Signature files have existed since, well, before most current Netizens were even aware that email existed. Before the Web, folks generally had basic contact info and included their favorite quote to show their feelings or perspective on specific issues.
Then Came Websites and Marketing
Now, most will use their signature file to quickly identify who they are and what they do. They offer a link to their website, while those online for personal use will still serve up witty, clever, and often interesting quotes.
The most important reason to use a sig file is that your signature allows you to promote your site indirectly by simply going about your daily online business, whether posting on message boards or emailing other site owners.
Your signature file gets your basic information and a link to your website before everyone you email. Those who may just read your post on a forum after the fact can check you out too.
Your sig file contents can help you solidify yourself as an astute technology user. If you have a business, your sig can soft-sell your enterprise to your contacts.
Signature files are the ultimate in online passive promotion when used correctly and effectively.
Let’s first cover the DON’Ts:
DON’T have your signature file start right after the last sentence line in your email.
Set up an extra line break in your email program, or hit “enter” one extra time when typing your email is completed. Keep your sig file no more than 4-6 lines.
No law will send you to the pokey if you break this guideline. However, this is a role that most follow. It is a recommended guideline so you don’t seem too pushy.
DON’T have everything about you, including the kitchen sink, in your sig file.
If you have a website, include a pointer to your URL to ensure folks can find out whatever they like about you. This is really what your sig file is for.
To have your pager, cell, home, business, work, and accreditations will lead to the perception that you are a tad bit narcissistic. You also do not need to include your complete “all about me” signature file in every email in ongoing conversations. Or with those who are already aware of all your information.
Instead, use a simpler, less info-packed version for ongoing conversations, which may include your most used sign-off and your name.
DON’T use controversial or political quotes in your business signature file.
Hey, everyone has the right to an opinion. One of the great things about the online environment is the free exchange of information and ideas.
I’ve seen many a witty quote in emails. However, intentionally having a quote you know is very controversial or offensive has no place in a business email.
DON’T throw in any sales-pitchy type hype.
Credibility online is tough to attain and maintain without undermining your efforts and refraining from overzealous sales hype that ends in multiple exclamation marks. This will help you to be perceived as a seasoned professional.
A short and sweet comment about your product or service is enough. Let your website do the selling for you.
DON’T use formatting in your sig file (or your business emails).
This includes ASCII formatting, font colors, and bolding or graphic files instead of a plain text signature. Unless properly created, graphic files may be displayed as attachments. In addition, formatting can flag your email as potential spam landing it in the recipient’s trash box.
DON’T use small case or all caps for your name.
Capitalize your name formally: John A. Smith, John Smith, John. Not typing your name formally with proper capitalization can show a lack of education and business savvy.
DON’T start using your sig file until you have verified, reviewed, and double-checked all the information.
Sigs with errors lend to the perception that you lack attention to detail. Check your spelling and any links that are included.
Now to the Dos:
DO align your sig’s text with spaces and not tabbing.
Tabs and spaces are displayed differently on different machines, making your layout look yucky. Keep your sig file to 70 characters or less in width to try and avoid line wrapping.
DO ensure your signature file has the essential info folks need to contact you.
No need to include your email address. Your address is automatically noted at the top of every email you send.
You will only want to include your primary email address in your signature file if you use a different or secondary email address to send the email in question.
DO set up your email program to append your signature file automatically.
Ensure you include your sign-off so you do not have to type your name with every email. So, for example, you can have:
John A. Smith
Website Address Here
Slogan or Additional Information Here
DO ensure that when you include your website address, you add the “https://” before your site’s URL.
In some email programs, without the https://, the program will not recognize the address as a link. Unfortunately, that means it may not be clickable within your message.
One of the neato things about sig files is they allow you to have every email be one click away from your website. So don’t miss this opportunity by forgetting the https://.
DO have several signatures that you can switch out dependent on the tone or issue at hand.
Sig files are an excellent way of cementing your message tone and directing the ongoing communication’s priority and level of formality. Sincerely, Best, Regards, Respectfully. Each can be used differently depending on whom you are communicating with and the tone you want to set.
You can also set up signatures with your formal name and a less informal version to set a comfort zone with the other party, such as Elizabeth vs. Lizzy or James vs. Jim.
Remember not to be overly informal too soon with new business contacts. Formalities are in place for a reason – especially in professional communications.
DO have signature files that relay a different message based on where and to whom you are emailing.
If you are marketing on message boards or forums, use a signature file that reflects your new product or the current promotion directed to that specific audience. Keeping in mind that different terms and words have a different impact depending on the market.
Be sure to include a call to action, such as Download Now… Contact Us Today about… Get your free… You get the idea – sans hype. Leave out the multiple exclamation or question marks too.
DO keep in mind…
If you follow the rules, your signature files will lend to the perception of who you are and what you believe in. Do you know how to use technology – or not?
Quotes are okay and sometimes apropos, depending on the conversation’s tone and topic. However, remember who will read the email and the perception of your opinion via the quote you include will leave. Therefore, humorous or controversial quotes are best left to personal email.
The beauty of your sig file is that you do not have to say anything about your site in the body of a posting. That is unless it would be relevant/appropriate and it is the proper forum. What a great way to market subtlety to those you do not know.
The last thing you want to do is post gratuitously or send an email with a one-word answer just for the sake of getting your signature file in front of others. That is one of the oldest tricks in the books, and many will know what you are up to and may complain directly to you and the moderator. Post deleted. Credibility lost.
Your Marketing Opportunity Awaits
So, there you have it—the basics you need to know to use signature files correctly and to your advantage. First, use these tips to build your library of signature files. Then, update and work on your signature files – there is always something new to say about yourself and your business.