Once my clients truly understand that marketing is about relationships, we start talking about how those relationships are created and maintained to determine appropriate marketing tactics for their businesses and personal styles. But no matter what kind of business my clients are in, they all have the same excellent relationship marketing tool at their fingertips: Their e-mail messages.
E-mail messages are the most frequently overlooked (and virtually free) marketing tools available to entrepreneurs. No, I’m not talking about electronic mail campaigns, or spamming, but using the messages you send out every day to your clients and colleagues as a subtle marketing tool. You can do this by adding more information to your signature line in all your e-mail.
How many times have you received a message from people who aren’t using a company domain name in their e-mail address, so you’re not sure who Bill or Sally @Hotmail.com is? Or what if you’re in that position yourself? Many low cost Web hosts will forward e-mail received to email@example.com, but don’t provide an e-mail address from your domain name. So how do you look professional when you’re dealing with a $35 a month Web site and free Internet e-mail? You use an annotated signature line.
Most e-mail programs allow users to create an individual signature line that is appended to all outgoing messages. If you’re not using one, you are missing an effective and virtually free way to market your business. And as an added bonus, your marketing message can be seen where paid advertising is forbidden such as on electronic bulletin boards, giving you a competitive edge is such circumstances.
So why bother to annotate your signature line? Here are some good reasons:
1. Annotating your signature line makes it easy for your clients to find your contact information when they want t o buy again. Sure you may have given them a business card, but what if business cards are lost or misfiled? Creating a situation in which your client has to look in the Yellow Pages for your phone number may be risky, especially if a competitor has a more compelling marketing message.
2. Annotating your signature line reminds and makes it easy for your clients to visit your web site. Of course that’s assuming you want your customers to visit your Web site. And why wouldn’t you? Your Web site is a great visibility tool that builds your relationship with your customers.
3. Annotating your signature line identifies the origin of your messages so that if they get forwarded, people who are interested in what you have to say or offer can find you easily. Evan if you know for sure that your customers have your address, your fax number or understand the full range of your products or services, that information does not forward with your e-mail unless you put it there. So if one of your loyal customers forwards an e-mail from you to a colleague and your contact information is not included, you’ve just closed the door to a new business opportunity that your customer opened for you by forwarding your message.
4. Annotating your signature line can be a gentle way to remind customers of upcoming events (“Sale end Friday, Dec 27th” or “Don’t miss our open house on Jan 17”) to buy again (“Call today for a free quote”), to promote a new product or service (“Ask me how our new widget will save you money”), to encourage forwarding and referrals (“Forward this newsletter to anyone you thing will find it valuable”) or to call for feedback (“If you like working with us, tell your friends. If you don’t, tell us and we’ll make it right”).
So what should you include in an annotated signature line? At the very least, your e-mail signature should include you full name, title, company name, web site link, plus you phone and fax numbers. Also consider a direct access phone line (if different than the company phone number), cell phone number, company tag line or motto, an offer, a reminder to buy, last call for a special deal, teaser for the future products or services, or even an inspirational quote, if it reinforces your marketing message.
It doesn’t have to be fancy to get read. You can make simple borders around your key messages or information by using your title key (~), a dash (-), and underline (_) or even a series of asterisks (*). Bottom line: Every professional needs a standard signature line in all business correspondence. Because that is exactly what e-mail is professional correspondence. Of course, we use it so casually and so frequently that it hardly seems like something professional at all. But bear in mind that all correspondence between you and your customers is an opportunity to enhance you business relationship, even if that communication happens only in cyberspace.