7 Steps to Warming Up a Cold List
It’s a common problem for email marketers: Cold lists. For one reason or another, a list gets overlooked or neglected and doesn’t receive an email from you in weeks, months, or even years.
To put the problem in perspective, think of a list like any human relationship. After a period of absence, you need to reconnect. Unlike an in-person relationship where you know someone in the real world, an email subscriber may only know you from a tenuous digital connection which can be easily forgotten in their hectic day to day lives.
The difference is that if your subscriber has forgotten you, when you email them again out of the blue they may not recognize you and ignore your message. Worse, they may file a spam complaint. Both a lack of engagement with your emails and a rise in spam complaints can harm your email reputation, and thereby your deliverability. It’s worth taking a few extra steps to reconnect with a cold list.
Here are 7 steps to warming up a cold list.
- Commit to reconnecting: The big mistake that marketers make is to simply give up on their cold lists. They assume that it’s been too long or that the subscribers no longer are interested in receiving emails and offers from them. While this may be true for a portion of your cold list, it could be an expensive mistake to simply give up on the rest because from they may be very happy to hear from you. The only way you’ll know is if you reconnect.
- Identify which segment(s) of your list are cold: If you have multiple lists and only some have been neglected, then the first thing to do is recognize that the cold subscribers need to be treated differently from the warm ones. Don’t send the cold list your regular promotions because what they really need is a warm up sequence. Segment these cold subscribers on to a separate list so that when you send them a re-engagement campaign it only goes to them and not your whole list. This will avoid confusing or offending your active subscribers.
- Segment your non-openers: Non openers are subscribers on your active lists who have not opened your emails for 90 days or more have therefor disengaged. Because they no longer open your emails, your deliverability can be harmed. ISP’s like Gmail consider low engagement to be a red flag about your email quality. So while non-openers have been getting your emails, for one reason or another they have stopped opening them and should get a special warm up campaign too. Treat them just like any other cold subscribers who haven’t received your emails at all.
- Design your warm-up campaign to be congruent: Put yourself in the shoes of your subscriber and think of how and when they got on your list. Because they have been on your list for at least some period of time they should be treated accordingly. For example, if they signed up for a free report then it wouldn’t make any sense to offer them the same report again as if they were a new subscriber. When mailing a neglected or cold list, your primary goal is to reconnect and demonstrate value to have the best chance of reigniting your relationship. In the case of non-openers, you want to get their attention and let them know that it’s important for them to engage or you will have to remove them from your list.
- Be transparent: Candor is the best option. This means designing the warm up campaign by first acknowledging to the subscriber why they haven’t heard from you in a while. Be transparent about the reason why you have not been in touch, though in cases where the reason is highly personal, avoid going into the Too Much Information zone (TMI). Keep it professional, in other words. In the case of non-openers, acknowledge that what you’ve been sending them may not have been what they want any more so it would make sense to survey them to discover what they are interested in. What will work best will depend on the situation, but you definitely will get a better response if you have a clear idea of what your subscribers are interested in and deliver them what they want.
- Focus on what your subscriber wants: What problems or opportunities attracted your subscriber to your list in the first place? When designing a re-engagement campaign it makes sense to remind your subscriber who you are, how they got on your list, and how you can help them. In the case of non-openers, let them know that you’ll be removing them from your list unless they take some kind of action to show interest. This ‘takeaway’ can spark their attention and if they are interested in what you are sending out, they may reconnect. The key is to always remember that you face pretty stiff competition for your subscribers’ attention and the best chance your email can have is if you consistently make it worth their while to open your emails and engage.
- Respect their wishes: Those who do not ultimately respond or open your emails should be removed from your active list, as mentioned previously. They will harm your deliverability with your other subscribers who are engaging with you. Of course, anyone who complains about your reconnection campaign should be removed permanently, but at some point those who simply are not reciprocating the relationship should be removed or at least kept on a separate list. You can attempt to re-engage with these neutral yet unresponsive folks periodically but if there simply is not response then there will come a time when it makes more sense to simply stop contacting them. Let their response rate be your guide there.
Once you have reconnected and re-engaged with your long lost subscribers, make sure to stay in touch with them on a regular basis according to the expectations you have set with them. If they expect a daily tip emails from you, then deliver that. If they expect to hear from you in a monthly newsletter, make sure to deliver on that schedule. While re-engagement campaigns can be effective at awakening a cold list, it would be unwise to make a habit of falling out of touch with them again.
Remember that when email marketing is done correctly, there is a human relationship involved. You offer something your subscriber wants if they are engaging with you. When you stop connecting with them they will eventually seek other sources, such as your competitors. So make sure that you can keep whatever commitment you are making. And if a daily newsletter is too frequent for you, then make sure to adjust to a schedule that you can keep.
For over a decade Heather Seitz used email marketing to build successful companies and had to solve the biggest barrier to consistent profitability: deliverability. Today she is the Co-Founder and CEO of Email Delivered.
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