One of the things we are most proud of about Heartmade is our commitment to artist development. We’ve advised makers on everything from booth design to pricing to branding. And now, we’re bringing some of those tidbits to the blog so everyone can benefit. Welcome to Heartwork Essentials where we’ll be going back to basics for running a small business. Whether it’s your side hustle or your main hustle, if you expect it to support you like a business, you have to treat it like a business.
Getting an email that is specific to your business is one of the easiest steps you can take towards legitimacy. Whether it is a free gmail account (ex: firstname.lastname@example.org) or one that is branded with your website domain (ex: email@example.com), having that dedicated address to receive all your business correspondence is key. This separates your business communications from all the day-to-day emails and spam that permeate a personal email address. It is also way more professional and easier to remember than that email you’ve been using since college, a la firstname.lastname@example.org. People often know your business name before they know you personally and, if they aren’t the same, you could be doing yourself a real disservice.
Gmail is of course the absolute easiest way to do this. You can secure a free account in a snap. There are other platforms that provide this as well. The most important this is to get one that is email@example.com. If your business name is taken, go with something close that makes sense. Or go with your social media screen name. As long as it is consistent with something that you are promoting to the public.
There are many different opinions out there on whether a branded email tied to your domain is better than a free account. We won’t address that here, you can google it if you’re interested. Having said that, most web services providers include a free email when you pay for hosting and if you have that option, absolutely make use of it.
This is not to say that you shouldn’t use contact forms or social media direct messaging. They definitely have their place in a communications strategy, but they have their own challenges.
Instagram direct messages do not all show up in the same place. When you follow someone, you’ll see messages from them by tapping the handy paper airplane in the top right corner of your screen. When you don’t follow them, read new customers, you have to go looking for those messages in your inbox. That’s right folks. You could be missing out on tons of business if this is the only way that people can get hold of you. Instagram has a great help section that covers all of this.
Facebook messaging is more reliable but if you manage a separate page for your business you have to turn on the function to get notified and be able to respond in Messenger. If you are juggling more than one extra page, it’s easy to miss this or confuse your personal and business conversations.
Website contact forms are perhaps the most impersonal way to interact with your audience. Users have the feeling that their really important question is going out into a void and, unless you have your form set up correctly, sometimes it is. It is also not a one-click response to reply. You often have to make the effort to start a new email to the person and you lose the context of their original question or request.
Now that you have your email sorted out, you know what is even more important? READ AND RESPOND TO THOSE EMAILS. There is nothing more frustrating than emailing to inquire about a maker’s services and getting absolutely no response. Or getting one that clearly indicates that they didn’t read a word that you wrote. If a customer or business partner has taken the time to write you a detailed email, you should give them the professional courtesy of reading and responding accordingly.
Managing an email box means checking SPAM and Junk folders to make sure that nothing has ended up there in error. If you are going to set up filters to keep your inbox smaller, go check those folders.
You never know what opportunities you are missing out on if you are managing your correspondence poorly. We’ve all made these missteps and we know … believe me WE KNOW … that it’s hard and time consuming to run a small business. Communicating with your customers and peers is essential to your success.