Avoiding the ugly email: Five steps to a simple business brand and communications makeover

Why advertise for Google or Hotmail when you can advertise your own company each time you send an email?

You've all seen it on business cards or on a website. Maybe you're guilty of it yourself. It's one of the most common mistakes in branding your business, and it can cost you valuable business.

I'm calling this problem "the ugly email" – businesses that use email addresses like john@hotmail.com, jane@yahoo.ca or info@isp-name.com.

Maybe I'm overly sensitive because I'm in the technology industry. I have to admit when it comes to personal or corporate branding I'm pretty shallow – it's about how it looks. I can't help but cringe every time I see the ugly email on a business card or website.

The really sad part is that some of these people or businesses already have their website listed right under their ugly email, which means they already have a domain name. Why wouldn't they set up a professional email address using the domain name they already own?

Here are some simple tips to help make over the communications and brand challenged businesses:

1) Do not use Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, Gmail or your Internet service provider's email as your main business email. Even if you're a small business (defined as fewer than 50 employees in B.C.) or a micro-business (fewer than five employees), there's no reason to look small. These free email services look unprofessional and give the impression of a very small or even fly-by-night business.

2) Do use your domain name for your email. Set up an email like yourname@yourcompany.ca. You miss out on a great branding opportunity by not using your business name for email. In fact, you're promoting someone else's brand instead of yours. Why advertise for Google or Hotmail when you can advertise your own company each time you send an email?

3) Do set up multiple email accounts to organize your business, and, where desirable, appear larger than you are. A small company or one person operation can easily set up info@yourcompany.com, sales@yourcompany.com, president@yourcompany.com, finance@yourcompany.com and support@yourcompany.com. All of these emails can be forwarded to the same person (or multiple people) but this gives the impression of a large, sophisticated operation.

4) Do use a Hotmail or Gmail email when subscribing to online newsletters. There is a time and place to use the "ugly email." If you subscribe to a variety of online newsletters or services, you likely get a lot of spam. I like to use one of these free email accounts when subscribing so if I start getting a lot of spam to one of these email accounts, I can easily cancel that email address without affecting the rest of my communications to my main email address.

5) Do set up multiple email accounts to help determine your HR needs and business bottlenecks. Small businesses typically don't have the resources to implement sophisticated tracking systems to monitor what types of inquiries they get. Setting up a separate email address for each division of your company is a great way to track types of questions you get from customers. At the end of the month, add up the number of inquiries to each email account. Over time, you can determine where your next hire should be or where you should make improvements in your operations.

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