E-mail signatures are the calling cards of the 21st Century. Although social media channels provide bios, sometimes links to websites, e-mail remains the primary means of business communication. Some systems are now capable of converting signatures into contacts, which is great, except when an e-mail you receive doesn’t include a signature. For solid business relationships, people shouldn’t be worried about their partners and customers having access to phone numbers, social media handles or other information. In e-mail clients like Microsoft Outlook, it is easy to not only put in a signature, but to have a number of signatures depending on context (if you teach part-time, serve on a non-profit board, or work on a political campaign, you may want a signature appropriate for those roles that reflect specific communications channels and message related to that work).
If your organization requires legal disclaimers, by all means, include them, but recipients find them distracting, because they feel, at least on first glance, like they should actually read and understand them. If you aren’t giving advice for which you might be sued, then avoid using legal disclaimers.
Everyone should have a signature in their e-mail. It is very difficult to keep up with changes to people’s employers and contact information these days, and LinkedIn often lacks the information even for those in the network. E-mail signature can easily be searched from a client or from a browser, and the recency of the contact information can easily be determined by the date on the e-mail to which it is attached. If a customer or partner really needs to get a hold of you, give them multiple ways to do that, and make those communications channels clear in the signature.
And finally, signatures are an opportunity to brand. If you work for a big company, include their current branding in your signature. If you are independent, include your personal branding, such as books, or blogs or other links that help people receiving your mail understand the potential value of communicating with you.
In a world where everyone is connected, it sometimes seems that you can’t figure out how to get a hold of people. For those you work with, and those you love, don’t make reaching out a mystery or a treasure hunt. Make your contact information available on every touch so the recipient can choose how to communicate, follow or friend you in a way that not only works for you, but works for them as well.
Daniel W. Rasmus
Daniel W. Rasmus, Founder and Principal Analyst of Serious Insights, is an internationally recognized speaker on the future of work and education. He is the author of several books, including Listening to the Future and Management by Design.