As a web developer and online marketing professional, it's my job to build my clients an online presence that works for them. A website, social media and email strategy that not only looks good, but gives their clientele (or potential clientele) the impression that they are indeed a professional organization... experts in their field... a company they should spend their hard-earned money on. (If I really do my job well, I can make a small / medium business look even bigger than it really is!)
People understand that they need an email address, and most have come around to the fact that social media is here to stay; but when it comes to email, I still encounter a surprising amount of business owners who don't want to change their old habits or their email address for a new custom email address.
It doesn't make sense to spend a significant amount of your marketing dollar re-building your brand online, but still continue to use a generic email address like "Gmail", "Hotmail" or "Yahoo".
There are 6 Reasons Why Using a Generic Email Address is Bad for Business, but many small business owners make excuses not to switch.
Here are the 4 main excuses business owners give for not wanting to switch their old generic-domain email address to a custom email address that contains their own business' web domain.
1. Everyone knows my email already, and it's too hard to switch.
This is a fair comment. However, if you're going through a marketing transition, this is an invalid argument. You are working hard on updating your website and your brand, but still using the old email address! Not good.
Instead, update your habit. Just because you are using a new email address doesn't mean that you are going to lose all your old clients. It's a very simple matter of setting up an auto-forward at your old address, and start checking your new inbox. All the emails being sent to your old email address will instantaneously and automatically go to your new address. From there you can simply deal with those emails as normal, and all of your replies will come from your new address.
Extra points: If you want to be extra fancy, you can set an auto responder at your old email address that will automatically reply to the message stating very succinctly that "Your message has been forward to my new email address. Please update your records to reflect this change". Your clientele will be reformed within 1 or 2 cycles and start using your new address almost right away.
2. I don't want to have to check another inbox.
Very easy to solve. You don't have to. All you have to do is check your new inbox. If you follow the advice in point one above, all of your emails will be forwarded from the old address to the new address, so you don't have to check it at all anymore. All it means is changing your email devices to poll the new email server, and bam! You're done! Everyone is informed of your email address change, and you don't lose a single email in the process.
3. But I use this address for my business and personal, and I don't want my personal mail going to a new inbox.
Ok. If this is the case, then you need to sit down and re-think just what the heck you're doing. Mixing business and pleasure is fine if you're on a trip (some of my best vacations have been business trips), but you should never (and by never, I really mean never ever ever ever) mix your personal and business emails. This is a very unprofessional-looking thing to do, and whether you want to believe it or not, people will instantly judge your business by your email address. If people email your company at "firstname.lastname@example.org", what does that say about your business? (Not detail oriented, don't care, lazy, etc...)
Always have TWO email inboxes. One for personal, and one for business. You can check them both on every one of your devices, but when it comes time to manipulating one or the other, you will never have the problem of separating them.
If you are currently mixing your business and pleasure emails, now is the perfect time to start re-educating your clients to your new-found marketing email address.
4. Custom Email is too expensive!
Is it? When you look at the statistics of how customers want to be communicated with, Email is the #1 preferred method by far!
Given the amount of cost of email (roughly $5.00 per month per user for a large-capacity, custom-domain email address) compared to the cost of a single phone line (at least 5x that much) it makes fiscal sense to invest a cup-of-coffee per month into your communications.