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.

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.

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’s Only News If It’s New To Your Reader

How fresh are your posts?

With the proliferation of information available to us on our computers, smart phones, and traditional media sources, one item remains in my Top 3 all-time must-follow rules of audience engagement: News must be new.

In a recent Press Association article, Google’s own  Maile Ohye says that unique content will spur the search engine to drive more unique visitors to your site.

Interesting topics alone fail to capture interest. Compelling news alone fails to compel your readers to return. So your goal must always be to act as a true news source.

How to make your job easier

Start with Google. If you’ve chosen a subject, search Google for the latest coverage. Notice the dates of the pages Google returns. For example, as of this writing, a search of the term “triglycerides” returns pages dated June 19, 2009; March 22, 2011; June 11, 2008; and December 11, 2001 among others.

On the left sidebar of the search results page, Google gives you additional tools. You may have to expand the Search Tools link to see these options. When I click on “Latest,” I get at least three pages dated April 23, 2011 — today’s date as of this writing. You must actually read the articles to know if they contain quality information, and check the source as well. I am always disappointed when bloggers link to articles provided by dubious sources. If the list of recent articles provides nothing but garbage, click the next search tool option, “Past 24 hours.”

Check Social Media. Sites like Twitter will always provide a mixed bag, but be diligent in your research and you’ll definitely find valid resources. Searching Twitter for the term “triglycerides,” I just found seven posts that were tweeted in the last hour. One is from a doctor. Again, read the articles before you link to them.

BONUS TIP: Include an Expert. Always try to add an expert opinion. I tend to go right to the industry leaders. For our triglycerides example, I’d search sites like WebMD, the Mayo Clinic, etc. Quoting authorities gives your article additional credibility that wins over your readers.

So keep the “new” in your news. It takes a little more effort, but your reward will be quality followers who care about your content, are more likely to come back to you and link back to your pages.

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.

Another Robot Trying To Steal Our Jobs?

R2CopywriterAre you old enough to remember when intelligent graphic software first entered the mainstream? I am. I recall something as (now) mundane as typesetting — seeing the type in its font, as it would be spaced, ONSCREEN! Does anyone even use the term WYSIWYG anymore?

Some of the old-school designers balked at design software. How could a machine replace hand-rendered layout skills? But it did. Of course, the creative mind was safe. Machines could spit out what you told them to expectorate, but the human was irreplaceable. Until now.

In the spirit of the Terminator film saga, where machines think and even rationalize like humans, one large ad agency has developed software that, get this, creates entire ads. You simply tell it your objectives and your computer chooses an image, generates copy, and does the layout. In seconds.

I’m betting this is much ado about nothing. In a mundane world filled with mostly mediocre advertising that typically misses the mark, we seek out and celebrate creativity. Look no further than the Superbowl as a much anticipated, world-class showcase of the best (and not-so-best) in creative pitch making. Could algorithms and databases generate the next great Bud commercial? Sure … just as 1,000 monkeys strapped in front of computers could generate a first-rate novel.

My hope is that this software was generated as a sophomoric challenge. I envision two ad execs sitting at a bar, taking jabs at their thin-skinned creative team, when one says to the other, “Imagine how they’d react if we replaced them all with computers!” And the other says, “Hey, why not?” And months later, what started as a joke has burned up thousands of hours and created one mediocre toy/creative director.

If it were to create its own trade ad, this would likely be the copy: If you’re going to waste your client’s money anyway, don’t waste your time coming up with crap the old fashioned way.

Read about the abomination here: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/08/27/dont-tell-the-creative-department-but-software-can-produce-ads-too/