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Reasons to stop using free email services for your business

How can a potential customer or prospect really take you serious when your email account does not really reflect your real company?
Written Oct 06, 2011, read 3219 times since then.
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You are at a trade show or networking event, you meet a prospective client. They are very impressed with your product and service offering and ask to get your business card. You are happy to oblige and excited for the opportunity. Unfortunately, you lose credibility when your prospect sees your email address is a free one provided by the likes of Yahoo and Gmail or an Internet service provider such as Comcast or AOL.

1.  An email address of yourcompany@gmail or yourcompany@comcast looks unprofessional and prospects will perceive your products and service as second-rate.

Any business organization that relies on free email services for business correspondence will find it difficult to convince its target market that its products and services are not inferior. Perception is crucial in the business world and remains one of the key elements that influence a person's decision to do business with you, or not.

Using free email services may be a major deterrent to potential clients. You do not want to lose a big business deal because of the wrong perception clients have of you. You can overcome this hurdle by simply getting your domain name registered so that you can use business emails for your correspondence and open your company to significant business opportunities.

2.  Not making the small investment in registering a company domain gives the appearance that you are cheap and not a serious business organization.

Since registering a domain name comes at a minimal cost, it is expected that a financially stable organization would be able to secure its own identity. Your lack of effort and small investment in acquiring a domain name leaves your prospects with the impression you are not a viable company and perhaps, weak financially.

When you are perceived cheap, your products and services will be labeled mediocre in the minds of your existing and prospective customers. This could negatively affect your sales, hamper the growth of your organization, and threaten your survival in the market space in the midst of your competition.

3.  Using a free email service for business implies lack of credibility and prospects may wonder if your company is stable and you are here to stay.

Credibility is a major component in achieving business success and this cannot be over-emphasized. Your clients need to know they can trust you with their money and information before they will do business with you. Small businesses need to prove to their prospective clients that they are trust-worthy and able to handle big projects and keep their personal information safe.

Potential clients need to be absolutely sure that you are here to stay. A stable business relationship is required of all prospective clients. Your clients need to be assured that you will stand the test of time. Having your own business email sends the signal that you are stable, dependable, and here for the long run.

4.  Your company may be subjected to hijacking and leave your customers vulnerable to fraud.

With the abundance of information now being communicated through email, the security level of your electronic communications must be sufficient enough to handle the delicate nature of business correspondence. Strict regulations require a high level of privacy and security with regard to the exchange of information, which cannot be guaranteed by free email services.

Not only do free email services tend to come with lots of adverts and linked to spam mails, these types are subject to hijacking by fraudsters to defraud your clients. Several cases have been reported where unsuspecting businesses have had their professional bank accounts compromised by scammers who specialize in intercepting the emails of companies that use free email services. Trying to save a few bucks by using a free email service is not worth the agony the financial loss will cause to both you and your clients.

5.  A business email coming from yourcompany@yahoo or yourcompany@aol will be presumed unsafe or spam.

Along with the many security issues that come with a free email service is the fact that many emails from free providers are flagged as SPAM or Junk, just by the email domain itself. Your correspondence will likely become stuck in spam filters or assumed as unsafe or junk and will likely be rejected, not delivered, or immediately deleted and never opened.

6.  You get what you pay for.

While the option to send online messages at no cost may seem alluring to a small business owner with a small budget, the drawbacks are not so visible on the surface. You are left with many limitations when using a free service such as Gmail. Trying to get support and help through a free email provider is almost impossible. Because the service is free, these companies have very limited support resources for its users.

If you are using an email account provided by your Internet services provider, what happens should you need to switch providers? What if the provider becomes acquired and you are forced to change your email address? Suddenly, your current and prospective clients are unable to reach you. In addition, you have the high cost of reprinting business cards, letterhead, and other literature. Then there is the daunting task of changing your information anywhere your company appears online such as directories and social media sites -- and don't forget all those user accounts you'll need to update so you don't miss a crucial notification.

Having email addresses such as info@yourcompany, support@yourcompany, or sales@yourcompany creates the impression that your business is reputable and well-structured and ready to do real business.

Clients tend to respect and place a higher value on firms that can be reached through separate business email addresses for different types of correspondence. This gives the impression you are organized and proficient in processing inquiries, requests, and comments. Likewise, it makes it easier for you to sort out your emails in a more efficient way and therefore your response to such inquiries will be faster.

Apart from having a personalized domain such as you@yourcompany, the major difference between the types of email accounts mentioned above and having your own is simple -- control. As the owner of your domain, the email account belongs to you as well, meaning you have control of where and how it is managed. You can determine what security features are implemented in order to keep your customer's information safe and your company compliant with regulators.

A small investment will go a long way in boosting your company to the next level… and beyond!

It is imperative you portray your business as a reputable brand by registering your domain name. When your emails reflect your own business identity, it provides a sense of credibility and makes your small business look big. Free webmail and ISP accounts might serve benefits to the average user, but as a business owner, they will do nothing but limit your potential.

Having your own company email establishes credibility with your audience, and being it's associated with your online presence, such as your web site or social media page, it makes you much easier to find via search engines. By owning your email address you can distance yourself entirely from a third-party company and have more authority over the fate of your business.

If your business relies heavily on email to communicate with prospective and current customers, the growth and reputation of your business may depend on making that small investment to register your own domain.

There's no question that email is one of the most important things small business owners rely on every day. You depend on your business email correspondence to accomplish so many things -- so security and reliability is crucial.

Marketing Specialist 
Everett, Washington 
Julie Rice

Julie brings 15+ years experience in marketing and sales operations focused on executing aggressive business growth plans. She has a strong track-record in developing effective sales development programs and campaigns by leveraging strategic marketing.

Learn more about the author, Julie Rice.

Comment on this article

  • Mobile Advertising Firm 
Charlotte, North Carolina 
AJ Spatz
    Posted by AJ Spatz, Charlotte, North Carolina | Oct 10, 2011

    Your article is right on the money! Having been a webmaster for 10 years I have always recommended for businesses to have an email under a domain name for their brand. The issue a lot of small businesses face though is the fact they just don't know how to accomplish this, or think it is very costly. A business does not necessarily have to build a website to have a brand email address. A domain name can simply be purchased for around $10 per year. Then for around $5 or less per month an email service provider can be established for sending and receiving email through their brand domain name.

  • President 
Delavan, Wisconsin 
Matthew B. Olson
    Posted by Matthew B. Olson, Delavan, Wisconsin | Oct 10, 2011

    Good points, Julie! So many small or start-up businesses think of their email even less than they think of their website. Despite being free Gmail, Yahoo, etc. does seem to loose some credibility on the surface. While we all can love Google's versatility, parking your business behind a Gmail email address does weaken the perception of your brand.

    With all the options out there, it benefits a small or start-up business the time and money to secure their own domain and a decent email address.

  • Consultant 
Seattle, Washington 
Wendy Gillihan, MAcc, PHR
    Posted by Wendy Gillihan, MAcc, PHR, Seattle, Washington | Oct 11, 2011

    So glad this article was published! I hope people don't simply say they can't afford anything more than free. There are a few other things that make you look cheap. My favorite are business cards that are perforated and come on 8 1/2 by 11 sheets so you can print them at your office. If you calculate in the ink and paper costs (and time of course) it is just as easy to order business cards online or have them printed for the cost. Setting up a domain is easy and low cost but I have found that many people just don't know how.

  • Marketing Specialist 
Everett, Washington 
Julie Rice
    Posted by Julie Rice, Everett, Washington | Oct 27, 2011

    Thanks everyone for the great feedback.

  • Marketing Specialist 
Everett, Washington 
Julie Rice
    Posted by Julie Rice, Everett, Washington | Oct 28, 2011

    Your Business Email Address Matters More Than You Think: Make the right first impression about you and your business

  • Marketing Specialist 
Everett, Washington 
Julie Rice
    Posted by Julie Rice, Everett, Washington | Oct 28, 2011

    for some reason it's not letting post my entire comment here (see above). I will try again.

  • Marketing Specialist 
Everett, Washington 
Julie Rice
    Posted by Julie Rice, Everett, Washington | Oct 28, 2011

    Your Business Email Address Matters More Than You Think: Make the right first impression about you and your business

  • Marketing Specialist 
Everett, Washington 
Julie Rice
    Posted by Julie Rice, Everett, Washington | Oct 28, 2011

    Here is a bit more information to support this case....

    According to a study by Visible Logic, it was found that 70 percent of the respondent perceived emails coming from a free email service like Yahoo, GMail, and Hotmail were less professional. Respondents emphasized that emails from a company name were more professional.

    White Paper Title: "Your Business Email Address Matters More Than You Think - Make the right first impression about you and your business"

    White Paper Overview: Start-ups, sole practitioners, and small businesses often use email addresses that they already had or were quickly set up on a free or low cost service like Hotmail. These addresses are seen as unprofessional by customers and prospects. Visible Logic, a Maine-based branding agency, recently completed an in-depth survey to prove that your email address says a lot about you and your company.

    You can download a copy of the White Paper at the Visible Logic web site under their resources section.

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