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Email tracking, anything to declare?
Youíre a high profile actress and one day a journalist gets on the phone and questions you about your relationship with your boyfriend and whether itís true that he is trying to patch things up with you. Annoyed and flustered you quickly end the call. How could the journalist know that things are rocky in your relationship?

Your phoneís been hacked.

Leaves you feeling kind of invaded, uncomfortable and definitly increases your distrust of journaliist and media types.

This was the experience of many British celebrities during the now infamous News of the World phone hacking scandal. Voicemail messages on the phones of newsworthy folk were intercepted in pursuit of hot scoops.

Now we may not all be celebrities but we can all empathise with that feeling of invasion and mistrust.

Email tracking - could it be a trust buster with your customers?
Maintaining trust with your customers is crucial if you are to sustain long term relationships with those that put food on your table.

Email marketing software like Mail Chimp, Market Mailer, Aweber, and others use a device called email tracking. It tracks the recipientís activity. It means the sender can see which recipients opened the email and who clicked on which links. A more technical explanation of how email marketing and tracking works is here.

What are the benefits of email tracking?
Email tracking allows the sender to monitor the popularity and effectiveness of campaigns by seeing how many recipients respond and in what way. This allows businesses and marketers to be more targeted with future email campaigns by following up only selected subscribers and providing more articles or offers that are popular with their subscribers.

Used ethically and intelligently it benefits both the subscriber and the business. Rather than a scatter gun approach, the business can make more tailored offerings to its customers and potential customers.

So do you tell your subscribers that your e-news and email campaigns use email tracking?
In the end, thatís your call.

This has come up for me because I run workshops on email marketing and e-newsletter strategy in which delegates have come across this information about email tracking for the first time. Some have raised queries. One delegate commented that email tracking is ďone step away from phone hackingĒ. Another didnít like the idea of being watched, she felt there was something underhand about it. In both cases, it was an issue of trust.

So I felt that I need to be transparent about this with my list. Iíve now amended the details on my sign up page and this article is airing this issue with you all.

This is what it now says on my sign up page:

Important information
Most professional email marketing programmes use email tracking which means that the sender can see which recipients opened the email and which links within the email were clicked. I use such a programme to help me track which articles are most well received so that I can keep my content relevant and useful. I don't share any of your details with others, ever and of course you can unsubscribe at any time.
I know that some people feel uncomfortable with the idea of email tracking, particularly because they did not realise this is common practice. So the point of flagging this up to you, is to be transparent. My aim is to help you, not make you uneasy. So if you'd rather not sign up because of this, then you can keep in touch by going and liking my Facebook page or you can follow me on Twitter instead.
Of course, you won't get the free e-book valued at £12.99, articles direct to your inbox and personal notifications of workshops and products if you don't subscribe. but it's your choice.
Whether you declare this to your list will depend on you. Consider that consumers are increasingly savvy about when they are being sold to and no one likes to have the wool pulled over their eyes.

How to be transparent
A formal way of staying transparent without overtly drawing attention to the tracking tools is to state that you may utilize tracking devices in your company privacy policy. This is similar to phone based customer service centers declaring that they may record your call for training purposes. Or you may choose to be more overt and have a note in your email footer or on your sign up page.

What is your feeling on this issue? Have you had any negative feedback from customers? How do you use the information you get from email tracking? How do you feel about people tracking your own responses to emails?
Contributor: Juliet Fay @

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