How and Why I Watch Emails

This is part two of my series on monitoring.

I ran the vpndude and smartchive email newsletters for four years (out of five) using the open source program PHPList . It was a temperamental little beast, but after a while, I knew all the tweaks to run the program on a hosted server without blowing it up, and without getting shut down by the shared server sysadmin.

But I digress (How ’bout I do another blog entry on PHPList in the future?). One of the things that I most liked about PHPList was dubbed a “experimental feature”. This was click tracking.

Most of you are aware of what click tracking is. It’s a way, using customized links, to identify who is looking at a link in the email that was sent to them. Most commercial email list services have them, and having this functionality in PHPList was extremely valuable.

I became hooked on the concept of click tracking, because it was a very informative way to see what copy was working, and who was looking at my entries. My clickers would be some of the people that I targeted for follow-up.

I found click tracking so valuable, that I decided I needed a function similar to this with email. I wanted to know who was reading my emails, who was responding, and who was not. If a customer or prospect wasn’t looking at my emails, or looking at them, and not responding, I would know that I needed a better plan.

The first program I found was MSGTAG . MSGTAG works by shimming between your outbound SMTP messages, adding an tagged gif file that uniquely identifies who opens a message, and when they open it. The cost of the program is very reasonable, and support is very good.

MSGTAG Status displays all tagged messages within the Status dashboard, so you can see at a glance which messages have been received. The Status program was the highest costing of the 3 options, but that status dashboard is so valuable, that for a salesperson, this is the only choice to make.

But MSGTAG has a drawback that it only with SMTP messages. My company blocks outbound SMTP, and uses MS Exchange for email, so an SMTP shim wouldn’t work.

I needed another solution. I’ll talk about that tomorrow.

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