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Email Legitimacy & Relevance

Email Don't Get No Respect!
(Apologies to Rodney Dangerfield)
by Mike Banks Valentine

Is there any doubt that ecommerce and a presence on the web has become de rigueur for every business, large or small?

I submit that there is no longer any doubt that clients and customers expect that every legitimate business must have, at the very least, a "business-card" web site listing contact information, business location and a simple "about us" page, along with a contact email link or web form.

I don't think anyone can argue any longer that only certain types of businesses belong on the web. Only two years ago, it was still being actively debated whether that were true. No longer can the burger joint be without a menu and operating hours posted online. No longer does any corporation believe it needn't have an intranet for suppliers and employees.

No longer can even the self-employed claim they can't benefit from a place to post their resume. Even families have sites to keep the relatives and friends informed and stay in touch.

Now many will claim that their web presence does little toward helping them to profit in their business. That is an entirely different issue and I'll go even further and call profit irrelevant to having a web site. Just as profit is unrelated to whether that business has a phone, fax machine, computer, desks, chairs and indoor plumbing. Those are expected, no, required, to a business in order to operate AS a business.

So too is the web presence, a domain name, email address and an employee (even if that's you) to handle and respond to email, answer the phone, empty the trash and clean the bathroom. Your business is expected to have a web presence, period. End of discussion.

Now to responsibilities related to that web presence. I've been discussing building a site for an attorney friend for two years. She hates email and doesn't want to be responsible for answering it or dealing with anyone electronically. Her legal secretary uses the web daily to research and communicate with clients but knows not to discuss that with the attorney and has told me in confidence that her boss despises email and will have nothing to do with the web. I may as well give it up.

I'm going to suggest that this kind of phobia will need to come to an end for all those who expect to get on in the wired world. Get over it, get a web site and answer your email! Grow up! You needn't carry a web-enabled personal digital assistant cell phone (yet) to maintain your appointment calendar and can still scribble notes on scraps of paper if you like. You needn't do your business banking online or own a Blackberry wireless but get a web site and answer your email!

I'm unwilling to leave it there. Now let us address those who have web sites and ignore them by allowing old outdated stuff to remain online when it takes only seconds to change it. How about those, such as my favorite newspaper, who post email addresses at the end of every story written by staff reporters to enable readers to contact them and then routinely ignore, and let go unanswered, reader email comments. Not so much as an autoresponder suggesting they can't respond to all emails!

Shall we consider things such as corporations soliciting email applications from job seekers - Then not responding to let those potential employees know the resume, application and cover letter were received? Shall they expect to hear back from that HR department by email or snail mail? Fagetaboutit. Not gonna happen.

There seems to be a universal disdain and/or fear of emailed communication. I wrote last week of a lack of response from my senator and congressman to email queries to their offices about bills being considered related to privacy and cc'd the president on the note. I'll allow small credit for those autoresponder generated messages sent within seconds back to my emailbox. But this week I saw a story in the San Francisco Chronicle that suggested "Lawmakers Lament Lack of Letters From Constituents".

The reporter, Washington correspondent Carl Nolte, even wrote, "Feinstein, for one, has encouraged constituents to send email, since her regular mail has been cut off." Sheesh! This after I got back my note from her last week stating, "Currently Ive received approximately 30,000 letters and emails which, because of the closure of the Senate office buildings, my staff and I have been unable to open and process." Today the autoresponder failed to return that same (or any) response.

What does that mean? I emailed a response to that reporter and don't expect an answer. They just don't respond (or autorespond).

Feinsteins office has gone back to the normal position of ignoring email. It is time to take a serious look at whether we will accept email as legitimate and deserving of responses, or if it will remain entirely the realm of spammers, scammers and hoax-spreading-urban-myth-generating-pass-this-on-silly blathering goofiness. We should just disable the "Forward" function of email and rid ourselves of those annoyances.

I suggest that either email deserves legitimacy, respect and ANSWERS, or that we abandon it entirely.

Mike Valentine does Search Engine Placement for the Small Business

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