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:
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."
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.
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."
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."
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]