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Your Flyer, Your FriendAh, the lowly flyer. Or is it “flier”? The two spellings appear interchangeably. My own preference is to refer to them as “flyers,” but they go by many names: circular, handbill, leaflet, sell sheet, data sheet, product sheet, cut sheet, “slick,” etc. Whatever we choose to call them, these time-honored marketing pieces constitute one of the most essential methods of promoting a product, service, event, or point of view.

In the United States, the typical, basic flyer is a single, one- or two-sided letterhead size sheet of paper. Flyers have a long history, dating back to the very beginnings of the print industry, and we are all familiar with these printed pages that we see everywhere as either decoration or litter, depending on one’s point of view.

Once distributed and beyond their shelf-life, flyers fall straight into the — you probably thought I was going to say “trash” — category of what historians refer to as “ephemera,” which means that they are rarely preserved. Fair enough. But their useful lifespan can be either very short or quite long, depending on the time-sensitivity of their content. The few that do survive can end up as valued collectibles. Witness the sale at auction of a set of five early-1960s Beatles promotional handbills for more than $1,200.

Turning to the present, the flyer remains one of the most powerful and versatile promotional tools any business can deploy. Flyers can be distributed in a multitude of ways: as printed pieces to hand out in practically any setting, to mail, post on walls, include in marketing leave-behind packages, AND to display and transmit in digital form.

Far from obsolete, the flyer is now also generated in the form of the ubiquitous Adobe Acrobat (PDF) document. A flyer designed for print can be repurposed for posting to a web site (or linked-to from an emailer) for download — putting the old notion of “Post No Bills” firmly in the rear-view mirror. Constant Contact, in recognition of the demand, now offers a specific means to convert a PDF file into an email form.

And now, a Public Service Announcement:  Friends don’t let friends design their flyers in Word.

With all due respect to Microsoft Word and the temptation to DIY: As with any marketing tool, a flyer deserves to be designed well if it is to properly represent the business it promotes. Along with the business card, the flyer is a highly effective workhorse of basic marketing. It is probably the second most often-seen stand-alone “little emissary” for your business.

Promotional, educational, inspirational — When done well, the flyer is a potent means to get the word out and to enhance the brand presence of your business.

See more Thoughts.