What to Do If You Get Caught in a Honey Pot

When I was just knee high to a grasshopper, one of my favorite books was “Winnie the Pooh and The Honey Tree.” There is a moment in the story when Mr. Pooh gorges on Rabbit’s honey and becomes lodged in the door, unable to leave because of his large tummy. There is a subtle parallel between Pooh’s utter delight in eating all that honey and our inability, as marketers, to stop gorging on our own lead database.

The term “honeypot” or “honey trap” originated from an old phrase we’re all familiar with; “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar!” Essentially, by dangling a carrot or giving someone something they want, you can lure them into a trap more effectively.

This is exactly what anti-spam groups such as Spamhaus have learned to do. By leaving email addresses around the Web for data scrapers to find, these anti-spam groups can monitor the emails sent to these email addresses and report the sending IPs as spam. That’s not to say there aren’t other ways to get added to these spam lists.

Time and time again, I see marketers recklessly build up their databases and neglect to prune them. Pooh’s obsession with shoveling honey out of Rabbit’s pot and into his belly is much like our tendency to fill our databases with as many leads as possible. Years ago, we may have acquired our data the “right way,” but over time that data has gone sour; anti-spam groups purchased these outdated leads and transformed them into honeypots or spam traps, with the intention of catching marketers who aren’t keeping their lists up-to-date.

These traps are now in our email lists, through no fault of our own (well, it’s MOSTLY not our faults…although maybe if we hadn’t been so greedy in the first place, none of this would have happened).Remember with leads and with honey, this old adage applies: we want quality over quantity. If you get caught in a honeypot or spam trap there’s only one thing to do – clean up

How to Remove Spam Trap Emails From the Marketo Database

Now let’s say that your email blast did hit a spam trap. Your immediate goal should be to find the lead/email address that triggered the spam trap and remove it so you can fit through Rabbit’s door and get back into your constituents’ inboxes. Your larger goal, however, is to remove inactive leads from your database and keep things clean, especially if you haven’t been doing that up to this point.

The following steps are required to target the possible lead/email address that triggered the spam trap and remove it from your database.

1.     Read the notification Marketo sent you. You will be provided with the date and time the trap was hit and the subject line of your email.

2.     Use the information provided in the notification email from Marketo to locate the communication that hit the trap.

3.     Find all the leads that received the spam trap email by referencing the smart campaign that sent the email, or pull a smartlist of those who were delivered the spam trap email.

4.     Our next goal is to find the leads that ONLY ever received ONE email – the spam trap email. Since there isn’t a filter for that, we must build a smartlist to find those people. Our smart list logic is “Was delivered Email – Email is ‘email X’ AND Was delivered email – Email is not ‘email X’.


5.     Look at the list. These are the good people.

6.     We now need to eliminate these people from our total list so that we can find the spam trap. We will build a second smart list that pulls the leads who only ever received the email AND did not have activity AND aren’t from a reliable lead source. Our smart list logic is “Member of smart list – Lead not in ‘email X’ AND Was delivered email – Email is ‘email X’ AND Not visited Web Page – Web page is any AND Not opened email – Email is any AND Not clicked link in email – Email is any AND Lead source is not ‘reliable lead sources.’

Possible SPAM

7.     This will narrow down your list significantly.

8.     We can now mark these emails as “Marketing suspended” via a single flow action.

9.     We can now report back to Marketo the actions we took to clean up our database. We do so via the form they provided us in their warning email. The form will appear as below:



Remember that, even though you were able to get out of the spam trap this time, it doesn’t mean you won’t get in one again. Implement regular list cleanup and maintenance, make it a part of your automation plan, and you’ll successfully avoid a spam trap.

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