My biggest gripe about email; sign it!

No, not this kind of signature.

I don’t know about you, but I get about a hundred emails a day and my biggest complaint about email is that most people don’t include a signature.  When did this become socially acceptable? I’m not suggesting a glorious John Hancock should emblazon your email, but specifically, I’m looking for basic contact information.  If you don’t include contact information in your email, read on.

First, this is not going to be one of those long, boring technical posts about HTML signatures, bandwidth, etc. This post is also aimed at the US market.  Sorry, but my EU friends have lots of other legal requirements related to email signatures I don’t dare address.  With that out of the way, let’s get started.

It is simple common courtesy to include basic contact information in an email signature. Just signing it “John” isn’t enough.  After all, we are operating businesses here, correct?  Assuming this is the case, it is your job to be “easy-to-do-business-with.”   Here are my thoughts.

Most people like to organize contacts into some sort of address book.  Many times we’ll do business with people with whom we have not yet had the chance to exchange business cards (or yes, BUMP iPhones; the app that let’s you bump two iPhones together to simultaneously and automatically swap contact info). Providing your basic contact information allows recipients the opportunity to copy and paste your information into their address book.  This is just in case, oh I don’t know, they want to find your contact information someday! 

Most people also read email on their mobile devices.  Providing your basic contact information allows them to call you with one tap of the screen (or a quick scroll on Blackberry) while they’re running through the airport.

So you have now seen me write “basic information” more than a few times, so I’ll be clear.  For me, basic information includes:

  1. Your name
  2. Your title
  3. Your phone number
  4. Your email address
  5. At least one social media username if it’s appropriate to what you do – LinkedIn would be best since you can share all your contact information there.  By the way, not all corporations (read “old school” corporations) like this one though.
  6. Your main URL 

No, I have not included a street address.  This is only helpful if you do a lot of business outside your time zone or if, for some reason, you still get a lot of snail mail.  Street address though can be found on a website or simply requested when needed.

The rule of thumb is to keep email signatures to four lines by using colons and pipes (see below).

John Q. Hancock
CEO | Made Up Company Investments
212-555-5555 | jhancock@madeupco.com | http://www.madeupcoinvestments.com
@johnhancock | LinkedIn: http://linkedin.com/in/johnhancock

You should also have two versions of your email signature; a longer one for initial emails and a shorter one for replies.

For those who think an email signature is not needed on internal emails, I beg to differ.  If I get an email on my blackberry without a signature and I want to call you, it takes me at least three clicks and a variety of scrolls to find your number via the corporate address lookup.  If you’d just include your phone number it would take one click.

 At the end of the day, we’re all time-starved, so do me a favor; include your basic contact information in your email.  Make it easy for me to do business with you.  If not, I’ll assume you don’t want to do business with me.

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About John T. Peters

Since I was a young boy, I've been in business for myself. Sure I've had 'jobs' along the way; some actually quite senior roles in major companies. My entreprenurial spirit however, keeps me going. Life's challenges however, happen in and out of the office. I'm constantly trying to improve as an executive, father, husband, brother, son and friend, all at the same time. I've determined that in everything you do, you're better off "outside the box." So, read on for Fresh Thinking. View all posts by John T. Peters

One response to “My biggest gripe about email; sign it!

  • John T. Peters

    Will, thanks for the note. Email disclaimers are very popular in Corporate America. So much so they’re often automatically attached to outgoing email by corporate servers. Many contracts are written with included clauses saying confidential information has to be appropriately marked. As such, it isn’t a bad idea to include a disclaimer. I would check with your legal adviser as to what is appropriate.

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