The term "business literature" encompasses the broad range of written materials that companies use to market their goods and services. Examples of business literature include publications as disparate as product catalogs, service brochures, and corporate newsletters. The content of such literature can differ dramatically, depending on the goals of the company distributing the material. Ultimately, however, business literature generally falls under the umbrella of the firm's marketing and public relations efforts.
Business literature that is intelligently shaped and effectively disseminated can be a valuable tool for companies. This is especially true of small businesses, which have fewer resources and thus need to make certain that every marketing and/or workforce development initiative they do launch has a positive impact. Conversely, small business owners who fritter away valuable time, money, and other resources on uninspired—or downright poor—business literature creations may feel the negative repercussions even more acutely than larger companies.
CORPORATE NEWSLETTERS Along with service brochures and product catalogs, newsletters are among the most commonly used and effective means of disseminating information about a company. But unlike brochures and catalogs, which by their very nature are primarily concerned with delivering basic facts of content, price, etc., to potential clients and customers, the content of many newsletters is more amorphous. Some newsletters emphasize industry news and information, while others are basically extended advertisements. Many small business experts recommend a blending of the two. "When properly executed, a customer newsletter can become a vital element of the marketing mix," wrote Elaine Floyd in Small Business Reports. "It enables you to reach both existing and prospective customers, a crucial factor in maintaining your company's long-term viability. And it provides a cost-effective way to give customers the details they need to make purchasing decisions. Simply by providing this information, you can generate sales that more than pay for the cost of the project." Floyd pointed out that good newsletters can provide business owners with an avenue with which to send a uniform message that reinforces other marketing tools, like trade shows and brochures. But unlike those other marketing tools, "the newsletter is not a strictly promotional tool. It provides value to readers by blending marketing copy with the credible content of an editorial product."
According to some experts, some small business owners unnecessarily limit the effectiveness of their newsletters by shaping and disseminating it for too narrow an audience. Certainly, customers are vital to any company's success, and their information needs and interests should be a central factor in putting together any business newsletter. But corporate newsletters should also be shaped to provide information of interest to other targets, including clients, individuals who have the potential to provide additional publicity for your company's services or goods (such as editors of important regional or industry publications), and employees.
Indeed, many newsletters are used primarily as communication tools to reach a company's own employees. These in-house publications should be produced with an experienced eye that makes certain that the contents do not include any material that would cause embarrassment to the company if seen by outsiders. But in-house newsletters are ultimately more concerned with information dissemination and morale boosting than marketing. Corporate newsletters of this ilk should be informative and entertaining, and emphasize themes of community when possible. "Communication is crucial for employee morale and satisfaction," wrote Denise Sherman in Triangle Business Journal. "Not surprisingly, the corporate grapevine doesn't quite fit the bill. But businesses are finding that they can harvest the grapevine to produce their own vintage communiques—printed newsletters, online newsletters, web magazines, and good old-fashioned company bulletin boards. And their employees are appreciating the news."
Of course, even a newsletter that is sensibly distributed to targeted customers or employees will have little impact if its content is lackluster. As Floyd indicated, "even if you're convinced that a newsletter is a great marketing tool, you need to ensure that its content appeals to your target audience." One way to do so, she suggested, is to supplement information on the company's products, services, and business initiatives with current industry news, such as calendars of upcoming events and reprints or summaries of regulatory developments, management techniques, and industry trends. Other companies, meanwhile, have taken to including information on the firm's history in their newsletters. A company's story, wrote Inc. Contributor Edward O. Welles, "can be much more powerful than any marketing pitch. In a perilous economy, a story can serve as a competitive tool that defines a company's sense of self and its place…. Stories that reflect a recognition of the truth that drives a business can retain their vitality, even as the market evolves."
Another way to ensure newsletter effectiveness is make certain that appropriate personnel within the company have input into its content. Marketing managers and salespeople should be involved in determining content to ensure that the newsletter is coordinated with other marketing efforts, and good writers should be enlisted to polish the final product. If the company does not have talented writers on staff, it should investigate hiring a freelance editor or newsletter service to ensure quality. For as many consultants state, it is better for a small business to forego production of a newsletter than to produce one that makes it look bad.
Floyd, Elaine. "The Printed Word." Small Business Reports. April 1992.
Murphy, Herta A., and Herbert W. Hildebrandt. Effective Business Communications. McGraw-Hill, 1991.
Sather, Jeanne. "Newsletter can be Economical Way of Spreading Word." Puget Sound Business Journal. May 20, 1994.
Sherman, Denise. "Corporate Newsletters Keep Employees Connected." Triangle Business Journal. July 9, 1999.
Welles, Edward O. "Why Every Company Needs a Story." Inc. May 1996.