Email Marketers Peer Into Your Inbox

By | July 13, 2004

Email marketers can now peer into your inbox to see whether their emails are getting through.

ExactTarget, an Indianopolis-based company that “delivers on-demand email software solutions for permission- based email marketing” to companies like The Home Depot, General Mills, Scotts and Bristol-Myers Squibb is now offering a service that peers into users’ inboxes at their local ISP to check whether their email marketing newsletters are getting through or getting binned as spam. The product: Inbox Detective.

According to ExactTarget, more than 20 percent of legitimate email never gets through spam filters — numbers, as Chris Baggott, co-founder and chief marketing officer of ExactTarget puts it, that “should be unacceptable to a marketer.”

The ExactTarget Inbox Detective, allows marketers “to peer into the Inbox at the top 21 ISPs to get a quick snapshot of their actual delivery rates”. From there marketers can “track what percentage of email is reaching the inbox, which are being redirected to the bulk folder and which are being discarded.” All this can be done “in real-time, so problem areas can be identified and adjustments can be made.”

Another thing the Inbox Detective does is “keep emails away from content filters, which are the most widely used spam prevention technique, and also often erroneously catch legitimate permission email”. This it does by analysing “email content against major spam filters and black lists before sending”, so the marketer can “receive real-time advice on what content changes are needed to maximize email delivery”.

While I can quite understand that there are lots of legitimate email marketing companies out there, and lots of companies trying to run legitimate email newsletters, the Inbox Detective, as described in the ExactTarget press release, raises some troubling questions about the privacy of users’ inboxes at their ISP.

And, if ExactTarget can peer into inboxes of email providers such as Gmail, AOL, Yahoo, Hotmail, MSN, Earthlink, Comcast, AT&T and RoadRunner, who else might be able to?

2 thoughts on “Email Marketers Peer Into Your Inbox

  1. Miles

    This is probably just IMG tag tracking. Embed an IMG SRC= tag inside an HTML message, where the SRC= tag is unique to the recipient’s email address. When you get a hit in your webserver logs, you know the mail has been delivered (and read). Old technology, really; it’s why so many email clients these days allow you to disable remote image fetches…

  2. Chris Baggott

    Thanks for giving me a heads up on this. Actually we don’t use any technology to monitor actual subscribers or violate privacy in any way. The system actually consists of thousands of inboxes that we pay for with the top 21 ISP’s.

    The partner we have on this is Pivotal Veracity. The system works by automatically appending this seed list to the lists of our clients when they mail. By monitoring the delivery of the seed list, we are able to determine percent deliverability for our clients mailing.

    I hope this clears up this misunderstanding. Please feel free to hit me directly with any other questions or thoughts.

    Chris Baggott


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