In the world of business, it’s all about image and reputation. What kind of image are you putting out there when your emails are coming from a free, generic email server? Sure, several businesses use Google and the entire G Suite of products for their business communications, and that’s absolutely fine. However, the best ones do one very important thing:
Customize their email domain
Think about your own interactions with professional brands—who do you trust more? If you get an email from firstname.lastname@example.org and an email from email@example.com, which one is going to look more professional? Which will send the better message? More importantly, which will help you position your brand in the online world so that your target audience sees you as a valuable professional resource for whatever they need?
In this article, we’ll dig in and take a deeper look at why you shouldn’t be using the standard “gmail.com” domain for your business email needs.
Many small businesses start just like that—small. People pick up a side hustle or start doing something to make some extra cash, and before they know it, the business has taken off and they’ve got a full-fledged operation that’s still running off of a gmail.com email address and a free website with the hostname still in the URL (“yourbusiness.wordpress.com” vs. “Yourbusiness.com”). That’s all good and well, but eventually, you’ll have to upgrade.
In fact, the sooner that you personalize, the better. Use your company’s domain name as the address whenever you can. That starts by cashing in on your private domain and giving up the free advertising by dropping the hostname from your URL. It might cost a few bucks, but it’s money well spent when your reputation and credibility immediately improve.
Starting out is one thing, but you can’t be a startup forever. It's time to grow and that starts with customizing your business branding in every way that you possibly can. After all, would you remember the Coca-Cola logo or the Starbucks logo if they were printed on stock photo paper with watermarks? You’d remember them, sure, but probably for the wrong reasons: It looks pretty cheap.
Brands should be able to afford to customize and brand their business. That’s the bottom line, and that’s what should be first on your budget agenda. The good news is that you don’t have to spend a fortune to do it.
Remember when brands like Coke and Sprite used to make business signs? They'd have a HUGE logo of their brand, and, somewhere nearby, the name of the store or restaurant in much smaller print, so the business was essentially a giant advertisement. The same is true with your Gmail address. If you had to email Amazon@gmail.com, after all, how unprofessional would that feel to you? Not only that, but wouldn’t it seem like a blatant promotion for Gmail?
Google doesn't need your help advertising. They're a multi-trillion-dollar company that has all the assets and advertising that they need. If you’re a small business, and especially when you’re just starting out, you need your own help with branding and advertising. That's where a custom email domain comes into play.
So far, we’ve discussed how it’s just plain poor marketing, and that it’s not very professional, but what else could go wrong when you’re still answering emails from your Gmail account?
If you don’t start with a custom domain, things could get quite out of control before you eventually get around to upgrading. The more complicated your email system before you invest in a dedicated domain, the more complicated it will be to make the transition. The setup process will be easy, of course, when you choose a domain with a reputable mail server, such as one you can link to Outlook so that you can create custom accounts for each user.
However, transferring all of the data and information could prove to present a challenge when you are migrating from Gmail. Google might like to sing its own praises for being easy to use and excessively functional in situations like this, but too often, users realize once they get started that that’s hardly the case. Nothing is ever as easy as it seems or sounds, and the longer you wait, the more challenging it will become.
Sure, Gmail offers a free email address, but as your business grows, that single email address will begin to fail to be enough for the job at hand. You may want to get email addresses for staff members, and you won’t want people using their personal email accounts because that doesn’t allow you to control the incoming and outgoing messages at much. At the very least, this can be annoying and look unprofessional to customers. At the very worst, it means that if something goes wrong, your former employees could take all of their clients when they leave, leaving you in the lurch.
When you have a dedicated email domain, you can control everything, including redirecting all emails once someone leaves the company. It also means you can control the software that has a signup with that email address and make sure that people aren’t wasting company resources and time. When you’re all working from gmail.com, you don’t get that kind of peace of mind and control.
Imagine the time that you’ll save not having to request access to Gmail or other private accounts and dealing with customer service to try to recoup sensitive information after someone leaves the company for the final time.
Google isn’t exactly going to do anything nefarious intentionally, but the advertising that comes with using the Google platform on a free basis is definitely going to get annoying over time. It seems like there are a growing number of ads and that can take up valuable space and bandwidth on your servers and cause email to run slowly or just create too many pop-ups because you can’t click out of or away from ads properly.
It’s not a huge negative on the list, but it’s definitely something to think about. Plus, again, you don’t need to promote Google. Everyone already knows about them. What you need to be promoting is your own brand, and when you have a custom domain, you can be just as aggressive about it as Google if you want. You can also take a more laid-back approach, cool the advertising, and just let the brand speak for itself.
Another big issue with Gmail is that for the two billion and counting users, support is almost nonexistent. Google offers its email servers free of charge and is available via email for support tickets, but the response rates aren’t great, and they certainly aren’t up to the speed that’s required by the modern business. Gmail might be free, but it’s not going to be something that you can get help with in most cases.
If you do find support for the email issues that you’re having with Gmail, it’s probably not going to be from Google, and it could take hours, or even days to resolve no matter where it comes from. Free solutions aren’t exactly keen on the sense of urgency that a business has. That's why so many people suggest upgrading to G Suite for business use of the Google family of products.
Some people might read this and think, “But I know people who use G Suite for their business and they have really good reputations AND a custom email domain!” Yes, you might, but those people are using the upgraded business version of Google that includes the custom domain option for the email address. The platform is designed specifically for business use and does not fall into the general pool of Gmail use.
Speaking of that general pool, there is virtually no support available for free Gmail accounts. While you can send an email, the company has more than 2 billion accounts and there isn’t much support available because of the free access and lack of resources. Most of the time, once a Gmail account has been tainted, it needs to be tossed and replaced. If it has been hacked and is lost, it’s lost forever.
That means anyone storing valuable business data on their Gmail account will lose all of those assets, and that’s not a risk that’s worth taking. G Suite will open in Gmail, Docs, or another app and have the domain name at the top. When you open Gmail, it will open in the browser as Gmail.com-- that’s the easiest way to make sure that you’re using the right parts of Google for your business.
If you are running a business, you need a professional brand image. We already mentioned at the beginning that having a custom domain is an important part of this, and that you’ll need to do whatever it takes to make sure that you create the right impression with your branding. If you don’t have a custom domain, there’s no sense in even trying to market your brand unless you want to advertise that you’re too cheap to invest in a custom domain for your business. That's not the message anyone wants to send.
What about data backup and storage? Sure, Gmail offers an impressive amount of storage space, but that doesn’t mean that it’s secure. In fact, Gmail has decent security, but it’s not something that most people would want to tie to their business because there are so many things that could go wrong, and you don’t want to compromise valuable business assets or even your professional reputation.
A dedicated domain through G Suite or another resource is going to change the way that your business looks and behaves. It will also give you a chance to explore all of the email options and platforms out there to determine which one you like best. They offer much more impressive features for professional needs than Gmail and other free email servers, so they are definitely worth the investment. Take the time to research all of the options and find a secure host for your website and private domain email address so that you know that your business is protected.
Even G Suite offers more support and assistance than Google’s free Gmail service. This is likely because the G Suite family is focused on businesses and their communication and administrative needs, and it takes all the best features of Gmail and amps them up for the business world. Today, it’s one of the most popular tools used by small businesses and startups.
However, you can also use several other email servers and tools, such as Outlook or Apple’s Mail feature on iOS systems, to ensure that you get the user interface that you want with the customized email features that you deserve.
Google has a host of guides and wizards that can help get anyone set up and running on G Suite. They even have insights and resources that tell business owners about the pitfalls of using free Gmail accounts for business—further proving the point of this entire guide. They’re not just trying to get paid, either. Google doesn’t need to get paid. They want to help businesses get the most from their email services, so they want to send people to G Suite because it offers what they need.
If you’re still sitting here, staring at your business-at-Gmail-dot-com email address and wondering what your next steps are, you’re not alone. You can start by checking out G Suite or take the time to research other available email servers that can give you a custom domain for that professional image. And, speaking of creating a professional image, find out how our dedicated virtual receptionists here at Smith.ai can act as the face of your business to provide 24/7 answering services, live chat, and more.
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