The Easy Way to Bring a Cold Email List Back to Life

It’s widely acknowledged that a well-maintained email list is one of the most powerful tools at the disposal of a digital marketer. Nearly all online businesses at some point set about compiling a list of subscribers, but a very large proportion of these lists fall into disuse. Whether it’s through sketchy forward planning, a shortage of content ideas, or simply because of other competing pressures of business, it’s all too easy to let an email database fall cold and dormant through lack of sending activity.

However, there may come a time when you decide to resume newsletter marketing, and your thoughts will probably turn to your old list that’s been gathering virtual cobwebs over the months.

Unfortunately, suddenly sending a sales email to a cold list is only asking for trouble. You’ll confuse your recipients, many of whom won’t remember signing up to your list in the first place. At best, this will result in few sales and a hefty bunch of unsubscribes. At worst, your email will be widely seen as unsolicited, resulting in spam reports and reputational damage.

Luckily, with a little care, a cold email list can be brought back to life so as not to waste this valuable asset. Here’s how to do it.

Segment Your List by Time

phpList keeps  a record of when each of your list members first subscribed. You can use this to filter out your most recent subscribers, for whom your brand will still be a fresh memory. There’s no need to include these still-warm subscribers in your revival project, so strip them out of your recipient list for this particular broadcast.

Craft a Warm-Up Message

You now need to put together a message specifically for your older, colder subscribers that will hopefully bring a high proportion of them back into the fold. This warm-up message should include the following elements:

  • Tell your subscribers who you are, and that you’re contacting them because they’ve previously signed up to your newsletter.
  • Apologize for being quiet recently, but don’t try and make excuses. Simply say you’re sorry for not being in contact, but that you’re going to get your act together in future.
  • Remind your readers why they signed up to your list in the first place by reiterating the benefits of being a member.
  • Offer a free gift of some sort as an apology. The nature of this gift will of course vary depending on your industry, but any typical “lead magnet” such as a free e-book or cheat sheet is a good candidate. At this stage, it’s perhaps best to stay clear of discounts or similar commercial offerings.
  • Promise the recipients that if they enjoy this free gift, staying on your list will entitle them to more of the same in later editions of your newsletter.

Press Send, Then Let Things Settle

After sending this warm-up email, let things settle for a week or two. You will undoubtedly receive a fair number of unsubscription requests, but this is only natural when sending to a dated list. Be assiduous in actioning these requests. Your aim is to clean up your list leaving only willing members, and there’s little point in being precious about the size of your final tally.

Once it seems that unsubscription activity has tailed off, you can resume normal newsletter operations with more commercially oriented messages, confident that you’ve done all you can to avoid accusations of spam.

Send a repermission campaign

If you want to be absolutely certain that subscribers want to remain on your lists you can ask them to opt-in to future communications. phpList makes this easy by providing a draft campaign that’s ready to go: simply visit Campaigns → Send a campaign and use the campaign entitled ‘Do you want to continue receiving our messages?’.

This campaign has a pre-set message which reminds your subscribers of when they signed up to your list (or were added), and asks them to click a link to re-confirm their wish to stay on your lists. Subscribers which take no action will be automatically blacklisted and get no further messages.

Avoiding the Situation in the Future

After you’ve warmed up and revived your list, it makes sense to prevent it growing cold again in the future. Set yourself a regular posting schedule and stick to it. It can help to prepare several newsletter issues in advance so that you’re not left scrambling for ideas a month or two down the line.

Building an email list is a time-consuming project, but it has the potential to pay off massively. If you’ve already done the legwork of collecting subscribers, but have let posting activity lapse for whatever reason, don’t waste the opportunity to bring your newsletter membership back to life using this simple method. After all, in busy online industries, every extra commercial advantage should be coveted.