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.


Why Full Service Means No Service

Do you rely on the phrase “full service” to:
– advertise your company?
– explain your range of capabilities?
– appear bigger than your competition?

Full service may mean everything to you, but that’s because you know your business better than the rest of us. To a general audience, full service has all the impact of a blurry photo.

By telling us you are full service, you’re saying it’s cumbersome for you to list everything you do. Therefore, in order for me to get some meaning from the term, I have to do the thinking. While you’re busy selling me, I have to process what it is I think you do.

Worse, if you actually do everything, you specialize in nothing. If you do have a specialty, you blew it when you said you’re full service. See where I’m headed with this? Instead of adding meaning, full service has become meaningless.

I know only a few of the many products and services that make up your total offering. By relying on two words to give meaning your business, you ignore what differentiates you.

Decide what’s important about your business. What should people know to understand your capabilities and specialties? If you can, keep it short and specific. Memorable and digestible.

Put it in writing on your Web site and commit it to your own memory so you can pull it out when the time is right. You’re sure to create a sharp, focused picture in people’s minds that outperforms the promise of “full service” every time.

It Is What It Is

Paper is paper. Pen is pen. Have you learned anything new so far?

Clearly, I am bothered by the phrase: It is what it is.

If I tell you, “Time is time,” have you come away more informed? Richer for the experience? What if I say, “Time is money”? Ah-ha, now we’re getting somewhere.

Sure, it’s just an expression, right? Yep, and I avoid expressions (like the plague). Expressions have less impact in writing because the brain is accustomed to the order of the words. Mix your words and synapses fire, the brain pays attention. Bury your communication in clichés and your audience loses the desire to focus.

Some might argue that those five short words do mean something. I’d agree. They mean, “What can you do about it?” And actually, I like that phrase a lot more. It invites a solution. Saying “It is what it is” really means, “There’s nothing I can do,” or worse, “There’s nothing I’m willing to do about it.”

Those of you lucky enough to have read Ayn Rand’s infamous Atlas Shrugged will remember the novel’s catch phrase: Who is John Galt? It defined despair, helplessness. It certainly bothered the story’s heroine, Dagny Taggart. She, a woman of drive and purpose, had no use for phrases that suggested that one give up.

It made the Banned Phrase of the Week on one blog:

Can we just let it go? After all, if I offer no suggestion, I’d be guilty of saying “It Is What It Is” is what it is.

The solution is to say what you really mean. If you splatter red wine on your white dress shirt and the stain becomes set, say, “Well, I guess this one’s going in the DONATION pile.”

If traffic is moving at a crawl and you’re going to be late, say, “We need to require an advanced class for drivers every five years,” or, “I’d rather be driving my helicopter.”

If the members of your volunteer group never get things done, say, “I wonder how much they would get done if we threatened to publicly distribute a list containing their names and the things they refuse to do.”

A little can-do attitude is just what we need to kick useless expressions to the curb – I mean, out of our communication.

Do Not Write Not

Huh? Do NOT write not?

Either it’s one of those existentialistic word traps (I eat, therefore I burp) or else this author is pulling off one of those contradictory grammar lessons (never say never).

Lucky for you, it’s the latter. Lucky because the lesson is far more valuable. Though I am simultaneously pondering the wild ride we could go on if taking the other direction. Maybe some other time.

The question of the day: How often do you use the word “not” — or forms thereof?

“Don’t forget to come.”

“You can’t have the blue one.”

“It’s not brain surgery.”

“Do not touch this.”

In his book, Remember the Ice, author Bob Nicoll reveals what I consider to be one of the greatest rules in all of the communication arts: tell a person what TO do. Whenever you tell a person what NOT to do, you accomplish two things. First, you get the person to think mostly about the thing they are to avoid. And second, you create another kind of chaos, that is, the concept of doing nothing.

Think about it. I say to you, “Don’t think of the color blue.” Two problems emerge. First, you think of the color blue. Second, your mind grapples with how to act upon the concept of not acting. In fact, there’s a third problem. What would you have me do instead? Don’t walk … does that mean stand still? Run? Knit a sweater?

Tell people what you want them to do and they are more likely to do just that. Here’s a fun exercise … let’s reconstruct those samples above:

“Remember to come.”

“You can have the red one.”

“It’s actually quite easy.”

“Keep your hands at your sides,” or, “You may touch anything but this.”

Wow … wow.

So, fellow communicator. Want more bang out of your writing? Every time you write the word not (or its n’t forms), reword the sentence to say what you really mean. You’d be surprised what it can do to your conversion rate.

Remember Crazy TV Lenny?

I was once again reflecting on the fairly recent loss of Billy Mays, uber pitchman for so many “As Seen On TV” products. Say what you will about him, but that guy could sell.

If you’ve ever had the opportunity to watch his show, Pitchmen, you’d see that there is an art to what otherwise looks like exaggerated excitement paired with exuberant flailing of the hands.

There was a time when we Southeastern Wisconsinites had our own Billy Mays – several, in fact. One of the most memorable is Len “Crazy TV Lenny” Mattioli from American TV. “Get a bike, get a bike, get a bike!” His excitement was palpable, his craziness certifiable. He believed water skiing on a recliner would sell more recliners. Was he right? Who cares, he sure grew sales. Does American make an impact on you anymore? One blogger, in 2007, named American “the most boring store in Wisconsin.”

“Say it with me … The Exclusive – Company!” Did those radio spots leave you thinking, “What the –“? That guy was absolutely freaky, but when I thought of purchasing music, that’s where I went. Chris Kegel of Wheel and Sprocket used to be sort of crazy. I liked how he punctuated each commercial with the quaint, “Everybody wants a bike from Wheel and Sprocket … and so … do you.” (Ah, that delicious pause.) For me, at least, he was right. Even the Menard’s guy, Ray Szmanda, seemed like he lost control of his high when he beamed, “At Menards!” And that’s good. Those words would ring in my ears the entire car ride to the old location on 76th Street.

The Greater Milwaukee Area flies its “quirky flag” proudly, an industrial-factory-meets-art-&-music-meets-excessive-eating-&-drinking kind of world that shapes us unlike just about anywhere else. So why are we losing our memorable pitchmen? Seems like our local advertising is becoming tired. Bland. Is this a case of middle-aged melancholy, or am I on to something here?

Let’s remember who we are. We’re off kilter and damned proud of it. Any person who willingly walks around wearing a wedge of cheese for a hat, any rational human being who scrapes a windshield in a 20-below deep freeze for 15 minutes to drive 5 minutes, any consumer who would buy a Barcalounger because a crazy Italian is water skiing on one – is one flailing hand gesture away from buying what you’re selling.

The Billable Time Principle

Save ... and BILL ... your pennies.Is your time billable? More specifically, can you put this particular moment on an invoice? How about the previous hour, or the one following this one?

First things first.

You’ll forgive yourself this particular five minutes in the event it falls in the non-billable column. A good education, after all, pays you back with interest. So enjoy this investment in time as I put a fresh shine on that age-old adage: Time is money.

More to the point, as a business owner, manager, or valued cog in the machinery, you owe it to yourself to fill your day with billable activities. Track your time as it passes, rather than trying to remember it at the end of the day. Recognize when a freebie is actually billable, and have the courage to put it on your invoice. Save the majority of your distractions until after 6:00.

Bonus: Some small distractions are beneficial, provided you are in control of them. Take your hands off the keyboard. Stand up, and take a brief, brisk walk. Stretch. Eat something healthy. Get a glass of water. Read a magazine article. Make that important call. Then get back into your work refreshed.

An unexpected interruption, on the other hand, forces you to slam the brakes on productivity and shift into neutral. Your brain has no idea where this is going to go. Getting back to where you were before the disruption means shifting back into first gear and going through the motions before hitting cruising speed again.

If you find yourself believing you need more hours in your day, maybe all you really need is to prioritize the hours you have.

Why Do You Tell People What You Do?

Elevator PitchDo you have an “elevator pitch”? If you were in an elevator with your dream client, how would you capture his interest if you had just 30 seconds to answer the question, “What do you do?”

Besides working on copy assignments, I get to coach and train businesspeople how to be better networkers. We go over 60-second intros, even 10-minute presentations, but the elevator pitch … that’s one hard pill to swallow.

To answer “What do you do?” correctly, you must avoid answering it. Huh?

Let’s look at it another way. Your natural inclination is to respond:

  • “I’m an investment advisor.”
  • “I do websites.”
  • “I own a flower shop.”

Realize, people are less interested in what you do than your potential to add value to their lives. As soon as you respond with one of the above, they assume the rest – which includes the assumption “nothing new.”

Instead, present yourself in three parts. The first part is to ask a question beginning with the words: “Do you know?” You’re about to identify this person’s pain or need.

As a copywriter, my reply might begin:

“Do you know how most companies have Web sites that rarely convert visitors to customers?”

Here’s the second part, a statement that begins with the words “What I do” – followed by a brief description of your service.

Continuing with my example, I might say: “What I do is create content that compels visitors to stick around and guides them where my client wants them to end up.”

The third part of the formula presents a big benefit and begins with “so.”

“What I do is create content that compels visitors to stick around and guides them where my client wants them to end up, so the odds of a purchase are greatly improved.”

Action step: construct your elevator pitch today or tonight using this three-part approach. Practice it daily, post it on your bathroom mirror and above your computer monitor. Next time you’re asked, “What do you do,” you’ll be prepared.