Beyond Computing and Profit look like ordinary business magazines, with their smart-looking layout and graphics and informative articles.
But these aren't run-of-the mill periodicals.
Each is a marketing tool -- owned and published by International Business Machines Corp. -- directed at existing and future customers. IBM, which began its magazines a month ago, looks at technology issues facing businesses in Beyond Computing and offers tips for entrepreneurs in Profit.
IBM is the latest company to launch a consumer-oriented publication. The goal of so-called corporate-sponsored magazines: to communicate directly with customers without the usual clutter of ordinary advertising.
Among the nearly 50 other corporate-sponsored publications are Colors, published by the Benetton clothing retailer; Philip Morris Magazine, published by the cigarette maker; and Grandparents Today, published by Fisher Price toys.
Even McDonald's Corp., the fast-food chain based in Oakbrook, Ill., plans to launch a family-oriented publication this year. The name: McMagazine.
Corporate-sponsored publications usually are mailed free to current or prospective customers or are available at retail stores.
Generally, ad rates are comparable with those of similar-sized publications. IBM, which will accept ads from competitors, charges $13,000 a page for Beyond Computing and $10,000 a page in Profit.
Know your strengths
To identify your company's strengths and weaknesses, Jeanne Buerkel suggests doing an image survey.
Ms. Buerkel, of Buerkel Consultants Inc. in Philadelphia, sends a questionnaire to her client's past and current customers or telephones them, asking them to relate honestly how they feel about the client.
"It's like an internal audit," she said. "All the answers plotted on a graph, and I sit down with the client and show him how he is perceived. Then he can go and start selling."
Too many companies neglect such important marketing research, she said. "You have a product or service you want to sell. You have to find the best way to sell it. Before you can sell it, however, you have to do research to see if the product is needed.
"Research is a vital part of good business," Ms. Buerkel said, "but a lot of people don't do it. It enables you to define your competition, identifies your strengths and weaknesses and helps you develop a sales strategy. Research targets clients."