If you are in business of any kind you know how important first impressions are. You dress for success. You look the part. You make sure your pearly whites don’t have lunch stuck between them. Fresh, clean shirt, pressed slacks, shiny shoes, minty fresh breath. All of that goes toward your physical appearance, but what about the first impression you give handing out your contact information or more specifically your email address?

What impression does your email give to potential clients or customers?

A common weakness for many startup businesses, small mom & pop shops, or independent consultants selling for another company is your email address. You’ve just had a great conversation with potential client or customer. They are interested and want more information so they ask for your email address. What happens when you provide them yourname @aol.com, hotmail.com, yahoo.com, or even worse, HotChick32 @yahoo.com. At best they cringe and continue working with you. At worst you just destroyed your first impression. How many people have you spoken with who dismissed your business as NOT serious because of your email address. If you don’t take your business seriously why should they?

A word of caution about gmail. When gmail was introduced many people flocked to the service in droves. You were cool, hip and on the cutting edge if your email address was @gmail.com. In a sense, it supports the very premise of this post. However, now it is quite commonplace and almost like bragging that you shop at Walmart. Gmail at one time was viewed as more professional than AOL, yahoo, and hotmail, but now it is gradually joining the ranks of lower class free email.

I would recommend that you register a domain name that represents your business and then set up an email account with your domain. Not only does it look more professional (people will wonder less if you are working out of your mom’s basement), but there are certain online sites, services and directories that will validate your business soley by providing an email at your businessdomain.com. They realize any Joe Blow can register a gmail account, but by providing an email with a professional domain they can validate you are professional and represent that company.

How to Obtain a Professional Email Address.

First, you need a domain. You could use your business name, something about your industry, or key words used together as a website. Be creative and think professionally. This will be the hardest part, but take your time. You will come up with the perfect name only to find out that it is already taken. Look at the suggested alternatives and then go back to the drawing board to try some other options. You might be tempted to register a .net, .biz, or .org, but keep working to try to find an acceptable .com. That is still the premier extension and what gives the most credibility. Unless you are a non-profit please avoid using .org. I think .biz sounds a little cheap and maybe even a little sleazy. If you have to use something else go for the .net. There are also a lot of “vanity” type extensions. Depending on your industry and market they may make sense and also help it be more memorable. Examples include: .academy, .agency, .careers, .clothing, .club, .company, .directory, .photography, .training and the list goes on.

There are many domain name registration services available. The most popular one is probably GoDaddy. I tend to gravitate toward the underdog and use Namecheap myself and have for many years. GoDaddy will often offer sales on registration to get you as a customer, but then you’ll go back to full price renewal after your sale term has expired. Namecheap is straightforward and easy to understand. Check them out here.

Once you have a domain registered you’ll need to do something with it. There will be people who see your email address and then look up your website. The best scenario would be to create a professional looking site with this domain. To do that you would need time and talent or money to hire someone (pick me! pick me!). If you do yourself you would also need to pay for a hosting service. However, this may not be an affordable option for some.

An alternate solution would be to utilize the domain forwarding service that comes free with most registrar services. Log into your account where you registered your domain and set it to forward to something else. Maybe you have a company provided replicating website, but don’t want to give out companyname.com/BigBunchofNumbers/username. For obvious reason that can be confusing. Set your domain to forward to your company website. This way you create a uniform brand image with a website address and email address that both match.

Don’t have a company website? Can’t afford a custom website? Don’t know how to build a website? The easiest and cheapest solution is to set up a Facebook Business Page (not a personal profile) and forward your domain to your Facebook page. If you have something else in mind, maybe a blog, then that is fine as long as you do something with the domain.

Finally, you’ll need to set up a Pop/IMAP/Webmail account tied to your domain. I’d recommend using the same service you registered your domain, but you don’t have to. If you used NameCheap you should set up email from NameCheap (look under Web Hosting, Shared Hosting for email only plan). Be careful about using other registration services that may have cheaper pricing, but may or may not be reputable businesses.

Gmail does offer “Gmail for Business” at a cost of $50 per user account per year with much higher storage capacity. If you need that much storage it may be better to go ahead and set up hosting service for your domain which includes email service. I’ve had experience with several different hosting companies, but my preferred host is SiteGround. You can get hosting for as low as $3.95/mo,  but that would require at least a 1 yr purchase up front (not paid monthly). However, if and when you decide to set up a website for that domain instead of simply forwarding then you’ll be all set. Check out Siteground here. There are also advantages to utilizing a hosting service like this with cpanel for administration, but that is not the scope of this blog post. If you would like more information on that please let me know.

If you have questions or comments please comment