First impressions count, now more so than ever. In the fast moving and increasingly competitive world of business, whatever your industry, judgments are made at the first point of contact. That might be online, in person, picking up a brochure or a visit to a website.

It’s well-discussed that it takes just seven seconds to make a first impression. In this world of online contact, it’s perfectly plausible that the first time you ‘meet’ someone might just be by email. It’s also perfectly probable that the first time your email address gets ‘introduced’ to someone, it might come as a surprise to you.

A referral by a friend or getting cc’d into an email exchange removes your control from who might see your email address for the first time. The best way to avoid an email address falling into the wrong hands is don’t use one that you’d be reluctant for potential customers to see.

Do you really want to be judged for your merits on the whim of setting up a nonsensical gmail address when you were 16, that you’re still using? Think about your email address as your online identity. How does it sound to a potential customer? What does it say about who you are as a person and a professional?

The perception of a professional email address will depend on who you are doing business with. Some might feel satisfied that a firstname.lastname@gmail.com will suffice. For others, who might have a little more IT knowledge or awareness of the importance of corporate identity, only their own, personalised domain name will do, for example: Fred@fredsflowers.com

A professional email address starts with registering a unique domain name (that’s the second half of your email address, the bit that comes after the ‘@’ symbol). There are lots of providers out there selling domains for less than £5 per year. Search for your business name and then select the extension of your choice, popular examples include: .co.uk, .com and .org. If you have a website, the chances are you already have a domain name. You can choose the same web hosting provider to host your email, or a completely different one if you think you can get a better deal.

Top tip: Tick the box for ‘automatic domain renewal’ with your domain registrar to ensure you maintain your domain name and prevent anyone else from buying it when it becomes available.

Once you’ve registered a domain name, you’ll be able to setup your email address. Choose something like firstname@yourdomain or firstname.lastname@yourdomain.

If you’d rather not have a named email addresses, or would like to portray an image of having several different departments in your business a ‘role based’ email address e.g. sales@, info@ or admin@ can be set up. Most basic email hosting packages will allow you to create up to five mailboxes per account.

You’ll be able to access your email online through webmail or set up through a third-party email client like Outlook.

Top tip: Set up a professional email signature using instructions from your mail client. Remember to include your branding, key messages about what you do, contact details, a link to your website and social media pages.

The best email address will say who you are and what you do, so Fred@fredsflowers.com is a good example. It’s also possible to buy an industry specific domain extension like fred@freds.flowers

Making the most of your first introduction to a potential client over email could make the difference between you hearing back from them or not. You’ll never get a second chance to make a first impression.