A case against ‘Sidekick’

A friend and colleague of mine is a huge fan of ‘Sidekick,’ the email marketing tool owned by Hubspot that essentially serves as a watchful eye in the inboxes of a user’s contacts that says if and when said contact opens the email.

I roll my eyes a bit when he uses it and cringe with the way he uses it.

It was developed, presumably, with good intentions. The program basically serves as a open-notifier and click tracker for users who send email through Gmail, Google Apps, Outlook for Windows and Outlook 365. For the uninitiated, basically, a Sidekick user sends an email to a contact and receives notifications when that user opens the email. They’ll also receive data on which links were clicked from within the message.

With a bit of experience on both sides of the tool, I’m not a fan. As a contact, I’ve felt pressure knowing that the person who sent the email knew how I was responding to their message. As a user, I felt a bit of uneasiness having this information when the contact had no clue it had even been collected.

In my opinion — even as a marketer — this type of information should be available as part of an opt-in. With ‘Sidekick,’ there is no opt-in from unknowing contacts whose every step is being tallied.

It was developed with sales in mind, and I see why it’s a great tool for some. I also understand that the art of selling in this day and age relies on an adherence to the sales cycle, which requires (sometimes) several touch points, including the opening of an email message.

I understand why sales folk would want this real-time information. After all, a touchpoint (follow-up call or reply email) when a contact has your product, service or offering top of mind is a valuable tool.

What I don’t like, though, is the feeling I get when I receive email from my friend and other known Sidekick users.

I feel like I’m being watched — even duped. I feel compelled to reply — whether I want or need to. I feel like not replying would make it seem like I was ignoring the emailer.

Efficiency is one thing. Watching over as a creepy email surveillance camera is another.

To the folks that are using Sidekick, or any other competing tool: chill out a bit. Give us a minute. A day even. We’ll get back to you — as soon as our schedule and workflows allow. And, please do not, under any circumstances, use the fact that I opened an email without immediately replying against me. It will ruin your chance at making a sale and likely put you on the creeper list for good.

Ben Larsen is a veteran media and marketing professional. He currently serves as Strategic Content Manager at Arccos Golf. When he’s not helping change the golf industry, he writes about marketing, podcasting, fatherhood and everything else in between. See more of his work at www.benlarsenwrites.com.