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Unleash the Power of Your Email Signature

Email signatures (a.k.a. sig lines) are powerful, low-cost, high-return marketing tools (a virtual business card or ad) for your foundation or organization. What’s interesting is how seldom sig lines are used.

Consider this: If your organization has 30 employees, each of whom sends 15 emails daily outside the organization, then (assuming 250 business days) that’s 112,500 business cards or ads distributed annually, at no cost. If you have 100 employees, that’s 375,000 cards or ads annually.

What Is an Email Signature?

In general, your email signature is information automatically added as the last few lines of your outgoing email to let people know who/where/what you are. Consider your sig line as your online business card with “callback” abilities.

Here are a few examples:

Alison N. Smith
InsideNGO
Operational Excellence for Global Impact
19 South Compo Road
Westport, CT 06880
203-226-3650
www.InsideNGO.org

Julie Stofer
Nonprofit Marketing Manager
www.networkforgood.org
http://twitter.com/network4good
240.482.3313
202.270.1339 (cell)
AIM: jestofer

Nancy E. Schwartz
Helping Nonprofits Succeed through Effective Marketing
862-216-0445
Nancy Schwartz & Company www.NancySchwartz.com
Getting Attention Blog & E-News www.GettingAttention.org

Holly Ross, Executive Director
NTEN: The Nonprofit Technology Network
www.nten.org | holly@nten.org
p) 415.397.9000 f) 415.814.4056
twitter: http://twitter.com/ntenhross

What a Strong Email Signature Does for Your Organization

Making the most of your sig lines, for yourself and every colleague in your organization, is analogous to leaving your business cards — but even more powerful.

Most importantly, in this age when we’re all inundated with too many emails, your email signature is a clear signal to your recipient that the message is from you and provides the context (e.g., job title, organization name, and web site) that reminds that person who you are and enriches their understanding of your message. That’s a lot more than can quickly be deciphered from your email address in the “from” field.

Beyond this most basic benefit, your email signature is a business card or ad that alerts the recipient to special news and enables them to have direct access to your web site or send email back to you with the swift click of a mouse.

How a Consistent Email Signature Style Benefits Your Organization

What’s critical is that everyone in your organization uses the same sig line format. Specifics such as name, title, email, and direct phone line obviously will change. However, certain elements (organization name, web site address, tagline) and the order of elements should be standard for all staff sig lines.

Sig line consistency benefits your organization in the following ways:

  • Builds a brand or recognizable identity for your organization. The sig line becomes a key element of overall branding.
  • Serves as a cognitive flag, enabling email recipients to make connections among emails received from various members of your organization.

Case Study

Here is an example of a good email sig and a recommendation to make it even stronger. To protect the innocent, I’ll use a generic version of the sample I was analyzing for this example.

Example (9 lines):

Name
Title
Organization Name
Street Address
City, State, Zip Code

Phone
Fax
Email

I recommend cutting the street address (2 lines), line space, fax number, and email address and adding the organization’s web address.

Recommendation (6 lines):

Name
Title
Organization Name
Phone
Organization Web Address (URL)
Twitter, Facebook and/or IM here (optional)

How to Create an Effective Email Sig Line

First of all, keep it brief. A general rule of thumb is that a good sig line is four-six lines in length. Eight lines is the maximum length, but that is pushing it. Remember, those to whom you email frequently see your email signature line again and again.

  • Musts include:
    • Name
    • Title
    • Organization name
    • Phone number
    • Web address
  • Optional elements include:
    • Tagline (organizational or specific event, campaign, etc.
    • Social media contacts (Twitter, Facebook) and/or IM
    • Graphical elements such as a horizontal line to distinguish your sig line from the rest of the email.

Inclusion of your email address is not recommended, since it’s in the “from” field of the email and gets forwarded with an email that’s passed on. Best to drive audiences to your web site for more contact information details such as your mailing address and fax number.

More Creative Uses for Your Sig Line

A signature line can be used much like a classified ad if you’re trying to motivate clients to use your services or register for your workshop. Add one line and/or a link. Examples include:

  • A quotation to share your organization’s point of view.
  • A call to contribute to a capital campaign or other fundraising focus.
  • An issue-oriented tagline to promote an advocacy campaign.
  • An announcement of a new program, service, or publication.
  • An invitation to a special event, conference, or to subscribe to your organization’s email newsletter.

Just make sure to keep sig lines up to date.

Adding Your Sig Line to Your Emails

Once you’ve decided on sig line content and format, you’ll need to add it to your email program. Remember to train all staff members in creating their sig line as per organizational style and in adding it to the email program.

Check your email program’s HELP menu and search for signatures. You should be able to find some information there about how to set one up on your program.

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Nancy Schwartz in Email and Enewsletters, Strategies and Campaigns, Writing | 13 comments


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  • I’ve been searching for this specific information for a while now. Most of the other suggestions are outdated. Thanks for some modern techniques and great advice. I’m definitely going to implement this ASAP!

  • This is a great article on email signatures. I know people that get a lot of extra business from the use of a catchy email signature. Thanks

  • Great article! Interesting take on removing the physical and email addresses. Glad to know it’s kosher to include a plug for a specific campaign. Thanks!

  • Hi Nancy, thanks for this. I just wanted to add that one can also consider including credentials (relevant degrees and certificates, for example) as part of the signature.

  • Nancy Schwartz

    Thanks for the suggestion, John. I’d recommend including credentials only if they make a significant difference in how the message will be received. Otherwise, save that precious real estate for other content!

  • Denise Beecroft

    I love the attention to detail. I think a lot of small organisations think these sorts of things don’t matter, but it helps create a good image of professionalism … I like it!

  • Good read. I never put much thought into the sig but now see the real value of it. Cheers.

  • I agree fully, by lines are very important and even more important is how they are set up. I have 2 business web sites and I am studying how to best create them without just slapping in any old idea. There is a craft to this so it has to be done right to be effective.

  • Hi Nancy! This is a great article – Thanks very much! I just wanted to request a clarification, when you mentioned: “a significant difference…” In our case at Maquipucuna – Ecuador, we have several awards, for Ecotourism, for Coffee, etc., so I have shortened my sig line to 6 lines, besides the Must include, as follows:
    World-class & Award winning Ecolodge & Rainforest Reserve: http://www.maqui.org
    Café Chocó Andes – Slow-Production-Coffee Model: http://www.slowcoffee.com
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Fundaci%C3%B3n-Maquipucuna/67552224723
    Would these be considered a significant difference? Appreciate it! Rodrigo

  • Thank you for this post! It is really helpful!

  • geoff bridges

    I use this method to advertise to my clients

  • Sue Lawlis

    Wouldn’t it be good to add at the end “[org name] is a 501c3 organization”??

  • MateoF

    Great post Nancy! I was poking around looking for some ideas to help a non-profit I’m helping out with IT support and found your post.

    There’s another similar post here on Relevance – http://relevance.com/turn-your-email-signature-into-a-content-promotion-asset/

    taking the idea to the next level. I’m going to suggest that we start running donation campaigns via the email signature block. Great idea!

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