Benchmarks: what does a good campaign look like?

Benchmarks: what does a good campaign look like?

Criteria for bounces, replies, personalization and spam complaints

Dealing with email deliverability is tougher than ever in 2023. You take the time to build your outbound team, write great copy, build a strong list, and… one reads it.

Your open rates are in the gutter. You’ve landed in the spam folder. 

This is today’s reality: Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are working hard to give customers a great email experience - free of spam emails. 

Sometimes, they mistakenly flag genuine emails like yours as spam. You put in the work and resources, but if your emails land in the spam folder, your audience will never see them.

Luckily, we know that spam filters identify these infringements. They are algorithms, meaning that their behaviour is predictable. 

If you understand email deliverability, you’ll understand how to stay in the primary inbox. This has gotten much more complex over the past five years. Most sales teams today are stuck in 2019 and working with an old set of rules that allowed them to stay in the primary inbox. Here are the standards your campaign needs to meet to stay out of spam:

Bounce rates

Your email bounce rate has to be under 3 percent.

Your bounce rate comes down to the quality of your final sending list, which can be broken down into lead quality and email quality.

Lead quality depends highly on the segment you’re targeting. If you are reaching out to salon owners, it’s highly likely that the list you have is accurate in terms of who owns which salon. If you are reaching out to CMOs at e-commerce stores, you have to be much more careful. People switch roles every year, and even data providers like Apollo and ZoomInfo will struggle to be accurate. 

If your target market is a segment like this, take extra care to double-check your lead list against multiple databases. That might be something more general like LinkedIn, or niche like Storeleads. 

Once you have a list of the right people in the right jobs, you need to get the right email. Databases can provide you with a good list of emails, but not good enough. Remember that the benchmark is for over 97% of your emails to avoid bouncing. To achieve this, you need to cross-reference your emails with an email validation tool, like Neverbounce. 

These are general guidelines -  the rules are even more strict during the first two weeks of outreach on a new email address. There is very little room for error. 

Reply rates

Your reply rate must be above 3%.

Open rates don’t mean anything anymore. You need to be tracking your reply rates instead. This can be a bit of a chicken and egg situation where you have to figure out - do you have poor deliverability because your reply rate is low, or is your reply rate low due to poor deliverability?

We’ve wrestled through this question enough times to know that the best approach is to have strong reply rates from the day your campaign launches.

Here are our pointers on increasing your response rate:

  1. Better targeting through more segments to break your target list into
  2. Customized messaging by pain points
  3. Ask open-ended questions rather than pitching a meeting
  4. Have an easy, no-brainer offer
  5. Have leads opt out by responding to the email rather than clicking a link

We’ve written a more extensive list of all the steps you can take to stay out of spam.

Customized messaging

Each email needs to be at least 30% different from the last one.

The age-old debate in sales outreach is how to balance volume and personalization. The question is usually centered on what is most effective in the eyes of your leads. That’s no longer the most important factor to consider - it’s now about beating email spam filters. This means there’s a higher bar to meet in terms of customizing each email you send, which we’ve tested and found to be around 30%.

How can you achieve this? The easiest first step is to segment your campaigns by all the relevant categories you can gather. This comes down to high-quality lead research that goes beyond the company name and first name. Having a different campaign for each industry, job title, persona, hiring level, funding level, tech stack, and product need will automatically give you the first level of differentiation you need. 

Beyond that, there are simpler things you can do to add more variety to your messaging. You can A/B test different ideas at different steps in your sequence. You can also use Spintax to automatically give you many more variations of the messaging you come up, without having to change it manually. 

You can also be smart with your scheduling (depending on the software you use). If you are sending 300 emails in a day, don’t let all 300 come from the same step of the same sequence.

Spam reporting

Under 0.1% of emails are marked as spam

This metric is always changing as the quality bar you need gets higher each year. A single spam complaint can tank your entire outbound motion, so you have to be extremely careful to avoid trouble here.

Some of this is intuitive - don’t upset the leads you reach out to through cold email. Do not belittle your leads by asking them questions that indicate that they are underperforming. Don’t spend the entire email talking about your product. Avoid coming off like a completely automated message. You are a guest in their inbox. It takes just a few seconds for your leads to be able to tell that they received a lazy message. 

Other things you can do - space your messaging out. Don’t email the same prospect twice in one week as they are much more likely to mark you as spam this way. Be as specific as possible in identifying who is a good fit for your offer. The more generic your target market, the less engagement you get and the more likely you are to come off as a spammer. 


In today’s outbound environment, email deliverability is more important than ever. None of your sales hiring, creative writing, and list building mean anything if you end up in spam. We’ve gathered the benchmarks you need to meet for healthy outbound campaigns:

  1. Low bounce rates, under 3%. Keep tight control on lead and email quality.
  2. Reply rates (positive or negative) above 3%. Focus on targeted segmentation, customized messaging, and open-ended questions.
  3. Ensure each email is at least 30% different from the last, through segmentation and automatic template variations.
  4. Keep spam reporting below 0.1% by avoiding generic messages that sound automated or are overly persistent.

Mastering these aspects will lead to higher email deliverability and stronger connections with the audience.  

We help founders and sales leaders reach these benchmarks and score much higher. Zevenue’s outbound team writes your campaigns, manages your sending infrastructure, and handles all your lead list building and troubleshooting to give you differentiated, unique campaigns that lead to real sales pipeline. If you’re solving for this right now, let us know what questions you have. Send us a message and we’d be glad to help however we can!

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