Proper Elements of an Email Signature

This might seem like a completely obvious post, but sadly, it is not obvious enough. I get emails every day from people who want to do business with me, but have no clue that I’m instantly judging them by their signature (or lack, thereof). A signature is hugely important, especially online. You can’t just hand people your business card through email, so the email signature takes the place of a card.

In order to present yourself as being professional, you must include a signature with your emails, and these signatures must have the following elements:

The Proper Elements of a Business Email Signature

  1. Your Name – Pretty obvious, no?
  2. Your Professional Title / Position – People need to know where you fall in the scheme of things. Your title or position in a company immediately tells others this.
  3. Your Company’s Name – Should be as obvious as including your name.
  4. Your Phone Number – If you’re not willing to include a phone number with an email, then who on earth can take you seriously?
  5. Your Company’s Website URL – This is a must, especially if you’re corresponding with people working on internet related businesses. The only reason not to have your site’s URL is if you’re hiding something.

Optional Elements

  • Your Fax Number – While most professional emails contain a fax number, people can do without it.
  • Your Email – The recipient of your emails will always have your email address, but by adding it to your sig, you just make it easier for people to find.
  • Your Business Address – While it helps to know where someone’s physical presence is, in the current day and age people aren’t using snail mail as often as they used to. Mailing addresses are great to have, but not 100% necessary.
  • Alternate Phone Numbers – Having additional ways to contact you is always a plus.
  • Social Media Links – These days it has become almost standard to share links to the big 3 social networks (sorry MySpace, I don’t mean you) – Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

If you’re trying to do business or create business relationships online, you must post your signature in your emails!

How serious will a potential partner take you if you contact their company in hopes of forging a relationship when you don’t include a signature?

Example of An Unprofessional Email Request

A few days ago I got an email inquiry about advertising on BiggerPockets.com. The person who contacted me, asked me for information about the site’s traffic, wanted to know if I’d give them free time to test their ad, and even asked for a discount in my ad prices. I had never heard from this person before, and they hadn’t told me anything about who they were. Worst of all, their signature contained only 2 elements, their name and phone number. In addition, their email address was a generic one from one of the major internet providers. Clearly, this person did not look very professional to me.

Do you think I gave any information to them?

I had no way to identify her and wasn’t about to send privileged information to just anyone. Had she simply included a proper signature, I might have looked at the email completely differently. As a result, I had to waste my time by sending her an email asking her to identify herself. I immediately judged her as being unprofessional; she now has to work much harder to build up my trust. (Somewhat unrelated sidebar: Asking for ad discounts and free ad time to test her potential spots clued me in to the fact that she is not very professional as well. Who does that? If I had worked with her in the past, I’d have had no issue with the request, but asking on first contact is just bad form. Why would someone assume that you would give them a discount if you don’t even know who they are?)

Are there any other email signature elements that you feel are necessary?

25 thoughts on “Proper Elements of an Email Signature”

  1. Josh, this is an excellent post. This is not only applicable to everyone in business but it is also helpful when you send personal emails. People can contact you instantly. For me, this is usually the first place I look at to get contact details. I am changing my signature as we speak to include my Title, I neglected that element.

  2. Excellent post! I’ve never really thought about it, but this does make perfect sense. I have been using email sigs for several years. I include my name, title, site name and email address. I’m not real fond of giving out my phone number though…

  3. There are other legal implications too. Employees of UK Businesses are required by law to display their VAT number & the VAT registered address in their signature. I work for a large corporation that append this automatically to my outgoing mail, but small companies need to bear this in mind as well.

  4. You include name and company (obviously), but what are your thoughts on department? Would you consider that an optional element, or a mandatory one if applicable?

  5. I strongly recommend including your business address if you are writing on behalf of your company. Nobody (in business, maybe a blogger w/o business experience) would say “What an idiot he included his office address. I refuse to deal with this company” On the other hand, a business person, even if he does not need to snailmail you, may end up visiting your company and find it convenient to print out. In some places a business address can also tell you something about the company. Small company with fancy address..show it off. If you are a complete stranger to a person you are mailing, adding your address will increase trust, which is important in business. (“Hmmm, does that mean I should include pics of my children? No, unless you are writing to me and your daugther is of legal age.)

  6. Id like to use my email signature as a way to communicate internally (within the company) additional things Im working on that I would like to make people aware (se they also participate. Ive thought about adding some thing like “Ask me about XYZ” or “Email me HERE to know more about XYZ”. So my quesion is: is there a proper etiquette or way to do this? I want to still be professional but also ‘advertise’ these other things people may be interested.

  7. @Casey & @Steve – If your department is relevant to what you do and would be of interest to those that you’re connecting with, I’d certainly say it is something important to add.

    @Erscan – I don’t see why people would care about your degrees, particularly in your signature. That’s what your resume is for.

    @ERobles – I believe that adding a line like that is becoming more acceptable, but I don’t think it is yet mainstream. I’m personally not a fan, as I don’t want to be sold something when looking at someone’s sig.

  8. The article on email signature tips is great but I’ll have to say that it’s equally unprofessional to ignore a potential customer just because you didn’t like the wording in her email. In my experience that tells you nothing about the person who made the request. In fact, it’s often the lower-level employees of a company who are more professional than the owner or CEO.

  9. Thanks for this post. I was wondering, does the “signature” completely replace the signature? I mean, I feel like its impersonal to finish off with an official signature, but redundant to sign and leave a professional signature. Ex:

    (email body)

    Best regards,

    Danielle

    Title
    Company
    Address
    Phone
    Website, etc

    How would you ‘separate’ (or not) your name from the other elements of the signature?

    This is an example of what I feel is impersonal, but maybe its just me (line separating email and signature):

    (body)

    Best regards,

    _________

    Name
    Title
    Company
    Address..

    1. I usually just end the post with Sincerely or Best and then post the signature. On occasion, I’ll add my name before the signature (informally — Josh) and will include the full-formal name in the sig. when I’m contacting people I know.

  10. Email signatures mean nothing. You don’t know who that person was but you might have found out that it was a potential major account or at least someone who might have been of value to you. Not everyone has a professional-looking email address. Some have yahoo accounts and they’re people who can do good business with you. That’s what professional means. Unless it’s a scam anyone who contacts you about potential advertising is sincere.

    1. LK – In the many years that I’ve been in business, there have been quite a few people who have solicited me for business without a full or even partially fully professional signature. The vast majority of those people were just time-wasters. It is a very effective screen.

      Your professionalism is typically reflective of how you run your business.

  11. Thanks! I just started by business less than a month ago, and felt silly just signing my e-mails :
    Thanks,
    Nicole
    So I did a quick Google search and here I am. I can’t afford much to make me look professional as I’m just starting out, but what an easy step, and free! I am professional, and I want others to see that right away.

    Thank you again!

    1. Great question, Matt. I use it when replying from time to time, but it isn’t needed in a threaded discussion, IMO, as they already know who they are dealing with and can refer to the sig further down in the conversation thread.

  12. The declaration is stunning, that anyone who does not include a URL must necessarily be exhibiting some kind of ill-will (or “hiding something”). Is this for real? Writing others off so easily as ill-willed simply because they supposedly fail any one of so many strictures? That reflects nothing of ill will about those rejected–it reflects only the hasty unkindness of anyone willing to entertain such stupidly rigid ideas.

    If that idea truly reflects typical business ethics surrounding correspondence (and I hope it does not), then typical business communication ethics need an overhaul. Nobody is going to get far with others if a current of resentment runs under the surface for so many arbitrary strictures that others fail (or if they do get far with others, they’re very lucky to do so in spite of that crippling negative attitude).

    A far more cheery, friendly, and open communication philosophy would be in order. I strongly suggest that you toss aside some of the persnickety sternness of your communications. Unfortunately, I might not be so persuasive in this statement, because I’m pointing out that you’re wrong (or so I believe), and relatively very few people in the history of humanity have responded well when thy are accused of something which they are actually guilty of. It would therefore be most remarkable if you fessed up that yeah, that particular statement exhibits an attitude that sucks. Which it does. You are wrong there, dude. You need to lighten your attitude up there.

    Otherwise, the whole of your post is quite helpful, so thank you.

Please share your thoughts.