One of my pet peeves is to see people using cheesy Outlook stationery templates with their outbound email. This habit is widespread even among employees of Fortune 500 companies.
These templates not only look unprofessional and make messages difficult to read, but they also represent a wasted branding opportunity. Let’s look at one example, using one of my “favorite” templates (Citrus Punch):
There are several problems with this message:
- The texture in the background makes the text difficult to read.
- The graphic at the bottom looks amateurish and unprofessional.
- The default font is dated (Times Roman).
- There is no signature file (branding).
Now let’s look at a few simple ways to make it better:
- Don’t use any background texture. Black text on a white background works best since it increases contrast and makes the message more readable.
- Don’t use any other graphic elements in the background.
- Choose an adequate font. Simple, sans-serif fonts like Arial or Verdana work best. If you want to use a serif-font use Georgia (it reads well since it was designed specifically for the web).
- Create a signature file with your logo and company information.
To create your signature file follow this procedure:
- Open Microsoft Outlook and click on “Tools” in the top menu
- Click “Options”
- Click the “Mail Format” tab
- Click the “Signatures” button
- Click the “New” button
- Assign a name to your new signature file. Check “Start with a blank signature” and click “Next”
- Choose your font and write your name and job title in the first two rows (you can bold your name)
- Leave a blank row and insert a small version of your company logo, by right-clicking on the place where you want to put it, then clicking “Browse” and picking a logo from your hard drive. Use a small and simple .gif version of your logo (no more than 10Kb)
- In the next rows include your contact information: company name, address, phone, cell phone, fax, email address, skype or IM username (if you have one) and your website’s URL.
- Set your signature file to pop up in new messages as well as in replies and forwards.
That’s it. Your outgoing messages should look a lot different now.
It doesn’t take much to turn your email messages into a powerful branding tool.
Brian Jackson is the former owner of Shoestring Branding, a marketing and branding blog for entrepreneurs, with an emphasis on internet-based tools and strategies. It was recently acquired by BrandBlast.com