Should you use a cold email signature — or is there too much potential downside?
On one hand, there are the hardcore cold emailers out there who preach eliminating anything in an outreach message that’s not the offer copy itself. No images, no links, and certainly no messing around with a distracting email signature.
On the other hand, there’s the camp that’s looking for serious personalization in cold email — and part of that is trying to make a legitimate, credible, genuine one-on-one connection. So sharing some info about the real person behind the message is key.
In this article, I’ll lay out the cases for and against including a sales email signature. And if you decide you do want to include one, I’ll go over several tips for creating an email signature that enhances your cold emails and helps them close the deal.
Cold Email Signature: Table of Contents
- Pros of Including a Signature in Your Sales Email Signature
- Cons of Including a Signature in Your Sales Email Signature
- 7 Tips for Creating a Cold Email Signature (That Won’t Kill Your Deliverability)
- Cold Email Signature: Takeaways and Next Steps
Pros of Including a Signature in Your Sales Email Signature
Here are the strongest arguments for including a signature in your cold emails.
Puts a real name (and face) behind the outreach to begin building a relationship
It’s human nature to react positively to people’s faces; we’re wired to form tribes. (It’s why, for example, most YouTube thumbnails today feature a person. People are more likely to click on a video when they see a person’s face. Even my face, in theory, on GMass’s YouTube videos.)
You’re trying to form a real, human connection with cold email recipients. When you include some personal details in an email signature, you help kick off that relationship with transparency and honesty.
Adds significant credibility to your offer
Everyone you’re cold emailing has received dozens (hundreds? thousands?) of cold emails. Everyone’s also received a lot of spam. We’ve also received cold emails that border on spam — and spam designed to perfectly mimic cold email.
In other words, we’re all hardened against email solicitation — and suspicious of spam.
What better way to make it clear you’re a real person sending a legitimate, not-spam offer than adding things like your company, title, picture, physical address, phone number, or social media to a cold email?
Makes it look more like a one-on-one email
You may send one-off cold emails — but at some point, you’ll likely send cold emails at scale using mail merge.
The goal of mass cold emails is to make each one simulate a one-on-one message. (Side note: We have lots of features to aid that process at GMass, like sending messages as replies to your last conversation with each recipient and advanced personalization.)
So think about this: If you were sending a single, individual cold email, would you include your signature?
Odds are you would. It’s a professional email, after all. And since it’s a one-on-one message you’re not as worried about potentially going to the junk folder (like you are with mass cold email sends).
Since you’re trying to simulate one-on-one messages when you send cold emails to multiple recipients… wouldn’t including your signature help keep up the facade?
Lets you add extra social proof without clogging your copy
If you’re following the best practices of cold email, you’re keeping your messages short and concise. That means there are situations where you don’t want to clog up your copy with social proof — even if the social proof might really help persuade the recipient to reply.
But in your signature? There’s a spot to include your credentials without cluttering your copy. Include a line in your signature about how many people are using your product or service, how much you’ve lifted their revenue, or whatever else is your killer piece of social proof.
That way you’re getting it into the email — without having to compromise the length or flow of your copy.
Cons of Including a Signature in Your Sales Email Signature
Here are the arguments against including a signature in a cold email.
When done incorrectly, can potentially have a negative impact on deliverability
The biggest objection you’ll see to a cold email signature is the deliverability impact.
And that’s not off base. The conventional wisdom is: The more you include in a cold email (especially things like links and images), the more likely it is you’ll trigger a spam filter. It’s why the high-volume cold emailers strip everything possible out of their messages and often go plain text.
But… there are measures you can take to reduce the spam risk from a cold email, including one with a signature. I’ll walk through those steps later; there’s even a way to use images to potentially help deliverability.
Still, in a vacuum, the conventional wisdom isn’t wrong. The less “stuff” you have in your cold email, the less deliverability risk exposure you have.
Can distract focus from the one purpose of your cold email
An effective cold email funnels the recipient toward taking one and only one specific action (usually replying or clicking a scheduling link).
Your email signature can be a distraction and give the recipient an alternative action option (or options).
After all, if you want the person to reply but instead they click to see your LinkedIn profile, the cold email didn’t accomplish what was intended. (Unless they come back to then reply to your message; but that’s less likely when they fall into the attention vortex of another website.)
The signature can even mess up your automated follow-ups. Let’s say you’re sending auto follow-ups to people who don’t click to schedule a meeting. But they click on a link in your signature instead of your scheduling link. They’ll drop out of the follow-up sequence even though they didn’t take your desired action.
Can draw the eye away from your copy
It’s awfully hard to focus on a bunch of text when there are bright colors and links and possibly a photograph on the screen.
With a cold email, you need your copy to hold someone’s attention to compel them to take action.
But when there’s an alluring signature at the bottom of the email? It’s far too easy for someone to drop focus on the written copy and have their eyes drift to the signature instead.
When done incorrectly, can make an email look less professional
A nice signature can make your email look professional.
But a sloppy signature? One with messed up formatting? One that includes a title that could turn off recipients like “Cold Email Outreach Assistant”? Or one that’s entirely an image, not accounting for some email clients that block all images by default? Yeah… that’s a net negative.
If you’re going to include a signature, make sure it’s enhancing the professionalism of your email — not detracting from it.
7 Tips for Creating a Cold Email Signature (That Won’t Kill Your Deliverability)
Want to use a signature in your cold emails? I’m with you. The arguments against it are strong — but to me, the arguments in favor of a signature are stronger.
I include a signature in cold emails I send. And when I receive cold emails, I’m more likely to respond if there’s a signature that helps me understand the person with whom I’m corresponding.
So if you are going to use a signature… let’s make sure you do it right.
Here’s how to use an email signature that gives you all the positive benefits without the negatives (hurting deliverability in particular).
Remember: Just like cold email, it’s about your recipient, not you
An email signature is a spot where you share a bunch of personal details.
And yet… it’s not about you.
Everything in a cold email should be focused on the recipient. It’s “you, you, you” — not “me, me, me.” That includes your email signature. The reason you’re including it is to add credibility, form a bond, and possibly convey relevant information.
So… don’t clog it up with information that’s irrelevant to your recipients or its mission.
You don’t need to include links to every single one of your social media accounts — just ones that push toward the goal of the cold email. For example, you don’t need your Instagram account on there unless it’s related to your business (like you’re a photographer or real estate agent).
If you’re going to mention an award or accolade in the signature, make sure it’s one that serves as social proof and makes the recipient more likely to want to work with you.
Same deal if you’re going to include a link to a blog post, a YouTube video, or anything else. If your recipient clicks that link, are they going to be more likely to return to the email to respond to you after — or less likely?
And finally, you don’t need to include a stock graphic wishing people a “Happy [next holiday]” or an inspirational quote. That’s indulgent and won’t drive engagement.
Get a custom tracking domain in place
This is the first of the two big deliverability improvement steps we’re going to take.
If you’re not familiar with a custom tracking domain…
When you track opens or clicks in an email, your email provider (GMass, Mailchimp, and so on) needs to use special links to do so. And you’re sharing the domain for those links with tons of other people at the same provider. Which means their reputations are affecting you, since now you’re linking to the same domain in your emails as they are.
We’ve found the single best way to improve deliverability is to use a custom tracking domain. And as GMass, we take it even one step further than pretty much any other email provider — we obtain an SSL certificate for your custom tracking domain to serve it securely. That further helps deliverability.
You can follow the instructions at this article to set up a custom tracking domain. (Ideally it should take less than five minutes.)
After you set up your custom tracking domain, any links in your signature will now use that domain. And that makes you less likely to trigger a spam filter than if you were using the default shared domain.
Use embedded images for your photo
As I mentioned earlier, there are lots of serious cold emailers who won’t use images in their messages because of the deliverability risk.
But at GMass, we actually have a way to make images good for deliverability. (Or, at least, a way that images can be a non-factor in deliverability.)
When you use images with most email providers, those images are hosted on that company’s server. For instance, when you add an image to an email in Mailchimp, every person who opens that email calls Mailchimp’s servers to download the image.
And that’s a sign of a mass email. After all, if you were sending a one-on-one message to someone and including an image, you wouldn’t upload it to a server and then serve it off that URL. You’d just embed the image in the email.
Because GMass is built directly into Gmail, you can use embedded images. So when you’re creating your email signature (either in the Gmail settings or an individual email), you upload the images to Google — and they embed them in the message.
As a result, the images in your signature shouldn’t have a negative effect on your deliverability.
Make sure to include these elements in your cold email signature
Here are some of the things you should include in your email signature.
Name and job title
Show the recipient who they’re dealing with.
Caution: If your title is something that hurts your credibility, skip it. For example, I get tons of emails of people asking for backlinks. Often they try to present it as if they just so happened to stumble onto one of my blog posts and, whoa, look at that, they happen to have the perfect link that “my readers will love.” But if their job title is something like “Link Building Associate” — which I see more often than you think — it hurts the credibility of their whole gambit.
Professional license number and disclaimers
If you need a license number (like, say, a real estate agent or contractor), include it in your signature. And if your company requires you to put disclaimers, privacy disclosures, or any other legalese in your emails, include that at the bottom of your signature.
Your recipient will want to know they’re dealing with a legitimate company. One technique: Write out the URL, but don’t hyperlink it. That reduces your number of links that might take your recipient away, never to return.
You can include a company logo as well, though I’d prefer a photo of you instead.
One or two social networks
Make sure the social networks are relevant to your offer and you’re active on them. LinkedIn is usually the best bet here.
A physical address adds a ton of credibility. Including one also helps you stay compliant with some of the stricter email policies in various countries.
A relevant piece of social proof
This could be a case study, a stat on your number of customers or their success, your review scores, a testimonial, or anything else that will inspire confidence and help seal the deal.
Maybe: A photo
Personally, I respond better to a cold email that has a photo — but some people are adamant against including one because it could be distracting. Sadly, it could also trigger someone’s implicit biases. So really, it’s up to you. Or, as I’ll discuss later in this article, it could be worth A/B testing.
Make sure to exclude these elements
Here’s what you should not include in your signature.
An image of your actual handwritten signature
This is corny, distracting, adds an unnecessary extra image, and takes up space from the rest of the email. Going back to the number one rule of the signature: Everything in the signature is about your recipient and getting them to act on your offer. How, exactly, does a picture of your handwritten signature do that? No one thinks you drew out that signature specifically for their email.
No need to clog your signature with your email address. If the person wants to email you, they’ll hit reply. Including your email in a signature is the equivalent of telling someone your phone number when you leave a voicemail.
Extraneous social networks
No one’s going to click on all your social media links. But why risk having them click on one that won’t help close the deal? As I said earlier, if you’re, say, a photographer, then your Instagram is relevant. If you’re a lead gen agency soliciting new clients, your Instagram is likely irrelevant.
Irrelevant biographical info
Your signature isn’t your resume. It’s a concise introduction and a chance to improve the odds of success from your cold email.
Keep it tight and make sure any detail you include is in service of getting the recipient to take your desired action.
Maybe: Clickable booking link if you’re auto following up on replies
There’s a school of thought that says you should put a booking link in your signature if you’re asking a recipient to reply — it gives them a different option for connecting, one which they might prefer.
And that could work… unless you’re using auto follow-ups that go out based on replies. If so, someone might get an auto follow-up after they’ve clicked. So if you want to include a booking link, be vigilant about removing those who clicked your reply-based auto follow-up sequences.
Putting everything in one image
Your email signature should be text, or text with a photo, logo, or social media icons. But it shouldn’t be everything in one image.
When you put everything in one image you run the risk of people not seeing your signature (if their email client blocks images by default).
And can people click on different parts of an image to go to a social account versus your website versus your booking link? Are image maps still a thing, because I was all about them when I was designing my first websites in 1997.
Use Spam Solver to test the signature’s impact on deliverability
You can use GMass’s Spam Solver tool to test whether your signature has a negative effect on your deliverability before you send your campaign.
Create a version of your email and run it through GMass’s Spam Solver. See how your email performs.
If your inbox rate isn’t where you want it to be, test a version where you delete the signature. See how that performs.
If the one without a signature has a higher inbox and lower spam rate, you can safely say your signature is causing the problem. Try getting rid of elements of your signature (specifically links, images, or spammy language) one-by-one then re-testing to pinpoint the issue.
Try running an A/B test on signature versus no signature
Curious to see if your signature helps or hurts your conversion rate? Find out with an A/B test.
You can set up an A/B test in GMass to send one version of your email with the signature and one version without. Test both versions a decent sample size, and give the test some time to play out.
From there, you can see if the signature is making an impact one way or the other.
And if you do keep using your signature, keep an eye on your campaign click and reply rates. If you start to see a consistent decline, it may be worth running another A/B test on your signature.
Cold Email Signature: Takeaways and Next Steps
There’s no universal consensus on whether to use a cold email signature. Some cold emailers are against adding anything extra to your emails. Others see the signature as an opportunity to add credibility to a campaign.
The pros of including a sales email signature are:
- Puts a real name and face behind the outreach to start building a relationship.
- Adds a serious dose of credibility to your offer.
- Makes your mass email look more like a one-on-one message.
- And lets you add social proof without clogging your copy.
But the very real list of cons for adding a signature are:
- When done incorrectly, can potentially have a negative impact on deliverability.
- Can distract focus.
- Can draw a recipient’s eye away from the copy.
- Can look unprofessional when done poorly.
So if you decide you do want to include a signature in your cold emails, make sure you take the right approach.
- Remember that the signature is actually about your recipient, not you.
- Use a custom tracking domain to prevent the additional links from affecting deliverability.
- Use embedded images to avoid hurting deliverability (and maybe even help it a little).
- Include elements like your name and job title, company URL, top social networks, physical address, and relevant social proof. And maybe a photo.
- Don’t include elements like an image of your handwritten signature, your email address, and irrelevant social networks or biographical info.
- Before you send, test whether the signature hurts your inbox placement using GMass’s Spam Solver.
- And try A/B testing emails with a signature versus no signature to see if it makes a difference.
GMass makes it easy to add a signature — either through Gmail’s signature feature, or through easy HTML editing.
You can get started with GMass for free by downloading the Chrome extension. (No credit card required.) Then you can send up to 50 emails per day as you try out GMass and learn about everything it can do — email signatures and beyond.