5 Common Mistakes You’re Making With Your Email Signature

Don't be stale. Your email signature should have some fun! (But not too much fun.)

If your subject line is lame, your email doesn’t get read. The average person receives more than 50 emails a day and a quarter of us receive more than 100, according to a 2012 study by the software company Varonis Systems.

So let's assume you’ve made the cut and your email has been opened, there’s an often-overlooked element you may want to rethink—your signature at the bottom on the email. It can be your opportunity to leave a lasting impression.

"It’s easy to forget that once the reader gets through the subject line and body of your email, there’s one more chance to stand out," says personal brand expert Melissa Cassera of Cassera Communications. "I look at the email signature as an extra chance to sparkle and delight."

Ron Cates, director of new market development for email marketing provider Constant Contact, agrees that the signature line is important: "It’s a great marketing opportunity, but it’s a concise one," he says. "If it’s misused, it can backfire."

Cassera and Cates say the best way to optimize your email signature is to avoid one of its five common mistakes:

1. Including every possible way to contact you.

With multiple phone numbers, email addresses, websites, and social media networks, it can be tempting to cover the bases and include all forms of contact. Cassera says this is a mistake.

"It’s overwhelming," she says. Instead, give one or two of the best ways to reach you. You can even add a sentence letting the reader know the quickest way to reach you. For example, Cassera ends her emails with "Twitter is the quickest way to my heart," and she includes her ID.

Cates says that too much contact information comes across as desperate. It can also be confusing. "Unless you have a retail store or office, it doesn’t make sense to put physical address in your signature," he says. "Include one or two social icons but not all of them. The more choices you offer, the less likely any of them will be clicked."

2. Using an image as your signature.

Some email providers or devices have default settings that block images in emails. If your signature is an image that includes your name, title, and logo, you run the chance that the recipient won’t see anything.

Cates says if you want to include an image, always use alt text behind it so the recipient doesn’t see a blank box. "There’s nothing worse than an email with an unreadable signature," he says.

3. Not designing for the small screen.

At least half of recipients read emails on their mobile device, says Cates. This means your signature is being shown on a smaller screen.

"Make sure everything is ‘thumbable,’" he says. "The thumb is the new mouse. If the recipient can’t easily put their thumb on your link, your email will get deleted."

He also says to pay attention to the font. "On a mobile device, reading speed is slower," he says. "Use san serif font with a point size of 11 to 14. Usability always takes precedence over design."

4. Including irrelevant information.

If you have a blog or a business, you probably want to grow your readership. It can be a good idea to include a link to your site in your email signature, but make sure your content is relevant to the person receiving the email.

"If I’m going to link to blog post, for example, it should be current," says Cates. "Sending someone to a page that hasn’t been updated in months could backfire. It sends the message that you’re not serious."

5. Having a stale sign off.

Cassera says traditional closings, such as "Sincerely," "Best" and "Take care," are fine and follow general rules of business etiquette, but they won’t get you noticed. Instead, she suggests injecting your personality. Are you bubbly and fun? Snarky? Silly? Use these traits to your advantage and end your emails in a surprising way.

"We tend to water down our personalities in order to fit a mold of what’s professional, but what’s professional is an arbitrary idea," she says. "If someone is offended in your signoff, you probably wouldn’t want to work with or for them."

Cassera ends her emails with, "To your sizzle, spark, and stardom." She says when she allowed her personality to shine through her correspondence, her business took off.

"You always want to leave the person excited to respond to you," she says. "Most of the people who respond to me remark on my unique closing."

[Image: Flickr user Jim Hammer]

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17 Comments

  • Jorge Reygadas

    While the signature is a mere formality for "closure", you just never know when certain information may become useful. Also, whether the signature is utterly annoying or non existent, is the content of that email what really matters at the very end. Unwanted email will always be unwanted... despite a well-balanced signature. And then design vs. content... I think we all visually consume design as well as we do content, so I have to disagree with that comment as well. I believe it would read better "how to create an efficient signature"... also ask Ron Cates how he feels about closing with “To your sizzle, spark, and stardom.”

  • For companies that take this uber seriously, while it may sound bad for saying so, they should really take it out of the users hands. The first step in establishing a brand is consistency and typical corporate email signatures are anything but standard.

    Quotes, pictures, personal Facebook pages, 3 year old-out-of-date logos and taglines, we've all seen them.

    We were forced (after a missed compliance audit) to go look at a vendor for these. We eval'd several (emailsignature.com, excliamer, red earth, etc.) and ultimately chose emailsignature.com because they offer a cloud version, because honestly, who wants to manage signatures onsite.

    Without a single point of control, you're asking a lot of your users to comply.

  • Randy Baker

    Problem with "examples" is many don't realize they are just that..."examples." If they don't apply to them and their industry they tune the article point out. I know it is sad and frustrating but in our short term culture it is reality.

  • Joe Szczepaniak

    I do have a problem with the statement, "Usability always takes precedence over design." That's simply not true. We have the data. There is a balance to be struck between usability best practices and design aesthetic. We know people make 80% of their purchasing decisions based primarily on emotions that aesthetics, design, good copy and imagery play off.

    A correct statement would be "An effective measure of usability must always been maintained, irrespective of the constraints it places on the design."

  • Agree, a little too much sizzle might appear amateurish, depends on your target client. My B2B clients would cringe with too much .

    And please omit your fax number in your e-signature... seriously.

  • If I ever saw an email with “To your sizzle, spark, and stardom” as the sign-off, I would: 1) never reply back, 2) forward that shit to reddit, 3) laugh forever.

  • Thanks for this! Great little piece. But: "Usability always takes precedence over design?" 2 comments: serif fonts have been shown to be more readable. Those little flourishes seem to help us process whole words faster. Also, semantically, rather than "design" I wish you'd have said "fluff." Good design addresses, eases, includes, considers, improves, enhances, expands and prioritizes usability in a context like this. They are not ideas that are in opposition.

  • Some servers don't just block images - they block any emails containing images. It's really best to leave them out altogether if possible for maximum deliverability. Maybe the extra visual sizzle (and the business that might result) is worth the slight decrease in delivered emails.

    Also, many businesses don't have the option to only work with people who can handle their bubble and spark. Personality is great, but it depends on your business and the business you're contacting.

  • The way a few of our clients accomplish that is by using a solution called Ambassador (http://getambassador.com) to setup a referral marketing program. Of course, to properly track and reward referrals, each person would need a unique referral URL. The solution would be having a link in the email signature to go back to the referral program admin.