Consider this customer service scenario: you discover a business offering a product or service that you absolutely need. The company boasts a dazzling website and professional domain, featuring professional team bios and an impressive online portfolio to match. You eagerly e-mail an inquiry and within minutes, hear back from a staff member… but from an unofficial, and unprofessional-looking GMail (or Yahoo, or worse, an AOL) address.
Don’t drop the ball when it comes to securing a branded e-mail address, says Caroline Jerome, Partner and Chief Creative Officer at TBGA, a brand and marketing firm. As an ardent proponent of the value of art and design in business, she emphasizes the importance of all the little details that speak volumes about your expertise and enterprise.
“It’s a small but important detail that essentially shows you have your act together,” says Jerome. We chat with the Pratt alum, artistic design pro and startup branding guru on why a branded professional e-mail address is tantamount to a professional website–and business:
Q: Why do some businesses not have a branded email address?
Caroline Jerome: It is difficult to fathom why a business would overlook this relatively easy and low-cost way of establishing credibility with their customer. In fact, NOT having a branded email address appears downright sloppy. Receiving a business correspondence from a free Gmail, Yahoo, or shudder to think, AOL email account indicates at best, indifference–and at worst, a lack of professionalism. It is mystifying that companies should forego such an easy win when studies have proven that over 70% of consumers trust a company-branded email address over a free one.
Q: Why should businesses have branded email addresses?
Jerome: A branded address lends trust and credibility to a brand. It’s a small but important detail that essentially shows you have your act together. Consider it an opportunity to promote your brand with every email issued, instead of promoting third party giants like Google and Yahoo. It also reinforces your brand through recall. Think of the relative ease of searching for an easily identifiable email address or group of addresses. A branded address saves your client (and your employees) time by helping them locate contacts in overloaded inboxes. It’s an organizational win and with a remote workforce sending more email than ever, it’s an important touchpoint for your business.
Q: What other forms of communication (besides email) brands should have for customers to reach them?
Jerome: Ever-evolving communication channels are changing the way brands connect with customers. And while traditional email, social media, and phone should always be available, businesses must also embrace the ever-evolving landscape of newer technologies like SMS/text, live chat, and chatbots. What forms of communication a brand chooses to adopt depends on the type of business and the expectations of their customer. A B2B consultancy may lean more on social media than a consumer technology which may require the instant ease of live chat. But don’t bite off more than you can chew because in marketing, as in life, unreliable or complicated communication can destroy a relationship.
Q: What are 2-3 tips you have for brands wanting to standardize their social media handles and email addresses?
Jerome: First, when choosing a custom domain, determine an address that is available, easily identifiable, and directly supports your brand.
Second, test it. Speak it over the phone–is it easily understood? Type it on a touch keyboard—is it painstaking to enter manually? Length and phonic legibility are key to a user-friendly domain. (ie. while customerservice@Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.com is not recommended.)
Third, create general accounts like info@ or service@ for consistent and broad use across channels. These addresses not only connect customers with the right people who can help answer their questions, but they also save time internally by routing inquiries to the appropriate inbox.
Q: What visual design and content tips do you have for brands to have consistent brand messaging across all communication platforms?
Jerome: Maintaining visual standards across channels is vitally important to a fully integrated, living, breathing brand. Applying brand elements like your company logo, color story, and graphic elements will help bring your brand to life.
Also, make sure your content always reflects your core values and key messages. By staying true to your values, you will engage your audience, establish brand trust, and ultimately, drive sales.
Last but not least, create an editorial calendar so you can strategically cross-pollinate content across email, social media, and your company website. Strategically tracking and planning content across channels will help build a powerful brand that stands out from the competition.
Q: What else should business owners keep in mind when it comes to “the little details” in successful branding?
Jerome: Successfully branded email, social media, and editorial content can be force multipliers to boost sales, but it’s important to remember that implementation is as important as strategy. A cautionary word to the overly ambitious: Make sure you can handle whatever you take on. With more ways to connect, comes more relationships to manage and more ways to mess up. Remember, lack of follow-through or falling short on the service side can sour even the sweetest brand relationship.