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Outlook Signatures

Standardized signatures are among the hallmarks of a serious business. (They rank right up there with a front desk and mediocre coffee.) They’re the kind of thing you take for granted, until you’re responsible for managing them for more than five people. Then, they become the bane of your existence.

If you’re still using a template that people copy/paste into Outlook, there is a better way to handle it; signature management software. There are many options out there, but they all work on the principle of allowing you to standardize your signature layouts, display user information and manage everything from a central console.

Note: For our purposes, we’ll be assuming you’re using Microsoft Exchange and Outlook, but there are similar solutions for non-Microsoft email setups.

Above is my current signature. It’s a standard layout for everyone at Prophet which I built within the signature management software. It’s not complicated and it looks a lot like the layout we were using before we switched to a signature manager. The difference is that all of the personal information is being pulled directly from Active Directory, rather than being stored in Outlook.

This might not seem like a huge deal, but we’ve had a lot of new people joining the team lately, which means a lot of phone number shuffling. Knowing that I’m not relying on each user to keep their signature consistent and accurate across multiple devices (phone, webmail, terminal server, desktop) means I don’t have to do random spot checks like some kind of signature narc. 

Using third-party software also allows me to change the signature behavior based on context. Above is the signature template that gets inserted on email chains that already include my full signature. It’s just a space-saving measure, but it’s not something you can do with Outlook alone.

You can also set up domain-based filters, which I use to send plain-text signatures to clients with high security email servers. Or group-based filters, to change the layout based on which department the sender belongs to.

Finally, it really turns your signature into a marketing opportunity, as you can include banners or links to upcoming events, seasonal promotions or new products. I do it annually with our Dynamics GP User Group.

From a functionality standpoint, signature managers are installed on the Exchange server and attach the signature AFTER the email is sent. Honestly, not seeing your signature at the bottom of a draft email is the biggest adjustment for many people when you start using a signature manager.

This all seems like the sort of thing that should be possible within Outlook, but at present there’s no reasonable way to do it. That’s why I made the switch and saved myself some headaches in the process.

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