Smart Online Presence for Small Businesses: Email Addresses

Posted by on Jul 10, 2011 in Blog, Marketing, Technology | 0 comments

Smart Online Presence for Small Businesses: Email Addresses

So now that you have a great domain name for your small business, it’s time to consider your email address. You already have that great AOL, or Yahoo!, or even Gmail email address that you have been using for years and everybody knows right? So is that going to be used on your business cards? The correct answer is NO! You just purchased a domain name to represent your business so you should use this for your email address as well!

It may seem like such an obvious detail but I have seen more business cards from small businesses promoting these third party email providers that it is apparent to me that people just don’t really think about it. Every time you send an email it is an advertisement for some one’s business. Does Comcast or AT&T pay you a penny every time you send an email? I think not. So why are you advertising for them instead of advertising for your own business? For me, it is not so dis-similar to purchasing a new car and having the dealership adding their own emblem. When I buy a new car, I always tell the dealership unless they are willing to pay me every month for advertising their car dealership on my automobile, they better not put their emblem on it. But I digress…

So now you agree, it’s time to make full use of your domain name and use it in conjunction with your business email addresses. So how are you going to format the user name? You know, the part before the “@” symbol. Are you going to be casual and use your first name or more formal with a “firstname.lastname” format, or a combination of first and middle initials plus last name? How many employees do you think you might have one day and what happens when you hire more than one employee with the same name? What about email aliases and distribution groups? Do you want to promote role based email addresses like “sales@” or “customer.service@” that can be checked by more than one person? All of these details are important to consider in the beginning as they become more difficult to change down the road and maintain any sense of consistency for your customers.

Now that we have the formatting established and we know what email addresses, aliases and distribution groups we need to be using, the next question is how are you going to use your email account? Are you going to use a desktop client like Microsoft Outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird or do you want a web based interface to access your email from multiple computers or any computer. 10 years ago, I was certainly more in the camp of desktop clients. Back then, I was more concerned about privacy and storing my data on someone else’s computer. Today, I am more concerned about usability and minimizing software licensing costs. There are web-based alternatives available now that provide easier management and more convenience that it is hard to recommend desktop clients to the average small business. If you use more than a single computer to access and respond to email communications, correctly configuring these to something usable is challenging. Even more challenging is getting users (or employees) to understand how to manage email with multiple computers. And let’s not think about when the hard drive in your computer fails and all of your emails and contacts are gone! Well, do think about it and read this article.

So what’s the magic bullet? Google Apps is cloud based computing that can practically remove the IT responsibilities associated with managing complicated email configurations (like Microsoft Exchange) and protection against data loss with hard drive failures. Google Apps is free for small businesses up to 10 email accounts (this does not include email aliases or distribution groups). And Google Apps Premier is can be free for non-profit organizations and educational institutions depending on the size of the organization. Even if you have to move to a paid subscription level, the $5 per month or $50 per year per user is significantly cheaper than licensing software from Microsoft or Lotus.

Again, all of this should be considered when you are first starting your small business and establishing your online presence. But if you didn’t do it in the beginning, it’s not to late to start doing it correctly and we can help.

As always, we welcome your comments and feedback. Or contact Gnarly Crumb now to get started.

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