A client told me yesterday that they save my out-of-office auto-reply email messages. That’s just cool. If you haven’t yet emailed me when I’m traveling, my out-of-office (OOF) message includes the obligatory “where I am, when I’ll be back” stuff but also has a set of 5-7 interesting sales, marketing or productivity articles I recommend reading in the meantime. I’ve included a recent sample below.

I’ve essentially turned my OOF messages into mini-newsletters, another way to create an impression with the people around me. (I stole this idea from Andy Sernovitz. Can’t remember the specific context, but he was the inspiration – follow his blog for inspiration daily).

I bet you could do the same for your business. At minimum, when you’re traveling, put something a little more interesting into your out-of-office messages. It will take you less than a minute, and it’ll stand out.

Better yet, think about how you might use this functionality in Outlook on a more regular basis.

For example, why wouldn’t your customer service team have this feature on all the time? It could remind customers where they might be able to get an answer more quickly, point out new ways of getting their questions answered, even announce new features or upsell opportunities.

PR and investor relations folks could have something similar on anytime they’re away from their desks for an extended period of time.

Think about your role, the people who contact you most often, and what you want them to know about you. What you want to say to them, if you knew they were listening right now.

Because that out-of-office message comes back right away, and you know they’re at their desks, reading email, because they just sent you one. How will you leverage that opportunity?

Here’s a sample from last month:

Thanks very much for your email. I’m traveling to the Holiday Bowl (Go Dawgs!) and back on New Years Eve. Response to email and voicemail may be slower than usual. If this is urgent or an emergency, try my cell phone at 425-894-3387. Otherwise, I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

In the meantime, some light reading:

10 productive ways to work in the last days of the year

6 things to do instead of working today

Eight cocktails to try in the New Year

How to talk about your competitors

Hot stove baseball marketing ideas

Seven bad habits of highly unsuccessful sales people