How E-mail Signatures Can Brand and Promote Your Organization

Uniform E-mail Signatures

A version of this blog post appeared on Technorati (June 13, 2011), GovLoop (June 14, 2011), and K Street Cafe (June 14, 2011).

One of the most overlooked opportunities for online marketing also happens to be one of the most ubiquitous: the e-mail “signature”

One of the first things new employees do is create a “signature block” for their e-mails. These half a dozen lines or so, consisting of your contact info, plop themselves at the bottom of every e-mail you send. Yet few people put any thought into their e-signature, let alone alter it after it’s set up.

This modus operandi reflects a 1.0 mindset. Let’s upgrade it.

First, think of the e-signature the same way you think of business cards: they reflect upon your organization’s brand. This is why every employee’s card looks the same and contains the same basic information: because each flows from a uniform design template.

Yet most organizations treat the e-signature as an afterthought. They’ll hire someone to design a business card, stationary, and even envelopes and labels, but utterly neglect e-mail—which, of course, reaches far more people than do the aforementioned materials combined.

As a result, each employee fashions his own e-signature. Some people include their job title; others don’t. Some link to the company Web site; others link to the company’s social networks (or their own). Some prefer hyphens or periods to parenthesis in listing a phone number; others want to abbreviate Parkway” as Pkwy” or Pkwy.” Still others include a quotation, while others favor fancy fonts.

Everyone gets the basic info across, but these differences make your organization look sloppy and unprofessional. After all, you wouldn’t allow each employee to design his own business card, would you?

By contrast, let’s say you developed a template that standardized these data, so that everyone’s e-signature was uniform. The template might exhibit your organization’s colors, publicize your tagline, link to your Web site. Your recipients, no doubt, would be impressed that your firm is organized, detail-minded, savvy.

Equally important—yet overlooked even more—are e-mails sent from your smartphone. By default, a mobile signature consists of advertising such as Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry” or Sent via iPhone.” But just as you wouldn’t let the vendor that printed your annual reports stamp its imprint on each page, so you shouldn’t give corporate giants free ads in your e-mails. Instead, reserve this precious real estate for yourself (or at least for humor, as in Sent using my thumbs; please excuse typoss”).

Finally, reconsider the content of your e-signature. Rather than limiting yourself to titles and numbers, why not add a line to promote one of your current projects? As with Twitter, a succinct, catchy sentence that’s hyperlinked is most effective. For example, given a project for the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, you might write, How do you rebrand general aviation’s leading advocate?

Again, consistency is crucial. To maximize your branding, not only should everyone participate; everyone also should use the same one-liners and change them at agreed-upon intervals.

None of these suggestions is revolutionary. To the contrary, they constitute modest tweaks. Yet it’s through such seeming minutiae that good brands distinguish themselves from great brands.

Which are you?

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