A signature-driven email is a mass email that looks like an email sent directly to the recipient from an individual. This is accomplished by using an individual’s email address, sender name and signature details, and avoiding generic values (e.g. marketing@company.com). Signature-driven emails include the following elements:

Sender: An individual

Subject line: Not a “marketing” subject line

Body copy: Formatted in text and addressed to the recipient. No HTML.

Now, let’s discuss the benefits of these emails:

  • Improved conversion rates. Signature-driven emails can heighten a recipient’s perception of the email’s relevance and increase the email’s conversion rate (compared to sending out the same message via a company-branded email).
  • Workload reduction. Employee workload can be reduced as some personal outreach can be automated so that less effort is required.
  • Contact insight. Contacts will often reply and share information when they receive a signature-driven email. This provides the company with additional information about the contact’s interests.
  • Deeper relationships. The use of signature-driven emails, especially within prospecting activities, can help establish a relationship between the contact and an individual within the company.

Unfortunately, the potential value of these missives is frequently muted due to their misuse. When using a signature-driven email, do not commit any of the 10 deadly sins of signature-driven emails:

  • Frequent use. The more frequently this tactic is used, the less effective it becomes. Avoid using this tactic for marketing emails; if you must, use it sparingly, interjected between corporate-branded emails.
  • Multiple sends. When a contact receives the same message a second time, this indicates that the email is not sent from an individual. To ensure this does not occur, hard-code exclusion rules into signature-driven email programs and distributions.
  • HTML. When a signature-driven email is in HTML, it’s apparent that an individual did not send it or that the individual used an email template. Send the email in plain text for maximum effectiveness.
  • One company, many contacts. As the number of people in a company sent the same signature-driven missive increases, the more likely they will discuss receiving it – highlighting the fact that the email was not sent by an individual. To prevent this predicament, limit the mailing to one person per company.
  • No message variations. When two or more of the recipients from the same organization or user group discuss receiving the email, creating several versions of the message helps to foster the illusion that the emails were sent directly from individuals.
  • Incorrect relationship. Make sure that it’s believable that the sender would actually email the contact the message in question. For example, an email invitation to a breakfast seminar from a sales rep or marketing manager would be much more believable than the same invite coming from a CEO.
  • No sender knowledge. Ensure that the resource ostensibly sending the email has prior knowledge of the email distribution and access to see who received it. Email recipients will reply and call the resource; if the resource is not knowledgeable, the effectiveness of the signature-driven email will be significantly curtailed.
  • Bad data. When dynamic inserts of contact information are used, poor data quality can quickly derail the tactic’s effectiveness. Ensure that all fields used for personalization and segmentation are correct and properly formatted (e.g. “Frank” not “FRANK” or “Franky [I think]”).
  • Off-hour sending. When emails are sent during non-working hours or always at the same day/time, email recipients come to realize the messages are automated. Ensure that emails are sent out during normal working hours. Also, to help signature-driven emails appear more realistic, vary their distributions by day and time. For example, make sure that these emails are not always sent at 8:30 a.m. on Mondays.
  • Opt-out process. To be legally compliant, the emails must contain an opt-out process. Unfortunately, this decreases a contact’s perception that the email was sent by an individual. Several clients have addressed this by including the opt-out link as part of a legal disclaimer, or inserting it within the email’s body content but not allowing the opt-out form or preference management page to pre-populate with the recipient’s email address (this would highlight the fact that the message was not sent by an individual).

While these guidelines can help increase the value that signature-driven emails provide, they do not address the email’s relevance. As with all marketing outreach efforts, if the message/offer does not focus on the recipient’s specific needs or interests, it will generate little value. If your message isn’t pertinent to the contact, don’t send it.