Yesterday, we examined some of the factors involved in selecting a domain name for your business. It needs to be a .com, match your company’s name, be short and be marketed in lowercase. Today, in the next installment of our Internet branding series, we’re going to look at your email address.
The worst mistake you can make to turn customers away is to use something other than your name for the username. This mistake was the at the top of the list in a recent survey. [email protected] and [email protected] worked great for user names in college, but now it’s time to use [email protected] or [email protected] or just [email protected] If you have an address that is checked by more than one person, such as a generic company address, then it’s okay to find something generic like [email protected] or [email protected], but don’t use it for your company account unless it is checked by more than one person. That’s not the address to put on your personal business card.
Outside of the above offense, few other concepts seem more obvious than the importance of having an email address that matches the domain name of your website. Nevertheless, we still see some auctioneers who advertise to their customers a generic, free addresses from email providers such as AOL, Hotmail/MSN/Live, Gmail – or worse, from their Internet service providers such as Cox, SBC Global or Comcast.
Using one of the above-mentioned providers for a personal email account is okay, though it’s much more fun to register a domain name for yourself or your family to use for non-commercial purposes. Using an email address for commercial purposes that doesn’t match your domain name is simply unprofessional.
Your website IS your brand. Why on Earth would there be any benefit in advertising an address that doesn’t include your brand? Reasons we’ve heard cited for using a generic email account for business include the following.
- I’ve always used this address
- I have multiple domain names
- Using Gmail makes me seem cutting-edge and hip
- I don’t know how to set up email for my domain name
- I like the tools offered by this provider
- I want synchronized Outlook but don’t want to host my own Exchange server
None of these reasons justifies letting customers see an email address that doesn’t include your brand. The only reason listed that doesn’t involve lack of configuration or simplicity is the idea that customers somehow perceive Gmail users as advanced. This is true, but only in comparison with other free email providers. We all like to make fun of AOL and Yahoo users, but consumers equally ridicule Gmail users who use Gmail for business. It’s assumed that these users are either too lazy or don’t know how to set up their own, branded email addresses.
The solution is simple. Use a service like Gmail – Google Apps for your Domain is a particularly excellent choice – or a company that provides hosted Exchange server to allow you to have one powerful interface to check all your email accounts. It’s very simple to configure addresses from one or many domain names to have email delivered to one location. Through the use of rules in Outlook or filters in Gmail, you can easily keep track of all your accounts in one central location. When properly configured, each email you send will appear to come from the appropriate account. The methods to this configuration are outside the scope of this article and will depend on your registrar and your web host.
We’ve actually met auctioneers who have removed the website from business cards, relying on different colors to make the domain in the email address stand out, thereby conveying both an email address and a website on one line. This leap of faith that customers will recognize this strategy isn’t for the weak-at-heart, but it’s an innovative idea, nonetheless.
When is it okay to use an email address for business that isn’t matched to your domain name? There are two scenarios.
- You’re unemployed
- You don’t have a domain name yet
If the first is true, you’re probably not using it for commercial purposes unless it’s to send and receive responses from resumes. In this case, a Gmail account – or, better yet, [email protected] – will lend the most professional impression to a prospective employer. If the second is true, stop reading now, read yesterday’s post and then buy a domain name. The first year’s registration costs less than having your logo embroidered on a shirt, and is many orders of magnitude more valuable and important.
Your domain is your brand. Your email address is an obvious and easy way to promote your brand and show your customers that you run a professional organization.