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.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Danielle Keister

Oh, so cool that you caught that BizSlap by Scott Stratten! I loved it (as you can see; I commented way back when I first came across it). Definitely the kick in the pants some of these hobbyists so desperately need. And what's so crazy (or not) is that it really fits into some universal truths. How on earth do some of these businesses, especially service providers, expect to attract clients willing to pay respectable professional rates if they themselves can't wrap their brain around the idea of value, not commodity?

Danielle Keister

Ah, gotcha. I read it the wrong way. It's always good to get feedback on how things work for clients and users, so I hope yours gets back to AssistU. I've always found them to very gracious, and I can't imagine that they wouldn't appreciate your perspective.

I am a Virtual Assistant, but not an AssistU graduate. However, from the perspective of someone in the industry, I definitely feel they have the highest standards in the profession.

That's a good thing for clients, especially in this day and age of the Internet when anyone can slap up a Virtual Assistant website (or any business for that matter) without any assurance to customers that they are legimate and qualified. I think that's one of the greatest benefits that AssistU offers clients--that the VAs they have to choose from meet a certain level of qualifications.

That is something my Virtual Assistant organization, the Virtual Assistance Chamber of Commerce, definitely espouses as well.

Hey, since we're on the organization has both a Virtual Assistant Directory as well as an RFP system (we call them Requests for Partnership). That way clients can choose whether they want to select from a list of VAs or if they'd rather the VAs contact them.

The one value I think is the most beneficial is that our Virtual Assistants (we have over 250 members) must meet our standards of qualification and excellence. Here's the directory link in case you're interested:

Lena L. West


Yes! That's it. Hobby businesses! It makes it SOOO hard for the rest of us running legit business that we count on for our bread and butter. Sheesh!

I absolutely LOVED what Scott Straten has to say about looking the part. The "crocheted oven mitts" took the cake! Sharp language warning...Take a listen:



Guest Blogger,

Leah Maclean

I agree that have a branded domain named is critical to a small businesses marketing efforts. I do see a place for the public web-based email (eg. gmail) as being an alternative should 1) your domain host go down (better to have some email rather than no email, and 2) when you are using forums or signing up for services where you do not want to use your own domain due to potential spam generation.

I am curious Lena what do you do to wade through the rubbish in order to get the to real enquiries sent to [email protected] I would also be interested to hear whether you have come across a situation where the lovely spammers have sent out email with a from address that contains your private domain name (no that's not good for branding either).

Lena L. West


Thanks for chiming in. I LOVE what you have to say about the Wal*Mart mentality. I agree with you, there IS a lot of Internet hype out there that needs to be debunked. I've been online since the days of New York Online (anyone remember them???) and I built my business the old fashioned way. YouTube's are the exception, not the rule - and even THEY have their own domain name!

For the record, I didn't say that I wouldn't recommend an AssistU trained virtual assistant - those are your words - I said I wouldn't recommend AssistU. A total different ball of wax.

In short, I wouldn't recommend ASsistU because I don't like their approach. They have a LONG form to fill out and then they take that information a send it out via a mailing list to all the VA's in their roster. Their form makes you feel like someone will read it and match you with the perfect VA but, that's not actually what happens.

I have worked with AssistU trained VA's and some who weren't and I have not found an advantage to working with an AssistU trained VA.

I think you just gave me a great blog posting...thanks!



Guest Blogger,

Danielle Keister

I think many online business owners do it because they've been sold a bill of goods by a certain faction of internet/information marketers trying to sell them their product. "Make easy money from home sitting on your arse--no investment needed. If you've got a computer, you are on your way to making millions." They're sold this cheap Walmart mentality that they can build a business for free, that they practically don't have to lift a finger. We know that's not reality! But certain people insist on being penny-wise and pound foolish. Go figure.

Mary Schmidt

Beats me why small businesses do this - it practically screams, "I'm small and not to be taken seriously." It's even worse for women - in my opinion - to do this. Really screams "I'm doing a hobby business and I probably won't be in business a year from now anyway."

As for the signature, not only should we have all the necessary info as a courtesy to the reader - it's also a golden marketing opportunity. If you've got the time, add in a link to a relevant post on your blog, a quote, a tip -- something in which the reader would be interested and that will make you memorable. (Don't, however, load it down with boilerplate sales speak - yawn)

Danielle Keister

Why wouldn't you recommend an AssistU trained Virtual Assistant?

Lena L. West


Hey! Thanks for the support!

I kind of went on a rant but, this topic - as my wellness coach says - "burns my shorts"! :)

Actually, I put my email address in my signature file because sometimes people want to add you to their contact management system and it's a pain to hit reply just to see someone's email address. Plus, you have no idea how many times someone has forwarded an email to me from someone else and the headers (where their email address would normally be seen) didn't make it over to my end and I was grateful that they had their email address in their signature so I could contact them.



Guest Blogger,

Yvonne DiVita

Lena, you are so right on today! I am with you on this topic. Why people continue to do this, is beyond me! Additionally, why don't people use proper signatures? Your signature is a perfect place for your blog URL, your website and your phone number. Please don't add your email address...isn't it right there, if I hit the reply button?

Use this space properly - it works! Good post, Lena. Thanks!

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)