It’s a simple question you’d expect to be asked but you probably wouldn’t answer it with an in-depth analysis of your business.
Trouble is, that’s exactly what you could be unwittingly sharing every time you hand over your business card...
In a recent online poll of local businesses regarding the use of third party email addresses such as gmail, yahoo or hotmail, almost 43% said their immediate thought was that businesses who don’t use their own email domain are not professional or serious.
More concerning for those using a generic email address, a further 20% said that it indicated it must be a small business and over 11% said it made them think that the business was a start-up or had no cashflow.
Successful international business owner Mike O'Hagan commented that his first assumption when he sees a third party email address being used, is that, “it’s a micro or small business with a lack of professionalism".
He suggests that “cleaning up your communications so it looks professional, is business 101”, yet 8% of respondents thought as long as the email address is easy to remember, it doesn’t matter.
Even though you might not consider that an email is part of your brand, according to the dictionary, a brand is a distinguishing symbol, mark, logo, name, word, sentence or a combination of these items that companies use to distinguish their product from others in the market, and that includes your email address.
The results of the poll were quite clear, and as Mike went on to suggest, “whether you like or not, first impressions are a powerful influencer’.
You may also be unaware that your email address is a vital part of your ‘trust currency’ and by using a generic address, you could potentially be missing out on business opportunities.
One respondent to the poll suggested that they tend to ignore emails from any business using a free email service, including gmail, because "scammers tend to use free email addresses”.
I ignore emails that use free domains because they could be scammers
Using a generic email could therefore be putting your reputation at stake by aligning yourself with scammers in the mind of your ideal prospect.
When it comes to branding it’s all about a having a consistent message and according to creative coach Deborah Henry-Pollard from Catching Fireworks, "if you have a website it makes no sense to use a third party domain for your email”.
Facebook Guru Phil McGregor agrees that “there really is no real excuse in having a gmail when a custom domains can cost as little as $5”.
It makes no sense to use a third party domain for your email
It gets worse if you use a generic email address on more than just your business card. Having a generic email address on your company vehicle gives the impression that you really are very small time.
The expectation today is that every business has some sort of online presence or they just aren't really serious.
Stickybeak Marketing Specialist Sigrid de Kaste commented that when a company uses a gmail address, “it makes me think businesses don't have a website and think it's too expensive to get one”.
Interestingly, the poll also indicated that Google may be doing the right thing with it’s brand, with some saying they thought, gmail was more trustworthy than Hotmail or Yahoo.
Additionally, some indicated telco branded email addresses, such as Bigpond, were seen as the worst, creating the impression that the business is not technically capable.
You may be a small or micro business and a generic email address might be free, but in the hectic world of professional services, where everyone is competing for attention, you only get a split second to create a good first impression.
When you next hand your business card to a potential client, make sure your contact details are not undermining your personal brand.
You only get a split second to create a good first impression.
Tips for aligning your email with your brand:
If you already have a website domain, it is actually very easy to get all your email addresses set-up and should be included in your monthly hosting fee, just ask your website hosting company or web manager to check this out for you.
For management of communication and future growth, it’s worth having semi-generic addresses such as admin@ or Info@ as well as using name@. From a branding point of view, this also helps your business appear to be more professional than a start-up or home based micro-business.
Your email needs to reflect your brand, so when you purchase a domain name for your business it needs to be consistent, you need to check availability and it’s no longer necessary for SEO to have your location or a descriptive word (i.e. Sunshine Coast Dentist) in the domain name.
Ideally get a .com address to assist the perception of an international brand, but if the .com is gone, don't panic, you can get a range of .me, .co, .team etc and it’s not as vital to be a .com as it use to be (content is king!).
This is why it’s so important to check domain availability when you create a brand name (you can read more about choosing a brand name in this article).
If you are unsure about how domain names work, you can check out the governments business website for help
Look around for offers.
Lauren Perrow of Creative Ground has a “Getting Started” Package which includes domain registration and email hosting set-up for just $40, plus $12.50+GST per month (charged annually) giving you 2.5GB storage, 50GB bandwidth and 8 email addresses. Click Here For More Info
Alternatively you can purchase domains to set up your email addresses yourself, at a variety of locations including:
Crazy Domains, https://www.crazydomains.com.au
(?Many? SEO hosts suggest a server based in your home country assists speeds)
Attending to your email footer or signature is also vital for brand consistency and creating a professional look, even if you just type in your name and title, website url, telephone number and physical/postal address it’s far better than having nothing at the bottom of your email.
I forget how many times I've looked for someone's contact number at the bottom of an email and they have nothing there. The whole point of email communication is to open up a relationship opportunity, so make it easy for me to call you!
Again whoever manages your email should be able to assist with your email signature, or you can get a footer image with live links created by studios and designers who can help.
You can still use Gmail to receive and send emails from your branded domain name, its just a matter of setting it up right. Google has plenty of help on this subject: https://support.google.com
Branding your domain and creating professional looking emails is not a huge cost and although it might take a bit of time to get it done, the instant perception you create is far more professional.
With the number of e-mail users worldwide forecast to rise to 2.9 billion users by 2019. (Source: Statista, 2016) having your own email address will reflect better on your business, especially when your prospects are comparing you to your competitors
Lauren Clemett is the Best Selling Author of the “SELLING YOU” series of practical guidebooks Know Me, Like Me & Trust Me. She is a personal branding specialist and award winning Neurobrander, helping service providers and consultants generate more income from their expertise. For more information Click Here.