Blog Ethics - Get Them Here!
Is Your Fortune Made Online?

The Technology Diet

AOL Needs Your Marketing Assistance...for Free

by Guest Blogger, Lena West

SIDEBAR: Normally, I write about seemingly much more substantial strategic technology angles but this epidemic is maddening...and's tech related so, why not?


What would you do if you received an email or a phone call from a decision-maker at AOL with a request to help them market their business everytime you marketed your own - for free?  The email would hit the virtual round file or you'd request a round of whatever drink they had during lunch, yes?

But, this is EXACTLY what business owners do when they put AOL/Hotmail/Gmail/MSN/Optonline email addresses on their business cards.

You've seen them - WhateverCompany @  As if adding the company name in the email address is going to make the use of a free email account on their business cards appear more professional? Nope, it just makes them look like even bigger idiots.

Just recently, I spoke at a women's networking orgranization to promote our latest program, The Technology Diet, and received business cards littered with free email addresses.  Did I mention this organization is focused on business networking???

I even saw a local business' customized service van with an Optonline email address plastered across the side. Heck, I've seen a WEB SITE with a freebie email address on the Contact Us page! Why? Why? WHY? NO MORE WIRE HANGERS!

If you think AOL/Yahoo/MSN or any of these other companies need your help in advertsing their companies, I have a bridge I want to sell you.

Why won't these businesses take advantage of the time, space, attention and exposure to build their own brands???

It costs $9 a year to register a branded domain name. An additional $10 per year will get you one email account without having to set-up a hosting account - most domain registrations come with this service for free. (Read: NEWSFLASH! You don't even NEED a web site to have a branded domain name!)  If this is outside your capability level, hire a virtual assistant for $50 to do it for you! (I DON'T recommend AssistU, by the way - but that's a post for another time....)

If your complaint is that the freebie email address is the address where everyone knows how to reach you, then set up the domain email and have your email forwarded! C'mon...join us in 2006!

So, when asked why, in this day and age of technical ease, people don't choose to promote their own brands in place of some freebie email account that screams "I'm too cheap to invest $20 in my business and my business may be a fly-by-night prop job"?  My response is simple:


Don't believe me? Even Seth Godin says it...(skip to paragraph 3)

P.S. If you plan to write me because you have a freebie email address on your business card or web site and you're offended by my post, I invite you to use that time and energy to correct your half-baked marketing situation.


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Lena L. West


Thanks for sharing your perspective. It is hard in this day of rampant spam but, we have to consider it as a cost of doing business and figure out, in our own individual businesses, how to build our brands WHILE dealing with spam. It's a tough job but, hey - being an entrepreneur usually is. :)



Guest Blogger,

Tara McGillicuddy

I agree on everything but posting your domain name email address on your own and/or other websites. I refuse to post my domain name email on the net because of spam and viruses. I can deal with getting spam but I am sick of other people getting spam from what appears to be from my domain and it's not. To me that's even worse than looking unprofessional by using a free email address.

I use contact forms on my own sites so that takes care of it there. I am listed on a couple of directories which didn't give me a choice as to whether or not I wanted my email posted. They just automatically posted it. I thought that the lesser of 2 evils there was to use a gmail address instead of becoming prey for the bots.

Lena L. West


Thanks for your perspective. In my opinion, your client doesn't fit the criteria of cheap and lazy. Why? Because she hired you to help her. She paid for and got the expert help she needed.

The IRS doesn't accept ignorance as an excuse and neither should business owners.



Guest Blogger,

Donna DeClemente

Last year I worked with a woman to help her develop her own brand identity - the brand called YOU as it's been referred to. This woman is a highly respected exectuive coach, author and public speaker. We built a simple website for her in which the domain name we secured was her own name and set up an email address to matched this. It took quite a while for her to realize that one of the best ways to promote herself and new website was to use the new email address that had her domain name in it and to stop using her old one which was a Time Warner Road Runner domain. I had also insturcted her to put a link to her new website in her permanent email signature so that everyone she communicated with could easily link and visit her new site. I couldn't understand why she didn't see the immediate value of doing this since she is a highly intelligent woman. Then I realized that I've been in marketing for over 25 years and I live and breath this stuff every day. So, for us marketers sometimes we have to remember that what is so simple and logical to us may never have crossed the minds of others.

Lena L. West

Dharmashanti: Thanks for providing your view point. Wow, I'm sorry you took this personally. Deep stuff for you, eh? For the record, I don't shame anyone. If someone takes what I say personally to the point of SHAME well, that's not really about me. That's their "stuff" coming to the surface.

Kerch: Thanks for the other perspective about "private listings". I can tell you that as a woman in business, I use my business address for business correspondence. I guess people think it's a way to safeguard their security - not just privacy. And, I believe they have a valid point.

Andrea: Great point about OWNERSHIP. What if one day Gmail/Yahoo/MSN decides they want to pull the free experiement - like Onebox did about 4 years ago? Then where will all those businesses be? That is an interesting angle that didn't immediately come to mind for me! Thanks!

Rock on,


Guest Blogger,


"All swans are white, except when they are not."

I would like to add a caveat. The business model that suggests that online email address, such as mine are for people that lazy, stupid, or ignorant is valid...except when it's not.

There are valid reasons for using gmail (and perhaps other free addresses). For artists, authors and other micro-businesses that prefer an image of accessability and individuality, a gmail address works very well. I don't want people to see me as a corporation. I want them to see me as a person, just like they are.

I've worked in corporate America and have even had my own businesses where having a "branded email" conveys a sense of corporate professionalism. But now that I'm an author and public speaker, the polished, corporate image no longer serves.

I am not cheap, lazy or stupid. I simply am using a different business model that works best for the business I'm in.

And speaking of impressions, when I read shaming, arrogant rants on blogs, the image that pops into my mind isn't one of professionalism. The image I see is a person who is frightened, self-serving, mis-informed and with a very narrow worldview. Now I know from previous posts that that's not who you are. But such shaming ("those people are lazy, stupid and cheap")rants convey that image. Just a caution.

I am curious about one thing. I suppose an lazy or stupid person wouldn't normally bother to click on the link to Seth's site. But as an avid reader of both his books and his blog, I did click on it. I was surpised that you referenced it because it didn't mention a thing about the kind of email people use.


Kerch McConlogue

I had always just considered using a dumb-email address as just plain dumb. It's not that hard to change. But I hadn't considered the advertising side of the issue. Good call!

I'll put this in my collection of dumb business ideas, right up there with not using sig files, not including a street address on your card, or not including a phone number because you only like email!

It might also be worth mentioning that the GoDaddy practice of selling you a "private listing" is just preying on the fears of the already-worried. It costs more money than is worth spending AND makes it impossible for someone who might someday like to BUY the domain name to figure out who you are.

What is the point? If you're in business, don't you want people to find you?

Andrea Cannavina

Hello everyone - what a GREAT discussion!

Let me add that it is not always those with fly by night operations or those just starting out who use public e-mail addresses.

I've been a legal VA for almost six years and I can attest that many owners of established businesses simply think that by adding an e-mail address (ANY e-mail address) to their business cards it will bring them up to date with technology and the internet.

Apart from the loss in branding and marketing stated by Leah, public e-mail is just that PUBLIC! You don't own it and you don't pay for it, therefore there is no expectation of continued service and even privacy can become an issue. Does anyone actually read the Terms of Service?! lol

Anyway, for any of you reading this thread and rushing off to Go Daddy to buy your own domain (yep, less than $10), let me add this excerpt from my presentation before the OIVAC - Working Remotely With the Right Technology:

I am constantly amazed at the choices professionals make for their company’s domain – while some are quite “cute” such domain names immediately make me think the person is not a “professional” – others are so confusing in terms of rearranged/missing letters of the company name or have included dashes and other keystrokes that I wonder how the creators expect their clients and visitors to remember or find it!

Being a firm believer in the KISS (Keep It Simple) philosophy of life – business owners would do well in carefully considering this most important business asset.

Your company’s domain should in some way, shape, or form, immediately conjure up an image of you or your business for those trying to find you. In other words, try to keep the domain name short and memorable and somehow associated with you or your company’s name. This may take a bit of imagination over the course of time as it is very rare a first selection is available.

As for finding a good VA - there are a ton of VA directories these days! Gather a few names together, look over their websites and simply call and interview each VA prospect as carefully as you would an in house assistant. Of course, look for someone with experience in your industry or doing the type of work you need done and someone with the software to do it.

It may take some time. Remember, this is not a relationship you want to rush - a VA becomes a part of your business and grows with you!


Andrea Cannavina

Lena L. West


Thanks for that link to your VA site. I've added it to my Favs!

Rock on,


Guest Blogger,

Lena L. West


Thanks for your remarks and questions...

The only place that I see for freebie email is for signing up for newsletters, etc. I do that, sure. You're talking to someone who has at least 5 Yahoo accounts and at last count 4 Gmail accounts. But, you can bet that on my business card and web site, there's no freebie email addresses. No way!

If your hosting goes down, which it shouldn't, then you can certainly use it as one-time back-up. But, the graduates of The Technology Diet know how to get around the "hosting down" problem and STILL have branded email.

My problem, Leah, is with people who use these freebies all the time on all their business marketing material. That just stinks.

As for the garbage email that comes into our contact@ address, I have two solutions:

1) A virtual assistant with a clue
2) Intelligent spam-blocking software that's not controlled by stupid filters that really don't work anyway.

Yes, we get email everyday from what appears to be coming from our own domain...spoofing it's called. I'll share with you, what my Mami shared with me, "Locks are made for honest people." Which translates to, people will do what you will but if you take the time to build a strong brand, it supercedes all the piddly crap any spammer can throw at you. :) I spend my energy on growing my business not worrying about who could be spoofing my domain name. Hope this helps.



Guest Blogger,

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