How many times have you seen or communicated with a business that uses a free email address from Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo or any of the many other similar services? Whenever I see a business or professional service using an email address similar to “email@example.com” I laugh and tend to shake my head. In today’s day and age there really is no excuse for not maintaining an effective branded online presence . I will admit that I personally have multiple email accounts with all of the big free email services, but I would never ever use these to conduct any form of business communications.
Let me break down the costings for you for purchasing a domain name and some form of web / email hosting –
Domain name – $10 / year
Web hosting including email hosting – $40 / year
Email hosting without web hosting (if you do not host the email accounts on the same server as your website) – $1 to $5 / month depending on your needs.
There are many email hosting companies out there that provide an extremely cost effective solution for businesses of all sizes. If you are in need of simple POP / IMAP email hosting, you can get this for $1 a month or have it included at no extra cost with most web hosting packages. If your needs are a bit more complex and require a solution such as Microsoft Exchange hosting, the costs may run up to $5 / month / account. Google even offer their Google Apps For Business service which allows you to use the simplified suite of Google apps but have your communications branded through your own domain name. And none of these types of services require you to even have a website. You can own a domain name without actually having a live website and you are able to operate email services completely independently of a website. Although I would always recommend businesses have their own website, it is not a technical necessity to have a website to operate your branded email services.
There are several companies that I have personally seen recently locally in Hobart (including at least 2 multi million dollar beverage companies) who advertise their email addresses that end in either hotmail.com or gmail.com. They clearly display these email addresses on the front labels that are stuck to their bottles. I have recently even seen several reasonably sized companies that are clearly operating and advertising email addresses that are provided from the internet service provider such as firstname.lastname@example.org. Now I am sure these email services work just as well in terms of technical functionality as hosted email service using their own domain name, but the public image that is created by not branding all of their online services with a company domain name is potentially costing them in terms of overall image and reputation.
How many times have you seen emails from some Indian “SEO” service and the emails come from a seemingly random Gmail account? When I see this across any of my own websites or any client sites the only reaction they get is the one they deserve, and that is to delete them straight away. Forgetting the fact that these services are exactly the type of service any website owner should avoid, the simple fact that a company offering an online service cannot advertise and brand themselves correctly and allow me to research their business practises because they have made deliberate attempts to hide their company name (if they even have one in the first place) means I would never consider anything they are offering me. They have automatically damaged whatever potential reputation they have by not using a truly branded email account, and they are offering services that are supposed to help companies grow online?? Good luck to them and I sympathise with those that have suffered as a result of being conned into using these types of services.
Even though I would never use a service such as that I have listed above, the ability for me to research a brand or company who has approached or attempted to communicate with me in some way could help increase the trust I may have in doing business with them. The fact that a company has used a free, non branded email service instantly says to me they are either not established or could easily shut up shop and move on with my hard earned money. I could set up 10 similar email addresses in no time at all, and move on and forget about any of those at any time I wanted. I am not saying just because a company has a branded email address they should instantly be trusted, but their “trustworthiness” could increase by allowing me to research and investigate their business further. It’s kind of like when you meet a person but they are not willing to tell you their name, or are dishonest about who they are. What have they got to hide? What is it they are not telling me? This is the instant reaction I see when being approached by businesses who cannot brand themselves correctly.
Maintaining your online presence and online reputation is extremely important. There is no doubt that online discovery is the biggest single way for people to find products and services, and online communication is the most cost effective and most efficient way to keep in touch with those you need to in an average day of business. The next time you need to communicate with a potential client, supplier, service provider or other form of professional service, have a think about the image you are either portraying yourself as a business owner, or the image you are seeing as a consumer of a business services. It really does not take much to improve your business image through using a branded email address using your own business domain name. The benefits of adding that extra layer of professionality to your overall business image far outweighs the costs and outlays it takes to initially set up and maintain your online branding.
Webpire Marketing are the leading digital marketing & SEO agency located in Hobart, Tasmania. We offer web design & online marketing services such as SEO, social media marketing & PPC to businesses of all sizes.