flyer marketing each and every time. There are some crucial areas where flyer marketing is still more effective than online marketing.

A. Only about 45% of Filipinos are active online. This means that more than half of our population cannot be reached through online marketing. Is this the half that’s important for your business?

B. Flyers are tangible: Yes, the fact that one could touch and keep a flyer somehow makes a business a lot more real for some people than just encountering an online ad about it on Facebook.

C. Select Targeting: In some cases, marketing in the real world offers a better targeting option than online. Take the case of an overseas recruitment agency targeting students studying a certain course in a certain school. It would be much easier to just go to the school itself and give flyers to the students themselves than try to reach all of them online.

D. Special Demographics: Seniors for example are very hard to target online since there are only a very few of them active in social media networks.

E.  Online marketing is expensive if you don’t know what you are doing.  Believe me, online marketing is a complicated machine.  Running your ads on your own here is just like trying to fix your car by yourself – you could make some pretty expensive mistakes.  Bottom line is, if you are new to this, learn first or get some help.

Flyer marketing has worked very well for me in the past and I’m sure that it will still be a part of my marketing mix for our local business in the future. More and more though, most of my marketing activities are shifting online where they are a lot easier to do [dealing with bots instead of people], a lot more flexible and more importantly much cheaper than most traditional marketing methods.

What’s your experience on flyer and online marketing? I hope this post has opened your eyes to the possibility of expanding your business marketing online. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or would like some help in getting your business online.


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