E-mail Signatures

September 1, 1998

Dear Mr. Internet,
What's an E-mail "signature," and how do I go about getting one?— Colleen G. Lessner, GRI, CRS®, Main Street, REALTORS®--Better Homes and Gardens, Cary, Ill.

Dear Colleen,
Think of an E-mail signature as a way of including a marketing billboard about you and your business every time you send a message. The best part is that once you set it up, it's automatic and free--my favorite two words. In most cases, automating a signature is an easy three-step process:

1. Create a text file with your signature information.

Use a simple text processor like Notepad. You can also use a word processor like Microsoft Word; just be sure to save the file as a text file (that is, with a .txt file extension). At minimum, your E-mail signature should include your name, company name, office address, business phone, and fax numbers, as well as the states or jurisdictions in which you're licensed to do business.

Create hyperlinks to your E-mail address and Web site by using "mailto:"and "http://". And don't forget a catchy slogan at the bottom to help recipients remember you.

Signature design rules of thumb:

  • Keep it simple.
  • Keep it clean looking.
  • Keep it short--no more than six to eight lines.

2. Save the file to your hard disk.

Once you have your signature the way you want it, simply save it to your hard disk s a text file. It's a good idea to name it something recognizable (like signature file.txt) and to save it in the folder that contains your E-mail software or messages.

3. Configure your E-mail software to insert your signature into each message.

This can be tricky, because every software product has a different way of doing this. In most cases, it involves selecting your saved signature file within some kind of "options" menu or dialog box. Since most people find the thought of reading the manual about as exciting as a tooth extraction, I've created a quick tutorial on how this is done for MS Outlook Express and Netscape Messenger. Click on the hyperlink of your choice for the step-by-step process. For other software, use your help command or contact the maker.

Some old E-mail software (including America Online 3.0 or earlier) may not provide the signature feature. If that's the case, consider switching to software that does, for two reasons:

  1. Many real estate commissions require you to disclose the states in which you're licensed within the signature. Plus the same regulations that would apply in other mediums--hard copy correspondence, brochures, and son on--apply here. For instance, you're always required to disclose which broker you're affiliated with.
  2. An E-mail signature is a tremendous marketing tool, which costs you nothing.

Use every opportunity to leave you online signature so that people no only will know how to contact you but also pick you out from the crowd.

Mr. Internet's Tip 'o the Month

Ever wonder which other Web sites have links to yours? Well, there's a real easy way to find out. Go to the AltaVista search engine and type link:www.yourdomain.com, substituting your actual domain name for "yourdomain". The search results will list of the sites found to have links to yours.

It tells you how many or how few other sites are potentially feeding you visitors. Some of the most successful practitioner sites have in excess of 100 other sites linked to theirs. You can also use this method to check out how well--and by whom--your competitors' sites are strategically linked.

Michael Russer, a.k.a. Mr. Internet®, is CEO of Russer Communications. He is a leading speaker and author in the real estate industry and has been writing about Internet marketing and virtual outsourcing since the dawn of the commercial Internet.

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