What your free email address says about your business

I can’t tell you how many businesses I come across these days that still use free email services. A company might be (very professionally) named something like “Intergalactic Nuclear Consultants & Associates,” and their website might look great at INCA.com, but their corporate email addresses are [email protected]. Intergalactic, really? Yeah right. More likely lost in space!

There may be a lot of reasons to use free email, but brand image and reliable sending and receiving aren’t among them – at least for business purposes.

It’s time to investigate branded email options, if you want to be taken seriously and achieve business success. Here’s why, and how to go about doing so!

A Branded Email Gives Credibility

A recent Verisign survey shows 65 percent of consumers feel that a branded email address is vital for a company’s credibility. As Verisign says on its website:

“Which dental practice would you choose to contact given the following email addresses: [email protected] or [email protected]? It’s probably safe to assume you’d pick the first one.”

A branded email address gives the correct first impression to your customers, and confirms you are a real company. It tells them your domain URL, if they don’t have it already. Moreover, it creates a more professional branded image of who you are.

Your professional “sent-from address” provides reassurance that your company isn’t a fly-by-night hoax or a scam artist, and helps promote awareness of your brand instead of the Hotmail or Gmail brand.

Overall, it’s one of the most inexpensive ways to achieve visibility in your target market and promote your name.

A professional URL should be an important part of your strategy for taking your business online.

Getting a Hosted Email Address

The most obvious way to get a branded email address is to set one up through your website hosting provider. If your website is hosted with one of the standard providers like GoDaddy, HostGator, or BlueHost, it’s easy enough to set up all the email addresses you need in your Control Panel.

These are usually either created in POP or IMAP format, depending on whether you want to save copies on the server or download everything to your device.

Make sure an email address through your provider is secure, particularly if you’re with a smaller, less well-known hosting provider.

Keep in mind that your email may be blocked by spam filters when using your web host to send emails using their site. They have thousands of users and most have spammers that degrade their email sender reputation. It’s one of the reasons you want to get an account from an email host like those mentioned below. They have excellent reputations so your email will seldom be shuttled off to the spam folder.

Types of Email Accounts

There are two main types of email service providers you can choose between: Those offering an email “client” or those offering webmail. Many providers offer both options, and it’s up to you to choose the one that works best for your circumstances.

Email clients are software programs that are typically downloaded onto your device; webmail is cloud-based. When you access a hosted email account from either your device or an online location, you use one of three major email protocols to do so: POP3, IMAP, and Exchange.

POP3 refers to “post office protocol,” and it downloads all your email to your computer. It’s more suited to private use than business, especially if you have only one email account and one device. It also lets you access your emails while you’re offline, so it’s good for anyone who doesn’t have permanent connectivity.

IMAP4 refers to “internet mail access protocol,” and if you use this option your messages stay online and you can log in to read, reply to, or manage them from any device or location.

Exchange is a Microsoft protocol, and it works very similarly to IMAP to allow users to access email over the internet from multiple devices and have all the emails synchronized across multiple devices.

Exchange a good option if you want excellent and reliable email communication.

Investing in Paid Email

To be 100 percent certain that your email communications are encrypted, secure, and backed up regularly, you might want to invest around $14 a month in a quality email service from a large vendor.

This option ensures emails are synced on all your devices and a copy is stored on a secure server.

Companies providing this type of service include:

Google’s G Suite runs on Gmail’s infrastructure but offers custom [email protected] emails on your own domain, as well as a range of other small business services.

Microsoft’s Office 365 is a good choice if you also need to use Word, Excel, and other MS products along with your Outlook. Many independent email providers also use 365, which means you get to continue using Outlook even if you don’t want the other Office programs. It’s a little more expensive if you go directly through Microsoft, but it comes with a bunch of other applications as well.

Rackspace offers secure, private email using your domain name with 25 GB of space, plus premium spam and virus filtering, starting at $2.99 a month for a plain POP/IMAP account and $14 for Exchange. The platform works with both Office 365 and Exchange, so you can still use Outlook if that’s your preferred email client.

IceWarp gives you a “Lite” version for $2.50 a month that includes email & calendaring, online document editing, antivirus, unlimited groups and sharing, mailing lists for email distribution, web meetings with screen sharing, audio and video calls, mobile apps and email archiving.

While it doesn’t have Exchange compatibility, if you go up to $7 a month you can add a team chat option, mobile synchronization, advanced administration and an API console, a desktop client that replaces Outlook, and even software to use instead of MS Office.

Intermedia is PC Magazine’s highest-rated business email service, offering most of the same features and benefits as Office 365. Pricing starts from $7.49 per user/month for Exchange email with a variety of other plans available.

ProtonMail bills itself as “the world’s largest encrypted email company,” serving millions of end-users worldwide and protecting client communications against modern-day cyber-attacks. It starts at $5.00 a month and offers a range of add-on extras to help customize while keeping your costs down.

Choosing a Provider

It’s not just about pricing or even security, however. When you’re choosing an email hosting provider, make sure you look for one that offers support to match your level of expertise.

Exchange can be tricky to set up, as are POP and IMAP, and it’s easy to put in the wrong protocol during configuration and end up with all your emails for the past 10 years on your hard drive, instead of in the cloud where you wanted them!

If you’re new to setting up and managing email programs, find a provider who will help you through the setup and migration process and not leave you waving in the wind.

In the Final Analysis

Many hosting providers give you an email account either for free or costing a dollar or two per month, but they aren’t the same as a secure, branded domain email. Rather, they are simple email services, and, depending on the reputation of the server farm you are hosted on, could even be on some email blacklists, so your emails just go in the spam folder. Your recipients won’t get your messages, and you’ll never even know it.

Finally, Microsoft Exchange is pretty much the gold standard for a small business, but it can be difficult to manage it yourself. Getting it through an established provider ensures that you have it set up correctly and receive all the support you need.

It will probably cost you less than the revenue generated by one more client, so you’ll be able to easily cover the cost of a reliable and professional email address for years to come.