How to Create a Signature File for Your Online Business

By Greg Holden

One of the most useful tools for marketing your online business is a signature file, or sig file. A signature file is a text blurb that your system appends automatically to the bottom of your e-mail messages and newsgroup postings. You want your signature file to tell the readers of your message something about you and your business, like information such as your company name and how to contact you.

Creating a signature file takes only a little more time than putting your John Hancock on the dotted line. First, to create the signature file itself, follow these steps:

  1. Open a text-editing program.

    This example uses Notepad, which comes built in with Windows. If you’re a Mac user, you can use SimpleText. With either program, a new blank document opens onscreen.

  2. Press and hold down the hyphen (–) key or the equal sign (=) key to create a dividing line that separates your signature from the body of your message.

    Depending on which symbol you use, a series of hyphens or equal signs forms a broken line. Don’t make this line too long, or it runs onto another line, which doesn’t look good; 30 to 40 characters is a safe measure.

  3. Type the information about yourself that you want to appear in the signature, pressing Enter after each line.

    Include such information as your name, job title, company name, e-mail address, and website URL, if you have one. A three- or four-line signature is the typical length.

    If you’re feeling ambitious, you can press the spacebar to arrange your text in two columns.

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    Always include the URL to your business website in your signature file, and be sure to include it on its own line. Why? Most e-mail programs recognize the URL as a web page by its prefix (http://). When your reader opens your message, the e-mail program displays the URL as a clickable hyperlink that, when clicked, opens your web page in a web browser window.

  4. Choose File→Save.

    A dialog box appears, in which you can name the file and save it to a folder on your hard drive.

  5. Type a name for your file that ends in the filename extension .txt.

    This extension identifies your file as a plain-text document.

  6. Click Save.

    Your text file is saved on your computer’s hard drive.

If you created a plain-text version of your electronic signature, the next step is to identify that file to the computer programs that you use to send and receive e-mail and newsgroup messages. Doing so enables the programs to make the signature file appear automatically at the bottom of your messages.

The procedure for attaching a signature file varies from program to program; the following steps show you how to do it using Microsoft Outlook Express 6:

  1. Start Outlook Express and choose Tools→Options.

    The Options dialog box opens.

  2. Click the Signatures tab.

  3. Click New.

    The options are highlighted in the Signatures and Edit Signature sections of the Signatures tab.

  4. Click File at the bottom of the tab and then click Browse.

    The Open dialog box appears. This is a standard Windows navigation dialog box that lets you select folders and files on your computer.

  5. Locate the signature file that you created in the preceding set of steps by selecting a drive or folder from the Look In drop-down list.

  6. When you locate the file, click the filename and then click Open.

    The Signature File dialog box closes, and you return to the Options dialog box. The path leading to the selected file is listed in the box next to File.

  7. Select the Add Signatures to All Outgoing Messages check box and then click OK.

    The Options dialog box closes, and you return to Outlook Express. Your signature file is added automatically to your messages.

To test your new signature file, choose File→New→Mail Message from the Outlook Express menu bar. A new message composition window opens. Your signature file appears in the body of the message composition window. You can compose a message by clicking before the signature and typing.

Signature files, autoresponders, and other techy gimmicks are fine, but the key to making them work is checking your e-mail and phone messages every single day. That includes weekends! If you can’t do the job yourself, assign an employee to do it. Check your messages as frequently as possible, and respond to inquiries as quickly as you can.