Unleash the Power of E-mail Signatures

How to Unleash the Power of E-mail Signatures
By Joanna L. Krotz
Reprinted with permission from Microsoft Small Business Center 

Every time you send an e-mail message, you have an opportunity to share something personal or powerful or playful in an “e-mail signature.” Yet few people realize its potential. E-mail signatures are the wise or funny sayings and quotations, artwork or animated gifs that appear at the bottom of messages, following your name. You don’t need to type in words or attach signature files for each outgoing message, of course. You automate the process with a few simple selections in your e-mail program .(See below for how to include signatures in Microsoft Outlook.)

Why make the effort? Frankly, it’s fun. Personal signatures add spice and individuality to the cold salad of e-mail.

And business signatures can boost profits, too. Consider a signature of your company’s marketing tag line or a special sales offer or a direct link to the company Web site or to a registration page so customers can sign up to get news or offers. These are all extremely cost-effective ways to build business. Even sending signatures of quotations or sayings in business e-mail is a way to make you stand out amid the clutter.

The bottom line on this bottom line: You’ll be noticed, remembered and appreciated — if, that is, you go about adding signatures in the right way.

Electronic expressions
Signatures are a snap to swap, either daily or every few days, depending on how often you send e-mail to the same recipients. You can also easily create customized signatures for different outgoing messages, so your boss doesn’t get the same one as your significant other. Signatures are infinitely flexible electronic expressions.

“The people interested in signatures has changed as the Web changed,” says Aaron Dragushan, a signature aficionado who launched the Web site Coolsig.com some years ago when he couldn’t find an online source to satisfy his signature thirst. “Signature users used to be geeky, male and educated because the Internet was limited to computer scientists at universities. Now signatures are mainstream. It attracts everybody, with a range of interests.”

Coolsig has a database full of options, running from “Pick-Up Lines” through “Politics” and “Life’s Truths.” It attracts a few thousand visitors daily, according to Dragushan, who now runs Wondermill Webworks, a company that creates Web tools for small businesses based in Victoria, B.C., Canada. A favorite signature: “Find the key to yourself and every door in the world is open to you.”

Don’t underestimate the power of signatures to build relationships, either. Some time back, Dragushan got a call from a total stranger in the Netherlands. “He ran across the site and offered help. He flew over for a visit to help with the database and content,” says Dragushan.

Nowadays, the Web is well stocked with inspiration for signatures. To find your own rich lode, key in “e-mail signatures” or “quotations” in MSN Search or your favorite search engine, and start mining.

A couple of sources to help you get going:
RhymeZone.com, a self-described “toolbox for poets, songwriters, and students,” offers a rhyming dictionary, Shakespearean database, nursery rhymes, Biblical quotations and one-liners from authors and scholars.

Bartleby.com is a reference portal with quotation databases from “Bartlett’s,” “The Columbia World of Quotations” and more. (From the home page, click on the “Quotations” link.)

Dos and don’ts
Good signatures deliver a kicker. They evoke a chuckle, a sigh, a nod of agreement, an eye opener, a bond of understanding, and that makes you and your message memorable. Well-crafted signatures are smart and to the point. They grab attention and reward reader interest.

If you create a signature that’s boilerplate text, it’s fine to retain the same one on all outgoing mail over time. These might be legal or confidential disclaimers, your contact information or marketing slogans and a logo that links to the company Web site.  But if you send witty or funny sayings or images, understand that you are making a commitment. You must change these frequently in order to avoid boring or annoying recipients.

Signature etiquette is altogether simple. Just put yourself on the receiving end and all becomes clear:

1. Limit your signature to no more than six or seven lines. Don’t use memory-hogging animation gifs that fill up in-boxes and take forever to load. Don’t attach pictures or images that take up more space than a message itself. Illustrations created by keyboard characters (known as “ASCII art”) are fun and load fast, but they tend to become large. To find appropriate examples, use an engine to search for “ASCII art.”

2. Respect copyrights. If you quote someone, give credit. If you forward anything, say so.

3. Always e-mail a test message to yourself before sending any signature. Proofread. Check the signature’s shape and position.

4. Stockpile a dozen or two signatures you like before starting to send them out. Then keep adding to your collection.

5. Decide whether you want the same signature to go to all e-mail recipients. Or, create a few signatures with the standard and customized options. (the Help menu in Outlook or other software can tell you how.)

Email Signature Service

Signature help
It’s easy to create signatures in Outlook. You can also create signatures in Microsoft Word and import those into Outlook. In Preferences, check the box that says “Add Signatures to all outgoing messages.” The advantage of using Word is that it allows you to include images and hyperlinks. Electronic business cards — or “vCards” — can only be done in Outlook.

To create automatic signatures in Outlook:

1. Go to the Tools menu, click Options and then the Mail Format tab.
2. In the Compose in this Message format list, click the format that you want.
3. Click Signatures, and then New.
4. Enter a name in the “New Signature” box.
5. Select an option from “Choose how to create your signature” box.
6. Type or copy and paste the text you want.

For individual signatures in each message:

1. In the open message, click where you want to insert the signature in the message body.
2. On the Insert menu, point to Signature, and then click the signature that you want.   If you get stuck or want to set up custom signatures, check Outlook’s Help menu. (For more information, see this page.)

Mix it up
The fun of signatures is the surprise. Don’t be predictable. Mix and match your moods and mission statements. For example, a five-day forecast could look like this:

Day 1: Boys are great. Every girl should own one.
Day 2: “Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.” — John F. Kennedy
Day 3: 5 out of 4 people don’t understand fractions.
Day 4: “Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo.” — H. G. Wells (1866-1946)
Day 5: Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.

And so sigs go. Have fun. Live wisely. Leverage the power.

Carl Mazzanti is Co-Founder and President of eMazzanti Technologies, Microsoft’s four time Partner of the Year and one of the premier IT consulting services for businesses throughout the New York metropolitan area and internationally. Carl and his company manage over 400 active accounts ranging from professional services firms to high-end global retailers.

eMazzanti is all about delivering powerful, efficient outsourced IT services, such as computer network management and troubleshooting, managed print, PCI DSS compliance, green computing, mobile workforce technology, information security, cloud computing, and business continuity and disaster recovery.  

Carl Mazzanti is also a frequent business conference speaker and technology talk show guest and contributor at Microsoft-focused events, including frequent prominent roles at the Microsoft Inspire (Worldwide Partner Conference / WPC).

Carl, a serial Entrepreneur, gives back to the community through Entrepreneur teaching engagements at Georgetown University, the company’s ocean wildlife conservation effort, the Blue Project, and Tree Mazzanti.



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