A person stopped, reading a message on their phone with earphones in.

When many businesses start out, their first thought is to get to market. One of those ways is through email. Though in Cannabis, there is an abnormally high amount of professionals still using free gmail.com, yahoo.com, or outlook.com email addresses.

No big deal… You’re bootstrapping the business, finding savings anywhere to extend that financial runway to better your chance of success. We understand that hustle. Though, what if that decision could be impacting your visibility? Your trust with potential customers? Are your messages even being received?

Use a Custom Domain

The first thing to do to help build credibility for your business is to have a custom domain name. It immediately helps with recognition and branding and can build foundational trust with whoever you communicate with.

Domain names can be purchased for $10 or less for the most common TLDs (the ending of a domain name) like .com or .co. We recommend Namecheap, just because we’re an existing customer of theirs. Though there are other registrars out there like GoDaddy or even Google Domains.

Once you have a domain name registered, or even during the registration process, chances are you’ll be offered email services. These can be as low as $50 a year for multiple users. That enables you to send email from the domain you purchased, and most help with your productivity by better filtering spam than your free email service.

Set the SPF and DKIM Records

Once you have your domain and email service sorted out, the next thing you want to do is take care of two important security features.

The first is SPF, known as Sender Policy Framework. This is a record that is attached to your domain, that tells other mail servers where emails are expected to come from when they have your domain name. This helps reduce the risk that someone can masquerade as your domain in a process called “spoofing”. If you don’t set an SPF record, your emails may seem untrustworthy by the recipient’s system and get rejected.

The second security feature is known as DKIM or DomainKeys Identified Mail. Similar to SPF, this is also a record that is attached to your domain, but it provides a key that a recipient’s system can use to verify the email came from your mail server and not someone else’s. Emails that fail this verification are often sent to a spam folder or quarantined.

Setting both an SPF and DKIM can be pretty technical, so if you don’t have an IT resource you can call on, open a support ticket with your paid email provider to set this up for you, or guide you through it. For those just starting out, having both your domain registration and email services handled by the same provider will offer you the least headaches.

Standardize Your Signature

The last thing that can help level up your visibility is by standardizing your signature. This serves two purposes. The first is that it helps develop branding, and the second is consistency. When malicious senders attempt to fake emails, they often don’t focus on the details as they are sending en masse, so they are looking for those they can trick the easiest.

A standardized signature can be a signal to your regular recipients that something is not right when it’s absent. Think about malicious emails you’ve received. You probably got suspicious when things looked out of line, or the wording was off. Same thing here.

A good signature often has your name, title, contact details, website, socials (if you are on them), and maybe a small logo or something else that defines your business, and ensure everyone uses it in the organization. If your signature is nothing but plain “default color” text, it won’t have the effect you want. Need some inspiration? Canva has an excellent article featuring 10 sample email signature designs.

So to recap, if you are using a free email service, and your emails just seem to be getting ignored, spammed, or quarantined, consider purchasing a domain name and email service, setting the SPF and DKIM records, and standardizing a signature.

If you already have a domain name and are having these problems, make sure you’ve set the SPF and DKIM records and standardized a signature.

By taking these steps, you’ll build your visibility, promote a brand image, and go further overall. While these steps don’t completely eliminate the potential for someone to attempt to phish your customers through other means like “typosquatting” and sending fraudulent emails from similar domains, it’ll still lessen the chance a customer will fall for it because you’ve built upon your branding and created a foundation of visibility through your email that they can rely on.

Featured photo from Pexels by Charlotte May.

Chris works as an Information Security professional in the Cannabis industry. They have over 20 years of experience in IT and work to share threat intel and mentor the next generation.

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