Friday, 10 February 2012
What's in a (domain) name?
Most businesses, no matter how small, have a website these days. Whether it's a simple set of information about your business and your contact details, or a more intricate site to sell your products or interact with your customers, it's generally accepted that some kind of online presence is vital.
With this, of course, goes your email address. The question is, if you've been using a generic email - such as hotmail, googlemail, yahoo, BT or similar - it doesn't match your domain name; and bear in mind that it doesn't look too professional, either. You might have been using firstname.lastname@example.org, but once your business is using the domain name www.greatestproduct.co.uk, you need to ensure that your email matches. Trust me on this one: it's all about professional credibility (as pointed out recently by Heather Townsend on Twitter). I agree! I'm always a little suspicious if I find myself emailing an address that doesn't match the corresponding website.
So how to do this? If you have a website designer, they should be able to set this up for you easily. It can be done in a couple of different ways. First, you might have a redirect - which means that you are still using email@example.com, but messages addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org are redirected (much as snail-mail is when you move house) to your gmail inbox.
(Alternatively, you can use the POP3 or IMAP protocols to collect your email direct from the server of the company that hosts your website.)
The second step is to ensure that your 'official' (i.e. business) email address is used when you are sending emails out. It's no good receiving messages to email@example.com if your replies to enquiries are shown as coming from gmail. There are several ways around this, depending on how you're accessing your messages in the first place (via gmail on the web, for instance; or using Windows Mail, Thunderbird or any one of a number of local email programs). Each of these has appropriate settings to enable you to show your emails as coming 'from' the address of your choice; you'll usually have to go through a security procedure to prove that you are entitled to send messages 'from' that address.
If the above paragraphs send you into a flat spin, don't worry. Either ask your website designer to advise you on the necessary procedures, and preferably implement them for you; or, if you are running the site yourself, have a look in the Help pages of your website host (or web email provider).
Or you could ask a passing friendly geek. Or contact me, if you like!
Either way, do make sure that your site address matches your email address. Not only does it look more professional, but it can also save you a lot of hassle if you need to change your 'real' email address - if, for instance, you run into difficulties with your Hotmail address and want to change to Yahoo (or vice versa), a redirect on your email will mean that all you need to do is to change the address to which the redirect is being sent. Your clients won't need to know that the changeover has taken place. The same would apply if you've been using an email that matches your Internet Service Provider (ISP) - such as a btinternet.com address - and you then change your ISP and lose that email address. Highly inconvenient if you then need to tell everybody about the change.
It's a small detail; but in business, no matter how small or large, it's the details that matter.