Most of my clients run businesses. Unlike my online friends – there really should be a word to describe these virtual relationships – they are not attuned to every change from Facebook or Google. Most of them have ONE email address, or one for work and one for home. Many of them ask me why they should have a Facebook Page, or what what’s the use of a blog.
These people are smart people. They are also busy, running real businesses that support them, and often a few employees. They simply don’t have the time to learn what one needs to know in order to use the Internet efficiently for business. It’s not that they cannot, it’s that they choose to do other things during the very small amount of time they are not in the throes of entrepreneurship.
As my comfort level with the Internet has grown, so has the number of email addresses I have. There are lots of reasons for someone like me to have a bunch of email addresses. I need to test email campaigns, use one email address strictly for newsletter subscriptions, use one just for notifications from various social media sites and so on. If I did something else for a living, I probably wouldn’t use quite so many email addresses as I do.
One big mistake that several of my clients make is to have their only, or their main, email address be what is known as a “role based” email address. Role based email addresses begin with something like info@ or contact@ or admin@. If there are several people in an office that handle general inquiries, they fill an administrative role, hence the name role based. These kinds of email addresses are supposed to be for roles, then, and not individuals.
Small business owners usually fill several roles, and are often the only person filling any of those roles. So it may seem to make sense to be email@example.com, because YOU are the one with the info, right?
The thing is, you need to have an email address that shows you are a human, too. If you have a problem with a company and you want to send an email to express your problem, are you more comfortable sending it to info@ or john@? Do you really feel like a human being is going to receive and respond to your problem if you send it to admin@?
When I send an inquiry to a role based address, it feels like tossing a message in a bottle into the ocean. I rarely expect a response. Contact forms on web sites are just as bad or even worse because with those, you can’t even see an email address at all and you have no record of having sent anything.
Role based addresses are not bad, and there are plenty of situations where having one is the best option. But please don’t use it as your primary email account. Give your customers or clients a human to complain to, or to send compliments to, or to ask questions of.
The phrase “relationship marketing” has been overused and is trite, almost cliché, but building a good relationship with customers is a proven way to increase profits. How can you build a relationship if you are not willing to share your name?
If you are reading this and thinking “But I’ve used the same email address for 20 years! I can’t switch now!” don’t worry, it’s much easier to change your email address than you might imagine. The hardest part will be managing two email accounts for a little while. After you set up your new address, simply start using it.
You will be surprised how many people will just hit “reply” when they send you an email. If they are replying to something you sent them (from your new address) you will have switched successfully. When you send someone an email for the first time, use your new address. Keep checking your old address, but try to send everything from your new address. After a few months, you won’t get much email at your old address.
While you are making the switch, it’s a good time to differentiate between emails that only you can handle (those should the address that demonstrates your human-hood) and emails that anyone familiar with your company could handle. That way, if you ever hire an assistant, or an intern or whatever, you can give that person control of your old role based account if necessary.