It started off with a simple Tweet from a fellow business owner. She was in the process of hiring for her business and she came across an applicant with a “hotmail” email address. For those of you who may not remember, Hotmail was one of the original “free” email providers—they give you a free email address in exchange for attaching a simple message at the bottom of every email saying, “Want your own free email? http://www.hotmail.com.”
In business, it is well established that appearances do matter. The way you dress, your store front, your marketing materials, and even the design and weight of your business card—all of these play into your customers’ highly emotional decision making process. However, if you’re not careful—you may end up being the guy or gal with the Armani suit and the white socks.
It turns out that your digital identity is just as important as your physical representation. You can be an amazing real-estate agent and drive a BMW to all your showings to wow your customers, but none of it may matter if you are sporting a juno.com email address. Even worse, or perhaps more relevant, your amateurish website that your nephew designed can completely negate all the precious time you spent on your marketing materials, your classified ADs, and your fancy business card.
So, if you are going to continue to make a great impression on your customers, here is a simple check list of things you should do to your digital identity to bring it up to par with your physical identity—so that you continue to exude professionalism to your existing and potential customers.
Step 1 - Get yourself a “real” email address
This used to be expensive. But now a days, you can get your own domain name for about $9/year and get it hosted for another $12/month—I like Rackspace Business. And, even if you are not willing to deal with the time to set up your own domain and such, you should atleast ditch your Prodigy, Compuseve, Juno, Aol, or Hotmail account and switch to a “newer” email service such as Gmail (by Google).
Step 2 - Get yourself a real website
The days of convincing your nephew to make your website with flashing letters and an under construction sign is gone. It is unprofessional and just screams “I’m not serious about my business or my customers.” Instead, you should use one of the many instant business web site services that can get you a very professional business presence in minutes. I particularly like One Pager.
Step 3 - Clean up your digital communication
Just like how speaking clearly and enunciating your words is important in real life communications, your digital communications must exude the same level of professionalism.
This means that you should stop using colors (especially yellow), and stop using Comic Sans (you know who you are). Even more importantly, as if you were writing a professional business letter, your emails should be short, to the point and properly spaced (don’t write a huge block of text).
For your most frequently sent business emails—such as sales meeting follow ups, introduction emails about your business, or even a simple reminder about payment due—we recommend you create Email Templates that are properly formatted once, so that you can send them quickly. Tout provides an excellent way to do this.
Just like how your clothes, your demeanor and your attitude can leave lasting impressions in your potential customer’s minds, so can your digital identity. So make sure you take a long hard look in your digital mirror after reading this article.
And of course, if you need help or advice on how to improve your business, just email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.