A business owner recently sent me an email inviting me to partner with him on one of his projects. I get a few requests like that a month. The venture seemed like a good one as I read his description.
I was about to have my assistant follow up until I hit this credibility-undermining flaw and guess what my response was? I was no longer interested. But I wondered if this poor guy even knew that he was undermining his own credibility. Unfortunately, too many business owners make this mistake. And you can correct it in literally 5 minutes for less than $10.
What’s the mistake you ask?
As professional as this small business owner sounded, and as interesting as his product was, I closed the door when I saw @gmail.com in his email address. It raised some doubt, not to mention what preceded the @gmail.com wasn’t exactly professional either.
The reality is free email services don’t exactly scream “success” if you know what I mean and you’d certainly want your business communication to reflect your true professionalism. When business owners use gmail, yahoo, and all those other freebie emails, here’s what may come up in the mind of the email recipient: I wonder if they’re running their business more like a hobby than a real business. I wonder if they are taking their business seriously. I wonder if they plan to be in business very long.
Sadly, none of this is probably true, as the business owner may have chosen their email service for entirely valid reasons. But it’s important to know it may raise some doubt (albeit unnecessarily so at times). And by the way, even paid email services like comcast.net and others (that you’d normally use for family communication) may also undermine your credibility. There are many reasons people choose free email services, and I personally have yahoo and gmail accounts myself. That said, you’d want to consistently project the image of an established business. Your business email is one of the first things someone sees when you communicate with them. In your email communication, you’d want to remain congruent with your business name.
If you already have a website
For those of you who have a website and are still using free email services for business communication, hey, c’mon what’s up with that? 🙂 If you already have the website, why not use the email accounts that come with your domain? If you’re avoiding checking more than one email account, remember you can have all the emails sent to wherever you want to read them (but don’t make the mistake of replying to your business emails from your free email though). If you like the features of your free service, that’s OK, you can actually redirect your business emails to the free service (behind the scenes) if you like (again, just be sure the “reply to” email is your business email when you send responses).
Now if you’re avoiding getting added to email lists, I can certainly understand that. But why not set up a separate email under your own domain name instead? An address that’s meant to be a catch-all so nothing clutters your main business email account. Like “[emailprotected]” or “[emailprotected]” Your domain typically comes with the ability to set up several email addresses. I use GreatSmallBusinessWeb.com and I have almost a dozen different email addresses under my domain name. Some of them I rarely check as they are catch-all addresses.
If you don’t have a website
If you’re just now starting a home based business (bravo!), you can hop on over to Godaddy.com and fix that email credibility problem in the next 5 minutes. But please be careful at when you’re purchasing it. Read all the screens because when you go through the purchase process, you’ll get offered all sorts of additional stuff. Feel free to say no to whatever else they’re asking you to buy until you get to the end – unless you really want to buy all that stuff of course. (that’s my insider tip ;-))
That said, you most certainly would want a website as a business owner. That, my friend, may indeed be another credibility-buster. Folks, catch up will ya? We’re almost in 2010 here. 🙂 Careful with choosing website designers, however. You don’t want a multi-thousand dollar “brochure website” that looks real pretty but doesn’t generate any money for your business.
If you don’t know what domain name to purchase
Now for those of you who don’t know what domain name to buy, I hear ya. I went through that quandary myself a couple times. So here’s the workaround. Just buy yourname.com. For example, one of my many domains is allisonbabb.com. Then you can have an email like [emailprotected] or even [emailprotected]
You can immediately use the email accounts that are included with the domain purchase (weather you have a website or not). And you can redirect all those emails to wherever you’d prefer to read them. Just be sure you don’t accidentally reply to customers from your yahoo or gmail accounts, for example, if that’s where you’ll redirecting your emails. Again, try to stay congruent with your business name in your business communication.