By Sue Ray
In my role as Communications Czar (David Thompson gets a nickname…), I see countless email addresses, and much to my surprise and dismay, I’ve noticed that a lot—and I mean thousands—of agents use AOL, Hotmail, and Yahoo email addresses. For purposes of this blog, we’ll call them “general domain” email addresses.
I hope these agents are only using them to receive FAIA and other email, because conducting business using a general domain email address makes a business look like it is run out of a basement.
Why? Because it takes no effort and it’s free to set up a general domain email address. Using it to operate a business says, “I’ve just gotten into this line of work,” or, “I do this work on the side,” or “I’ve retired but I like to dabble.” It can make your business look less credible and unprofessional. Unless you are personally known to me or are a very close friend, I’m not doing business with anyone whose email address is firstname.lastname@example.org (used for demonstration purposes only). Would you?
Doesn't matter, because you might not be able to do business with that person even if you wanted to. Our IT department was trying to help a member with a technology issue, but the member didn’t get the message because his AOL filtering blocked our response to his question.
Scam artists and unscrupulous business people regularly set up fake Yahoo and Hotmail accounts to prowl for easy marks. This helps explain why so many general domain email addresses end up in spam filters. It’s very likely that the people you’re marketing to with such an email address will never receive your inquiries.
Get a real domain name
Your email address is part of your small business brand. It lets potential customers know your agency is well established, even if it’s not…yet. In the digital age, your email address is as important, probably more so, than your business card. Would you print off business cards on copy paper, cut them into squares, and hand them out? That’s kind of what you’re doing if you use a general domain email address.
Getting an email addresses that matches your business name isn’t as hard or expensive as you might think. If you already have a domain name for your website, you need to take advantage of the hosting provider’s email service. Most offer at least one free email address for your account. You also can integrate your domain email with Gmail. And for those who can’t let go of their current email client, you can set your “real” email address up to forward messages to your AOL, etc., and no one will know.
If you don’t have a domain, you need one. You can check to see if the domain/user name you’re interested in is available through NameChk. This site is not a domain registrar, but can link you to companies that are. The fee to register a domain name ranges from $10 to $35. If you are are ready to register a domain name, consider reputable registrars such as GoDaddy and Network Solutions. Outlook.com and Gmail offer business email solutions and are worth a look.