Reasons To Stop Using Free Email Services For Your Business

The scenario:

You are at a trade show or networking event, you meet a prospective client. They are very impressed with your product and service offering and ask to get your business card. You are happy to oblige and excited for the opportunity. Unfortunately, you lose credibility when your prospect sees your email address is a free one provided by the likes of Yahoo and Gmail or an Internet service provider such as Comcast or AOL.

How can a potential customer or prospect really take you serious when your email account does not really reflect your real company?

  1. An email address of yourcompany @ gmail or yourcompany @ comcast looks unprofessional and prospects will perceive your products and service as second-rate.

    Any business organization that relies on free email services for business correspondence will find it difficult to convince its target market that its products and services are not inferior. Perception is crucial in the business world and remains one of the key elements that influence a person’s decision to do business with you, or not.

    Using free email services may be a major deterrent to potential clients. You do not want to lose a big business deal because of the wrong perception clients have of you. You can overcome this hurdle by simply getting your domain name registered so that you can use business emails for your correspondence and open your company to significant business opportunities.

  2. Not making the small investment in registering a company domain gives the appearance that you are cheap and not a serious business organization.

    Since registering a domain name comes at a minimal cost, it is expected that a financially stable organization would be able to secure its own identity. Your lack of effort and small investment in acquiring a domain name leaves your prospects with the impression you are not a viable company and perhaps, weak financially.

    When you are perceived cheap, your products and services will be labeled mediocre in the minds of your existing and prospective customers. This could negatively affect your sales, hamper the growth of your organization, and threaten your survival in the market space in the midst of your competition.

  3. Using a free email service for business implies lack of credibility and prospects may wonder if your company is stable and you are here to stay.

    Credibility is a major component in achieving business success and this cannot be over-emphasized. Your clients need to know they can trust you with their money and information before they will do business with you. Small businesses need to prove to their prospective clients that they are trust-worthy and able to handle big projects and keep their personal information safe.

    Potential clients need to be absolutely sure that you are here to stay. A stable business relationship is required of all prospective clients. Your clients need to be assured that you will stand the test of time. Having your own business email sends the signal that you are stable, dependable, and here for the long run.

  4. Your company may be subjected to hijacking and leave your customers vulnerable to fraud.

    With the abundance of information now being communicated through email, the security level of your electronic communications must be sufficient enough to handle the delicate nature of business correspondence. Strict regulations require a high level of privacy and security with regard to the exchange of information, which cannot be guaranteed by free email services.

    Not only do free email services tend to come with lots of adverts and linked to spam mails, these types are subject to hijacking by fraudsters to defraud your clients. Several cases have been reported where unsuspecting businesses have had their professional bank accounts compromised by scammers who specialize in intercepting the emails of companies that use free email services. Trying to save a few bucks by using a free email service is not worth the agony the financial loss will cause to both you and your clients.

  5. A business email coming from yourcompany @ yahoo or yourcompany @ aol will be presumed unsafe or spam.

    Along with the many security issues that come with a free email service is the fact that many emails from free providers are flagged as SPAM or Junk, just by the email domain itself. Your correspondence will likely become stuck in spam filters or assumed as unsafe or junk and will likely be rejected, not delivered, or immediately deleted and never opened.

  6. You get what you pay for.

    While the option to send online messages at no cost may seem alluring to a small business owner with a small budget, the drawbacks are not so visible on the surface. You are left with many limitations when using a free service such as Gmail. Trying to get support and help through a free email provider is almost impossible. Because the service is free, these companies have very limited support resources for its users.

    If you are using an email account provided by your Internet services provider, what happens should you need to switch providers? What if the provider becomes acquired and you are forced to change your email address? Suddenly, your current and prospective clients are unable to reach you. In addition, you have the high cost of reprinting business cards, letterhead, and other literature. Then there is the daunting task of changing your information anywhere your company appears online such as directories and social media sites — and don’t forget all those user accounts you’ll need to update so you don’t miss a crucial notification.

Having email addresses such as info @ yourcompany, support @ yourcompany, or sales @ yourcompany creates the impression that your business is reputable and well-structured and ready to do real business.

Clients tend to respect and place a higher value on firms that can be reached through separate business email addresses for different types of correspondence. This gives the impression you are organized and proficient in processing inquiries, requests, and comments. Likewise, it makes it easier for you to sort out your emails in a more efficient way and therefore your response to such inquiries will be faster.

Apart from having a personalized domain such as you @ yourcompany, the major difference between the types of email accounts mentioned above and having your own is simple – control. As the owner of your domain, the email account belongs to you as well, meaning you have control of where and how it is managed. You can determine what security features are implemented in order to keep your customer’s information safe and your company compliant with regulators.

A small investment will go a long way in boosting your company to the next level… and beyond!

It is imperative you portray your business as a reputable brand by registering your domain name. When your emails reflect your own business identity, it provides a sense of credibility and makes your small business look big. Free webmail and ISP accounts might serve benefits to the average user, but as a business owner, they will do nothing but limit your potential.

Having your own company email establishes credibility with your audience, and being it’s associated with your online presence, such as your web site or social media page, it makes you much easier to find via search engines. By owning your email address you can distance yourself entirely from a third-party company and have more authority over the fate of your business.

If your business relies heavily on email to communicate with prospective and current customers, the growth and reputation of your business may depend on making that small investment to register your own domain.

There’s no question that email is one of the most important things small business owners rely on every day. You depend on your business email correspondence to accomplish so many things – so security and reliability is crucial. The U.S. Small Business Administration states that “Your domain name represents the Internet identity of your online business…”

How To Use Facebook To Market Your Small Business

Everybody knows about Facebook for personal communication between friends and family, but more recently it’s become a very effective tool for small businesses as well.

As robust and capable as Facebook for business is, it still goes relatively unnoticed by a vast majority of small business owners.

Facebook Fan Pages are excellent tools for marketing small businesses.

The irony is that the reason Facebook isn’t used for small business marketing would seem to be because of it’s reputation in the personal social space.

Facebook is so popular among teens and moms for pictures and silly daily updates that people are slow to accept it’s capabilities as a legitimate business tool.

It’s an identity crisis, but Facebook will certainly overcome it and this is clear when you look at the results that those who use it for business are getting.

The cat will be out of the bag soon enough and those that jump on the bandwagon first will reap much greater rewards than those who wait. Those that build an engaged social audience first will have earlier and more frequent communication with customers in their specific market.

The explanation for this lies in the functionality of the platform and the nature of the relationship between small local businesses and their customers. Small local businesses socialize with their customers. They know each others names and often mingle in offline social circles like the little league field and the grocery store.

Local business is not a nameless faceless proposition. You ever use the phrase, “it’s a small world”? Never as small as a small town or local community.

What could potentially spread the word for a small local business better than a platform used by EVERYONE to discuss what they like and don’t like? And, this same platform is set up so everything I like is immediately visible to all my friends, who in turn can like it and then all their friends see it as well.

Stop and think about that for a second.

And that’s just the beginning…

Let’s take and separate the basic Facebook features into two parts; we’ll call them “Active” and “Passive”

Active Features (what you can do):

A business owner can

  • Advertise
  • Sell goods and services right off the page
  • Post pictures showing off the business and what the business has to offer.
  • Post videos with whatever content showcases the business or maybe testimonials from satisfied customers.
  • Post links and status updates to all of his fans. These could include specials or discounts or events.

Every fan of the business page will then see these actions in their news feed as often as they are posted so customers know in real time what’s going on at the business.

Passive Features (what your fans can do for you):

A fan of your page can;

  • Comment about you, so ALL of their friends will see this activity in their news feed.
  • Fans (and non-fans) can ‘check in’ at your location, letting their friends know they were at your place of business. This also lets their friends know where you physically are.
  • Mention you in wall posts and tag you in photos.

The magic of check in’s, and tags is that they become clickable links back to your fan page for all of your fan’s non-fan friends to find you.

As cool as all this is, it’s the tip of the iceberg. With a little thought and customization, the possibilities are endless.

I’m a baby boomer and my kids often use Facebook as a replacement for their phones, my dad (83 years young) uses it and all my friends and their wives live on the platform for hours a day.

Another cool function also allows you to convert your Facebook profile to a fan page and move your friends over to become fans. For business owners with lots of friends, but no fans, they can have a large following almost immediately.

As there is no cost for Facebook pages, there are only three possible reasons I can think of that a small business owner would choose not to leverage Facebook fan pages;

  1. Ignorance-they either don’t understand Facebook or refuse to acknowledge it’s reality
  2. Resources-They don’t have or want to commit the proper resources to social media
  3. Time-they live in their business and cannot reconcile taking time away from the business to learn this new medium

We speak to small business owners every day and continue to be amazed at how slow many of them are to adapt to this new realty.

Change is hard for most people. We get that. Facebook is easy to integrate into any business and those who get on board first will be market leaders within their community.

Those who don’t…

Have a nice day.

Give Your Customers Confidence With a Business Phone System

A business phone system is a large investment for any business owner. Communication is the key to any successful business and having a phone system that accurately routes calls and delivers announcements in a professional manner gives potential customers a positive impression when they first make contact with the business.

Large corporations have utilized this technology for quite some time and now smaller businesses can use the same technology to compete with their larger counterparts. When a customer calls a business, hearing a professional message that allows them to make selections gives them the impression that the business is much larger than it really is. Having calls answered by an answering machine or receiving a busy signal can often lead customers to believe that the business may not be as qualified as they thought.

Customer confidence can be very fragile and once established is very easy to lose. When a customer interacts with the business, if the call is not handled appropriately they begin to question the business’s ability to handle other issues and concerns. A business phone system should not only be reliable, but should be versatile enough to allow the business owner to change recordings when needed. For this reason, ease-of-use is essential when choosing a business phone system.

Using announcements provides a business owner with a way to inform customers of new services or products being offered as well as general information related to the business. This frees up time that employees might be spending providing customers with answers to commonly asked questions. Allowing the phone system to handle these questions means that the answers given are consistent for each customer. If the customer receives a different answer from different employees they’re likely to lose confidence in the business.

Another way that customers become confused is when they are transferred incorrectly to the wrong person or put on hold for excessive amounts of time. Allowing the phone system to transfer the call based on caller selection removes the element of human error. This helps to minimize frustration on the part of the customer and ensures that calls are routed quickly and accurately. Not only do customers get a more pleasant phone experience, but employees of the business no longer have to worry about answering calls as they are automatically routed by the phone system.

Another way to improve communication with customers is to give the customer multiple options when they call. As an example, you could give the option of leaving a message as opposed to remaining on hold. This makes the customer feel as though they are in control and that you as a business owner value their time. This is very important since customer perception largely determines whether they are a repeat customer or not. If the customer feels that they’ve been largely ignored or given little consideration, they’re likely to go to a competitor where they feel they are treated with high regard.

In a more sophisticated business phone system, customers can be given the option to check on the status of an order, the status of a trouble ticket, or balances on their account. This usually requires the addition of a voice recognition unit that interfaces with an external database. This can cost up front, however it can save a large expense in the long run through minimizing the need for staff to look up and answer these questions for the customer. Many customers prefer to get the information without having to wait for a customer service representative or other business associate to provide them with the information. Another benefit to a voice-recognition system is that it can provide a way to survey customers when they call for important feedback. Having a small survey available when the customers call in is a great way to find out how your business is doing in the customer’s eyes. This information can then be formulated to show trends or areas of weakness that need to be improved upon as well as those areas where the business has been successful in making the customer happy.

The business phone system using VoIP technology also provides the customer with greater satisfaction because this newer technology supports a mobile workforce. The customer will no longer be met with voicemail when trying to reach a specific employee. The newer technology allows the call to be routed to the user’s cell phone where the caller notices no difference. This ensures that when callers need to reach someone that the phone will always be answered by the intended party. When customers are repeatedly leaving voicemail, they’re often left feeling like they don’t matter. Reaching the intended party 90% of the time gives them a higher level of comfort in doing business with a particular company.

For smaller businesses, a business phone system takes communication to the next level. To compete with larger corporations, the small business owner must take advantage of the technology that many bigger companies are currently using. With this sophisticated phone system, customers will feel confident in return time and time again.