I just returned from New Orleans (I’m still in mourning about having to come home) where I participated in PACE 2009, the annual national convention for the painting and decorating industry. Between manning the Advisors On Target booth at the trade show and presenting an educational program on web strategies, I had the opportunity to meet and talk to hundreds of painting contractors about their online efforts and results.
Not surprisingly, I found a wide range in the general level of web competence among the business owners I talked to. Some were pretty savvy internet marketers, looking for subtle ways to improve their already strong results online. Others were just getting going – either starting from scratch or looking to revamp old, tired websites and strategies that aren’t up to 21st century standards. But nearly everybody had one thing in common. Everybody was aware that online performance is critical in today’s business and social climate – that your web presence it the most cost-effective way to promote your business, and that more and more consumers rely exclusively on the internet to find and evaluate local businesses.
I was pleased to see so much awareness and so much determination to master the tools and techniques of internet success. But I was shocked by the number of business people who mangle their credibility by overlooking a simple thing – their email address.
I’m looking at a business card right now. It’s nicely printed on heavy, glossy card stock; it has a professionally designed logo; it creates a great first impression. But it has no email address. I’m looking at another card – equally nice, but the email address is (firstname)firstname.lastname@example.org. Another one says (companyname)email@example.com. If I was a consumer looking to hire a painting contractor, I’d throw the cards away.
I may be more critical than most consumers, but to me nothing says “I don’t care about the details” or “I can’t be bothered to present a professional image” more than the use of a junk email address (or the absence of an email address). If a business owner can’t be bothered to register a business domain name and create email accounts at that domain, it sends a message that they are not serious about being in business. That message may not be accurate – in fact one of those cards I’m looking at belongs to a very serious, very successful painting contractor – but how is a prospective customer supposed to know that?
First impressions matter, details matter. Maybe only a few of your prospective customers will even notice that amateurish “@aol.com” address. Maybe an even smaller percentage will be put off by it. But why take that chance, especially when it’s so simple to create a positive impression.
Take a few minutes to set up email addresses for the key people and key functions at your company. Set up firstname.lastname@example.org for general inquiries, maybe “customerservice” or “admin” to use when appropriate. But use some version of email@example.com on your business card and for your own business-related emails. No personal name + no company name = no credibility.
I’m happy to answer questions or offer suggestions about setting up credible email accounts for your business. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. My email address is email@example.com.