How To Warm Up An Cold Email List

How To Warm Up An Cold Email List

One of the questions we hear pretty often at the Email Traffic Academy, is how can you warm up or reactivate an older list that hasn’t been mailed for a while.

People find themselves with an old list for a variety of reasons…

      • Maybe you collected the list for a project or launch that ended.
      • Or you built the list selling a product you don’t sell anymore.
      • Or your business changed directions, and you’re now serving a different niche.
      • Or you bought a business that had a list, and want to introduce yourself as the new owner.

Or the most common reason: You ran some ads, programmed some follow ups, got a few thousand subscribers, and promptly forgot about it.

That’s the one we see a lot, small and medium sized lists that have basically been abandoned.

In order to reactivate a list, and start fully re-engaging the users, you need to ask yourself a few questions:

1. How old is the list?

If the list is more than 5 or 6 years old, and has never been mailed, it may be too late to bring it back to life. In other words, the spam complaints and bounce rate alone would mean it’s more of a liability than an asset.

In that case, you should upload it to Facebook or Google as a custom audience and see if you can market to it with PPC or banners. We’ve taken several old lists, including one that hadn’t been mailed for almost a decade, and created custom FB audiences to promote stuff to.

While many of the folks will have moved on (new emails, new interests, etc.), it’s still a targeted audience, and you don’t have to worry about spamming or deliverability issues.

2. Is the list currently hosted?

If the list is in your computer, or on a disk, or in a ZIP file, and you need to figure out a way to mail to it, that’s a much different situation than if it’s already hosted with a provider like AWeber or GetResponse.

That’s because to import it into a new host, you will probably need to have people opt-in again, and if the spam complaints are high (over 10 per 1,000 emails sent), then your account will likely be closed.

But if it’s already hosted somewhere, all you have to do is start mailing to it in such a way that you keep the complaints down, and you should be fine (see below).

3. Do you have time & date, IP, site they opted-in from, or any other data like Zip, gender, name, etc?

If you aren’t currently hosted somewhere, and you don’t have time and date, IP address, and site they opted-in from, we recommend uploading the list to Facebook and forgetting about email reactivation. The liability is simply too great and most hosts will require you have that info before they will let you import.

But if the list is lying dormant in an old AWeber account, and especially if you have other data like name, gender, or you know what they previously bought, you can reference those points, and refresh their memory about who you are and how you can help them again.

4. What’s your goal?

Some people want to reactivate a list to start mailing their own offers. Others want to promote affiliate products or get in on JVs and launches. And a few want to turn the list over to a broker to start generating income.

If the list is intended to promote you or your business, most hosts will let you import and use double opt-in to confirm that subscribers genuinely want to be subscribed.

But if you plan to mail third party offers, or affiliate promos, or rent the list out, the liability increases significantly, and your options are limited since most email hosts won’t work with you. In fact, iContact or GetResponse are probably the only two who will, and even then, it’s risky.

Regardless of your goals, depending on the age of the list, prepare to lose a significant portion of subscribers since many email addresses will have gone bad, and only a small group will opt-in again.

Of course, that’s actually a good thing.

Think about it, would you rather have an unresponsive list of 100k people, or a small list of 3,000 – 5,000 true fans who open and read every message?

    • Which list will cost more to host? (the big one)
    • Which list will have the highest bounce rate, and get flagged as spam? (the big one)
    • Which list will have the lowest open and click through rate? (the big one)

Rebuild your list based on quality rather than quantity, and you’ll save money, increase deliverability, and serve your tribe better.

Six List Warm-up Strategies

Assuming you have a way to email the list, there are six strategies we recommend you follow to reduce risk and increase your response.

1. Break up and mail the list in small chunks: Never try to send a big list that has not been mailed for a while. If the complaint rate is high enough, you could jeopardize your entire account.

Instead, break the list up into 5,000 to 10,000 name segments, and mailing those segments one at a time, with a little break between mailings (a day or two) to gauge response. Note the open rate, click through rate, bounce rate, unsubscribe rate, and finally the complaint rate.

Compare those benchmarks with lists that get mailed regularly, and see if you can identify problems before they come to a head and you get a call from your email host.

Listen, half the time there’s no issue and you can simply start mailing again. I’ve picked back up with a list after a few years and honestly, we didn’t miss a beat. Of course, it’s not always that way. We tried to reactivate a 6-years-old buyers list a few years ago, and we almost lost our GetResponse account.

2. Start with a soft approach, sending users to blog posts or content: Instead of coming on strong with a hard pitch right off the bat, consider re-engaging people with content like articles, videos, surveys, or other information they’ll find valuable.

After a few years, some people change direction, and it’s possible they aren’t even interested in what you are selling anymore. Starting with content is a respectful way to let them know you are still around, publishing and selling merchandise on about a specific topic, and they are free to unsubscribe if they no longer find it useful.

3. Move the users to new lists using squeeze pages and tools like One technique we learned from Andre Chaperon’s Autoresponder Madness Course is to use sublists.

The idea is to start a brand new list and ask people to subscribe to that, instead of confirm their subscription to the existing list. This not only siphons off the hyper-responders, it gives you a reason to mail your old list again.

If you use AWeber, you can also integrate AWProTools to move users from one list to another by letting them click a link as opposed to filling out a form. This is also a great way to segment your list based on a particular characteristic, like gender, age, or interest.

4. Solicit immediate feedback in the first message: Another trick we learned from Autoresponder Madness is to get people to respond to our email by asking them a question. For example, here’s a PS we’ve used quite effectively:

PS: Hit reply and tell me the #1 reason you have trouble losing weight.

Not only does this give you user data and re-engage subscribers on a psychological level, but it also increases deliverability by telling Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and AOL you have a dialog with your users, and you aren’t a spammer.

In fact, you might want to add a PS like that to the first few messages of every sequence you write, and occasionally to your broadcasts as well. We did and it’s definitely been a plus.

5. Keep the voice consistent with the original: It goes without saying you should try to keep the voice of the original list similar to the voice you use when you are re-engaging it…

    • If the list had a name or personality, bring that personality back.
    • If the list was about something specific, reference that topic
    • If the list was particularly provocative, or woo woo, or friendly, continue that trend.

In other words, give people more of what they were getting when you were actively mailing, since that’s what they are used to.

6. Practice good list hygiene: You want to discuss this last one with your list host, since they have many tools at their disposal to keep your list clean, including:

    • Removing people who haven’t opened your mail in a while. We recommend deleting non-openers after a year, and non-clickers after two years.
    • Changing IP addresses on the mail servers. Many hosts have 2 – 3 sets of servers, based on the list quality being sent. As you re-engage people, and complaints drop, ask them to switch you to a server with higher deliverability.
    • Deleting inactive email addresses. Some hosts have agreements with email providers to share data on bad emails, and many automatically clean lists in the background. If you are about to activate an old list, you may ask them to pre-screen it and see if they can remove dead addresses.

A list is an asset to your business, and the easiest way to keep that asset earning money is to keep your lists active to begin with, and don’t let them fall by the wayside.

For more awesomeness like this, check out the Email Traffic Academy, the only course that teaches you how to use email traffic without having your own list.


Jonathan Mizel

PS: Comments or questions? Feel free to leave them in the reply box below.

5 Responses to How To Warm Up An Cold Email List

  1. Moe Muise March 6, 2016 at 1:44 pm #

    iContact doesn’t require new lists to confirm their subscription. I’ve been using iContact over the past few months precisely because I *didn’t* want subs to have to confirm their subscription.

    I generated $1 in revenue per subscriber in the first month. Not huge, but definitely worth re-activating that list after 3 years.

    • Jonathan Mizel March 7, 2016 at 6:44 pm #

      Thanks for the heads up Moe, you are correct in that neither iContact nor GetResponse will require double opt in on an uploaded list. Just remember that if the complaints are above their threshold, they will move your account to double opt in, and if they get serious spam complaints from people who said they never subscribe, they may close your account.

      But that’s extreme, four times out of five, you can upload to list, and start mailing to it again without much trouble.

  2. Jack November 11, 2016 at 6:37 am #

    Great article, love the suggestion on breaking the list up into smaller chunks. Thanks for the info!

  3. Bill Thomas January 21, 2017 at 9:24 am #

    How much does this cost? Bill

    • Jonathan Mizel January 21, 2017 at 12:03 pm #

      When we open for the Winter Semester (which will be in the next month), the cost of the Academy is $697. We are looking at a less expensive option without the coaching, which will be about half of that.

      Head to and get on the list and we’ll keep you posted.