The movie spin-off of Sleepless in Seattle concreted the AOL alert into our brains and the phrase became one of the icons of the email revolution. I’d bet that everyone reading this could also accurately mimic the term, “You’ve got mail!” to sound just like the legendary phrase.
Email was just coming into full force as the United States adopted the internet at increasing speed. Back then it was a swooping trend and dial-up was normal, but now most of us can’t remember the current price of a postal stamp let alone fathom communicating without email. According to Radicati, 247 billion emails were sent each day in 2009 from about 1.4 billion email users around the world – that’s 2.8 billion emails each second!!! No doubt about it, email is here to stay. At least until telepathy is more mainstream.
And yet most small businesses still aren’t taking advantage of a hosted email account to promote their business. A hosted email account is one that utilizes the business domain instead of ‘@hotmail.com’ or ‘@yahoo.com.’ Not only does this seriously bump up your image, it can also spread the word about your company.
Setting this up is not as difficult or expensive as most people think. You can have a webmail account set-up in 10 to 15 minutes and in another 5 minutes you can plug your iPhone to it! The rates vary by company, but they can be as low as $5 per month. How many new clients would you need to justify spending $5 per month on a professional email account? Not many I’d imagine.
Choosing an email hosting provider
When looking at email hosting providers, look for companies that offer both webmail and integration with desktop programs like Outlook, iCal or Entourage. This will give you and your staff flexibility in managing their email.
Also make sure they offer smart phone integration. Checking email on mobile phones has increased exponentially over the past few years so you don’t want to be stuck in the technology ice age a few months after you just finally setup your email hosting!
Finally, make sure to check on their methods of controlling SPAM. Last thing you want to deal with is an inbox full of SPAM, or worse – viruses! This is becoming the hardest challenge in finding an email hosting provider as SPAM has become more and more clever about getting through all the blockades.
Google, being the progressive company that they are, has a solid business solution for email hosting companies and you can be sure they’ll always be abreast of changing trends. You can find an overview of their business offerings at their business website.
Give all your employees an account
Yes, many of you will be going to close out of this blog and write me off as a crazy lunatic, but I really do mean what this heading suggests, so give me a break and read on for just another paragraph or two.
Once you have an email hosting account, you can easily create inboxes for all of your staff along with generic inboxes such as firstname.lastname@example.org. This will be helpful for your website and you can actually just automatically forward them to your point-person so they don’t have to check a separate email box.
When you give your employees an email inbox, you need to set some ground rules for use. This will inevitably change for each business depending on the nature of your staff, but here are some things to think about:
- Size of inbox -your account will have a limit, so they should keep it cleaned up.
- Reflect your conduct rules – any limits you may have on ‘humor’ as it will be a reflection of your brand.
- General email etiquette
You can find generic email policy outlines online if you’d like to have a look for some inspiration. Many suggest that employees shouldn’t use emails for personal use, but I would argue the contrary depending on the nature of your business. Think about what’s appropriate for your business. Bottom-line: don’t start an email account for your employees unless you lay out some ground rules first.
I strongly suggest giving all of your staff emails (even those that don’t actually 100% work for you, like independent contractors). It creates a more team-spirited environment and demonstrates that they are still working under your brand umbrella. They’ll appreciate the professional email account as it makes them look more legit and you’ll get your brand out there to all their friends and their friends’ friends!
Promote! Promote! Promote!
Now for the big tamale on why you should give your employees a hosted email account – you can automatically put promotional content at the bottom of each and every email they send out. HELLO! How did we miss this for so long?!?! 😉
Most graphic designers will know what to do when you ask them for an email signature, but make sure that you use a .png file format – this is the recommended way to send signature files.
Some suggestions for your email signatures:
- Always include a link to a landing page for the promotion – not your homepage (unless that’s what you are promoting!). If you want them to book an appointment, for example, link them directly to a page where they can do so.
- Always include links to your other online communities, such as Facebook and Twitter.
- Always include the business contact details along with the individuals.
- Always include your logo in the design.
- Create various email signatures and rotate them to see which get the best results.
So, as you can see, an email hosting service can really pay for itself in no time since you’ll be getting the word out there and offering the recipient a chance to learn more about your business and take advantage of great deals. Plus, employees will be happy to promote the business and themselves to their friends and family.