Using free, consumer-level e-mail services for professional business communication can bring to mind the old adage, “You get what you pay for.” Though many real estate professionals use these services to avoid the headache of standing up their own servers or the cost of professional e-mail hosting, the long-term impact of using free e-mail can be costly.
If you’re using or considering a free e-mail service for business, take a look at these five areas where free e-mail services may not measure up for real estate practitioners.
A free e-mail address can look amateurish because it is. It can be a quick way to determine your level of professionalism. A true business e-mail service will offer a personalized e-mail domain name (@yourname.com vs. @freebie.com) and other professional features that help build trust and name recognition. With a free e-mail address, you also risk missing out on the ability to access content or register for events, because the business world sees your free e-mail address as unprofessional. And, unlike Yahoo and other free e-mail services, a true business e-mail provider can let you take your e-mail address with you, which means there’s no need to change business cards and other marketing documents should you decide to switch services.
Documents related to closings and other client communications are frequently exchanged via e-mail. The security of both transaction information and unique customer information contained in those messages should be bulletproof. Professional e-mail providers enact stringent server hygiene so messages don’t end up in recipients’ spam folder and offer secure storage to protect the integrity of your business communications. With stronger spam and virus filters, users spend less time tinkering in their inboxes to flag spam and reduce exposure to e-mail-based virus attacks.
With about a half-hour every day on average spent dealing with spam alone, that can add precious time back into your schedule. Along with having the ability to defend yourself with properly archived e-mail in legal disputes, the security of your correspondence may also be subject to industry and government compliance bodies. So while they’re popular, free services are a juicy target for hackers looking for security breaches exposing user information, passwords, and other data that are a headache for personal users to lose, but they can be a source of legal complications or reputation damage for business users.
The privacy of e-mail involves both the use of your information and the risk of exposure to third parties. Free e-mail clients are laden with ads, using one of your primary business tools to advertise to you and your recipients. Some even cull your e-mail activities to deliver the ads most likely to distract you from your purpose and clutter up your inbox. Professional e-mail services aren’t in the business of selling ads to make profits, so there’s no intrusive data scans, no reuse of user data, and more protections to keep prying eyes off of your business communications.
If you’re having e-mail access issues at 3 a.m., digging through user forums or PDF libraries and exchanging e-mails do not constitute support. Many free e-mail services don’t invest in standing up around-the-clock, live support manned by experts who can actually help you solve that 3 a.m. problem at 3 a.m. instead of making you wait until business hours or until someone gets around to answering your urgent e-mail. That leaves you free to focus on your passion – selling real estate, not troubleshooting issues that can disrupt message delivery.
Getting the message quicker with enhanced mobile access from a professional e-mail hosting service can mean the difference between grabbing a hot new listing and getting the message too late to act. A free e-mail service may only sync messages once every few minutes, whereas a business e-mail service with enhanced mobile sync instantly delivers messages to a user’s smartphone, tablet, laptop, and desktop as soon as they’re received.
Additionally, because a free e-mail service is focused on consumer-level use, business-focused features are often lacking. That forces users to spend time accessing additional applications to share and manage calendars, tasks, and contacts that business e-mail services package together in a single interface.
As you determine whether to use a free or fee-based e-mail system, keep this in mind: Just because it doesn’t cost anything doesn’t mean you won’t pay for it.