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Mark's Business Consulting, Support & Services Blog

What is an Email Signature?

It's an optional little bit of information you automatically attach to the end of your emails. Most email clients including Thunderbird, allow you to add a signature, which is usually done in two ways:

1) You create a basic signature in plain text or HTML within your email client software and the email client adds it to every email.

2) You create a signature file which can be plain text or HTML. The contents of which get appended to your emails when you create a new email.

HTML, which is the programming language used to create web pages allows you to create a richer signature with images, styled fonts, hyperlinks and even basic layouts (much like a web page). Straight away those business savy individuals will be realising the potential an email signature represents.

An Example of an Email Signature

In the picture below showing an email, everything below (and including) the grey horizontal line with my picture below it, is the signature.

email signature example

7 Reasons Why You Really Need an EMail Signature

  1. Legal Protection - it may not be the top of everyone's list but let's think about it. You're sending electronic communication to clients/suppliers/friends/family etc. It's not perfectly secure and you may mistype an address and suddenly your private communication is in the hands of a stranger. It's a bit late to wish you'd put a disclaimer about confidentiality on your email. A legal disclaimer wont stop mistakes but it means you're more empowered to act when a mistake has been made. There's a saying about "it's too late to bolt the stable door once the horse has escaped" - well you get the idea.
  2. Every email is a golden marketing opportunity - but wait, surely the email you send to your mum/sister/spouse/etc doesn't count? I can understand the emails being sent to clients have marketing value but friends and family? Really? Yes! How many of your friends/family really know what you get up to on a daily basis? The links you provide, for example to your twitter account, may help them understand what you do and then one day they're better informed to make a referral (or pass your email onto someone else). Bottom line you never know who may one day pass your info on to a new client, but one thing is for sure, if people don't know what you're up to, or how to get in touch, then they wont be in a position to help you.
  3. A digital business card. You're sending an email, maybe in response to an enquiry, now's your one chance to make sure that this prosective client/collaborator/partner etc. has all your contact details! Sure you love Skype but they may prefer calling your mobile. Give them the choice and you're more likely to hear from them.
  4. Professionalism - an email signature says "I take my work seriously and I'm confident enough to put my name and contact details to it". It also looks nice and again that helps you look professional.
  5. Grow Your Social Network - got a twitter profile? facebook page? vimeo account? Why aren't you telling people about them?
  6. Highlight Specific Parts of Your Website - want more visitors to your blog or new product page? Link to it from your email signature, that way everyone you email is given the chance to follow the link. It's not rocket science, and again, do nothing... get nothing.
  7. Strengthen Your Brand(ing) - You've got a lovely website, a lovely leaflet, a great business card but your emails are, well... boring. Get your logo on your email, style the signature so that the font, color scheme, layout and graphical elements match your other brand locations. Advertising is all about making sure people are exposed to your brand identity as much as possible. That email you're about to send needs your brand identity on it!

Features of a Successful Email Signature

In the picture above we see a demo email I sent to myself with the signature attached. I'm going to walk you through the key components of this signature.

Let Them Know Who You Are

making a good email signatureThe photo, logo and my name take pole position in the signature. They're top left. This is where people expect a logo to be. This reinforces the brand "ZARETTI" but also personalises it so they understand that they're dealing with a human being. That cheesy picture of me has been specifically chosen because I've used it on all my social networking sites and on my website. Wherever they encounter my online presence they have a consistent experience. This makes them feel more comfortable and helps reinforce my brand. I've got my full name, no Nicknames! and it is linked through to my profile on this  website. This could be your logo, picture, brand name, personal name etc.

Give Them The Information You Want Them To Have

A minimum would be to make sure they have your contact details. I've also included links to my blog and a page about working with clients all over the world. I've used the "tick" Tickicon (see right) to highlight the information, but also because it is used on the website. Using it here means this signature matches the graphical style of the site. In effect the email becomes an extension of my website.

Make it REALLY Easy For People - Support Mobile Devices in Your Email Signature

Email Signature - links

As well as providing the information and links I've made it really easy for the recipient. There are actually 4 different kinds of link in this part of the email signature.

A) Telephone links - these numbers are hyperlinked so that on a smart phone clicking them automatically dials the number! No more trying to highlight the text, copy it, figure out how to paste it into the dial pad! Click - ring - simple. On a laptop/computer your browser will give you the option to pass the number onto an application, like Skype.

B) Skype links - you've guessed it! Clicking here activates Skype so that it's one click and you're calling me on Skype if you like.

C) Email Link - Ok this is a little more obvious, and odd. You'd probably be viewing the email from within an email client right? So you'd just hit reply. But it's still nice to give you the option of clicking here to open a new email or perhaps right clicking and grabbing the email address for use elsewhere. Some people argue that you don't even need to put an email address in an email signature because "duh... you got the signature on the email in the first place", but I'm all for making people's lives easier and I can bet that at least one person would want the email there. Perhaps they just want to copy and paste all the contact details in one go?

D) Website Link - Ok this is the most obvious "Link" a link to a website page. In this example I've actually got an anchored link (to a part of a page) and a regular old link.

So the key thing here is by providing these links I'm making it EASIER for the reader of the email to act. One click is a lot easier than a lot of copy/paste activity, especially on a mobile device!

Multiple (Mobile) Device Support - Responsive Email Signature Design

In keeping with the spirit of good design I've treated this email signature like a web page. The signature uses a fluid grid layout with adaptive elements so that the signature should look nice and be usable on all different devices. There's more constraints when designing an email signature, but that doesn't mean you should ignore the fact that it will be viewed on many different sized display ports.

  • The image of me and the logo resize (shrink) as the width gets smaller.
  • The social icons flow into fewer columns as the page width shrinks.
  • The ratio between the left hand part and the main section is mentained.
  • The main section wraps to accomodate different sizes.
  • The overall signature makes full use of the available width and is not fixed width.

Adding Social Links (Facebook, Twitter, Google+) to Your Email Signature.

Adding social links to your email signatureIt's a must, unless you don't want to grow your social networks?! I've done it in a way that is not distracting and in keeping with the style of my website. Each image has a title so when you hover over the icon it will explain more details, for example "click here to visit my personal Google+ page". There's a bit of techyness to getting images to work well in email signatures. Basically you can embed them or link them. Each has its drawbacks and either can be blocked or requires the client to allow images to be shown. I've opted for linked images, which means that the size of the email is smaller as the images are pulled from my server much like the way a website page works.

Common Mistakes People Make When Designing Email Signatures

Funny Pictures or Animations

A picture of you drunk with a comical hat on falling off a diving board into a swimmingpool probably isn't going to make a great impression. Neither is an animated picture of the easter bunny bouncing up and down. Of course you know your target market/clients best and really the message here is "consider the image you use". Humour is always risky as it may be misunderstood or even offensive to some. Animations (such as gifs) should just be consigned to the 90's and left there, but that's just my bias. The problem is that they are usually distracting and don't add value.

Large Pictures

Large pictures take time to download or bloat the size of the email. Don't do it. Keep it small, use a properly web ready compressed image format. A JPG file saved specifically for the web can be up to 80% smaller than an almost identical one. It's to do with compression, meta information and colour spaces. But basically if you don't know what you're doing you may be making the images 5 times slower to download than they need to be so if you're not sure get assistance.

Way Too Much Information

Keep it simple. You could say "My Office Number is 01234 567890 and you can call between 9 and 5 Monday to Friday but I may not answer if I'm busy". Or you could say "Office hours call 01234 567890 - leave a message". Personally I'd just say "Office: 01234 567890". Less information = less reason not to call.

Adding Personal/Spiritual/Religious/Moral Beliefs as a Strapline

Unless it's actually directly related to the reason you're sending emails, like you're a spiritual leader, priest or something, I'd strongly recommend keeping your beliefs off your email signatures. I don't care what you believe as that's your choice, but I do care about you being successful, so here's why it's a bad idea. You've sent the email, it may be your first email to someone. Let's just say you run a carpentry business and you're sending over a quote for some work. They love the quote, they love the information etc. but then at the bottom of the email they read "God Loves You, I Pray For All My Clients". It's going to create one of three responses:

1) Oh that's nice, I like this person even more!

2) OK, I think this person's a bit of a religious nut, not sure I want to do business with them.

3) Who cares, the price was good.

OK I'll admit I'm simplifying it a little and there's other responses. But the fact is that the statement has nothing to do with the business reason for the email, and yet it risks putting people off because any belief can evoke a strong response in those that support it or are opposed to it. It's best to leave beliefs off. You can always introduce your beliefs when the time is right in an intelligent way once you know the client (and their beliefs) a little better. The goal is to not provide reasons why someone might not want to contact you, but rather create opportunities for them to contact you.

And before I get a load of hatemail about "why did you pick on God as an example", firstly make sure your hate mail has a nice signature attached. I'll be marking it out of 10 and posting the results online. Secondly it's just an example, and since you don't actually know my beliefs concerning "G.O.D." then you'd just be acting on assumption. Maybe I'm putting it out there subliminally to convert people to the cause using reverse negative references? eh? hum? or not.

Out Of Date Information

Make sure that you keep your email signature up to date. Changing office, company details, contact details? Keep it current.

Broken Code, Missing Images, Dodgy Links

As with anything test test test, and test some more. It may look lovely in your email client before you send it but how does the signature look and function once it's received. Links should work. Images should work, although most email clients will have a button with something like "Show Images in this Email?" before linked images are available. Test your signature file regulalry incase any of the links have changed.

Right I'm off to double check my own signature file, again before posting this article! If you need help with creating your own signature files then feel free to get in contact.

Add a comment | Posted by Mark Zaretti at 18:44