When starting a new business, it is not uncommon to use a generic, free email such as Google for your online communications. However, as your business grows, you may start to see the necessity in establishing your very own custom email domain that your customers can identify and recognize. Is it worth it to make this transition or would it be more beneficial to stick with a simpler and cost-effective approach like Gmail?
Here is a list of pros and cons that will help you compare the advantages and disadvantages of both Gmail and a custom business email domain:
Gmail is one of the leading free email providers and has capabilities that can make your business email appear as if it has an entire IT team behind it. Though it is free, Google offers benefits that are similar to many of the leading custom email services.
Large storage space
A great benefit of using Gmail is that you can get a large amount of storage space—sometimes even more than you would be able to get if you were using a custom email domain. Currently, Gmail offers 25Gb of storage space for businesses which will allow business owners to store a large number of emails containing large files. You will not have to worry about being limited by storage space. Not to mention that you can always purchase more storage space should you ever run out.
Online access anywhere
Gmail’s accessibility is another major benefit. If you have a custom email domain, you may find that it becomes difficult to access emails outside of the office depending on what server you’re using. A common issue with custom email domains is that some business owners find that when they access an online version of their messages, they lack the ability to work with them as intuitively as they do on their regular computer.
Cheaper and less effort to maintain
Gmail is such a highly recommended option for new and small businesses because of its low cost, zero maintenance, and data storage “in the cloud,”. This means that your email, documents and events are readily available anywhere that you can access the internet on a web browser. You do not have to worry about hiring an IT system administrator to create accounts and give users access to services. Google Apps’ dashboard provides the tools for you to do it all yourself.
Synchronization with other service providers
Your Gmail business account can be synced with Microsoft Outlook, BlackBerry, Android and iPhone. All of these are familiar platforms that are widely used by many business professionals. When trying to utilize technology such as smartphones, this synchronization is especially important to ensure that you can handle business while on the go.
Though keeping all of your emails stored “in the cloud” is a great way to gain access on multiple devices, you may completely lose access to your messages in the event that Gmail is momentarily down for any reason. Using Gmail essentially means that you are putting your trust in another company (Google) and relying on it to not let you down. You will not have the added security of protecting your messages and performing adequate backups as you would with your own business email domain. Though Google is one of the most reliable cloud service providers, outages are still very much possible and do happen from time to time.
As Gmail is a free service, it makes a lot of its revenue via targeted advertising. They may use information from other Google products, such as Search, or the contents of your emails and use this information to display ads that may be perceived as pesky. Gmail also takes it upon itself to take note of which messages you open and which you send to spam. Though email scanning conducted by Gmail is done via automated tools and does not identify you personally, some users view this as an invasion of privacy.
Gmail relies heavily on other products offered by Google, including Google+, Google Calendar, Google Drive and your Google Contacts list. If you use alternative products and services such as Microsoft SkyDrive or Outlook Calendar, it can be a much more complicated process to try and integrate those services with Gmail depending on your workflow. However, some integration is usually possible in most cases as long as you have the time get the job done.
Search is widely considered one of Gmail's strongest selling points. However, it does have its limitations. For example, you cannot sort through your messages by size, even though this is something that is relatively easy to do on most email servers. It is also less flexible than Google's Web search as it does not offer spelling suggestions or matching plural versions of your keywords.
Custom Email Domain
Studies show that three quarters of Americans find businesses with an email domain that matches their website to be more trustworthy. A custom email domain is one that uses an identifier such as your brand name or website instead of an outside website such as Google. For example, your custom email domain would be “John.Doe@houstonplumblers.com” instead of “John.Doe@gmail.com”
Increased trust in your business
Simply put, people tend to trust a custom email more than they trust a generic, free email address. This trust will directly affect how they feel about doing business with you. A custom, professional email address will increase your customer confidence and professionalism, no matter the size.
Flexibility for staff email addresses
When you are first starting your business, using an account such as “email@example.com” may be sufficient, but what happens when you start adding employees? Would you want them to use their personal address to handle your business communications?
If you have your own custom domain, you will have the flexibility to add several professional staff emails and ensure consistency across the board by using “firstname.lastname@example.org” for your staff.
If you have staff members using their own personal email addresses to communicate with your customers, you run the risk of losing years of contacts built up if a member leaves the company. If you have your own custom domain email set up, you can create a master backup copy of business emails and deactivate company email addresses after an employee leaves.
Email marketing recognition
The email subject line and the sender’s email address are used by receivers when deciding whether to report an email as spam. Your email marketing efforts will have a better chance at being recognized as legitimate if it comes from a custom email domain.
You’re branding your business
Your business name is how you brand yourself and how people will get to know who you are. In addition to every other marketing strategy, emails are another way to push your brand. It goes on everything such as business cards, sales brochures and your website. An email address that includes your business name is a great way to remind customers of your brand.
People will take you more seriously
You might think that if you already have a loyal set of customers, they will not care about your email address as long as you provide quality service. What happens when they give your email to a friend as a referral? That person does not know anything about your business and could view your company as less professional than another one that has a custom URL based email address.
You’ll have to shop for an available domain
Shopping for a custom email domain can either be a quick and easy process or drawn out and frustrating one. One of the easiest ways to shop for a domain is by going to a domain registrar website and looking to see if your ideal domain is already taken or not. If available, the site should let you know that the domain is ready for purchase. If it is already taken, the registrar will usually provide you with suggested options. Keep in mind that some domains (particularly short ones or domains packed with industry keywords) can get very expensive which means you may have to pass on the one you want if it is out of your budget.
Custom domains come with a price tag
Unlike with Gmail, you will have to pay for a custom domain. However, the average custom domain is relatively affordable. You should also expect additional costs for things such as an email server, like Office 365.
You’ll be transferring all your information
You may be thinking, “I would love to upgrade to a custom domain, but I don’t want to lose access to my calendar data, client conversations and stored contacts.” This is a common and valid concern. It is true that upgrading your email account will require you to transfer all your data to the new account. This can be a time-consuming process depending how many years of business data you need to move from one account to the next.
A custom domain is a great investment if you are looking to establish credibility and trust in your business. It makes your business appear more professional and established and immediately gives a sense of competency. A custom email domain is part of marketing your business and making you stand out in a crowded marketplace.
When you business looks professional, you’ll attract more customers, land more deals and command a higher price for your services. The trades.org team can help your business succeed by creating a reliable and trustworthy brand that your ideal customer recognizes and returns to. Let our team help your team so you can spend time doing what you do best.