I’m often asked to speak to small businesses at a variety of technology or entrepreneurship events. A frequently overlooked but important thing that I always mention is to have an effective email strategy.
People are typically surprised when they hear this. After all, how strategic is sending and receiving communication? Below are some do’s and don’t’s for setting up your company email.
1. Don’t use Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail or your ISP’s email service as your business email.
I cringe every time I see on someone’s business card firstname.lastname@example.org or yourcompany@ISP.net.
Many companies, in particular micro-businesses and small businesses use Gmail, Hotmail or their ISP’s email service for business email. This has an unprofessional appearance and gives the impression of a very small or even fly-by-night business.
2. Do use your domain name for your email.
Set up an email like email@example.com or .ca.
You miss out on a great branding tool by not using your business name for email; in fact, you are actually promoting someone else’s brand instead of your own! Why advertise for Google or Hotmail when you can advertise your own company?
3) Do set up multiple email accounts to organize your business, and where desirable, appear larger than you are.
For example, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. All of these emails can be forwarded to the same person (or multiple people) but this gives the impression of sophisticated operation.
4. Do set up multiple email accounts to help determine your HR needs and business bottlenecks.
Small businesses usually don’t have the resources to implement sophisticated tracking systems to monitor what types of enquiries they get. The sole proprietor or business owner typically answers all the emails and by the end of the month, has no idea what kept them so busy. By setting up a separate email address for each division of your company, it is a great way to track types of questions you get from customers.
At the end of the month, just tally up the number of enquiries to each email account and you will know what area of your company kept you most busy. Over time, you can determine where your next hire should be or where you should make improvements in your operations.
5. Do use an automated signature.
If you are typing your name, title and contact information every time you send an email, stop wasting your time. Most email programs have an automated signature function. You can include messages about a current promotion, new product or service, links to your blog or twitter and even a small image of your logo for branding purposes.
6. Do determine if IMAP or POP email is best for you.
IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) allows you to access email on a remote mail server. Essentially, if you access your email from multiple computers or locations regularly, you may want to consider IMAP. If your computer is stolen or damaged, your email is still on the mail server. The disadvantages of IMAP are that email is not available when you are offline and if you are storing all your past emails on the mail server, it can start to eat up disk space.
POP (Post Office Protocol) downloads all new messages on the mail server onto your computer and deletes them from the server. POP’s advantages are that email is available when you are offline and because email isn’t stored on the server your use less server space. The main disadvantage of POP is that you cannot access your email from another computer. You may want to couple POP with use of webmail as a work around.