Making Your Sig File Market for You

We’ve all heard about the importance of a compelling subject heading. But what about the tail end of a B2B email marketing message? Can it wag the dog?

I’m referring to the signature file (or sig file) — one of the least heralded but most powerful online marketing tools. It’s been called the secret of email marketing.

Whether you’re mailing to an opt-in rental list or sending a message to your house list, you can do and say a lot with those few lines of information at the end of a text message.

(Text messages, by the way, still appear to be the preferred form of delivery for B2B email marketing. More on that in a future column.)

In fact, stop thinking about a sig file as contact information. Think of it as free advertising. It deserves the same amount of attention as a sponsorship ad you buy in an e-newsletter targeted to your audience. It can also serve as viral marketing mechanism when you are emailing business associates (i.e., potential customers). Here’s what you can pack into six lines along with name, company, and URL: the benefit of your product or service, an incentive to contact you immediately, and several options for reaching you on- and offline. One of the challenges of B2B email marketing is to create a personal voice — a one-to-one tone — when you’re promoting a hard-to-explain product or service. This is your chance!

First, the rules of the games:

No more than six lines. No wider than 65 characters. Don’t use ALL CAPS or multiple exclamation points!!! Don’t illustrate with slashes, dots, or dashes. (But take a look at this Dutch professor’s sig file if you are compelled to draw a picture.)

Here are the three elements of a sig file that will pack the punch of a sponsorship ad:

1. Your value proposition. A good tag line, following benefits-oriented body copy, will sum up the benefit of your product and answer the “Why should I care?” question. The tail end of your message is your last chance to convince your reader that your product or service is worth paying attention to. And to explain what your company does. If you don’t have a tag line, then make up a phrase that is relevant to your offer.

For example, if your offer is a white paper that talks about the importance of registering country-code domain names (such as .uk or .jp), your tag line could be:

Corner the global market for your product.
(Click here [URL] to go to white paper landing page.)

2. A direct link to your offer. Never forget that your message is fighting to be heard above the din. Make it as easy and enticing as possible to get your reader to click through now. If you are promoting a white paper, include a link to the landing page rather than to the URL of your home page in your sig file.

Don’t make your recipient search your home page for the link to your offer. You can lose a conversion to registration in a fraction of a second.

3. Multiple ways to contact you. Offer different channels: telephone, fax, email, and possibly snail mail (although that will run over six lines). Members of your target audience may prefer to pick up the phone and call when they are evaluating a high-ticket product or service.

To enhance credibility, sign your email with a manager’s name rather than “Best regards… Business Development Manager.”

When you’re mailing to thousands, including an email address for your company contact is problematic. Use an autoresponder such as freewhitepaper@company.com. That way you can kick back an instant response to your target’s inbox, thanking her in a personal voice and pointing her again to the landing page for your offer.

And finally, be especially mindful of your international audience for whom a toll-free number is useless. Include your direct-dial number with “+1” in front of it. That immediately establishes credibility and may indicate where you are geographically if it’s a recognizable U.S. area code.

To sum up in six lines:
Make it easy to contact you on- or offline.
Sign with the name of a real person.
Repeat your value proposition in a tag line.
Include a link to your offer.
Always use your sig file to sell.
Contact me with questions or comments!

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