It recently came to my attention that when I meet a person and exchange emails for the first time I have a habit of looking at the raw source code of their email. When I became aware of this habit, I thought, perhaps, that this was a little sneaky, but then realized that this is a good thing for this new potentially burgeoning relationship; for all parties.
You see, contained in emails raw source code are lots of things about that person's business or organization, including potential shortcomings and new insight in how they conduct their business.
A first example : if they have an SPF record that is cleanly passing authentication against their IP address? No? [NOTE you would see a line like this if it passed completely : Received-SPF: pass (mymailservice.com: domain of firstname.lastname@example.org designates 172.X56.X89.X56 as permitted sender) ]. It may indicate that their business has an operating or strategic problem around their DNS strategy – maybe there is something either technical or structural we can do to help them. Moreso, if their SPF record is outright failing (I might not even receive it if it fails) it could be an indication of a serious operational problems at a technical or strategic level.
You can also get cues from the kinds of servers that they may be using for their mail services. For example they may be using Outlook services – there's a good indication there for that they are a heavy Microsoft-focussed operation something that may come into play and is worth noting when beginning to get to know that person and their company. Do they need us to integrate with Microsoft services or specific applications that we need to know about? Are they using Google services, any particular CRM : Salesforce, Hubspot, Leadpage, new technology you may not be familiar with?
These are potentially powerful insights to walk into an introductory business meeting with; something that, ideally, I would prefer to surprise them with in a good way. Indeed, if I were meeting someone for the first time and was presented with insights like this I would be rather delighted that someone had both the capability and foresight to express this level of interest in my company. It's far more powerful than a generic domain name look up or cursory glance at someone's website to tell them that you think their key phrases could be better; that always feel so simple and bulk – like I've been thrown in the cattle car of "we can get you on page1!". Wow, really, that's all you got!?
And by the way, this is completely legitimate and uses freely available public information. You are by no means doing anything sneaky or questionable by looking at source code. So have at it! I'm not going to get into the technical details of how to do this in this article, there are plenty of resources that are more than up-to-date around. Here are a few.
How to look at email source code :
So when you're exchanging emails with a potential client or business partner for the first time, take a moment to look at their raw email source code; your own mini audit. It may give you insight into their business operation in ways that you would not of thought possible and may well increase your ability to create a favourable first impression.