Email signatures are really the most underutilized marketing communications tool. After all, a lot of people think of an email signature just as an electronic business card. It is, after all, designed to tell people who they’re dealing with over email. However, we would argue that you need to consider email signatures as an independent and valuable communications channel – and not just as business cards for the electronic age. Email signature marketing, when used correctly, creates a valuable communications channel whose value arises from volume, trust, relevance and targeting. As a bonus, the channel can also be used inside and outside of your organization.
For more information on email signature marketing, how you utilize it within your company and any of the other topics raised here, make sure to get your free copy of our Email Signatures for Dummies guide below.
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The value of email
Let’s first consider how many emails are sent per day. It’s predicted that by the end of 2019, there will be 2.9 billion email users worldwide. That comes to more than one-third of the total global population. Out of that, 269 billion emails are sent daily, which is expected to grow to over 345 billion by 2023, according to Statistia. That is a simply staggering amount of emails sent every day across the world.
DMR breaks this down to a more personal level, stating that the average office worker receives 121 emails per day. All of these emails have a purpose, but we’re going to focus on standard work emails. That’s every email sent out of your company email server – the hundreds and sometimes thousands of emails that you and your colleagues send out on a daily basis. Generally, work emails are between colleagues, but they will also include those sent to external contacts and from automated platforms such as your CRM system. These emails have value to a recipient. They contain critical business information – OK, sometimes they might also contain an invitation to a party or a link to a funny YouTube video – but the key point is that they will likely be opened and read. The recipient will trust the sender. They either already have a relationship or they’re in the process of building one. In that context and expanding an email signature definition to include brand elements and promotional banners, email signature marketing becomes an untapped opportunity for your company.
If you’re a large organization, the majority of your emails are probably sent between coworkers. As marketers, we instinctively think of our external markets but it’s important to consider the role that email signatures can play internally. Maybe you take internal marketing just as seriously as you take external marketing. Maybe you see all your colleagues as customers. Maybe you have direct responsibilities in that area. Maybe you work in HR and corporate communications are a big part of what you do. There is a lot of potential for email signatures on internal email and perhaps that potential has yet to be properly tapped into.
So why should you think of email signatures as an independent and valuable communications channel?
It’s clear to all of us that our email inboxes get swamped with new messages every day. Email marketing still has its place, but has come into disrepute over the last decade. Spam, phishing, malware…automated emails have gotten a bad reputation and many people now just delete them as soon as they hit their inbox.
Email signature marketing via the use of promotional banners, on the other hand, does not come with such a stigma. Banners provide the quickest way to attract new customers and offer easy access to information such as discounts, product updates, services and dedicated content. Every contact will see it, many will engage with it, and you won’t have to spend a shred of your marketing budget.
But how does this work in practice? Firstly, you need to ensure that your email signatures naturally fit into your marketing mix to not only satisfy your customers’ needs, but also align with your business objectives. Email is a high volume, low price channel, easily providing additional sales opportunities. Take a standard sales process for example. Sales representatives can often find upselling or cross-selling slightly precarious: as they’re already trying to close a deal or build a relationship, it can be difficult to bring up an extra add-on or cost. It can come across as “pushy” and “aggressive” in the eyes of a customer. It can even lead to the loss of the sale altogether.
Email signature marketing removes this difficulty. By using a graphical image, the customer learns about the additional opportunity available to them without having a sales representative push it on them. It provides a secondary message that essentially “piggybacks” onto the conversation they are already having with the representative. It’s implied rather than forced.
But email signatures aren’t just useful for selling. It’s flexible enough that you can easily adjust your strategy for other types of conversions too:
- Increasing followers and engagement on your social media channels;
- Inviting recipients to an event;
- Asking for customer feedback through 1-click surveys;
- Signing up for webinar and online events;
- Sharing a new eBook, case study or industry report.
Engage your target audience
Marketing is all about reaching a specific target audience and engaging them with relevant content. Email signature marketing goes one step further, allowing for the tightest targeting possible: you already know exactly who will see the message you want to promote, what they’re talking about at the time and who they’re speaking to within your organization. You can then build your signature banner around this to get the perfect mix of content and audience segment.
We’d also recommend adjusting the content of a signature banner based on the context in which recipients will see it and align the messaging based on their interests. So, if someone is talking to your sales team, it’s likely they’re interested in buying from you. If they’re talking to your customer service team, they probably need some help. Potential buyers could see an introductory offer that returning customers don’t. The options available to you are fairly comprehensive.
You should also have a good idea of when a recipient will see the banner content. Unlike a brochure or business card, employees can’t stockpile old versions of a signature or run out of the new one, so when you roll a new version our, you know that’s what they’ll use from then on. So you can show a banner that’s temporarily relevant, then alter or remove it when it’s out of date. But just adding then removing a banner is not using email signatures to their fullest. You might want to change a banner after a certain date: show one banner this month, then another next month and so on. Instead of showing one message for a brief period, you can let it evolve over time alongside your other promotional activities.
Put together, these two pieces of knowledge (who and when) can help ensure that whenever and wherever the banner is seen, its message remains consistent. This is how email signatures integrate with your other channels, improving what you’re currently doing in a non-intrusive fashion.
Enhance your brand
Let’s ask you a very simple question: do your business cards, headed paper, compliment slips, product packaging, invoices, signage and online presence conform to your brand guidelines? We’d hazard a guess that they do. Your brand represents your company. It is what sets you apart in a crowded marketplace. It informs your values and lets customers know what you represent. So, why are all of your external emails not branded in the same fashion? Why is your brand manager not enforcing these in the same way that they enforce all of your other marketing materials?
OK, so you don’t want to miss out on all those potential impressions by not having a corporate email signature that showcases your brand, but is your brand manager going to be happy to let everyone design their own signature using their own design skills? Would your brand manager be happy letting everyone design their own business card? Of course not. Your brand is important and email signature marketing is a great way to enhance its reputation and value.
So, what should your email signature include? You’ll probably want to include your logo. By looking at a visual representation of your brand, recipients can instantly recognize who they are dealing with, even if they don’t necessarily remember the sender’s name. Just seeing an image can help recipients automatically make a connection with your brand. However, always keep in mind the principle purpose of an email is the message within. You don’t want to over-brand your emails and compromise that fundamental purpose.
You’ll also want to ensure that contact details and disclaimer conform to your corporate typeface as well. You’ll probably instinctively look to your corporate stationery for inspiration, but it’s vital to consider email as unique and worthy of specific attention. Like other forms of digital marketing, there will need to be an amount of co-operation between your designer, your HTML code smith and the person that manages your email infrastructure. Use your brand elements across the whole design – it’s not just about the logo. If you’re worried about how the design looks, ask someone outside your organization for their opinion. If you have any doubts, then you probably should look at creating a new one for your organization.
Improve internal communication
Using email signature marketing for external purposes is one thing: it’s easier to create messages that target specific users that you’re interested in. It’s quite another to use it for internal purposes. Believe it or not, internal communications benefit from the use of campaign banners and also align directly with a specific target audience i.e. your employees.
So how can email signatures work in this context? Firstly, a banner tends to not need a large amount of graphical content. You don’t have to work as hard for your employees’ attention (they’re already invested in your company) and you don’t have to overwhelm them with content, especially given the fast and frequent nature of internal emails. A large graphic would just be distracting.
Track your success
At the end of the day, what good is any email signature marketing campaign if you can’t get insight on it? To get any real idea of its impact, you need to capture data on how your contacts interact with that banner. By adding what Google Analytics calls a ‘custom parameter’ to each link in the banner, you can take everyone who clicks to the same page and yet record which email signature brought them there. The user gets the same experience but you get valuable data on what they did. Google Analytics can tell whether a visit came from a click on a sales agent’s signature or a tech support adviser’s signature.
Through that, you can gauge how interested recipients are with the value proposition presented in your signatures. If they clicked on your pre-sales team’s banner more than your customer service manager’s, maybe they care more about the discount offered rather than the support you provide. You can also change a parameter for each email recipient, so you would know not just which email signature was clicked, but the email address of the person who clicked it. By using corporate email signatures for marketing, you get to exploit not just the high visibility of the medium, but the information it has access to – who sends it, when it’s sent, who it’s sent to – and target the message at different customer types with perfect precision. It might be the most accurate tool a marketer has.
Taking control of email signature marketing
You’ve seen what email signatures can be used for and how it can provide additional benefits for your business. However, you’ll struggle to centrally manage signatures for everyone without some pretty rigorous systems in place. How are you going to ensure the correct template is displayed correctly on everyone’s email? Or that the link to your landing page will work? Or that you can capture data on it?
To get the full benefits of email signature marketing, you need the following:
- You need control over the design: what it looks like, which departments can use which version, what’s different between their different versions.
- You need to change at will and on demand: quickly and automatically. You should be able to schedule changes in advance or only change temporarily, to coincide with a seasonal sale or holiday period.
- You need consistency in every signature. The contact details should be correct. The design, look and feel should remain constant throughout the organization.
- You need convenience in controlling it. Any change should be applied at the click of a button.
- You need to capture data on clicks and page visits. Not just for analytics, feed the content into your CRM system to personalize the landing page or the sales agent’s approach.
- You need cost-free management. There should be no labor cost. There should be no error cost. There should be no opportunity cost lost by not changing fast enough.
- You need certainty that you’ll have all of these elements, without fail and without question.
You can’t access all the benefits of email signature marketing without a dedicated third-party solution. Having a product designed specifically to manage email signatures eliminates the manual labor and simplifies the design process. You don’t need to raise an IT helpdesk ticket when you need to make a change – you change it. You don’t have to ask end users to copy/paste it – the solution creates it. IT don’t have to manually add code or content – the product deploys it.
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Email is the one place you can guarantee total alignment with your segment of the market. After all, if a recipients weren’t at least slightly relevant, we wouldn’t email them. Email signature marketing methods are the simple, innocuous way to leverage corporate email and leverage it to create additional business opportunities. Many organizations rely on the substantial rapport between their workforce and their contacts, whether they’re customers or suppliers, and email signatures are the only way to leverage that connection for marketing benefit and reciprocally reinforce that connection with marketing communications. Recipients look under an email and your content is there, and you can use that presence to do whatever you want.