Aug 28, 2006

What Your Email Address Says About Your Business

John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing (excellent small-biz marketing tips here, by the way) writes about using free or personal email addresses for your business.

There’s no nice way of saying this. If you run a small business, and you’re still using "@aol.com" or "@hotmail.com" for your company email address, it’s just not professional. It’s a little like using scissors to cut "business cards" out of scrap notebook paper. I don’t care how steady your hand is—it won’t look right.

At MailChimp, we don’t even let companies signup for free trials if
they’re using their Hotmail, AOL, Yahoo, etc. email accounts. There’s
too much potential for abuse by spammers, or inexperienced
users who just aren’t ready for email marketing.

We learned a long time ago that when "Bob the mechanic" or "Jane the real estate agent" signs up for an account with their @aol.com address, the following is most likely true:

  1. They don’t have a website yet
  2. No website means no valid opt-in collection process
  3. They’ve probably purchased a list from a local organization or via some spam they got
  4. They’re not interested in permission or "relationship" marketing yet. They want to "jumpstart" business by "blasting" a million people with email offers.

So we quit allowing those kinds of email addresses on our free trial signup form. They’re too risky.

The downside, of course, is that we lose potential customers who just want to use their anonymous email address during the free trial evaluation (I sign up to stuff with my Gmail account all the time, so it’s understandable). We actually had a lot of complaints and questions about this, until we got Truste and BBB certified. Interestingly, all the live chats and support tickets about "why can’t I use my gmail address?!?!?" stopped after those two little logos got placed on our free trial page.

As Mr. Jantsch points out, even AOL recognizes the need for small businesses to have a more professional look, so they’re now
offering a service to help its users setup their own domain names.

Are you still using an "AOL" or "Hotmail" account for your business?
Go to godaddy.com, and buy your domain name. It’s so cheap ($10 a year, or something like that). They even
throw in super cheap (sometimes free) email accounts. And if you just can’t part with
your Hotmail address, don’t worry. You can setup that new business email
address to simply "forward" all messages to Hotmail (or wherever). It’s easier than getting your business cards printed at Kinko’s!