If you are a startup or a small company, I understand that you are chasing fast growth with a shoestring budget. But cutting corners with your marketing efforts could mean not reaching your customers. This includes using free business email accounts instead of paying for professional email.
Regardless of your industry, email is a great way to reach your customers for two reasons:
Customers like it
A recent study on mobile consumers in India reveals that accessing email is among Indians’ top three mobile activities. Sixty-one percent of respondents said they prefer to communicate with companies through email.
Marketers like it, too
Customer preference becomes one of the reasons why as high as 71 percent of the marketers in India rely on emails. Email is where customers are!
Email accounts are as important as your business. Have the best one.
Here’s how using free email hurts your business
Money is often tight during the startup phase, but economizing by using free email might have unwanted effects. Here are a few of them.
You might not be taken seriously.
It’s harder to retrieve lost emails.
Your messages could go into the spam folder.
Plus the annoying advertisements.
Before we detail the downsides of free email and propose a better option, let’s give free email its due.
Remember your first email account?
I still remember the day I created my first email account for free. It was 17 long years back at YahooMail.com.
Nowadays, there are many free email service providers, and their services are still free. It’s great, isn’t it? It is a huge enabling factor for many.
Email addresses are often used for authentication purposes. Whether for shopping, net banking or networking, you need an email address. Hats off to these wonderful service providers who have enabled everyone in India to have a free account.
The fact that anyone can have a free business email account has a flip side — what’s to distinguish your legitimate business emails from those of a fly-by-night spammer? Let’s understand why I discourage using a free email account for your business.
Drawbacks of using free email for business
As wonderful as free email is, it can have unforeseen effects for businesses — especially new ones that don’t yet have any reputation.
1. You might not be taken seriously
Perception is reality. Had it not been so, branding would not be such a popular business topic.
Let us see through the eyes of a customer who receives business emails from the following accounts:
Which email ID do you think a customer would trust? Of course, the second one! It is like choosing between a generic and a branded product.
The free email when used for business purpose seems unprofessional and unreliable. The customer could perceive the business to be new, non-serious, part-time — or even a scam — and therefore might not even open your message.
You might be doing better than your competitors, but if you aren’t branding your communications, your competitors will have a better chance of winning contracts.
2. It’s harder to retrieve lost emails
Have you ever lost crucial data from your inbox? Let us have a sneak peek.
This guy had hard luck. Make sure you don’t.
God forbid, but if you land in such a situation as above, retrieving your data is next to impossible because “free” means “no technical support.” Using free business email accounts can cost you big if you lose vital business or customer data.
3. Your messages could go into the spam folder
Email frequency in India is very high, with 59 percent of marketers sending a weekly email. This frequency, coupled with the use of a free email account, increases the chance your emails will land in your customer’s spam folder.
Sixty-nine percent of customers decide the fate of the email (trash, spam or read) by just looking at the subject line and email address.
With a free email account, you run the risk of being flagged as spam by the recipient’s internet service provider (ISP). Even if you make it past the ISP’s spam filters, there are high chances of you getting rejected by the readers themselves.
4. Plus the annoying advertisements
Do you know free email service providers scan your messages/emails in order to display targeted ads on your computer/mobile screen?
As Apple CEO Tim Cook famously said, “… when an online service is free, you’re not the customer. You’re the product.”
Google announced in 2017 that it would end the 13-year-old practice of scanning your emails for advertising. Google does not snoop for advertising, but it still reads your emails.
Why invest in a paid email account?
Many startups are reluctant to spend money on anything considered non-essential, especially in the early days. Here’s why a professional email account (e.g. Karan@YourBusiness.com) is a smart investment:
Builds credibility and trust
A professional email address builds trust with your customers. According to GoDaddy’s research, using a professional email for business increases the likelihood of customers doing business with you by nine times.
Business runs on trust. In fact, a professional email address is imperative if you are a B2B company. Your vendors might not take your orders seriously, as they could doubt your legitimacy and therefore certainty of payment.
Increases brand resonance
If you are calculating the expense of buying an email account, think of the free marketing it does every time you hit the Send button.
Unlike free business email accounts, professional email accounts can be customised with your website domain name, making your email address You@YourBusiness.com. With each message you send, your customer is reminded of your business name.
Remember it takes six to eight touches to convert a customer. After only six emails from you, there is a very high chance he’ll think of you the next time he is ready to buy.
A paid email account also makes it easier for clients to recognise your employees when different teams of your company reach out to them. If the customer is contacted first by Sales@YourBusiness.com and post-purchase by Support@YourBusiness.com, the customer will be quicker to share any crucial information because they’ll recognize the email address.
Improves your data security
A reputed email service provider does not share your data with anyone. They do not monetise your information by showing you targeted ads.
If you allow your employees to use free email accounts for business communications, the data they share is untraceable. Once they leave your employment, all those business exchanges will be lost. Not only can you back up professional email, in case you ever need to find a deleted email, but you retain control of all accounts — even after an employee leaves.
Should you need additional security, Microsoft Office 365 from GoDaddy offers an encryption add-on that scrambles the contents of all emails sent from your business account, making it unreadable to hackers.
Editor’s note: With one email account from GoDaddy, you can create addresses for up to 200 employees. No need to buy separate accounts for each employee.
Forget free business email accounts
At a time when 45 percent of Indian consumers respond positively to email offers, your business simply can’t afford to get email wrong.
It is a no-brainer to invest in this marketing technique — especially when it is just a few dollars per month per user. The free marketing with every message alone will make up the cost quickly. So grab the deal and up your email game.