One feature that a lot of Salesforce users love to use is the Tracking HTML Email feature. It’s a powerful tool that can help sales and sales development professionals understand if they’re reaching their target audience effectively. Unfortunately, this simple tool can cause a lot of head scratching if not properly understood.

What Is HTML Email Tracking?

Let’s start with what the Tracking HTML Email feature is. As a Salesforce user, you may already know you can send HTML emails to prospects or existing customers directly from your Salesforce environment. This can be a generic HTML email with simple formatting (e.g. bold, underline, font colors, etc.) or a pre-defined HTML email template produced by your marketing team that has the latest promotional offer.

Once you send the HTML email to your prospect, you’ll be able to track the date the email was first opened, when it was last opened, and the number of times the HTML email was opened for each prospect. Needless to say, having this information can help the sales professional to make an educated guess where to focus their time in order to convert prospects or upsell existing customers.

The Tracking HTML Email feature is available in all Salesforce editions and can be enabled in two easy steps. First step is to enable the feature under the Activities customization section. The second step is to add the HTML Status Email related list to either the Lead, Contact or Person Account page layout.


Go to Setup > Customize > Activities > Activity Settings to enable email tracking.

How Does HTML Email Tracking Work?

Salesforce uses a technique call Pixel Tracking or a Web Bug. This concept has been around for quite some time. In fact, there’s a lot of marketing software on the market that use the same concepts to track web pages and emails. When you send an HTML email, will append a 1×1 transparent pixel image to the footer of the email message.

This image is invisible to your prospect receiving the email, thus they typically won’t know their email is being tracked. When the email is opened by the prospect and the 1×1 pixel image is downloaded to their email client (Outlook, Yahoo Mail, Gmail, Zimbra, Thunderbird, Apple Mail, etc.) the servers record when the email was first opened, last opened, and how many times it was opened.

To view these statistics from your HTML email, simply navigate to the Lead, Contact, or Person Account record you sent the email to and go to the HTML Status Email related list.


Track HTML emails via the HTML Email Status related list on a Lead (pictured), Contact, or Person Account.

Considerations For Using HTML Email Tracking

This sounds like a great feature, right? It is, however you’ll need to be aware of a few considerations to ensure that you are using this tool effectively and your expectations are set correctly.

Email Clients Fight Back

Over the years as email clients such as Outlook, Gmail, Apple Mail, etc. have gotten better at protecting their users from email spam. One such way is to block images from automatically downloading to the users computer. This is typically a default setting for many email clients. By doing this, the email software makers put the decision to download email images in the hands of your prospect. Thus, you may never see statistics added to your HTML Status Email related list.


Many email clients, such as Google’s Gmail pictured here, by default, block images from downloading.

One tip I recommend is to use a company header image in your email that will entice the prospect to download the image in order to see your company logo or promotion. Be sure to add the ALT or TITLE attribute to your image and populate it with a message that encourages your prospects to download the images.

Beware: Ethics Are In The Eye Of The Beholder

We all have different views of ethics. What may be ethically okay to you, may be an ethics violation to someone else. In some cases, Pixel Tracking or Web Bugs can be considered a breach of personal privacy. Thus, you’ll need to determine if using this feature adheres to your company’s policies and your personal ethical standards. For the most part, this is such a commonly used technique that society has adapted.

HTML Emails For Everyone!

Now that you’re sold on using HTML Emails to track your prospects engagement, you want to use it everywhere, but sending individual emails is not going to work since your time is valuable and you need to close deals. Well, great news! Sending HTML Tracking Emails can be achieved in Salesforce in the following ways: (1) Sent individually from each Lead, Contact, or Person Account (2) Sent using Salesforce’s Mass Email feature for Leads or Contacts, and (3) Sent from Web-to-Lead and Web-to-Case email auto-response rules.

I hope I’ve been able to shed a little light on how this feature works. Tell me what you think about this feature and your experience using it!

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