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Signed with a Marketing Message

G. Simms Jenkins
Signed with a Marketing Message G. Simms Jenkins

To me, email marketing success has always been about the little things-- a well thought-out footer, a perfectly placed contextual cross promotion or a convincing subject line that has been tested and proven battle ready. So it may come as no surprise that I have always spent a good deal of time ensuring my personal email signature was just right while also analyzing the email signatures of others that flowed into my inbox.


Email signatures are placed below the content of any personal emails and readily available for creation and use in almost all email clients. They originally were primarily used for providing basic contact information but like email marketing, they have slowly morphed into a more sophisticated one-to-one marketing message. Email signatures vary wildly from person to person, company to company and often by position in an organization. However, most individuals (whatever your role or rank in a company) miss some great branding and direct-response opportunities in their business email signatures.


Let's look at how to elevate your email signature into a value-added marketing message that can be seen by everyone you communicate with directly via individual emails (not to be mistaken with company email campaigns).


Contact information
While this is the most prevalent item included in business email signatures, it should include basics on how the recipient can contact you in the future, title/role in the organization and website URL. While the email address of the sender can be found in the from line, many people want to add you immediately to their contacts, so make it easy for them to export or cut and paste all contact info into their Outlook. This is of particular importance for those in sales. What good is an email dialogue where a subtle or overt sales pitch is the focus but follow-up contact information is hard to find or not included?


Consistency
It is surprising to receive emails from different individuals from the same company with different colors, company information and overall styling. While it is difficult and maybe draconian to enforce company wide (at least in large organizations) standards on something considered personal like email signatures, it is wise to encourage consistencies. After all, you don't want disparate marketing messages every time your company communicates with a potential customer.


Fonts and background colors may seem trivial in email signatures but they do reflect your company's image during email communications. In fact, if you ever thought fonts in email can impact recipients' perception of the sender, a fascinating new study confirms this.


Company overview/branding position/tag line
I am continually amazed whenever I receive emails from high level employees at world renowned brands that do not include a single thing about their company in their email signatures. While this may reflect personal or company modesty, I find this to be a missed opportunity given the amount of money big brands spend on creating awareness. A brief company overview (think elevator pitch-- one wants to avoid warlording) with a tag line or brand value proposition should be essential in any business email signature.


Marketing focus/awards
On a rotating basis, savvy marketers change cross promotions and timely advertising messages in their offline, email and search campaigns. Why not implement this in your signature as well? If a company or product has received a recent award or currently has a major promotion, a simple description link can be both appropriate and relevant. This can also indirectly engage recipients in viral behavior.


Newsletters/blogs/events
Almost without exception, companies today offer email newsletters and to a lesser degree, blogs. Links to these relationship-building tools should be included. However, individuals should generally be discouraged from promoting a non company blog in their business signature unless it is industry focused.


One BrightWave Marketing client does an exceptional job of including upcoming events that are a major focus of the company in individuals' signature lines. If your primary revenue is dependant on such an event, it is a best practice to include these in all of your customer touch points.


CAN-SPAM compliance
More than three years after the CAN-SPAM act was passed, 81 percent of email marketers are still not aware of this mandatory legislative act. According to WebSurveyor, which polled 1,082 organizations, almost 84 percent said they received no training or information from their organization about the law. This is grounds for a separate column in and of itself but from personal experiences, I find almost 99 percent of personal email solicitations fail to include any type of reference to providing an opt-out.


This law is not solely the grounds of broad email "campaigns" but also of sales individuals sending out one-to-one emails that are essentially sales emails. Anyone who uses email to seek new business should include a basic reference in or below their email signature on how to opt out of future emails from that company. The implementation of removing individuals one by one from their sales force is not an easy thing but something that should be closely evaluated by almost every company with a sales force.


Whether you are an account coordinator, VP of sales or a customer care representative, it would be wise to rethink the way you interact with all recipients in your day-to-day emails-- and your email signature is a perfect place to start. If you think you have a compelling signature line, please send me an email (of course, with your polished signature line) and the best ones will be included in a future column.


G. Simms Jenkins is founder and principal of BrightWave Marketing, an Atlanta-based email marketing and customer relationship services firm. .

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