Are you botching your email signature?

Email remains a powerful tool for business communication. So why are so many people screwing up the fundamental identifier on every message they send? Here’s what you have to know.

Everyone has seen email signatures following the message. Some look professional; others, not so much.

What’s amazing is that many emails arrive with no signature at all. More shocking, many companies lack e-signature templates or leave it to individual departments to create a signature style.

This situation is inexcusable when there are many tools and apps available, paid and free, to create personal and business email signatures. Today, you should have both, if not five or six specialized e-signatures targeting different audiences, especially when the most popular email programs—Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, MacMail—include tools to create e-signatures.

It’s more than nice to have professional-looking email signatures; every email is a marketing opportunity. Keep your signature simple, but be sure to include all key contact details and social media links. Also, add links to your website, your latest blog posts, and/or recently published articles. This simple technique will drive additional traffic to your website, increase your social following, encourage revisits, and enhance your thought leadership-and all for free.

Creating a professional email signature

The following tips will help you create a professional, functional email signature.

Lead with your name, with an embedded link to your LinkedIn profile or other biography. Follow with your job title and company name; again, embed appropriate links. Finally, include your telephone number(s), email address, and social media, blog, and article hyperlinks. (There are many online tutorials about this process). Last, add the company logo and tag line.

Once you’ve gathered and organized your data, create visual appeal by varying text alignments, fonts, point sizes, and color as you would on a paper business card. Your basic business e-signature should now be good to go.

Before you head out for coffee, consider the potential of additional e-signatures that can focus readers on others aspects of your expertise, such as recently published books, speeches, awards, activities, etc.

Now that you have the basics down, be careful not to commit these common e-signature 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 off all the bases and include all forms of contact, but too much information can overwhelm or confuse readers. The more choices, the less likely it is that any will be clicked.

You want people to reply to your most direct contact data. Instead, consider adding a line and a link telling the reader the quickest way to reach you, e.g., “Tweet me anytime.”

2. Using an image as your signature

Some email services or devices have default settings that block images in emails. If your signature is an image that includes your name, title, and logo, there is a risk that the recipient won’t see anything. If you want to include an image, use alt text behind it so the recipient doesn’t see a blank box. Don’t send an email with an unreadable signature.

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3. Not designing for the small screen

At least half of recipients—and the trend is rapidly accelerating—read email on mobile devices, so be sure your signature will be legible on a smaller screen. Everything must be “thumbable.” If the recipient can’t easily put his or her thumb on your link, your email will quickly be deleted.

Legibility is key with small screens, so pay close attention to font selection. Because reading speed on mobiles is slower than on desktop PCs, consider using a sans serif font with a point size from 11 to 14. Usability always takes precedence over design.

4. Including irrelevant information

Of course you want to increase your blog readership or drive more traffic to your business website. Although it’s a good idea to include a link to your site in your e-signature, make sure the content on that page is relevant to the person receiving the email.

If you are still confused, or if you doubt your design abilities, there are many software applications to help automate the process. Several are Email Signature Rescue, an affordable subscription service, and programs like Graffiti, for Apple OS products.

Whatever you do, don’t overlook the power of your email John Hancock.

Len Stein is the president of Visibility Public Relations.

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