It’s a place most people have decided to make their own by placing quotes, scriptures, cute pictures or statements having to do with politics. Most businesses don’t have a standard design or format for the email signature, so employees have taken it as their own and customized it to their taste.
While it may seem harmless, the email signature of each and every one of your employees is a direct reflection of you and your business. It, in some regards, is the first impression they get of you – of your brand – and a keen-eyed customer can deduce a bit from how you run your business simply by what a company allows to be placed at the end of an email.
About now, you’re probably thinking I’m stretching it. I guarantee you that I am not. We speak over and over about the importance of brand presence and carrying a brand through to every single aspect of a business – yet on our most common form of communication – our email – we have not tightened up and implemented a cohesive look for how we end an important email.
This might seem trivial, but think about all the things handwriting experts can tell about a person through the way they sign their name. These specialists can deduce whether a person is tired, whether they are sloppy, whether they have a romantic nature or have the propensities of a serial killer.
While the handwriting of a digital signature can’t be evaluated, the various colors, fonts, graphics and contents say more about a person and their attitudes towards life situations than you can imagine. This carries over to an employer by proxy – simply because the employee is sending email from your domain and is representing your company. What is it saying about you when religion, politics, comedy, off-colored jokes or even inappropriate quotes are placed under employee name and company name?
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Out of the many companies I have worked for throughout the years – some rather large – only 2 (including the one I am with now) have implemented a mail signature guideline, standard and format. It wasn’t exactly something I had thought of before, but I will never forget the day I walked into a meeting and one of our marketing managers, Jennifer Johnson gave a presentation on standardizing mail signatures.
She handed everyone the guideline, told us how to do it and gave us a time frame. To make sure we did it, we had to send her an email with our new signature so she could ‘sign off’ on it. People complained, but since I have implemented this practice at several businesses since. I find a clean, coherent brand statement, delivered thorough consistent employee email signatures to be something that shows off a company’s unity, dedication to excellence and a sure sign everyone is on the same page in their representation of the business and brand. After all, how different is a standardized mail signature from having printed letterhead?
With that in mind, here are a few things to consider as you design a mail signature for your business.
Choose Your Justification. Center justification is the least popular and probably considered the least professional. Left justification is the most common.
Divide and Conquer? Some companies choose to put a line of dashes (–) or dots (…) to divide the email body from the signature. Whatever you do, just make sure you count them out and have the correct number in the spec so your employees can duplicate.
Cut It Down To Size. Choose a font size that’s not too large and most certainly not too small. If a potential client needs to find your info fast, being able to scroll down to the bottom of an email and find your number is essential. I usually require staff to use a 10pt font size.
Funky Fonts & Colors Not Welcome. You don’t have to be drab with your approved signature font, but don’t go wild, either. People need to be able to read it and it needs to be professional. Also, using an obscure font could prove problematic if others don’t have that particular font family installed. Best to keep it simple and clean. As far as color, if you chose to use them, stay true to colors within your brand color palette, preferably the darker ones as they are easier to read.
Just the Facts, Ma’am. Name. Title. Direct phone line. Cell number. Address. Website. No Bible verses. No fortune cookie wisdom. It’s a signature. Not a soap box.
No Pet Pictures. Just A Logo. In an appropriate size, the email signature is a wonderful place to have a name become synonymous with a logo or product. There should be a standard logo size for everyone — not too big and not to small. Proportion to font and the rest of the information outlined is important.
Put Your Stamp On it. This is your official communication; being electronically delivered many, many times a day to people everywhere. Use it as a brand platform. Your logo, in a modest size and optimized for quick loading, should be placed in a way that makes it act as an anchor to the mail signature package.
Pass Final Inspection. It might seem trivial, but how your brand and employees are perceived through email is extremely important. If you are just implementing a signature standard, put a sign off in place for each employee through their manager or the marketing department to ensure the guidelines are followed and employees follow through on implementation.
Make It Official. Add the mail signature style into your new employee handbook and if you have a new employee orientation, make sure it is mentioned to the new hires and they are told how long they have to get their signatures up. Also, add the standards to your brand guidelines (and if you don’t have any, stay tuned. I’ll write about that soon!).
When you’re dealing with marketplace perception, everything matters. When you have a firm grasp on your brand and how it is portrayed from your employees to your customers, it becomes much easier to control messages and understand what needs to change. In brand marketing, there are no details too small to matter and no opportunity for brand evangelization too trivial.