Get your name right

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Don’t muck around with email: domain names are cheap and are a MUST for credibility.



This morning when I was driving to work, minding my own business and listening to the radio, two things occurred to me. First, I have become old, because I find listening to talkback much more interesting than music. Second, there was something seriously wrong about the vehicle in front of me.


The van in front had some signwriting on the back about being a private investigator. But this wasn’t what was wrong; it was the email address.


Now, note I have changed the exact email address (to protect the owner) but not the thrust of it.


The email address was [email protected] There are two things wrong here.


Firstly the astraltravel bit. How can I take anyone seriously when they have an email address that indicates they are into astral travel? By the way, that also goes for “metaphysics”, “bionic” and “alienabduction”, all of which I have seen in a business context.


The second thing was the domain “”. That domain name tells me that the person isn’t overly computer literate and is so tight that they would prefer to use a free service, from Microsoft rather than develop their own brand online.


So what makes a good email address?


I would strongly suggest you get your own domain name, for four reasons:


  • They are very cheap, with a name available for as little as $27.95 for two years.


  • They allow you to extend your brand online.


  • They’re portable so you don’t have to change your email address every time you change ISPs.


  • They are flexible and there is a lot you can do with them. But I will get into that later.


I would also suggest that you think about what mailbox names you use (generally speaking, the part of the email address before the @ symbol).


Here it’s a bit of a tradeoff. Large companies tend to use full names, because they need so many different mail boxes; eg, [email protected]


Smaller companies tend to use first letter and surname e.g. blewis or lewisb. Companies that haven’t thought about their online brand tend to use nicknames as the mailbox name, such as lewy, davo or macca. The tradeoff of, is transparency vs simplicity. “brendan.lewis” is a much more obvious mailbox name than just “bl”, however the more letters mean more chance of making a typo.


Choosing a consistent format for email addresses is a double-edged sword, though. Consistency allows me to guess your email address from knowing your name, and the email address of someone else inside your organisation. If I lose your email address, it is easy to guess. But if I haven’t got your email address and want to send you an offer, I can also guess.


In regards to the flexibility that comes with owning your own domain name, here are a couple of ideas.


I can block email that comes to my domain, but not to a specific email address, such as emails to [email protected] This is useful for stopping spam.


I can forward all email that comes to my domain, but not to a correct email address, such as [email protected], to one mail box – a kind of catchall for when people make spelling errors when typing in my email address.


I can setup a whole lot of email addresses that forward email to my mailbox, such as [email protected], [email protected] or [email protected]


This can make my organisation look bigger. I can setup a whole lot of address that forward email to people who have mailboxes inside my organisation. For example, [email protected] forwards email to [email protected] This way, I would not have to notify everyone and change all my literature and website if John Smith moves on.


I can setup sub-domains for mailboxes belonging to a different office – [email protected], [email protected], [email protected] This allows me to have each office get their email from a local computer.


I have my email hosted by an organisation called Bluehost in the US. It costs me about $100 a year for the service (The service has actually a whole lot of other things going on for the $100, including up to five websites hosted).


Bluehost has a website-based control panel that I can use to implement any of the ideas above, at no extra charge. I can suck my emails down into Microsoft Outlook, or can check my email from an internet café, whilst overseas, just like Hotmail. I should add that I don’t necessarily recommend Blue Host, they were just the right service for me, with my skill level.


So, my advice to the private investigator is to get himself a serious domain name and set up some serious email addresses. I wonder how much more business he would get from [email protected], compared to [email protected].


Brendan Lewis is the founder of two IT service firms, Edion and Verve IT, and executive director of the Churchill Club.



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