Successful email signatures

Email signatures are one of those deceptively simple but high impact marketing techniques that might slip under your business radar. Indeed, your email signature may be the single most important piece of digital business stationery that your prospective clients and existing clients will see. It is worth a bit of time and effort to get this right.

What is an email signature?

An email signature is the block of text and other information that is automatically added to the bottom of sent emails. You probably already have the basics covered in your signature: your name, firm, contact details, and a disclaimer of some sort.

But your signature also offers a way to let your clients know a bit more about your business, what’s new, and what you think is important to share with them.

Your email signature can be easily updated to reflect your current marketing priorities. The secret is to keep a very small number of messages in your signature, well targeted to your correspondents’ needs. For example, you could:

  • announce a forthcoming seminar or event
  • link to your most recent blog posts
  • describe your most recent award
  • include news from your latest press release

If your company has a social presence, you may want to provide links to your various social profiles within your signature. The three big social channels at the moment are LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, and you might also want to keep a watching brief on the newly launched Google+ social networking service.

Email signatures and graphics

Your email signature uses the same language as a web page (HTML) and you can design your signature to reinforce the branding your clients will see on your website and in your printed marketing materials.

Whilst you can create a beautiful looking signature, keep in mind some email clients/software or corporate email systems will strip out all of the graphics, which includes your company logo and social icons. Some require you to click a link to say “display graphics” before they will appear.

The variation in how images display in an email is called “rendering” and you may well be surprised at the wide differences between email clients like Outlook, Googlemail, Hotmail and the like. So, be sure to test your signature to ensure it displays correctly with images turned off, as well as testing in a range of email client applications.

Top tips for your email signature

Be concise. It’s meant to be a small signature that takes up the trailing end of your message. Use it as a platform to take people to further information, be it your website or a social profile. It’s not a book and shouldn’t occupy an entire sheet of A4 if printed.

Don’t overload your email signature with every social media profile under the sun. Not only will your messages take longer to send and likewise for others to receive, but it will look untidy and confusing.

Don’t be tempted to insert a whacking huge company logo. It just won’t look good. Bosses, managers, business owners and directors all over are guilty of this one. A smaller logo will look more refined and convey a certain confidence. Google have just made theirs smaller!

Do link your logo back to your home page, it’s intuitive and user-friendly.

Generally people are experienced enough to recognise an email address from a website. There’s no need to label these with “email:” and “web:” – this just adds an extra layer of clutter. The exception, however, might be if your business works with an older audience.

Why Google Circles is better than Facebook

Google Circles is a key feature of the new Google+ social networking service. It offers benefits that will be of great use to business users.

One problem for business users of social networking services like Facebook is the mixing of your personal friends with your business associates. A real risk and privacy concern for many users of Facebook is how to keep your private life private, whilst maintaining an open door to your business acquaintances.

Google+

First, a bit about Google+. This is the new social networking platform developed by Google for socialising, communicating and sharing information online.

Google+ combines a number of different social networking tools into a single account. Features include these:

  • Share links, photos and videos with other Google+ users in much the same way you can on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Circles. You can organise your contacts by category and share only appropriate information with each category
  • Hangout. You can use video chat with other Google+ users, in much the same way as you would use Skype
  • Sparks. A type of digital news clipping service. Type in what you’re interested in and Sparks will recommend current trends and links.

You can get started with a Google+ account at plus.google.com. You will need to set up a free Google account (if you do not have one already) and this will be connected to the other Google services that you make use of.

There are some good resources on the site to show you how to use Google+ effectively: how to create an effective profile, how to assign people to circles, how to distribute content to the appropriate group of people, how to find the right people to follow and how to manage your notifications

Note that currently, Google+ is in limited field trial. In order to use it you will need to get an invitation from another current user.

How does Google Circles work?

Google Circles is a new and intuitive way in which to organise, manage and segregate your various work, family and social contacts within Google+. As the Circles logo suggests, circles can overlap or be isolated completely in much the same way as our personal and business relationships overlap in the real world.

Google Circles allows you identify how you know people, your relationship to them, and the amount of information you want to share with them.

You can choose how many Circles you require. I have circles for Friends, Clients, Suppliers, Partners and Other.

How is Google Circles different to Facebook?

Unlike Facebook Lists, Google Circles allow you to drag and drop your various contacts into different circles or categories in a very easy and elegant way. Google’s suggested default circles include Friends, Family and Acquaintances. However, you can create as many as you may want or need, for example Clients, Partners and Press.

Circles allow you to share news, conversations and stories only with the people who it will interest and as a result you don’t alienate other people. This has previously been a big problem with Facebook, and it has not been uncommon for somebody to “unfriend” (remove a connection with another Facebook user) one of their contacts simply because they were over-sharing information publicly and inappropriately. Whilst I may think it inappropriate to add a client or supplier or partner on Facebook, I am more than happy to include them within a defined circle.

Of course you can still choose to post or publish something publicly in much the same way Twitter and Facebook work. However you must first select who you wish to share your story or content with. This significantly reduces the risk of saying something that might cause damage or offence to your various relationships.

And the drawbacks?

Google+ may be new and exciting, but there have been other Google initiatives, notably Google Wave, that disappeared without a trace.

And Google+ may be of great interest to those that are technically literate, but you will need to evaluate the suitability for your target market, and indeed the skill sets of your marketing team and fee earners, to know if this going to be appropriate for your firm.

Susan Hallam is Managing Director of Hallam Communications Ltd, an internet marketing company providing search engine optimisation, social media, paid advertising and content generation services. Susan was previously a Senior Lecturer at Nottingham Trent University’s Law School and held senior marketing roles at BT and Capital One.

Email susan@hallam.biz.

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