My first ever email address was @hotmail.com (remember those?). At my first job after university, my work email address was only authorised to send internal emails. It wasn’t a huge drama at the time, since we were still in the fax generation, but even so, hard to believe today! These days email is an essential tool for almost every business, large or small. It has certainly come a long way in the last 20 years!
Yes, yes, that’s all very (mildly) interesting. But why am I writing a whole article about emails? It’s because email is often your first real interaction with a potential customer, and in some cases, may be the only way you ever communicate with a customer. As such, your emails need to come across as professional and give your customers another reason to trust you.
Building trust through emails
You can build trust both from what you write in your email as well as other factors such as your email address and how you sign off your emails. It’s these last two aspects that we will be concentrating on in this article.
Custom Email Address
One of the best ways to look professional is by having an email address that uses your own domain name such as firstname.lastname@example.org rather than a @gmail.com address or an email address given to you by your internet provider such as @optusnet.com.au or @netdial.co.za.
It used to be expensive to have your own email address, but these days most website hosting packages include several (or even unlimited) custom email addresses. Even if you don’t have a website, you can still have a custom email address for a small monthly payment.
Once you have decided to use custom email addresses for your business, you need to decide what those addresses are going to be.
Generic vs Personal
Do you want to use a generic main email address like info@ or hello@? If you have multiple people working in your business you might want to set up a couple of different generic email addresses. Addresses such as admin@ reservations@ or accounts@ are commonly used and allow you to split the emails. Even if it’s just you at the helm, sometimes it helps to split the emails so your inbox doesn’t get too confusing.
Maybe you would prefer to use people’s names – kirsten@. This comes across as a bit more personal, and can help customers feel connected to you. However it can cause some challenges if any of the names are difficult to spell or have multiple spellings (which is why I decided to go with email@example.com rather than kirsten@). It can also cause some hassles in the future if you have a staff member leave, or if you sell or transfer the business.
Setting up your Email apps
Once you have decided on the email address or addresses you are going to use, it is a fairly straightforward process to set them up through your hosting provider. Once the email addresses are set up you just need to add them to the mail app on your phone or tablet, and also add them to your email program on your computer. Most hosting companies will provide you with instructions as to how to do this – for example, here are xneelo’s Outlook set up guides. My advice – sometimes it doesn’t work first time, so give it a few tries if it doesn’t want to work initially.
Now that you have your shiny new email addresses set up, it’s time to let people know and get them to use them. You can start by emailing people you regularly correspond with, asking them to use the new address from now on. It is also worth noting that your email address has changed as part of your email signature (see more information below), and at the bottom of invoices and other correspondence. It will take time to get everyone to use your new address. While it is possible to just forward all your emails from your old address to your new one from day 1, manually asking people to move across gives you the chance to clean up your inbox and avoid some of the endless spam and mailouts that seem to come through.
There are several good reasons for having a standard email signature at the bottom of your mails – it gives a professional impression, provides useful information to your email recipients and also makes signing off emails easier.
Email signatures don’t have to be fancy – at a minimum they should include your telephone number, email address, website address and social media links. You can also include a logo, although many email programs block pictures by default so your recipient may not get the full impact depending on how their system is set up. You can even set up your email signature on your smartphone which is a handy way to keep your emails looking professional even when you are answering them at 3am because your toddler will only sleep on your lap…
If you like, you can also incorporate fancier elements such as banners to promote events or specific products.
There are several online services that offer free email signature generators if you want to get one up and running quickly.
Another way to make your emails look professional is to include a disclaimer at the bottom of your emails – along the lines of “if you aren’t the intended recipient of this email please delete it”. There are plenty of examples available if you Google “email disclaimer notice examples”, and some of the email signature generators available online also have disclaimers as standard.
There you have it. A few fairly quick and easy ways to improve the professional image of your business, enhance your marketing and even save you a bit of time.
If I can give you any more information or advice on getting your custom email addresses up and running, please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.