This article was originally posted on Active Rain in August 2007.
Calling all real estate agents using AOL, Comcast, Hotmail or something similar for email.
What are you thinking???
Not only is your email address part of your branding image, there can be serious technical implications for your business in choosing one of these providers for your email accounts. Using these providers also means you might miss important opportunities to bring more people to your website.
Using Your Email Address To Support Branding
Your email address can say that you’re a serious business professional or it can label you as a hobbyist, novice or cheapskate. Let’s face facts. Email is no longer new or novel. It is a serious business tool. There is no excuse for business professionals not knowing how to get themselves email accounts branded to their domain names. Your consumers know this because they see branded email everywhere they look. Is it any wonder that negative perceptions attach when a business professional uses any email address other than one attached to his, her or its domain name?
Branded Email Helps Drive Traffic To Your Website
Don’t discount the opportunities you’re missing to drive additional traffic to your website with branded email. Branded email tells people exactly where to get more information about you, if they like something they’ve seen you write in an email or when somebody else has referred you and used your email address for the contact information. If your email address is email@example.com, people know they can go to bestagent.com and get more information about you and your services. If your email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, there is virtually no way anybody is going to go to hotmail.com and find one hint of information about you or your services.
Non-Branded Email Can Hurt Your Business In Other Ways
Have you ever read your Terms of Service for your AOL, Comcast or Hotmail account? Those accounts are generally intended for personal, non-business use. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a distinction that matters to you, but consider this — if you lose business from any of their service practices, they don’t care and they are not contractually bound to care.
Still don’t think that matters for your business? Think again. These services are usually free or nominally priced. To keep their hard costs down, these companies have to control the volume of mail that flows through their pipes. How? By setting extremely restrictive filters. At first blush, you might think this is a great idea, but wait. Do you really want Comcast deciding who you get mail from? Their agenda is to send you as little mail as they can get away with. Your agenda is to get every last email that has anything to do with your business. You should be setting your own rules on what you discard without reading. Don’t unknowingly delegate this important task to an email provider with a diametrically opposed agenda.
Coming Over From The Dark Side
How do you get email branded to your domain name? Talk to your website provider or domain name host. They should be able to fix you up. If not, move your name to somebody who can fix you up. Just because you registered your domain name one place, doesn’t mean that you’re tied to that host for all eternity. Unlike the old days with cell phone numbers, domain names are portable. Take yours where you get the services you need.
If you absolutely cannot see yourself learning how to use Outlook or some other application for branded email, you might consider having your newly minted branded email forwarded to your existing unbranded email account. This helps with the branding aspect on your other marketing materials, but does present additional issues to consider. For one, when you reply to a forwarded message, your reply is coming from an account that the original sender may not recognize. It’s better to bite the bullet and learn how to use another email system.
Think that the fact you’ve been using AOL for years and years on your marketing materials is a reason not to switch? Forget it. You’re still being perceived as an electronic marketing novice by consumers and you’re still allowing AOL to decide which mail messages you get. You can keep your old account live for awhile to catch people who contact you there through old marketing materials, but you’re going to be much further ahead by transitioning over to branded email.
As the nurse said to my five year old the other day while standing there with a big needle in her hand, “This will only sting for a minute.” Really, dump the free email service and come on over to the light.