How many times have you sent an email and waited .... and waited ... and wondered what happened to it? We all have.
In the past, it was normal to have no idea what happened after we sent an email. Did our recipient receive it? Did it get lost in their inbox? Is it in their spam folder? Did they click on my links or open my attachments?
No one knew ... until now. Now, we have software that lets us know when someone opens your emails, clicks on any links, and views any attachments.
Email tracking gives us the power to build and maintain relationships in this exceedingly crowded, competitive inbox environment. That’s what this guide is all about: powering your inbox with email tracking to boost email efficiency and productivity.
Note: We've edited sections of this piece because readers rightly pointed out that we did not previously include enough content on how to use tools that track email opens responsibly. This is a rapidly evolving technology, so we’ll continue to update recommendations on this page as the field evolves. Feedback makes our content better, if you see advice or content that is outdated - write us at email@example.com.
Email tracking is the process of tracking sent emails and using that data to inform business decisions. Most email tracking tools capture data on open rates, times, and locations, as well as click-throughs on links and attachments.
Email tracking notifies you when any email you sent has been opened or clicked. Email tracking software places an invisible image pixel in your emails that can detect the exact time and date an email has been opened by a recipient.
We talk more about how to do this below, but first, let's discuss why email tracking is beneficial.
No one wants to get multiple follow-up emails when they haven’t even opened the first one. Email tracking enables you to see whether your first email was interesting enough to your recipient to open. If they haven’t opened the first, they’re unlikely to open future follow-up emails, so you can and should stop there. By preventing unnecessary follow-up emails, email tracking saves time both for the sales rep and the email recipient.
Similarly, if you notice a contact is clicking on the links you sent and viewing a cover letter or a proposal that you attached, you know that you're currently at the top of their minds. Reaching out to them at that point, when they’re thinking about your proposal, makes that conversation much more relevant and timely.
Keep reading for specific examples that demonstrate the power of tracking emails in action.
Email tracking provides you with valuable insight into your email interactions with contacts, networks, customers, or prospects. You can use this insight to strengthen your outreach by catering to their specific relationship with you.
Let’s face it, writing emails can be daunting and frustrating. It's easy to struggle with how to begin or what to say to fill in that white space.
With SalesHub Email Tracking, you're provided with more than just valuable information about your contact’s engagement with your emails. You also get to see their professional history, details about their company, their Twitter feed and other social profiles, your email history with them, and any other information that they chose to share with you.
Now that you know the main benefits to using an email tracking software, let’s take a look at specific examples of how tracking emails can benefit your business.
"Last year, I was positive we’d landed a contract with a huge eCommerce client. I thought we had the deal in the bag.
After speaking for weeks, we sent our final proposal with a quote and the entire process mapped out. And what happened? Absolutely no response. Silence.
Fast forward three months later: a notification pops up on my computer letting me know that eCommerce company just opened my email … and clicked the link to our proposal. Later that day, I get another notification alert that they’re reading our blog posts.
The next morning, I get yet another notification. They’re reading the case studies on our website! So I sent a follow-up email, hoping that they were interested again.
Three weeks later, we closed the deal — worth more than $100,000."
Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer
"Email tracking has completely flipped the world of prospecting upside down for me.
Recently, I've been focusing my prospecting efforts on the top 25 financial services companies in the U.S. — a 'title happy' industry where it's difficult to decipher if a VP has responsibility for a specific branch or at the corporate level.
Based on the information I sourced online, I started my campaign on each account by sending emails to the five to seven individuals who looked to be a good fit for our product and had VP titles. By day two, after sending roughly 50 tracked emails with HubSpot Sales, I noticed that three of my emails had been opened 10+ times — a sure sign they've been forwarded between colleagues — and decided to focus my calling efforts on these accounts.
After a number of attempts that day — one in the morning and two in the afternoon — I had connected with two of the three prospects from whom I saw activity, and had two meetings set with Senior VPs at a top five brokerage firm and insurance company. Without HubSpot Sales, my email tracking tool of choice, it typically takes me weeks to breakthrough to the right people!"
"I've been nurturing a lead for about three months now, and my main contact has been the company's Business Development Director.
Recently, my HubSpot Sales stream was showing that he was opening the initial emails from three months ago. This indicated to me that he was looking for a reference point for when we began working together.
Because he has been a "hero" for us (a huge advocate for bringing us into his organization), I knew that his reference point inquiry showed he was getting frustrated with the time it was taking his own company to make a decision and move forward.
So I reached out and asked if there was anything I could do to move the process along. Now, I have a meeting booked with the CEO of the company to discuss moving forward."
Director of Channel
Sending a tracked email is simple. We're going to review how to track an email using our product, SalesHub, which involves four easy steps.
There are a few different email tracking tools on the market today. In SalesHub, you'll get live notifications when someone opens or clicks your emails. You'll also get real-time updates on when and how many times a contact opens your email.
Oh, and it's free.
Start typing away.
Sometimes that’s easier said than done ... which is why we created a contact profile feature (in the example below) within our email tracking tool so you can see information about who you’re emailing, such as company information, open deals, and a timeline of communication. This provides valuable context that can help kickstart your messages and make them more meaningful. You can also open the contact profile in the HubSpot CRM for a full view.
At this stage, every email tracking tool works a little differently. With SalesHub, tracked emails are signified by a checkbox that will appear in your Gmail or Outlook toolbar once you download the tool. Most tools will reflect a similar checkbox or indicator that allows you to choose which emails to track. Make sure that a recipient has opted-in to getting emails from your company before you email them or use email tracking.
That’s it! With four quick steps, you receive the power of knowing what happens after you send an email.
You set up tracked emails. Now what?
We hear it all the time: What do I first say to someone who opens my email? What are good ways to reach out? What do I say second? Should I send an email? Should I call?
As with the answer to everything: It depends. Everyone uses these notifications differently. Here are some use cases that we recommend.
The whole point of email intelligence tools is to help you make your content and timing more relevant to recipients. Canned emails aren’t just impersonal, they’re also less effective. Use what you know about the recipients’ business and history of interactions with your company to target your content. If that first email isn’t opened, stop there. No one needs an inbox cluttered with follow-up emails if they haven’t opened the first.
Use the notifications to better understand when you need to follow up with additional context. Let’s say a contact clicked on a link about company culture — perhaps you can reach out with additional information on that topic.
A personalized touch never hurts, and a prospect may appreciate that you've anticipated their needs or interests.
If you notice a contact hasn't opened any of your recent emails, remove them from your mailing list, or reach out one last time with a simple one-click option to unsubscribe if they wish to do so.
Some users don’t take any action post-email open or click. The notification simply gives them the comfort of knowing their contact is engaging with them, and that there is no need to send a bothersome follow up email.
Make this judgement call based on your overall relationship with a contact. If you've chatted with them before or know they have all the information they need, simply leave them alone.
In the past, there was a lot of uncertainty around emailing. But with email tracking software, there doesn't have to be. Email tracking can help you know exactly when your prospects open your emails and when to follow up.
Email tracking benefits both businesses and customers. With email tracking, businesses can navigate their inbox productively, communicate effectively, and ultimately build and maintain meaningful relationships. Customers can engage with emails without anticipating multiple follow-up emails or calls. This is why we built SalesHub — to empower both sides of the email marketing process and help businesses grow better.