As I was on my way into the office, I came across not one but two businesses that were advertising their services through wraps that they have had placed on their automobiles. They included all the information you need to understand what they do: business name, tagline, phone number, website – and e-mail. But in both cases (one pictured above), their e-mail address was a Yahoo! or a Hotmail exchange.
We are all familiar with these free webmail services and they are great for allowing you to access your e-mail on the go. The interfaces are easy to use and intuitive and they are often bundled with other useful services. In recent they have substantial increased their data storage capacity as well.
But what struck me was why businesses would use these particular webmail clients as their main client-facing e-mail address. A corporate e-mail address provides one of the best opportunities to advertise your brand doing something your going to do anyway. Every time you give it out, you are promoting your company and your website. Using Yahoo, Gmail or Hotmail for your business is a wasted opportunity.
The good news is, if you have even just a domain name, you can create a branded webmail service. In virtually all cases, if you have a hosting account, it includes at least one e-mail account, which you can set up as you see fit (firstname.lastname@example.org, etc). In many cases, even the basic packages include 5-10 e-mail accounts and 10-25GB of storage space.
I personally love Google Apps. If you’re not familiar, Google Apps is an integrated suite of applications (Gmail, Google Docs, Google Sites, Google Calendar etc) that you can brand specifically for your business. Again, if you have a domain name you control, you can easily set up a branded e-mail account that allows you to create up to 50 e-mail addresses. It is free with up to 25 GB of storage and you don’t have to worry about maintenance.
A branded e-mail address is your electronic businesses card. If you’d like one, talk to your hosting company, check out Google Apps or familiar services like Yahoo! Business E-Mail (which charges a modest fee) to quickly set up your business e-mail account. It may be your cheapest, yet most effective tool in your promotional arsenal.