Set the right benchmarks before you press 'send'

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You're launching an e-mail campaign. You've got a top-notch mailing list. Your designers have whipped up some stellar creative. Your campaign is ready to roll.

But wait, haven't you forgotten something? A vital component to developing a campaign of any kind involves setting reasonable benchmarks for allocating the proper budget and calculating your return on that investment. With Internet marketing, you can stumble if you randomly assign benchmarks with no point of reference, as these can be unrealistic and often unachievable.

Before you click that “send” button, make sure you know what to expect. Fortunately, a wealth of information exists to help you set high yet attainable expectations for your e-mail campaign.

Before starting, consider the size of your budget and goals for overall return. The more money you dedicate to a program, the better the likely outcome. Check that you have clearly defined your specific conversion goals. Do you need list sign-ups, Web site visits or actual transaction? Make sure you've mapped the program to your specific goals.

Consider the size of your company. Studies at MailChimp have shown that a company's size impacts response and complaint rates. Firms with fewer than 10 or more than 50 employees have the highest click rates and lowest bounce rates. Smaller companies often maintain a more direct connection with their customers, who are more likely to be opt-in and included in address books. Larger companies have more brand recognition, which results in receivers more likely to trust their communications.

Then, consider your industry. Industry categories tend to stay within certain ranges of open, click and bounce rates. For instance, our recent analysis reported that IT provider campaigns see a 62.28% open rate and publishing industry campaigns see a 45.98% open rate, much higher than the average of 26.05%. The publishing sector also sees the top clickthrough rate at 9.85% and the imports industry holds a close second at 8.95%. While IT leads significantly in open rates, its click rate of 1.01% remains well below the average of 4.02%. Do your research, and find out performance stats on companies similar to yours.

Knowing what to expect, in addition to helping you measure return, also helps calculate where your campaign might fall short.

Make sure you integrate sophisticated analytics that provide real-time feedback. Plus, it's advisable to conduct A/B testing on subject lines, from lines and other variables so you can optimize your campaign in its early stages.

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