The Email Signature Handbook
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5 email signature management methods

The email signature channel can be used for many different avenues but aspects of the channel often require dedicated management processes to regulate – changing the email signature easily and quickly, maintaining a uniform visual style, ensuring contact details are correct….the list can be quite exhaustive.

Email signature management can often be quite difficult.

So, what email signature management methods are available and what benefits do they offer?

  1. Anarchy

    What do we mean by anarchy? We mean that every employee is responsible for creating and managing their own email signatures. Letting a user be in charge of email signatures can be a recipe for disaster.

    Avoid letting users be in charge of email signature management.

    Thankfully, very few businesses allow their brand to get tarnished in email signatures by individual employees. If you have less than a handful of staff, you might find email signature management easy. When your organization is so small, you can use word-of-mouth and you probably don’t have much of a brand, especially when one person constitutes one third of your entire workforce.

    However, as soon as any organization wants to raise itself to a professional, sustainable level, it needs to take a more reasoned approach to self-presentation. For the same reason you don’t let staff design their own business cards, you don’t want them having a say in email signature management.

    If you let staff build and design their own email signature, it’s no longer in your hands and you won’t be able to effectively use signatures for marketing purpose. Now, you might be willing to sacrifice email signature marketing opportunities, but even if you only want to use signatures as an electronic business card on emails, they’re still going to be sub-standard.

    Email signature management is lost when users have a say in the design.

    Your employees can also easily change their email signature so they have a job title that flatters or amuses them. How would you feel if someone changed their job title to ‘Supreme Being’?

    Finally, email signature management essentially becomes impossible. Altering any part of the signature template or making it uniform requires at least some method of email signature management, however rudimentary.

  2. Made By IT

    This is what most organizations opt for. IT go to each PC in the office and copy/paste the email signature into a user’s Outlook manually.

    IT departments are often responsible for email signature management.

    Even with only 20 staff, this represents a pretty big labor cost for IT. Remember, these are employees who understand RAIDs, SANs, DAGS etc. If you don’t understand what those are, you can understand how expensive experts in them are. The cost of them walking from desk to desk may be very substantial.

    These are not minds that you generally consign to menial labor and they know it. They may not want to take on this task. You’ve got to negotiate with them each time you want to update an email signature, change a design detail or correct a mistake.

    As soon as you notice you’ve made even the slightest slip-up, you have to start this whole email signature process again. You’ll need more assistance from IT, another man-week of their time and another lengthy dispute over how soon they can do it. You’ll want email signature updates to be carried out immediately. The reality is that it could be weeks before IT have time to do it.

    Here, email signature management is still impossible as updates become too difficult and costly. IT will always be busy, so any project turns into an uphill battle, even with the friendliest and most compliant of sys admins. This is because both parties do not want to let every tiny change to the signature become an enormous undertaking.

  3. Self-Copied

    You can send out an email signature template and ask every user to copy/paste it into their Outlook as this avoids the IT labor cost and the chaos of DIY design. Or does it?

    Send out templates to users complicates email signature management.

    That clickable email address link in the signature is a time bomb. It’s a web link, just like any other. The same way you can make any given text a link e.g. ‘Exclaimer’ to ‘www.Exclaimer.com’, changing the visible text in an email signature doesn’t affect the link behind it. When a user changes the sample text, ‘your.name@exclaimer.com’, they might not change the actual email address link behind it. This means clicking on ‘joe.bloggs@exclaimer.com’ will still open a new message addressed to ‘your.name@exclaimer.com’.

    Another consideration is what if users simply don’t like the email signature design they’ve been sent? What if they just take what they like from the design and ignore the rest of it? People are obsessed with what’s ‘professional’ or ‘impressive’, so they might think they know better than you do.

    So, to try and implement some form of management, you could ask all users to send their signature templates to you for review. Every member of staff in the company sending you an email signature design for you to proofread… does that sound quick or simple? How many signatures will you have to review? What happens when you spot an error? You’ll have to send the correction, have them send you a new email signature template, check it again and so on. Even then, all of this is assuming they won’t just ignore your email signature template when you’re not looking.

    Email signature management again becomes difficult when users can control signature designs. Different email signature designs will result from letting users have access to templates.

    Email signature management therefore fails again because you’ve given control over to the mob. If you’re lucky, a few of them might put something through, with a little detail or adjustment of their own, but in many cases they simply will not bother to copy and paste the email signature design.

  4. Coded by IT

    If you have them, if they’re willing and they know how to, your IT staff can take control of email signature management by writing some HTML code into your systems that automatically add the signature to all users’ emails.

    IT can create email signatures with HTML code.

    You’re still losing control with this method though as you’re giving it all to IT. Your marketing department merely becomes a source of images, link URLs and designs. Marketing will have to work within their policies and processes. If there’s a change management form or a helpdesk ticketing system, any email signature changes will happen at the IT team’s pace.

    IT may also not be able to create some signature templates or layouts due to system limitations. In some cases, they might not be able to deal with your complex requests and won’t have the relevant email signature design experience. Certain restrictions may mean you can’t put your email signature directly under a message. Instead, it will appear at the bottom of the whole email trail, under all replies. You won’t have the ability to set up one signature for replies and one for new messages, leading to email conversations getting flooded with email signatures.

  5. Software/Solution

    An organization has created an email signature software solution, meaning you only need to click ‘Save’ and you’re done managing or distributing a new email signature. You don’t have to negotiate with IT or review everyone’s signature designs. Email signature management becomes ridiculously simple.

    Email signature software makes email signature management easy.

    You also now have total control over email signature designs. You don’t need to offload the task onto someone who doesn’t understand or respect the significance of your instructions. IT might not realize that you only want a specific landing page in the signature and might link to any page on your website. With email signature software solutions, you create the template yourself in a dedicated editor. You pick the colors, drag and drop, resize and preview its final appearance instantly.

    So how do all these email signature management advantages affect the end user? Simply put, they don’t have to worry or care about signature changes as they’re done automatically. They don’t need to be involved in any part of the email signature design process.

    Users get updated email signatures with no effort on their part.

    However, they might want a little leeway in how they use email signatures. Dedicated solutions can give them a set of email signatures to choose from. If you attempted to roll out a set of two or three signatures using any of the above methods you’ll managed to triple the workload. With email signature software solutions, it’s simple. You keep total control over the whole email signature management process within your department, but give the end user some control over how they are used on a day-to-day basis.

What about IT?

IT gets reassurance as email signature updates are all taken care of automatically. They don’t have to work hard on building some signature template or set up some complex workarounds within your infrastructure. They get to control the information system aspects of email signatures such as defining the rules used to group employees into different departments or the data source used to autocomplete contact details.

This way, IT keeps control of all aspects of email signature management that naturally fall under their remit ensuring they’re scalable and reliable. It’s easy, quick and, crucially, doesn’t involve any effort from them.


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