This was the old process for sending an email: send an email … and that’s it. We have no idea what happens after that email is sent. Did they receive it? Did it get lost in their inbox? Did they click on my links? Open my attachments?

We have no idea.

Until now. Now, we have software that lets us know when someone …


Email tracking gives us the power to build and maintain relationships in this exceedingly crowded, competitive inbox environment. 

That’s what this guide is about: powering our inbox with email tracking to boost our email efficiency and productivity.



Email tracking software

Email tracking notifies us when an email we’ve sent has been opened or clicked. Unlike read receipts, email tracking software works in the background without interrupting us or our recipient.

Okay, but how does it work?

what-is-email-tracking-technical-functionality   TECHNICAL FUNCTIONALITY

Email tracking software places an invisible image pixel in our emails that can detect the exact time and date an email has been opened. Email tracking can tell us when, how many times, where, and from what device a recipient opened our email.

Why would I want to track an email? Isn’t that creepy? An invasion of privacy?

Well, marketers have been tracking emails since the early 1990s. When an email lands in our inbox from Gap, Disney, or any major brand, a marketer is on the other end tracking the performance of that email - who opened it? What did they click?

They can't read our emails, but they can monitor the activity.

HubSpot Sales puts that power into the hand of all working professionals. We're not reading our recipient's emails or invading their inbox. We're gaining insight that ultimately leads to everyone's benefit. Here are three of those benefits:

  Benefit 1: Save Time

If we see that a contact opened our email from a mobile device in Maui, Hawaii when they're typically working from a San Francisco based office, we know that he or she is most likely drinking a pina colada on a white-sand beach and unlikely to respond immediately. Thanks to this information, we no longer have to send an annoying, time-consuming “just checking in to see if you got my email” email. 

Similarly, if we see a contact opening our email from a desktop device, clicking on the links we sent and viewing a cover letter or a proposal that we attached, we know that we’re currently at the top of their minds. Reaching out to them at that exact moment, when we’re already on their minds, is beneficial for both of us. It isn’t interruptive and it could save our contact precious time which they would appreciate. 

Keep reading for specific examples to demonstrate the power of tracking emails in action. 

  Benefit 2: Get Context

Email tracking provides us with valuable insight into our email interactions with contacts, networks, customers, or prospects. We can use this insight to strengthen our outreach by catering to their specific relationship with us.

  • If we see that a contact has opened our email multiple times in one day, we can follow up immediately while we’re top-of-mind. 
  • If we included links or attachments in an email prior to a meeting, we can see if our contact has actually viewed them. 
  • If we sent a follow up email, we can determine if the recipient is reviewing what we sent.

Supercharge your inbox with email tracking


  Benefit 3: Gain Unique Insight

Let’s face it, writing emails can be daunting and frustrating. We rarely know how to begin or what to say to fill in that white space.    

With HubSpot Sales email tracking, we’re provided with more than just valuable information about our contact’s engagement with our emails. We also get to see their professional history, where they live, details about their company, their twitter feed, social profiles, our email history with them, and more.


Now that we know the main benefits to using an email tracking software, let’s take a look at specific examples to demonstrate the value of tracking emails:

How Business Professionals Use Email Tracking

Case-in-point: Exceed expectations with your boss.

My boss travels a lot for business development and there’s often large blocks of time when he can’t respond to my emails.

I started sending tracked emails to him so I could get a better idea of his availability -- I get notifications as soon as he opens emails which usually tells me that he’s also available for a quick call about an important deal.

I thought it would be a good time to give him a ring to chat about it. He was so impressed that I was pro-active about responding to his concerns about the proposal, and he felt relieved that he didn’t have to type up a long feedback email.

Now I'm his VP!

Brad Coffey
VP of Product & Corporate Development

Case-in-point: Keep track of your team.

I’m not a crazy helicopter manager - I trust my colleagues to deliver results and follow the values that we set forth as a company. That’s why I hired each of them. In the midst of hectic days, though, it helps to know if my team is engaging with my emails. That’s why I use HubSpot Sales. 

If I sent out a survey for them to complete a Net Promoter Score a few days ago and I notice that no one has clicked on the link, I can follow up with a quick reminder. 

This saves me time because I don’t have to log in to the database and see that no one has actually completed the survey, I simply know thanks to HubSpot Sales. 

Brian Balfour 
VP of Growth 
HubSpot Sales 

Case-in-point: How I Hit Very Important Deadlines

In my job, deadlines rule all. Once I have a deadline, I need to do everything in my power to hit it. And when I'm relying on other people, that can get complicated.   

One time, for example, I was on deadline for a very very important piece. I finished my work around noon, but was still waiting on one piece of creative before I could publish it. Three o'clock rolled around -- nothing. Six -- still nothing.  

I really didn't want to wait up until all hours of the night for this creative. 

So I sent one, last-ditch email to the person who was making it -- and made sure HubSpot Sales tracking was in place. Within minutes, I saw the handy little "open" notification pop-up on my screen. My message had landed! And then the creative arrived in my inbox.

Turns out the person had tried sending the creative hours before, but a faulty WiFi connection prevented it from fully leaving her inbox. (And had she had HubSpot Sales, she could have spotted the error right away ...)

Ginny Soskey 
Section Editor 

Case-in-point: Raising money.

I'm a CEO in the middle of fundraising, and I wanted to know which investors were likely to invest based on how often they checked my emails. 

I can’t stand the pushy approach, so this tool gives me peace of mind that my message has been sent and opened.

Then, if the person is interested, they'll respond.

Lauren Hine 
Co-Founder & CEO 

How Salespeople Use Email Tracking

Case-in-point: How I closed a $100,000 deal.

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 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.

Mack McGee 
Executive Vice President & Principal 

Case-in-point: Getting to the decision maker.

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 over a specific branch or at the corporate level.

Based off the information I sourced online, I started my campaign on each account by sending emails to the 5-7 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 who I saw activity from, and had two meetings set with Senior Vice Presidents 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!

Bryan Tucker
Business Development

Case-in-point: Following up at the right time.

[Sales] "Hey John, this is Mike over at Culture Company ... am I catching you at an alright time?"

[Prospect] "Wow, Mike, I was actually just reviewing the email you sent over earlier.  Great timing."

[Sales] Excellent, I will be brief. I noticed you were checking out some of the information around the link I sent on improving company culture. Wanted to circle back and see if there was anything you had questions on, or if there was further information I could point you towards that would be helpful …

[Prospect] "Well, we started by eliminating time tracking, and we’re also putting plans in motion to do team lunches on a weekly basis. Its a journey we are taking day-by-day."

[Sales] "Interesting ... Many people I’ve spoken with recently are implementing a similar team lunch idea. What they’ve found is by supplementing that with other voluntary benefits, they’ve been able to achieve their goals in much less time. Is there a good time for us to connect this week and I can show you a little more about how we help companies achieve better work/life balance for employees?”

[Prospect] "Sure, how about 10 AM tomorrow?"

Case-in-point: Booking the connect call.

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 talking 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.

Josh Harcus
Head of Inbound Strategy

How Networkers Use Email Tracking

Case-in-point: Developing meaningful relationships.

I met the co-founder of a prominent tech company through a mutual contact three weeks ago. We had briefly chatted about product positioning and later that night I sent him an email with resources I thought he might find helpful. I never heard back. I was bummed because I really admire him and his company - I would’ve loved to chat with him more.

Three weeks later, I got a notification that he opened my email and was viewing my resources - four times. I had to follow up.

I sent him an email later that day asking if he had time to grab coffee and share our thoughts on product positioning and how it applies to his company.   

He responded within 30 minutes!

Matt Bilotti 
Managing Partner 
Dorm Room Fund

Case-in-point: Getting to the point.

I recently met a C-level exec at a marketing event who was running a growth marketing team and really wanted to learn more about how to develop his team.

I decided to send him a follow up email with links to some of my favorite articles on creating high performance teams as well as a link to a front-end developers meetup group that I knew would be great potential hires if he was looking to expand his team. I noticed that he didn’t click on the articles I sent -- but he clicked on the link to the meetup group’s website five times.

He clearly seemed interested in hiring. So, I sent him another email suggesting we get together for a small lunch with myself and a few other devs I thought he might be interested in meeting.

He jumped at the opportunity. He hired my friend, Joe, and now he’s an advisor for my startup.

Cambria Davies
Growth Marketing Intern

Case-in-point: Landing the job.

Applying to jobs gives me a headache. I have no idea if hiring managers are actually opening my emails, if they’ve looked at my resume, if they’ve read my cover letter. Nothing. Until I started using HubSpot Sales free email tracking.

Now, I can see when recruiters view my resume, click on links to my website, open my cover letter, and when they’ve read my email multiple times. This helped me determine which employers were simply too swamped to open my emails at the time - in which case I followed up after a few weeks without stressing out about my pestering them. I was also able to better understand when an employer was potentially interested.

After I applied to one position, I saw that the recruiter had viewed my resume three times in the span of thirty minutes. I decided to send her an email with some additional resources to re-emphasize how I align with the role and with the company.

I got the job within a few hours.

Brittany Berger
Content & PR Manager

Case-in-point: Know when to follow up.

You could say I’m a networking fool.

I’m always attending marketing conferences, entrepreneurial events, coffee dates, pitch competitions, you name it. I meet at least ten people a week. Keeping track of all of those people can be a pain, but I use HubSpot Sales to help which saves me a lot of time.

Whenever I meet someone, I follow up with a “nice meeting you!” email. Sometimes I get responses, sometimes I don’t.

HubSpot Sales tells me when I get lost in someone’s inbox and when I’m just flat-out ignored. If I didn’t have it, I wouldn’t be able to differentiate who to follow up with and who to write off.

Scott Tousley
Growth Marketer



Sending a tracked email is simple. It takes three steps.

1. Install an email tracking app.

There's a few different email tracking systems out there. We recommend using our product, HubSpot Sales. With free email tracking, we get live notifications when someone opens or clicks our emails. We also get real-time updates on when, how many times, where, and from what device a contact opened our email.

Oh, and it's free.

2. Compose an email.

Start typing away.

But, sometimes that’s easier said than done. Which is why we created a contact profile feature, like the example below, within our email tracking tool so you can see information about who you’re emailing.

We can view information like where they work, where they live, mutual contacts, email history, social profiles, and more. This gives us valuable context that can help kickstart our messages and make them more meaningful.

3.Check "Track email" box.

Every email tracking tool works slightly differently here. With HubSpot Sales, tracked emails are signified by a checkbox that will appear in your Gmail or Outlook once you download the tool.

We can compose an email as we normally would, and simply hit send.


4. Receive notifications.

Once we click “send now,” the magic begins. We’re automatically alerted whenever email recipients open our emails. We can use this real-time information to stay on top of work emails, when cold emailing prospects, sending networking emails, and to improve our email efficiency and productivity.


And that’s it. With four quick steps, you receive the power of knowing what happens after you click send on an email.

When you install, you may not even notice, but it's working in the background -- that's the seamless onboarding experience startup founder Hiten Shah mentioned in a recent interview with UserOnboard:

Case-in-point: It just works.

They have one of the best experiences - I call it 'click, click, awesome.'

They basically make you install their Chrome extension -- and it's kind of done from there. Every time you send an email, it's set up to be tracked. But the cool thing about them versus some of the other companies that do the same thing is ... they went a little further and use the Chrome extension as a communication channel.

Let's talk about the whole flow: I sign up for HubSpot Sales, I add the Chrome extension, and then I basically send you an email. There's an auto-check box that says this will be tracked by HubSpot, and they have a really cool way of doing that. So the second that I send you an email, they've already started the process, and the feedback loop they give me is they pop up a thing that says, 'Sam just opened your email.'

That's it. And they remind me that they exist, and they're working for me.

I didn't type anything outside of what I was going to do normally. I literally didn't have to type a single thing. It just works.  


Hiten Shah
hiten-shah This message was originally shared by Hiten
on an interview with UserOnboard.


Easy, right?

Other users have noted how they're loving HubSpot Sales, too.

HubSpot Sales has saved me loads of time and workload. By knowing when and who opened my email it allows me to track these activities to plan my next step. I don’t have to wonder and I can ask an employee why did it take her/him so long to answer! LOL. Thank you HubSpot!

Serlic Ibarra

After a few days of using it, I can’t really live without it anymore. It helps me to know if my clients are actually reading their emails and proposals.

Eric Warncke

It’s been very helpful! No more of constantly checking your e-mail, full of fret - now I know whether it’s been received and read.

Marta Tarkowska

Works every time. I don't know how I operated so long without HubSpot!

Allan Paine



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?
Should I mention I know they opened my email? Should I keep that to myself?

As with the answer to everything: It depends. Everyone is using these notifications differently. Here are some of the top use cases.

Call as soon as an email is opened: Immediate follow up can sometimes be the most beneficial way to use the notification to get in touch with a contact.

Do nothing, it’s just nice to know: 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.

Follow up with specific context: Some use the notifications to better understand when they need to follow up with additional context. Let’s say a contact clicked on a link about company culture, perhaps we can reach out with additional information on that topic.

Create more touch points in sales process: By receiving email open and click notifications, users know their contacts are responding to them in some way, this interaction can be used as a touch point.

Email tracking notifications give us the confidence that things are getting done -- and that keeps us from wasting time reaching out over and over again.




That being said, email tracking isn't perfect. Sometimes your email notifications tease you with, "Someone has opened your email." There's a few reasons why this happens, and a few ways to decrease the chances of it happening.

Why email tracking doesn't always work.

Our recipient’s email platform doesn't display images. Some email clients display images by default. Others ask the email user each time an email is received.

Our recipient’s using plain text email. Since email tracking software places an image pixel in the email, plain text emails can't be tracked.

Our email includes multiple recipients. When one email is sent to many people, the software can't always recognize exactly who opened the email.

Tips for remedying email tracking pitfalls.

Encourage image displays. We can include images in our emails to encourage recipients to display all images when they receive the email.

Send more 1:1 emails. Send individual messages to recipients to increase the ability to uniquely identify who opens our emails over time.

Hyperlink the text: Rather than just pasting in a URL into our emails, we can hyperlink the relevant text to a specific file or web page.

That’s email tracking in a nutshell. It helps people navigate their inbox productively, communicate effectively, and ultimately build and maintain meaningful relationships.

That’s why we built HubSpot Sales.

Seize control of your email with HubSpot.

There's a lot of uncertainty around emailing. But with email tracking software, there doesn't have to be. Try HubSpot Sales today to start seeing who is opening and clicking your emails.

Give it a shot ››