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What Email Address Are You Using?

Image representing Gmail as depicted in CrunchBaseI remember when Gmail first came out. In addition to having a free, web-based email with a huge amount of storage, there was something else that marked a huge change in how email worked, at least for people around my age. I’m not sure if it was specifically because of Gmail, coincidentally timed, or in correlation of other factors, but something about Gmail coming out brought a level of seriousness to using email. A lot of my friends suddenly went from using a “screen name”, their online “handle”, a sort of nickname, to using an actual name. Specifically, [email protected] started sending emails as [email protected], and [email protected] became [email protected] It wasn’t a complete transition, some of us always used our real name, and some of us never will, but there was a clear paradigm shift, at least in terms of email addresses.

I think one factor was that many of us went from using emails to correspond to friends or basically “playing” with the Internet, to using it as a serious tool for business. Not everyone was at the same step of this transition, of course. My friend Amy worked in human resources at the time and often found herself sending replies to job applications to the extent of:

“Thank you for your resume. You do seem qualified for the position. However, since you applied using the email address ‘[email protected]’, we do not believe you have the level of professionalism or attention to detail we require.”

An advantage to email addresses is that you can have more than one. I personally have a specific to me work based email address and I’m the main user of the [email protected] email address for the company. That’s two just for work, but how I use each address is very specific. I have my main personal email account, one for certain work I do for certain volunteering I do, one for certain artistic projects, etc. I certainly don’t think everyone should get or even could use a bunch of email addresses, so much as I want to impart the idea that it’s worth exploring having your work email separate from your personal email. Remember that there’s usually ways set up an email account to check and reply to messages from other accounts, so one good account can be used for several addresses.

Remember that everything about your business is something a client sees, and so everything you do, show, or use is somewhat of an advertisement for yourself; if you want it to be or not, if you mean it to be or not and even if you want it to be or not. What message does your email address send?

Say our imaginary friend Bill runs a haberdashery. He might have the email address [email protected] for general business purposes, even if he currently is the only person using it, he can have this email accessed by any employees. He could also have [email protected], and this allows him to write as a person in context with the business, but any email messages he sends are clearly not from a purely personal account. Depending on his needs and email usage, he might even create [email protected], even if he uses a personal account like [email protected]

If Bill was one of my customers, he might come to me saying that he prefers to get emails at [email protected] and wants to have that on his website and online listings. Okay, well, he is the customer, and he’s paying me, and if he REALLY wants his way, he gets his way. But when I can, I remind people like Bill that there’s a sort of order of professionalism:

Highest- “Domain based” email addresses such as [email protected] or [email protected]; These add a level of respectability and validity to your email. Immediately, a possible client knows that this is connected to a business , what the business website is, and on occasion, it assuages concerns about if this is a “real” business or not. Such emails are a free part of your subscription with us, so you might as well make use of them!

Low- email addresses such as [email protected]/hotmail/earthlink.com, or perhaps [email protected]/hotmail/earthlink.com if you are a solo practitioner and, say, can end with DDS, LMT, LCSW, etc. It shows that you at least have a business-specific email, and does have some “branding” use as it does connect to your business name, even though it’s not nearly as much as a “domain-based” address.

Very low- [email protected]/hotmail/earthlink.com, or anything that only shows your name, without connecting it to your business. It’s a contact, but the fact that you have the option to have a more professional means of contact, and you didn’t use it, sometimes sends a message. Sometimes this is only remembered as “his email is something on EarthLink.”

Lowest- the [email protected] It doesn’t have to be as goofy of a name, but I’ve see perfectly fine personal email addresses with poetic names, personal meanings or even neutral bits of info like [email protected] or [email protected] or [email protected] etc. There is nothing that connects these sort of email addresses to you at all.

Within that low-lowest scale, there is also a hierarchy of what sort of company you use. Having a Gmail account speaks well to some people I know who value the many tools the free service offers, while some people I know are wary of how big a company Gmail is. Having your email address be the company you pay for internet services- Comcast, for instance, is taken by some to imply you just set up the first email account you came around. AOL accounts, well…let me put it this way; I was at a designer demonstration at MIT when an inventor showed an amazing new product which wowed the crowd. He then showed his contact information, including his “@aol.com” email address. The crowd laughed, and one person even said “Sorry, your product is great, but none of us can take you seriously now.” If you like AOL, and it works for you, by all means, use it, but to those who spend a lot of time online, “@aol.com” is read to mean “I don’t know how the internet works so much.” In theory, your internet-saavyness, or lack thereof is not indicative of your ability to practice, but it’s also not something you want speaking against you. Again, this is fine for your personal use, but in terms of promotion and marketing, using personal accounts is forsaking a number of tools you already have at your disposal.

Finally, I’d like to suggest that you make sure your “handle” is consistent without being redundant. If your website is billjohnson.com, you might consider that the email [email protected] might look repetitive. If your business cards say Bill Johnson PhD, and your website is billjohnsonphd.com, but your email is [email protected], there is just enough of a disconnect to work against your branding efforts. More about names in a future blog- stay tuned!

Rich M – CoachingWebsites Support
Email any questions to [email protected]

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