email signature mistakes

5 Email Signature Killers

I just received an email from a colleague. Below her email in the signature block were four words that packed the potential to do some serious damage:

“Sent from my iPhone.”

More on that in a moment. First, you must appreciate the position of the email signature. It’s the tagline of communication. The “what do you think of me now?” The lasting impression.

Some of us have signatures that do the job. Others go beyond and perform a bit of marketing magic. And a few of us are hacking away at our credibility with each message we send out. Here are five email signature don’ts that top my list:

 

1) Sent from my iPhone

Wow, you own an iPhone? I’m so impressed.

Whatever your reason for including this disclaimer, a good share of your audience thinks you’re a mobile snob.

No offense. The phone wars have turned many ordinary people into fiercely loyal brand evangelists. You may be proud of your preferred mobile platform, but many of your recipients have pledged allegiance to the other guys. What if they think you’re a loser for being “one of Them”?

Stupid, right? Totally. Is it worth subjecting yourself to unnecessary judgment? Totally not.

If you feel compelled to include a mobile proviso, I recommend saying, “Sent from my mobile phone.”

Tip: Check your mobile sig even if you didn’t intentionally add the mobile disclaimer. On many devices, it’s included by default.

 

2) Let’s talk about Jesus

That inspirational nugget of scripture in your email sig proclaims your religious pride. It also makes some of your business contacts feel squeamish as hell.

I once belonged to a business network where a handful of people would pray together before the meeting began. I asked one of them why he chose this venue to engage in the gospel. His response: “Because I owe my company’s success to Jesus.”

Crediting your business success to a deity rather than the person in your network who brought you that sweet referral last week is your choice.

Blasphemous as it may seem, some don’t share your views. Some see using religion in a business context as sacrilege. Is your position on the subject worth alienating a customer or prospect?

PS: Disregard this advice if you work in a religious organization.

PPS: The religion rule applies to politics, professional sports teams and any other personal conviction you don’t share with 100 percent of your audience.

 

3) “Signing” with cursive/handwriting fonts

Please respect my intelligence. It’s no coincidence that simulated-hand-scribed name at the bottom of your email happens to exactly match the Lucida Handwriting font.

Or Comic Sans. Or Brush Script. Or any other overused, silly looking typeface that doesn’t look anything like a person’s signature.

If that doesn’t convince you to change it to Arial, handwriting fonts have technical shortcomings, too. If I don’t have your particular font on my computer, it will be substituted with one that may look entirely different. In some cases, it will appear as digital gibberish.

Stick to a simple font to avoid problems.

Pro Tip: That scan of your handwritten signature may not show up at all since many email readers block images. Again, go with a plain typeface.

 

4) The tacky, prefab sign-off

Does your signature file include “Sincerely” above your name? Let us celebrate the time you save with that stroke of genius.

You may save one second with each email by having Sincerely, Yours truly or Have a great day prefilled. It pales in comparison to the insult you deliver.

Your recipient wants to feel your correspondence is actually sincere. If every email from you says “Thank you” at the bottom, it gets old. Unimaginative. Lazy. “Best regards” isn’t an appropriate closing after you delivered some serious news. “Best regards” also isn’t a natural way to end a message to a close friend.

Of course, sometimes the old standards fit just right. Match them to the recipient, and mix them up to show you care.

Or, eliminate the sign-off altogether. “Looking forward to seeing you Tuesday.” … “Glad to hear we’re moving forward.” … “Best of luck with the presentation.”

Bonus: Never close with, “Thanks.” The reader doesn’t perceive your gratitude nearly as effectively as when you write out, “Thank you.”

 

5) The MIA signature

With few exceptions, your emails should always culminate with your signature block.

Why make it harder for a person to contact you, or visit your web page, or engage with you via social media – or make a purchase from you?

Sure, your recipient may have it already. So what? Not only can you make his or her life easier at that moment, your signature:

  • may trigger a desire to visit your website for the first time
  • may be forwarded to a colleague who is in the market for your product
  • makes you look professional always instead of sometimes
  • ensures you won’t accidentally mistype your phone number or misspell your own name

If that’s not enough, the presence of your signature will never result in your recipient thinking, “Where’s his contact information?”

Exception: I did say, “with few exceptions.” If you’re conversing back and forth with a familiar contact and your e-sig appears once or more down below in the message thread, use your discretion to decide if it seems like overkill.

 

Did I miss any of your favorite signature killers? Do tell – in the comments section.

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think like your competition

How Would Your Competition Sell Against You?

How would you sell against yourselfI ask difficult questions when doing a brand discovery for my clients.

I force them to think about themselves in ways they probably never did before. And it never fails to capture their true essence.

One of my favorite questions to ask is, “If you worked for your competition, how would you sell against us?” Us, of course, is my client.

Try it out with one of your clients. Ask them to imagine what their competition might tell a prospect about them.

Say, “Think like someone who would like to see you fail. Ponder your shortcomings and your competitive disadvantages. Stab yourself in the back.”

 

The hard part

Business owners love and hate the question.

They like the “exercise” of thinking differently about themselves.

The process … that’s another story. Like being the first person on the dance floor, nobody in the room wants to break the silence. They look at one another, cautiously, as if to say, “You wanna say something nasty about our company?”

Eventually, either someone pipes up, or you have to get out on the dance floor yourself. Give them some general starter ideas, but avoid putting words in their mouths.

Someone will say, “We don’t build everything in-house,” and they quickly add, “but that’s actually an advantage, because –”

Stop them before they can spin the problem. Reassure them it’s okay to leave the bad stuff out there; you’ll go over the “here’s how you would respond” after you’re done tearing the company a new one.

 

The transformation

In no time, clients dish out all the dirt they can think of. They’re back to liking the process, gleefully giving their company a black eye.

“We are small.”

“We are the middle man.”

“They have better control over their costs.”

Then, you turn things around: “Why are these things actually your advantages?”

One by one, go over each weakness. The reasons why they are actually strengths will give you powerful differentiators you can use to craft their brand story.

“We don’t build everything in-house,” they’ll say, “but that enables us to source components from the best suppliers and sell a better overall product than our fully integrated peers.”

“We’re small, but that makes us nimble, faster and easier to work with.”

Sometimes, one or two of their negatives can’t be flipped into a positive. That’s equally valuable, as the company feels reinvigorated to make changes for the better. At the very least, you can write around those things to focus on the good.

 

Bonus:

Put your own business through this exercise. It’s not just fun, it’s eye opening.

The 3 Deadbeats Working in Your Home Office – Part 3: Connie

connieWelcome, entrepreneur/freelancer/go-getter.

You’ve met Farley and Patty, and you’re already feeling cheated by their unproductive ways. But I’ve saved the worst for last. She’s a big, crunchy, salty potato chip, and you can never stop at one. It’s practically impossible.

Strap in for Part 3.


Meet Connie, the Connected Employee

Connie likes to keep multiple tabs open in her browser. Some are articles she plans to read when she finds the time, a couple are client related, but her favorites are Facebook and Twitter. You rarely check on her, so Connie checks her Facebook friends’ posts whenever she feels like it.

Oh, she posts some clever responses!

Connie also checks email regularly because she wants to respond quickly to clients … but will follow a funny video link first. Or check out the deals from her favorite shopping sites. Or take several minutes to respond to a non-essential message from a friend who hates this or that. Connie’s constantly conning you out of your bread and butter.

Sucks that Connie is just another of your many personas.

Close the Facebook tab and save the non-essential emails for lunchtime or closing time. Social media can wait – as can so many other digital deliveries to your desktop. Take control of your time, and kick Connie to the curb.

If you started your own business thinking you’d enjoy more freedom and time to do what you want, you can have those things. They’re the result of hard work, dedication, efficiency and accountability. Those precious few hours from the time you wake until dinner time will make or break your success as an entrepreneur.

At the end of the day (or week, or month), you can enjoy the freelance life for all it represents: Freedom, career satisfaction, financial rewards and more.

Best of all, you can do it all with a staff of one.

What good could come from offering your customers a guarantee?

“Offer a guarantee? Everyone will want to use it!”

Put your guarantee in writing.

Who needs a guarantee? My WORD is your guarantee!

Companies lack written guarantees for all sorts of reasons, but the most irrational of all is the fear that a customer will use it.

If that rings familiar, I’m going to sound the wake-up call. Because what you’re really saying is your product or service is crap, and if that’s true, you need to seriously address some quality issues. Today.

With so many businesses vying for your customer base, your product must be so unbelievably excellent, you honestly believe it’s among the best out there. And if it is, who would return it?

Studies from a gazillion marketing think tanks prove – Number One – a guarantee boosts sales, and – Two – almost nobody takes advantage of a guarantee unless the product or service turns out to be garbage. If your product is amazing, guarantee it!

Still afraid to stand behind your goods? Here are three reasons guaranteed to change your mind, or I will refund your purchase of this advice:

A guarantee…

  • Removes one of the biggest barriers to a purchase: fear of buyer’s remorse.
  • Differentiates you. Is your competition offering a guarantee? Whose sounds better?
  • Stands for quality. If it’s worthy of a guarantee, it must be good.
  • Is a technicality. Face it, if customers demand a refund and they have good reason to do so, you often have no choice. What better reason to be proactive?

Willing to give it a try? Here are three essentials to do it right.

Make your guarantee clear. Rather than, “Satisfaction guaranteed,” try instead, “You must absolutely love this product, or we will refund your entire purchase price.”

Put it out front. Let your customers know how strongly you believe in your product’s quality by calling attention to your guarantee in your advertising and prominently on the labeling.

Make it easy. Avoid creating a series of hoops to jump through in order to take advantage of your guarantee. Lest you believe that it will make fewer people return your product, it may actually raise red flags that steer people away from purchasing it in the first place.

You’re all set to boost buyer confidence and sell more. Let me know how it goes!

The 3 Deadbeats Working in Your Home Office – Part 2: Patty

pattyGreetings, self-employed (or self-driven employed-by-someone-else) friend.

Now that you’ve met your secret employee, Farley (you did read Part 1, right?), you truly need to get acquainted with Patty. Where Farley encourages you to embrace distractions during your workday, Patty is a nut about efficiency and practicality. She gets things DONE. Sound like you?

This is the continuing saga of pesky multiple personalities – our multiple personalities. They rule our days, justify behavior we actually abhor and cleverly divert money from our paychecks.

Ready for Part 2?

Meet Patty, the Practical Employee

Did you know that if you shop for groceries early in the day, you beat the crowds? Patty does, and she’ll encourage you to do that – as well as take your car in for an oil change and do the dishes (your spouse will really love that). Hey, let’s paint the kitchen!

As far as Patty’s concerned, these things have to get done anyway. Go ahead and leverage all this freedom you have. You’ll feel like you accomplished a lot when 5:00 rolls around, even if you barely saw your computer. And Patty will feel that she truly earned the money she slipped out of your wallet. Notice how you and Patty seem to be at odds?

Rather than busy yourself with non-income building activities, do those things when “regular employed” people do them – in the evening or on the weekend. And show Patty the door.

Excited about meeting your third secret employee? Heeeeere’s Connie!

Why Yes, I DO Like Money

Yes, I like moneyEver hear that ancient sales advice on getting your prospects to repeatedly say “yes” throughout your presentation? The thinking is, if they’re constantly saying “yes,” they’ll be conditioned to do so at the point you ask them to scribble some ink on the purchase agreement.

Oh, those old sales tricks.

Know what advice I’d give you today? I’d say, “That’s a great trick – do it!”

See, sales is at least partly a game. Most of us savvy consumers know this when we enter the “sales parlor,” be it in front of our computer monitor or inside a retail showroom.

We go in, defenses up, looking for the traps, running alternate scenarios through our minds, and always prepared to bolt like a deer in the woods if we sense a threat to our safety (or the safety of our wallet).

So, our mission as persuasive communicators is to coax out these yesses in subtle but purposeful ways.

Master salesman Harvey Mackay refers to these yesses as “sales tie-downs.” You know what a tie-down is … a strap, rope or bungee you might use to hold down that new armoire you just loaded into the back of your pickup truck. The more tie-downs, the more likely you’re going to make it home with your new prized possession in one piece.

Mackay suggests applying tie-downs throughout the consultation with your prospect. They can be little phrases or suggestive questions, like:

“Would you agree?”

“And you said you can appreciate a good deal, right?”

“Is reliability important to you?”

“Does that make sense?”

“Is that your dollar on the floor?”

Okay, I made that last one up. The others are classic examples, and the best part is, they are natural parts of a conversation. Used in the right frequency, they will go unnoticed by your prospect. Of course, the conditioning toward a final yes – the big, fat, sign-here-and-put-food-on-my-table yes – is taking place. That final yes is practically inevitable.

The double bonus is that, if your prospect answers no, you can change course. You are taking the pulse of the conversation in real time. If the person says, “No, I don’t agree,” or, “No, that’s not a priority for me,” you have the opportunity to stop and search for the yes to that particular objection. The more doubt a prospect has, the less chance you will get a sale.

The triple bonus is that your close will be much more relaxed. You’ve got those prospects right where you want them. You know where their hot buttons are. You might literally be able to ask, “Would you like to sign in black ink or blue?” Though, I rarely recommend a cocky sales close.

Practice your sales tie-downs on a friend or spouse. Then get out there and start using them. Do you like making sales? You like money, right? Would you agree that breathing air is awesome?

Gotcha!

The 3 Deadbeats Working in Your Home Office – Part 1: Farley

me-in-kitchen-with-farley2Who ever guessed that I – a self-employed copywriter – had employees on the payroll?

Except for my little dog, Harry, I thought I was alone here … typing away in my small office, a spare bedroom in my home.

Fellow freelancers or companies of one, get up from your chair and look around. You need to meet the people who lack motivation, suck you into their time wasting activities, and – oh yes – get paid.

I’m talking about your other personalities, of course. The little voices in your head that talk you into doing anything but work. When you allow yourself to see them as real people sharing your space and time, things can get ugly.

To keep things short (and tease you into returning again and again), I’m sharing this hot info as a mini-series – one at a time. Of course, in the event you feel a sudden urge to rip me a new one for testing your will, all three parts are here on this blog.

Meet Farley, the Fun Employee

You spent years of your life working under the watchful eye of an employer before becoming your own boss. Suddenly, you could play fetch with your dog “to get the creative juices flowing.” You could have a two-hour lunch with an old friend “to network.” You could work on downloading a music compilation. No reason, Farley said it was okay.

Farley justifies any fun activity because, after all, you work hard. You deserve a little “me time.” Farley loves diversions and sucks you right in every time. Thing is, Farley gets paid just for showing up. And his salary comes out of your earnings. Just let this fun-loving employee take you on a few adventures and you’ll see it for yourself at the end of the month when bills are due.

Farley’s the reason you’ll miss a deadline or have to make an excuse to a client. At some point, you’ll realize the guy’s gotta go.

In the next installment, you’ll meet Patty, the practical employee. In a word, yikes.

 

Comments welcome!