Once upon a time, business correspondence was signed with your name, and maybe your title. Today, though, professional digital messages are concluded with an email signature that’s become increasingly elaborate in recent years.
Contemporary email signatures often tell recipients your name, company, position, phone number(s), physical address, website address, and other information—even sometimes including elements like a personal tag line for those working to establish a strong personal brand. And even that’s not all that appears in many of today’s email sign-offs.
More and more, email signatures are regarded not only as personal branding tools, but also as a way to make yourself more memorable, sure up connections with leads, and accomplish goals via calls to action. When designed and executed well, they can be quite effective at all of this.
How to Make an Effective Email Signature
- Shorter is better.
- Sign off with your name first, followed by your position and organization if you’re representing one. Skip cursive or fancy fonts for your signature—just keep it simple and readable.
- Follow that with the minimal amount of necessary contact information. Indicate if a phone number is your cell phone. There’s no reason to include your email address. Do people really need your physical address?
- Don’t include contact information for instant messaging, Skype, or similar options unless you’re always open to being contacted that way and responsive within a reasonable amount of time.
- Put icon links to your social media pages to encourage people to further connect with you or your organization. Don’t get carried away; stick to a maximum of three, and only direct people to active accounts that are a priority for you.
- Vertical bars, also known as pipes ( | ), are an attractive type of glyph divider that separates individual pieces of information so you don’t have to put them all on their own line, ending up with a big, unsightly stack of info.
- Grab attention with a visual element. Typically, this is either your brand’s logo or your professional profile picture. Offsetting it to the left side of written content works well.
- Close with a call to action (CTA) when relevant. It can be to have people visit a landing page on your website, to connect on a social media site, to sign up for something like a newsletter, to watch an introductory video, and so on. Keep it short but completely clear what it is.
- Update your CTAs regularly. And speaking of updating, remember to change your contact information or other details if ever needed.
- Make the links in your sign-off trackable (get some help if necessary). Don’t you want to know if anyone’s clicking on them? And if they’re not, play around with things like placement and bolding to see if you can get better results.
- Since your recipients are most likely to read your email on a smartphone or other mobile device, make sure your email signature is responsive and scalable.
- Skip the vCards. Most people don’t know what they are (do you?) or care about them (do you?), plus they’re redundant.
- If you’re not sticking to plain text, have someone who knows what they’re doing handle the HTML coding and formatting.
- Avoid using a colored or patterned background under your signature text.
- Don’t get flashy. Forgo bright colors, nontraditional fonts (unless there’s a specific font associated with your brand), graphics, animations, and video.
- Omit legal disclaimers—unless you’re obligated to have one, of course.
- Create multiple email signatures, with different versions designed with different audiences in mind (existing customers or clients, leads, vendors, employees, etc.). You might vary details like how strong your personal or organization’s branding comes through, which social media accounts you link to, or what your CTA is.
- Make one variation of your email sign-off a shorter, minimal version you can use in ongoing chains of brief replies; it starts to look silly including the entire thing over and over again, especially if it’s bigger than the message itself.
- Establish consistency in the branding and style of email signatures within your organization.
- Test your signatures on several email clients. Send to your own accounts or test with friends, family, coworkers, or employees as necessary. At minimum, confirm that your signature displays correctly on Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo!, and several Apple and Android mobile apps.