Our e-mail address is our identity. But e-mail addresses are often like phone numbers: boring, generic and not easy to remember. However, they don’t have to be that way. For the small business owner, it’s easy and cheap (or free) to use something simple like an e-mail address to make customers smile. Here are three ways to do so:
1. Be creative with your generic email addresses
We've all seen it, and most of us probably use it: the e-mail that uses a generic username (the word before the @ symbol), such as firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Why do we do that? To look bigger? To make it seem like we have separate departments with tons of people spread across the country and we want to make sure the emails get to the right place?
The reality is that those e-mails either end up in a spam folder or (hopefully) in one individual’s inbox. So don’t waste this opportunity; be creative and leave a brand impression with prospective customers. For example, one client, Sugar Shop, just went through this dilemma when printing some product inserts and asked, “Should I use firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com?” We decided something cute was better suited to her brand, so she settled on firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com for different pieces of marketing collateral.
When making the decision, use something that fits with your product/service, company and brand.
2. Never use no-reply
This seems like another bad habit that we have picked up from our corporate idols. We send out e-mail newsletters which we hope will please customers who have bought our product or service, but we imply that we don’t want to hear from them by using from e-mail address of firstname.lastname@example.org.
This most commonly happens when a system is generating transactional e-mails, such as invoices. Should a customer have a question about their invoice, need help changing their purchase, or want a shoulder to cry on, why should we make it hard for them to find us? Set your reply-to a real e-mail address, or at least an inbox that someone is checking regularly.
The same rules apply to the name of the person sending the e-mail. Posterous, the popular blogging platform, does this well. Without looking, I can remember getting e-mails from Rich in Help and Suyash in Support at Posterous.
3. Set up unique e-mail addresses to track how customers found you.
If you are going to get creative with your e-mail addresses, you might as well use this creativity to improve the way you reply. You can set up different e-mail addresses to use in different situations. For example, the e-mail address on your business card used at a big trade show can be different than the one used in daily interactions. Check out MOO to print business cards with different e-mail addresses.
You can even tailor the e-mail address to the different pages of your website or newsletter so that you know what the user was looking at when they decided to contact you. I've done this with different sections of my e-mail newsletter to know which aspect of the newsletter the user is interested in. I easily aggregate all these e-mails by setting up a “catch-all e-mail address” with my e-mail hosting service, GoDaddy.
This approach will give you an easy way to know where someone found you and allows you to craft your response accordingly. Customized service will always make your customers smile.
OPEN Cardmember Kyle Hawke is the owner of Whinot, a website for business advice and project help from a community of reputable experts.