Every time you mail a letter to a prospective client or to an existing customer, the missive leaves a long-lasting impression of your company. In a service business, your written materials are among your company's most important marketing items. And if you run a homebased business that doesn't have a commercial location or sign, introducing your company to clients through the mail can be one of your most effective marketing techniques.

The paper stock you choose, as well as the colors and graphics embellishing it, plays an important role in the image your stationery presents. A hot, neon-pink stock may work well for a new suntan cream manufacturer, but not for an accounting service. Your stationery should tie in with your business cards, featuring the same color scheme and overall look.

Don't get so caught up in the design elements of your business stationery that you forget the obvious. Every piece of stationery should include the basics: your company name or logo, address, phone and fax numbers, and e-mail address. Make it as easy as possible for your clients to respond to your offer by making all the information they need readily available. And attach your business card to each letter as well, so clients can put it in their Rolodexes for future reference.

Excerpted from Start Your Own Business: The Only Start-Up Book You'll Ever Need, by Rieva Lesonsky and the Staff of Entrepreneur Magazine, © 1998 Entrepreneur Press