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Email Signature Marketing: Expectations vs. Reality

The business world runs on email. Orders, quotes, complaints, – it all occurs through email. Why aren’t you using that for more marketing impact? And yet, email is the one place we can guarantee total alignment with our segment of the market – after all, if they weren’t at least slightly relevant, we wouldn’t email them.

We’re strong advocates of email signature marketing here at Exclaimer. Now, we know the email signature channel is not about to become the most important tool for your marketing team or your organization, but it is an extremely efficient, effective and valuable tool when used intelligently. By employing effective email signatures on all your outgoing corporate email, you will harness the power of a great marketing channel. It’s targeted, valued, trusted, high-volume and continuous. Even better, it’s relatively inexpensive when compared to other marketing channels.

However, deploying effective email signatures is an art in and of itself. Just because you believe something is going to be effective doesn’t mean it will be. Remember that every email you send makes an impression on a recipient, and the wrong impression can sink any positive feeling they may have about your brand. Let’s run through 7 common misconceptions about email signature marketing you need to stop believing right now.

1. Email signatures aren’t important. Why do I even need to use one?

 

 

The only thing worse than a bad email signature design is not having one at all. At least give this email signature generator a try before you carry on reading. We’ll wait…

It’s easy to think of an email signature as wholly analogous to a business card – a block of text with the occasional logo or splash of color added – conceived and designed as a single entity. But think about the BIGGER picture.

Email is a critical communications mechanism for every business on the planet. There are even businesses around that won’t talk to their customers any other way. So who’s seeing your emails? Well, in the main its colleagues, suppliers, partners and customers, but perhaps more importantly, it’s potential colleagues, potential suppliers, potential partners and potential customers. Those are important people in your business life and you probably send them a lot of email, so doesn’t it make sense to consider the business emails that you send as a marketing opportunity?

That’s where email signature marketing comes into play. An email signature is a touch-point that’s displayed in the communications process from senior management to employees and contacts and beyond. Your signature will always appear on messages delivering valuable content. This provides numerous opportunities to land a cross-sell message, drive social media following, promote your presence at an industry event or share your latest piece of content.

2. “If I tell my employees to use a specific email signature template, they’ll all implement it correctly.”

 

 

This is one surefire way of ensuring your email signature marketing strategy will fail.

Users might just decide they don’t like the template you’ve provided or implement some but not all of the changes. You may then have individual users emailing an example for review and approval, then potentially amending the design before sharing it internally with colleagues. How do you keep track and how many iterations of the same signature will end up being used for both internal and external communications?

 

Email signature marketing - inconsistent templates

Employees might change their job title to one that flatters them but is actually misleading. They might not understand the more technical components of the signature and will therefore leave an unprofessional impression on external recipients. Furthermore, the company will not be able to change signatures for communications or promotional purposes when needed. It will then become virtually impossible to manage when left at the whim of every single employee.

In the end you need to ask yourself how you would really feel if every employee was responsible for designing and managing their own email signatures.

3. “The more contact details I provide in my email signature, the better.”

 


The more options you offer, the less likely it is a recipient will engage with any of them.

Think of any marketing collateral you come into contact with. Brochures, websites, emails…the list is endless. Now what do you do if there is too much to read through? You inevitably get bored and lose interest. This applies to email signature marketing too.

There is a temptation to fill a signature with lots of contact information, assuming that with more details available, a reader has more ways to reach out to you. This isn’t the case. We’re all busy people and we simply don’t have the time to read through reams of text. Your email signature should only include necessary information and be a MAXIMUM of seven lines. Otherwise, your signature will look messy and be hard-to-read. Make sure you ask yourself what the most important information to include is.

 

Email signature marketing - contact details

You’ll need to include details like your phone number and email address (yes you should include this in your signature despite what some others might tell you!). You also need to consider how contact details change with department, seniority and region. How about including direct dial numbers and location, which are particularly useful for companies operating in multiple locations?

4. “Customers will love this inspirational quote I found”

 

 

Don’t ever do this. Just don’t. Inspirational quotes are for your personal Facebook page, not your email signature.

Customers don’t care what “pearls of wisdom” you may have. These sorts of quotes are just trite and amateurish – two words you never want being said about your company.  Recipients may even get offended by what they read. Remember that not everyone’s values will align with your own. What one person thinks is inspiring, another person finds offensive.

More often that not, an inspirational quote only showcases the beliefs of an individual employee rather than a whole company. That’s one of the many reasons why centralized control is the best method of managing email signatures. Taking control away from employees puts a stop to these types of quotes appearing on outgoing emails.

5. Using novelty fonts like “Comic Sans” will really showcase my company’s playful side.”

 


Ummm…no it won’t! You’re not a child so don’t act like one!

Comic Sans was originally designed for Microsoft programs used by children. The font would be used for comic book-style speech bubbles. Not really want you want to be using in a professional email signature, is it? If you decide to use this font, be aware that you will really damage your brand reputation. Additionally, there’s no guarantee that your recipient will have the same “wacky” font installed on their computer. You could just end up sending them a jumbled mess that’s completely illegible.

 

Email signature marketing - too many fonts

At the same time, you shouldn’t use more than one font in your signature. It’ll end up looking cluttered and probably be hard to read. Remember to stick to your company’s brand guidelines, which will outline the type of font you should be using.

6. “Using bold colors in my signature banner will really make my message stand out”

 


Bolder colors in print, film and fashion can seem stylish and original – in those contexts, they can work well. Physical media will soften a color scheme and flatter more radical styles, but a backlit screen intensifies brightness and encumbers deeper shades.

Out of context, an email signature banner with bold colors may look good. But against the white, plain background of an email it’s distracting and overbearing. Extremes of brightness, darkness, hue and luminosity not only render poorly, their drastic aesthetic implies a departure from customary business practice, only businesses trying to evoke eccentricity, edginess or  similar connotations should use colors close to or beyond these limits.

 

Email signature marketing - bold color banner

Avoid certain colors: any shade of gold will look like khaki on some monitors and configurations. Remember that the darkest reds often appear muddy, while pastel shades of green and yellow can take on a sickly tint.

7. “Everyone loves animated GIFs – I’ll add one to my signature”

 

 

Yes, we all love looking at animated cat GIFs. Unfortunately it isn’t possible to include them in all email clients and don’t really have a place in the email signature marketing mix.

CSS, Javascript and other scripting languages don’t quite work in email. Nearly every scripted function is prohibited in order to prevent malicious activity. This means that nearly all animations will either ‘break’ or disappear completely. This also means any web applications using Silverlight, JavaScript or Flash cannot be embedded, nor can banners (whether GIF or Flash) that rely on animation.

In Outlook, animated GIFs won’t work because of the limitations of the email editor, which uses Microsoft Word to edit and display emails. When you send an email out via Outlook, the editor renders all animated GIFs as static images. Now, some email clients like Gmail and Apple Mail can display animated GIFs. However, remember that all of your email recipients will be using these clients, so the image animation might not play for them. We recommend that you avoid using them altogether and go for static images.

 

Conclusion

Email signature marketing can be a powerful tool to have in your arsenal. But if deployed incorrectly for what are seen to be legitimate reasons, it can backfire on you in spectacular fashion

The best results, both commercial, technical and aesthetic, are achieved with third-party solutions to design and manage email signatures. An an IT admin’s time is often precious, and a good quality solution won’t require expert knowledge to use, so any marketing professional can take ownership of this underutilized channel.

End users won’t have to worry about email signature changes – they’re done automatically and can’t be changed. You can offer some flexibility by providing a choice of approved templates while retaining central control of designs and deployment. Marketing always get to sign off the company-wide signature, just like other branded marketing communications. A dedicated solution removes the unknown quantity that is individual staff activity so there’s no room for misinterpretation or manual editing.