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I Am Not A Number! Are You?

Written By: Mike Banks Valentine

How often do you give your email address to clients and business
prospects? Is it memorable? Is it meaningful? Does it say some-
thing about you or your business? Does it suggest your role in
the company? Does it project meaninglessness or generic empti-
ness? Is it playful, respectful, descriptive or bland beyond
words? You may believe it is none of these, but you are wrong
if you think nobody cares. Your email address speaks volumes.

In 1979, CompuServe became the first service to offer electronic
mail capabilities to personal computer users. Most early adopter
types were computer geeks already and were not offended by the
odd numeric email addresses, nor did they mind being represented
digitally by a string of digits. Hence, odd looking email ID’s
such as cs10457882.32@compuserve.com were common for years.

Now that email is becoming an expected and necessary element of
business communications, be aware how often it is seen and used
by clients and customers and the impression it makes on them
each time they see that address showing up in their in-box. Few
of the old Compuserve members with numbers for email addresses
remain. Numbers were assigned to those early members to identify
compuserve accounts and served to efficiently turn those people
into bits of data for the old, slow computer systems of just a
few years ago.

Unfortunately, we seem to be headed back in that direction as
more users than available names exist at service provider email
accounts. If you attempt to sign up with an email account at
America Online, Hotmail, Yahoo or other national internet
service providers, you are likely to find that the name you
choose is not available. They’ll offer you odd variations with
strings of numbers attached to differentiate you from hundreds
of others who’ve chosen that name. So JohnDoe654298475@aol.com
might be offered instead when a John Doe gets a new AOL screen
name today. The same is true of Yahoo and Hotmail addresses.

Most of us operating businesses online are aware that it is
possible to have almost any name we can dream up attached to
our own domain name and that we can have nearly any email
address we like, but few use that ability to choose an online
identity creatively or with much business sense. So it is quite
common to see bland generic names such as info@yourcompany.com
or even some web-based email accounts at generic hosts such as
Hotmail or Yahoo just because the small business owner is not
aware that they can now have an email address that reflects
their own domain name to further brand their business.

It’s not unusual that small businesses use YourCompany@Yahoo.com
or even something as strange and unacceptable for business as
HotMamma@YooHoo.com for their professional communications when
they could have a more appropriate CEO@YourCompany.com or even
the more common First.Last@YourCompany.com to identify them.
This is the bland end of the spectrum but serves as a bare
minimum of business email identity for your professional email
communications. If you don’t know how to set up your email
account at your domain name, FIND OUT! It is inappropriate to
conduct business with free email accounts or even AOL names.

Contact your web host and simply ask, then follow directions.
Most often it involves very straightforward, simple set-up steps
and can be done while on the support line with your host.

I’ve seen small business owners change the name of the company
and then stick with their old domain name and email addresses
because they don’t want to bother with the simple set-up of a
new email address through their host or service provider. This
is completely unacceptable for business uses. Get an email
address that matches your company domain name without fail.

If you don’t have a domain name for your business, SHAME ON YOU!
It was still being actively debated a year or two ago whether
using a generic host and email address was necessary and/or
desirable, but is no longer even discussed. It’s mandatory to
have the domain name, and email capability comes with that
domain name at every host across the internet. Get branded!

Email addresses speak volumes about their owners, and while it
is more common for personal emails to identify their owners by
creative and interesting monikers like RastaDreadlock or even
lots_of_laughs – imagination seems to falter or fail completely
when it comes to business email identities. Since establishing
my first educational domain a few years ago, I’ve used the
email address of learn@website101.com to help clarify what the
site is all about.

It’s easy to tell that the site is educational and clearly
emphasizes the main activity visitors can expect when seeing
only my email address. Does your email address tell something
about you and your business role? Do you want to be known to
your clients and contacts as webmaster@mycompany.com or would
it serve you better to be seen in communications online with a
more descriptive title like DigitalAlchemist@MyCompany.com?

Do you communicate with conservative and stuffy people, digital
geeks or real humans? Clearly, it’s best not to alienate your
customers in your first email because they expect a serious
title for your serious business. But give some thought to being
something ever so slightly more interesting than info@blah.com!
Make it more descriptive than admin@DullBusiness.com and more
truthful than Support@BadCompany.com

You can also have multiple addresses to reflect your varied
roles in the company. While it may be expected at corporations
to be M.Smith@Giantco.com, try to break out of the corporate
mold when establishing email addresses for your less stuffy
role as an online entrepreneur with Mary@LittleLamb.com! How
about adding to that a descriptive WoolGatherer@LittleLamb.com
and even Wolf@LittleLamb.com for the accounts payable role?

Clients and customers will make assessments of your company
based on things as simple as email addresses and while not
always conscious, that customer appraisal says much about
your business, your attitude and your priorities. Don’t waste
your email address as a branding tool that brands you as
unimaginative or ignorant when it is possible to use that
simple resource to add polish and sparkle to your image.

About the Author

Mike Valentine does Search Engine Placement for the Small
Business http://website101.com/Search_Engine_Positioning.html
WebSite101 “Reading List” Weekly Netrepreneur Tip Sheet
Weekly Ezine emphasizing small business on the Internet
http://website101.com/arch/

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