Generally when we think about email signatures, we think of our name, title and contact information.  How easy it is to click a button and have everything added to the bottom of our emails!  But email signatures can be used for much more than just basic contact information; they can be used to more efficiently send common responses.

There are some email messages I need to send out periodically, such as our ftp site log-in info, request forms, or form letters.  At one point in time, I had each saved to its own file in a different location and would have to track it down each time I needed to send it.

Then I got wise.

I opened my Outlook (my default work email program) and created a signature for each correspondence or request that I needed to send out on a regular basis.  That way, each time I need to send that request, everything is already written and in a convenient location so all I need to do is fill in any blanks.

Here are some examples:

  1. Forms: Periodically, I have to make a request to get products printed.  The printing department has a specific Excel form they like pasted into the body of the email.  So I copied the form, pasted it into the signature and added my contact info at the bottom.  This way, whenever I need to send the request, I just create a new email message, add my Print Request signature and fill in the blanks.
  2. Letters: If you receive requests on a regular basis that receive a somewhat generic response, why not save that response as a signature?  Perhaps you have a form that needs to be completed or specific information required; by using a form letter in your email signature, you have everything right there and can quickly respond.
  3. Directions: Perhaps you are in charge of providing driving directions to a location or website log-in information.  This can be typed each time, but save yourself the time by entering it as a signature.
  4. Requests: Maybe part of your job is sending out requests for invoices or other information.  By scripting a request letter and saving it as an email signature, you can quickly make your requests.
  5. Data Entry: If you receive requests for data or setup, the requester may often omit necessary information.  By saving a checklist of information as an email signature, you can send the checklist to the requester to allow him/her to ensure they have provided all the necessary information.

Best Practices

I think it is important to include your contact information in your email signature.  Have you ever tried to get in contact with someone you email regularly only to realize you can’t find their phone number when you want to give them a call?  By automatically including your contact information at the bottom of your email, you allow your contacts to have multiple ways of contacting you.

A couple things to keep in mind are:

  • Keep it short.  There are no rules stating your signature must be all vertical so try putting your info horizontally, divided with a | (pipe) or other basic punctuation point.  That way, if there is a long chain, your paragraph of contact info is shortened to a sentence. i.e. Your Name | Your Title | Your Company | (800) 555-1234 | Fax: (123) 555-1234 |
  • Keep it simple.  I used to think it was so clever when people had cute little phone and fax icons, however you’re better off just spelling out fax, etc; so others can quickly find what they are looking for.  The last thing you want is for your contact to feel dumb because s/he can’t figure out which little icon represents a fax machine.
  • Keep it plain.  Not everyone has html emails enabled so all those links and images that might look great to some can look terrible to others.  A link reading “Like us on Facebook!” may look fun to someone viewing an html email, but may appear very bossy to someone viewing in plain text.  Signature images can also show up as attachments and confuse your recipient.
  • Mind formatting changes. It’s okay to send generic letters, however if you make some changes and notice the font or color change, make sure you go back to make sure everything is uniform.  Recipients can accept receiving form letters, but do your best to make it look like it isn’t one.

Do you have creative ways of using email signatures?  How do you automate responses and save time with email?