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Email signature management: The hidden IT costs of using manual methods

hidden it costs

Despite all the options for digital communications — messaging apps, video chats, texts, and more — the business world still runs on email. Personal, non-automated emails are one of the most effective ways to interact with customers, partners, and other business contacts. 

Research shows that the return on investment (ROI) for email marketing can be as high as 44 times the investment. But what does this mean for IT? Often, IT professionals are the unsung heroes of an organization, working to keep email systems up and running. Email signature management is the least of their worries. 

In the “2022 State of IT” report from Spiceworks Ziff Davis, 72% of technology professionals said the shift to remote work created additional work for IT departments — many of which must now support workers at home and in the office. 

Yet, email signatures are a top priority outside of IT. Marketing teams want to use signatures to support the company brand and leverage them as a personalized communications channel. Legal teams want every message to include the correct email disclaimers. Sales teams wish to use email signatures as an engagement tool to interact with prospects and customers via add-ons like feedback surveys. And HR teams want professional email signatures to represent employee contact information and internal support communications accurately. 

All of these email signature management requests automatically fall on IT professionals. This is because they are the only ones with the technical knowledge and access to critical computing infrastructure to manage email signatures properly. 

Ignoring email signature management 

Email signatures support a company’s brand and key messaging as organizations grow. In addition to contact details, email signatures can include company logos, social media links, and marketing banners. 

But leaving email signature management up to individual employees is a recipe for disaster. Are they all providing the same contact information with a consistent layout? Are there spelling errors or broken links? Are images rendering correctly? A sloppy email signature design reflects poorly on your brand. 

Yet, managing email signatures across an organization can be difficult for IT. IT staff might go from desk to desk in a small office, manually copy-and-pasting a signature template into each employee’s email client. But this method is hugely inefficient, especially when considering it’s time that IT could focus elsewhere. 

On average, IT administrators are paid $40 per hour. If it takes half an hour to update and test a user’s signature, just one change every quarter for 100 employees could end up costing an organization $8,000 in lost time. 

Emailing out a template is also problematic because it’s up to employees to deploy the design themselves without making changes. Employees may be out of the office, ignore the instructions, or forget to make an update. The result? Email signatures can have outdated branding, messaging for events that have passed, promotions that have ended, and so on. 

Centrally managing email signatures: The IT approach 

Traditionally, there have been two ways to centrally manage email signatures from an IT perspective. An IT professional can: 

  • Use client-side scripts to add a designed signature to the client settings of assigned users. From within their email client, users can see the signature as they type an email message. 

  • Apply server-side mail transport rules to ensure signatures are added after an email is sent, but before it leaves the corporate network. The signature is essentially “stamped” onto the message, allowing for signatures on email sent from any device. 

Common IT challenges with email signature management 

Although an IT professional can enforce a signature policy using a script and custom HTML code, the following challenges complicate that approach: 

HTML design limitations 

Marketing might create a compelling email signature design, but that doesn’t mean it’s easily replicated in HTML. It’s time-consuming to build an email signature template using HTML code, and it will often need to be tested outside standard working hours. 

The disclaimer function isn’t designed with high-quality HTML in mind for organizations using Microsoft Exchange or Office 365 (Microsoft 365).

For Google Workspace users, the Admin console has “Append footer” settings in the Gmail compliance section. However, HTML is not supported. The footer text is limited to 10,000 characters and needs to be linked from a web server. 

Issues with client-side scripts 

Client-side scripts are typically not supported on mobile devices and non-standard clients. This means 100% design conformity is impossible. Meanwhile, using client-side scripts with server transport rules isn’t an effective avenue to manage email signatures because the two methods will compete with each other. 

Signatures render differently on different devices 

Rules need to be created to ensure a signature template is applied correctly, depending on the type of device. Design variations also need to be considered. For example, the iOS email app sends emails in plain-text format, so what looks great on a desktop computer might disappear entirely on an iPhone or iPad. 

Signature stacking 

Native email signature functionality in Office 365 and G Suite is to add disclaimers to emails. Using server-side transport rules means signatures will always be added to the bottom of every email in a conversation. 

Incomplete or inaccurate contact details 

Some contact information might be missing when populating an email signature with details from Active Directory or Google Directory. Some employees may have a mobile number while others don’t. 

As a result, employees can end up with blank fields in their signatures. And since users rarely have the means to input or amend these details for themselves, the task falls to IT to rectify the errors. 

Images appear as attachments or get removed 

By default, many email clients automatically block any externally hosted images as a security measure. Recipients must mark emails as from a safe sender or click a “Download Images” button before they can see any images like social media icons and logos. 

Constant requests from non-IT teams for email signature updates 

Whether it’s marketing, HR, legal, or sales, many non-IT teams want to make email signature updates to suit their purposes. For example, marketing departments might want to use promotional banners to highlight special offers, attendance at trade shows, new product launches, and so on. But often, the content is time-sensitive.

So, IT gets an urgent request to add the banners ASAP — and once the marketing campaign has run its course, email signatures have to be updated again. 

Email signature software to the rescue 

Professional email signature software makes it easy for IT teams to: 

  • Ensure consistent email signature templates on every device, with preview capabilities for easy testing and diagnostics 

  • Manage email signatures from a web browser, even while working remotely 

  • Eliminate the need for manual email signature design updates 

  • Empower marketing professionals and relinquish day-to-day responsibility 

The magic in an email signature solution is centralized control, which can be robust and straightforward. Every employee can have a branded signature appended to their emails from whatever device they’re using — from virtually anywhere. This guarantees brand consistency and legal compliance. 

Email signature updates are done automatically via pre-set and pre-approved templates. IT staff can define the rules to group employees into different departments in just minutes. Even non-IT teams can set up various templates for other departments and target email signatures toward specific recipients without involving IT. 

Email signature software can pull user information from user directories, hiding contact fields that aren’t populated as necessary. And some modern email signature management solutions offer other ways of sourcing the information, such as allowing users to enter the correct details for themselves. Specific signatures can be created for email replies or forwarded messages so the messaging fits the nature of the email conversation. Signatures can also be scheduled, a massive time-saver since changes can be applied outside prime working hours and with advanced testing. 

The best email signature management software works in both cloud and on-premises environments. So when organizations migrate to the cloud, their email signatures also migrate over. IT teams should consider email signature management solutions that are easy to deploy and how well they interact with existing systems. Proper security is also essential: third-party solutions should support 99.99% uptime and conform to data privacy requirements. 

Additionally, third-party solutions mean that email signatures can fully integrate into advertising campaigns, with the update tasks falling under the marketing team’s ownership. While IT still controls the information system aspects of managing email signatures, the delegation of signature management goes to the marketing team. This allows them to create personalized experiences in every email sent — without burdening IT with each incremental change. 

Promotional banners can include a special offer for prospects, while a regional office can promote a local event. Marketing can also add one-click feedback buttons to the signature design to quickly measure customer satisfaction or update designs with seasonal hours or offers. The best email signature management tools also include analytics for tracking the effectiveness of resolving issues and the level of engagement within the signature. 

Open up email signature management opportunities with Exclaimer 

Ready to transform the way you manage email signatures? At Exclaimer, we believe email signature management should be simple for all organizations. Once you have centrally managed email signatures, they can become an effective way to deliver personalized marketing to a wide range of target audiences.

Try Exclaimer today by signing up for a free trial or registering for an online demonstration.

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