Email Marketing in the Land of No Email Trackers

For years, I’ve been a fan of the way Basecamp thinks about both product development and customers’ needs. Also, I always read their communications regardless of how busy I am, because I find them valuable.

But, when I heard they were Beta testing an email service called HEY, I was a little confused. Why? Where is the need? Wait, you have to pay $99/year for it?

So, out of curiosity and brand loyalty, I tried it for my personal email. Then, I bought it, gleefully.

The HEY Effect

HEY has had a massive impact on how I deal with my personal email over the last three months. And, much like cookie consent and iOS’ new privacy features, this type of solution could become even more attractive to those capable of paying to preserve their privacy.

Here’s what it does and why users may find it worthwhile:

  • It acts as a personalized email bouncer. Emails don’t make it into what HEY calls an “imbox” until users manually approve the sender. So, it won’t be as easy for marketers to use targeted email lists purchased from trade shows, publications, or other less-reputable and equally non-compliant sources.
  • Customers have more control over what they see. HEY enables users to decide where approved targeted email marketing emails go with a feature called The Feed. This is an Instagram-inspired scrolling list of newsletters tucked off to the side, where they aren’t seen unless they’re sought out. This is the main feature marketers need to be aware of, because users may tend to seek out newsletters less when they aren’t showing up in between important emails. So, if an audience is using HEY, they are likely to only engage with a newsletter or targeted email campaigns when they think about it, not when it’s sent to them.
  • Marketers will have less access to tracking data. With HEY, marketers will never even know a user opened their newsletter or transactional emails. HEY blocks the email tracking software that helps justify ROI and track customers across complex purchasing journeys. Not only that, but it flags any email using tracking and lets the customer know what software was blocked and why. It intentionally puts your brand in a negative light while reinforcing HEY’s value.

To learn more, I’ve started moving all of my personal emails and account information with services over to HEY. The privacy and tracking portion is just a tiny slice of why I find it so revolutionary as an email client. Still, it’s certainly something every marketer should be aware of and thinking about.

Putting It to the Test

Our team decided to test HEY’s capabilities and see what the effect was on our reporting by solving for a few questions. We used MailChimp to send out a blast to two addresses, a personal Gmail address without any spy blocking software and my HEY email address.

Question 1: Can Mailchimp tell if the email was even delivered to a service like HEY?

Answer: Yes. Even before it went through the screener, it was reported as delivered in Mailchimp. However, when I blocked the sender’s address in HEY’s “first-time screener,” nothing was reported to Mailchimp and subsequent sends continued to report as delivered even though I never saw another one show up.

Question 2: Can Mailchimp tell if someone with HEY opens an email from them? Does it show as opened?

Answer: Nope. The email continues to report in Mailchimp as delivered but not opened. As promised, HEY blocks any actual reporting scripts in the email and lets the user know they did it with a callout identifying both Mailchimp and the sender organization as sending something HEY considers to be an invasion of privacy.

Question 3: Can Mailchimp tell if someone with HEY clicks on any of the links within the email?

Answer: Yes, and not only that, but Mailchimp now incorrectly assumes that each click equates to an open. When a link is clicked, Mailchimp now increments the open rate retroactively. It doesn’t take much to infer how that might skew reporting data.

Question 4: Will UTM tracking parameters still report accurately in Google Analytics with channel attribution, or will HEY strip out that easily identifiable portion of the URL?

Answer: Yes. They will still be accurately reported. Mailchimp and other targeted email marketing services implement their own tracking redirects for every link placed in their system. The user first bounces to Mailchimp and is then redirected to your link so that the email marketing system can accurately record your email marketing performance.

Implications for Marketers and Tracking Email Engagement

What does this potentially mean for B2B email marketing? Maybe not much, at first. Basecamp just released its small business version, Hey for Work, so the chances that your prospect in your email marketing target audience is using it for their work email are pretty slim.

However, small business owners may decide the price is worth the investment and the return might be a more focused workforce. The pendulum may be swinging toward a greater respect for customers’ privacy, which could limit a marketer’s ability to track every step of a user journey, thus making it more difficult to acquire targeted email leads.

Ultimately, this means a renewed focus on what we should’ve been concentrating on all along. Rather than relying on purchased lists, we should make sure we’re providing relevant, meaningful communication that connects users from our targeted email database to exactly what they need and want to see. It also means being upfront with current and prospective customers about what sort of engagement they can expect from you. Building trust and showing value will help ensure your brand gets the attention it deserves.

Want to learn more about HEY? Check out the link below: