Signature files have been around 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 certain issues.
Then Came Websites and Marketing
Now, most will use their signature file as a quick identifier of 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 many times interesting quotes.
The most important reason to use a sig file is that your signature file allows you to promote your site indirectly by simply going about your daily online business. Whether you are posting on message boards or emailing other site owners.
Your signature file gets your basic information and a link to your website in front of everyone you email. Those who may just read your post on a forum after the fact, can then 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 properly 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.
Make a point of setting up an extra line break in your email program or just be sure to hit “enter” one extra time when typing your email is completed. Keep your sig file no more than 4-6 lines.
No, there is no law that 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 make sure 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 tad bit narcissistic. You also do not need to include your full “all about me” signature file on every email in ongoing conversations. Or with those who already are aware of all your information.
Instead, for ongoing conversations, use a simpler less info-packed version, maybe one that just includes 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. That is one of the great things about the online environment is the free exchange of information and ideas.
I’ve seen many a witty and humorous quote in emails. However, to intentionally have a quote you know is very controversial or offensive has no place in business email.
DON’T throw in any sales-pitchy type hype.
Credibility online is very difficult to attain and keep up without undermining your efforts. 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 including graphic files in lieu 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 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 that all the information is correct.
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 Do’s:
DO align your sig’s text with spaces and not tabbing.
Tabs and spaces are displayed differently on different machines, which can make your layout look yucky. Keep your sig file to 70 characters or less in width to try and avoid line wrapping.
DO make sure that your signature file has the basic 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.
The only instance where you would want to include your primary email address in your signature file is if you are using a different or secondary email address to send the email in question.
DO setup your email program to automatically append your signature file.
Make sure to include your sign-off so that 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 make sure that when you include your website address that 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. 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. Don’t miss this opportunity by forgetting the https:// .
DO have several signatures that you can switch out dependent on tone or issue at hand.
Sig files are an excellent way of cementing your message tone and directs 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 would like to set.
You can also set up signatures that have 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.
Keep in mind to not be overly informal too soon with new contacts. Formalities are in place for a reason – especially in business 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 that is directed to that specific audience. Different terms and words have a different impace 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…
That the perception your signature file provides will lend to the perception of who you are, what you believe in, if you follow the rules. Do you know how to use technology – or not?
Quotes are fine and sometimes apropos depending on the conversations tone and topic. However, keep in mind who will be reading the email and the perception your opinion via the quote you include will leave. 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 own 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 subtlety market to those you do not know.
Keep in mind however, 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/or 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 properly and to your advantage. Use these tips to build your own personal library of signature files. Update and work on your signature files – there is always something new to say about yourself and your business.