23 August 2013, by A. Cedilla
You might brush these things off as simply being those annoying mini-essays tacked onto all the emails cramming your in-box, but that probably comes from being exposed to people who didn’t understand the principles of having a professional signature file
Even in interdepartmental communications, we can get the TMI-version from some of our co-workers, but in a professional setting, you shouldn’t brush off signature files (also known as “sigfiles.”) They are still a way to spread the word about your business.
Business card rituals happen in a professional setting, and there are even protocols for giving them out, especially in Japan. The key thing is to be professional. There should be a clear distinction between work email and personal email. For example:
- Links in your sigfile should lead to good sites, not elicit a “What the hell is this?” reaction. Rickrolling is not work-appropriate behavior.
- Put nothing you’d be embarrassed to be admitting to in public, in front of lawyers and your family.
In a nutshell, a signature file takes the place of a dead-tree business card, but with more space. It is attached to the end of your email messages. Just as a blank wall can inspire people to scribble all sorts of things on it (“Kilroy was here!”), this blank space can inspire you to ways you can push your business.
What do you have to keep in mind when it comes to crafting your own signature file?
- Think Post it. If it doesn’t fit on a regular sized Post It, don’t jam it in. Nobody wants to have an essay tacked onto their replies. Those things take up screen space and for most are automatic turn-offs.
- No blinking GIFs, please. Even if you carved the file size down, it’s unprofessional. No pictures if at all possible. You can save your business logo for your website. Also, not everybody prefers to get their email in HTML format, so your nice picture, banner or icon may not even make it.
- Plus, different email clients may interpret the graphics in odd, unintended ways, while the graphics themselves may present differently depending on individual screen-size and resolution.
It’s about making connections, right? Leaving a little bit of yourself to let them remember you by. Whether at conventions or business meetings, in forums and newsgroups, and most specially in electronic communication, the concept of a sharable concentrated information dollop about you and your business is great for getting the word out.
Basics parts of a good signature file:
- Your contact information – name, business name, snail mail and email, contact numbers and website URL.
- A little about the business – Your business tagline is a good addition, as long as it doesn’t run too long.
- If you have an upcoming promotion scheduled, a company-event or trade show in the works, or won a significant award in your niche, using your signature file to get the word out about those is good. (Of course, keeping the information up-to-date is essential.)
Decide beforehand what information you want to be available to the public, not just in professional correspondence. Emails are very easy to forward, even by mistake, so don’t let any information out that you’re not comfortable with releasing, because signature files are not disclaimers, and shouldn’t be.
You can draft and refine your signature file until it sounds right to you, then get an informed opinion from trustworthy sources just to check. When you’re satisfied, you can use your email client to see how it comes out (formatting-wise) in test mails to yourself. Different email clients and programs have different character limits to their signature files, so it’s best to check.
Also, you don’t even have to stick with just one sigfile. Developing several versions makes for a more varied ‘wardrobe’ of sorts that can be used for many different occasions, much like a set of different ties. If you’ve even seen sigfiles that turned you off, check them again if you can and analyze why they did so, so you have a better idea of how to present your own.
Promotional benefits of signature files.
Exposure – depending on how, when and where you use your sigfile, you can do a lot of good (or not) promoting your business. Posting to public areas on the internet, like forums, newsgroups and discussion boards with your sigfile, your company name and URL will be seen by a lot of people.
If you exhibit bad behavior in those forums, however, or if you’re posting on an inappropriate site …whatever you do follows you around. And you left your signature too. Think of your sigfile as what is is, your signature. Any helpful advice, generous behavior, and professional courtesy will back your signature up. Any boorish attacks, undermining and rudeness brings you down. Follow the rules of the place where you’re posting.
Traffic benefits of signature files.
You’re sharing your business information online. Interested people can click and visit your website, your sigfile acting as a tiny banner pointing to good things. You can even put in links to any free reports you’re offering, “Click here to get our latest free report!” and bring them to a download page where they can get the report and sign up for you newsletter at the same time.
Sigfiles don’t have to be permanent. You can change with the seasons if you want, that’s why the advice for a varied ‘wardrobe.’ You can keep things new by including information about new things: upcoming sales and promos, conventions, free reports, demo versions or samples, contests, special events, awards and distinctions won… that sort of stuff is always good to hear, and share.
Signature development aims to send a message from one to many. While watering down your message so as not to offend anyone is a pipe dream (trolls are everywhere, trolling), blatant messages smacking of advertising are turn-offs, like folding in spam with your email.
- Coolsig Signature Files – touted as “the world’s largest online signature collection”, Coolsig has been online since 1995.
- A signature file lesson by Nic Drew, SmithFams’ internet marketing support specialist.
- Netmanner’s “Do’s and Don’t of Signature File Use”
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