I think there are two devices that have clearly had an enormous impact on language. One is television. I don’t wish to blame television for all the faults of the world, but it has had a vulgarizing effect. The other is the telephone, because we don’t write letters anymore. I don’t write letters. I don’t even write business letters. I call up on the telephone. When people don’t write letters, language deteriorates.”
So said postmodern fiction writer Donald Barthelme in a 1982 interview with Jo Brans of the Southwest Review. Barthelme passed away in 1989, a long, long time before Internet technologies like email and the World Wide Web made similarly profound changes to how we communicate with each other as the television and the telephone once did. (Similarly profane, too, if you agree with Barthelme’s point of view.)
But aside from the erosion of the English language and the general sentiment that each succeeding generation is destined to be shipped to hell via hand basket (or online shopping cart), there are additional, more pragmatic reasons for entrepreneurs to maintain the habit of business correspondence.
Here are four reasons why you should keep an inventory of letterhead, envelopes and mailing labels in your office supply cabinet:
1. Establish voice of authority.
“Even with the popularity of email and instant messaging as forms of written communication, company executives still use business letters,” writes marketing professional Miranda Brookins. Indeed, a business letter is often used to communicate information within an organization to indicate official policy shifts or organizational changes that have been approved by top-level executives.
2. Put something tangible in hands of a prospect.
It’s all too easy to hit the “delete” key on a email you’re not interested in reading, or even to set up filters so you won’t even have to see the message at all. Seeing an address and return label with the real names of the sender and recipient is as powerful as a good email subject line for getting a prospective customer or client to open the envelope and find out what you have to offer.
3. Show customers you care.
You can’t please all the people all the time. Writing a letter to address a problem with a product or a lapse in customer service conveys a seriousness of tone that comes across as more sincere than an email. “Recipients of bad news will probably be unhappy no matter what. But to some extent you can control just how unhappy they’ll be,” author Bryan Garner recently said in a post about well-crafted letters on the Harvard Business Review blog.
4. CYA! Not everyone in business conducts themselves with the same level of integrity as you. Creating a paper trail may be important down the road in defending your position in any kind of “he-said, she-said” situation.
About The Author
Chris Lenois is a freelance journalist writing for Vistaprint, a leading provider of personalized address labels, mailing labels, and other custom products to make your direct mail campaign stand out. Chris is also a small business owner and has contributed articles on marketing topics to publications, including The New Orleans Times-Picayune and Wired.
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