Every day I flyer for 30 minutes. I walk on sidewalks and speak with people as they sit on benches, stand at lights, stare into their phones, and stand idly while smoking. If you have never passed out flyers before you really should give it a try. It’s hard and uncomfortable but it can be done anywhere.
How many software companies flyer or require their employees to do so? Likely very few. Yet the benefits are surprisingly rewarding.
My immediate goals for flyering are two-fold: interact with prospective users and acquire leads for Pennybox, a company that I founded. Each conversation I have helps me understand the needs of potential customers and, if the conversation goes well, enables me to obtain their contact information. It’s my hope that some of these people will remember our chat fondly and trial the product when I followup.
I’ve learned that flyering has many untold benefits to my business and my team beyond the two outlined above. It is axiomatic in startup land that companies should do things, especially in the early days, that don’t scale. I can think of few things that are less scalable than flyering so I thought it was worth trying. I put together a short list of how flyering both taught and delighted me. It will likely surprise you.
Flyering improves job satisfaction and camaraderie
Everybody on our team flyers, from the founders to the interns. It’s the only body of work that we all do. When we are outside talking to people there is a real sense that “we are in this together.” There is no rank or title and we share a very clear, common, and actionable goal. We can feel that we are in the same boat and this is good for morale.
Flyering makes us appreciate our actual jobs more!
Flyering is hard — often it requires us to use skills that are greatly underdeveloped and underutilized in our day to day jobs. Who wants to speak to strangers when they can sit comfortably in front of a big monitor? Unsurprisingly, just about nobody. When we do head in after a stint flyering, we are all so grateful to be back inside, where the environment and culture are controlled and comfortable. This makes us value our core jobs more.
Flyering helps us all grow as story tellers, sales people, and listeners
Flyering requires all three skills to be developed simultaneously — you can’t just talk at people! You have to introduce yourself and ask if they have a brief moment. You have to hear their story and listen closely. You may only get one shot at valuable information — like their name. You are forced to listen and to really practice that skill with purpose. This translates nicely in internal meetings and conversations as we have become better listeners.
Flyering teaches humility and empathy like nothing else
It’s embarrassing to have someone tell you “no” because the word hurts. And most of us spend a lot of time trying to avoid hearing it at work and at home. But people usually have a reason for saying it. Maybe our approach was wrong; or we didn’t listen well enough. Maybe we talked too much or our product was not perceived as valuable. That is instant and immediate and free feedback, and we take this learning back with us and benefit from it. Bouncing back quickly from a “no” is a great skill-set that flyering teaches like almost no other activity can.
Flyering shows that consumers get to vote, each and every day
I am responsible for building an app that educates kids about money. If parents or kids don’t value our product, or if it does not help solve a real need in their lives, they won’t use it. When a parent tells me my idea is rubbish, I have one chance to understand why. Equipped with this answer, I have a shot at making the product better. Otherwise, we are doomed. Flyering gives me first hand exposure to this concept and the fragility of consumer opinion. That is a lesson that strolling sidewalks with flyers teaches extremely well.