In 2012, there are more ways to send a client a proposal than there have ever been before. But astonishingly, there are still businesses out there (and what’s worse, some of them are actually web-savvy) that are using @gmail.com for their email addresses. This, my friends, is not how you do professional in the new millennium. So how do you go about making your business communication look a little less thrown together?
Firstly, do you own a domain? Yes? If so, why aren’t you using either hosted email, or if it’s just a domain with no hosting, Google Apps? That’s right – all the functionality of GMail, but with your @mybusiness.com email address, not to mention a synched calendar and other tools that Google provides for free. No, really, free. Nada. No money.
The reason you shouldn’t use an email address that isn’t generic and very obviously free is simple: you look cheap, and you don’t stand out from your crazy Aunt May who also happens to have an @gmail.com account. I really do mean that – the two of you look about as professional as each other if I have your email address alone to judge you on – which a company often does, if that’s your first point of contact with them.
There’s also the issue of phones. If you’re working from home, that’s fine, but give out your landline number – personally, I always find it somewhat disconcerting to be offered nothing but a mobile number unless myself and the person I’m due to meet or do business with is actually on the move on the day of the meeting. A landline gives the image of permanence, and it’s also cheaper to call in some contexts, too, which can be important for other small businesses like yours who will want to keep costs down.
There’s also the more subtle forms of communication that a lot of people don’t seem to consider, such as:
- How easy-to-interpret your website is.
- The quality of communication on your social networking accounts.
- Email signatures.
- Language within an email.
- Your domain name quality.
- Your site/page summary as it appears in a Google search.
There are many more, but these are the first six that came to mind. I see countless small business websites – all of us do, and the ones that grab me are clear, concise, neat, modern, and if or when I want to get in touch, there’s a custom email address and a variety of social media options available to me. Once I contact that business, they respond with a well-written email, I’ve got a signature with their details in it, if I Google them to check up before we proceed I can see great summaries which points to an SEO-tuned brain somewhere in that business… There are so many factors at play here, and it’s vitally important that the first impression you make is good. Otherwise, how will you progress from “small business” to just “business”?
Now, without providing step-by-step and deep-thought examples of what I’m talking about, you’d have the right to say I’m just making demands of small businesses that are either unfounded or unreasonable. So, in order to prove to you that these things matter, I’m going to go into depth. A lot of depth. Starting this week, I’ll be publishing a series of articles on communication, starting with email.