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How to Warm Up a Cold Email List to Improve Open Rates and Click Through Rates

September 2, 2016

Last Updated on - September 20, 2020  

minutes read

how to warm up a cold email list

What is a “Cold Email List”? I think we need to understand this before we look at how to warm up a cold email list.

I had a list of about 9500 subscribers in one of my Aweber accounts, that I built through SOLO ads and Giveaways. In spite of the fact that I built this list with a lot of hard work, I never bothered to mail to this list regularly or, built a relationship with the subscribers.

There was no email series and my broadcasting frequency was about 1 email every 20 days. This wasn’t good.

The first email that I sent to this list saw a 31% open rate and about 19% Click through rates. Over the next 10 months, the open rates from this list dropped to a dismal 3% and the Click through rates to a pathetic 0.6%.

This list will be called a “Cold List”. The response from this list is poor and will stay poor unless you do something to rejuvenate them.

There are many downsides to storing this list –

  1. Mailing them will be a complete waste of time and effort
  2. Unnecessary Autoresponder costs
  3. Uncalled for SPAM related problems

So why did this list go “Cold”? We will first need to understand the reason, before we can put together a strategy to warm them up.

Reasons for a COLD Subscribers List

Lack of engagement is the primary reason why lists go cold. And engagement is poor only if there is a deliberate negligence from you or, if your subscribers do not know you.

Buying Leads

One of the biggest reasons for a cold subscribers list is “buying leads”. If you bought the leads from someone, imported them into your Autoresponder and then started your email campaign, then it is unlikely that you would have seen any good results on open rates or, click through rates.

Why? Because the leads in the list have no clue of who you are.

Email marketing is all about relationships and there is absolutely no relationship in a list that you bought from somebody. And if the subscribers do not know who you are and why you are emailing them, then it is highly unlikely that they will open your emails. Hence gradually, over a period of time your list is bound to go cold.

Poor Interaction

Another reason for lists going cold is poor broadcasting from the sender.

It is important that you regularly interact with your subscribers. If you fail to do that and send your emails once in a blue-moon then do not expect your subscribers to be enthusiastic about receiving, opening and reading your emails.

There is a lot of debate on how many times you should email your subscribers and you will find as many opinion as the number of marketers. While there is no norms on how many times to email, it is recommended that you email your subscribers at least 4 times a week.

The best way to decide on what works is to test it out with your subscribers. But ensure that you are not bombarding your subscribers with emails. So a safe point to start is to send an email everyday. Then depending upon how the response is you can find the best days to email your subscribers.

Whatever it is, you need to ensure that you are interacting with your subscribers. Else they might just forget who you are and the list will gradually go cold.

Irrelevant Messages

Imagine a situation where you signed up to receive a health related ebook. 2 weeks after your get your ebook, you start receiving emails about body building and muscle ripping. What will be your response?

If you have the slightest inclination towards building your body, you will open these emails. Else, you will open the first couple of emails and then gradually stop responding. After a certain period of time, you will just delete the emails without even opening it.

This is another reason why subscriber lists become cold. You are not checking their interests and are not sending mails that are relevant to them.

It is here than “segmenting” comes in. You would have heard a lot of marketers talking about segmenting and its importance.

When you segment your subscribers, you put them into different buckets depending upon their interest and then only send them emails on that specific topic. This way, your subscribers will always be keen on opening your emails and reading them.

Subscribers switch interests and could also have multiple interests. So you might want to switch them between segments and that way give them what they are looking for.

There are very few tools to help you with segmentation and most are costly. But the one cost effective solution I use, is the “List Segmenting Plugin”. It works with all autoresponders and is very effective. The best thing about it is that you do not have to ask your subscribers to optin again.

Check out the List Segmenting Plugin here.

Aweber has a feature called as Campaigns, which helps sending emails to subscribers based on what their interests are. You can use this very effectively to engage your subscribers and to keep up the level of engagement.

How to Warm Up a Cold Email List

Now that we know the reasons for an Email list going cold, let us see how to warm up a Cold Email list.

Before you attempt to do this, you need to keep in mind that not all the subscribers in the list will respond to your efforts and you might end up with some subscribers who will eventually have to be deleted from your autoresponder account. There is no point carrying dead weight and it makes perfect sense in deleting them.

So, only if you are ready to do that, should you process with trying to revive your inactive subscribers.

The following are 6 simple steps involved in the process of reviving your Cold Email list.

STEP-1 : Send a Re-introduction Email

Why a re-introduction email? Because they don’t remember you. Simple!

That’s right. Your email list was so cold because you destroyed the opportunity you had to keep your subscribers engaged. And now they don’t remember you and hence they don’t think they should open your emails.

It is here that re-introduction becomes important. You would want to remind them who you are and how they signed up to your list. This first step is to do that.

But the big question is, why will they open your email when they do not know you?

They will do it because they just felt the urge to open the email, after they read the “subject line” of the email.

That indirectly means that the “Subject line” has to be enticing enough for them to feel the urge to open the email.

Writing compelling subject lines is an art. And a lot of the good email marketing courses, like the one from Andre Chaperon will teach you how to write compelling subject lines.

I follow a very simple rule. Think as if you are writing to a friend of yours and write a subject line that is very personal. The subject line should make your subscriber wonder, who this sender is. He will then click open the email to find it.

Subject lines like the below have worked for me and you can experiment with them.

  • “Hey, Long time no See”
  • “How are you, Buddy?”
  • “I am coming this September”
  • “Howz it going, my dear Friend”

You can write your own subject lines. Just keep one thing in mind. The subject line needs to create an inquisitiveness in the reader’s mind about who is the sender is.

Step-2 : Introduce Yourself and Be Personal

The email is to introduce yourself, but don’t write an essay on who you are and how you reached where ever you are. Keep the introduction short and simple, but enough for your subscriber to recollect how they got onto your list.

You might want to mention about your website and the free gift that you had offered them etc.

Build emotion in your words and show them that you really missed them.

Be personal in your language. Write the email as if you are writing to a friend of yours who, you haven’t spoken to for a long time. Writing personal emails helps build the connect with your subscribers and will make the rest of the work easier.

Step-3 : Provide them something of Value

Once you are done with the introduction and you have caught the attention of your subscribers (remember that your introduction should not be more than 3-4 lines), it is time to offer them something of value.


To confirm if they are still interested in getting emails from you.

Build a nice pitch for the Freebie that you are going to offer by putting in some emotional quotient.

Something that has worked for me is telling them that I missed on providing anything of value to them until now and that I want to compensate on their loss by providing them this “Freebie” which is a top quality information.

You can frame the sentence in your own words and use the above context. This works great.

Step-4 : Segment them

Now that you have made your subscribers click on the link in your email, you need to segment them. You can do this easily by using the List Segmenting plugin.

Once you have segmented these subscribers you can easily clean up your list and market only to the one who are interested in receiving information from you.

Step-5 : Prepare for the second round of re-engagement

After you have sent this first email to your cold subscribers, you will come to know about subscribers who are interested to stay on your list and receive information.

It is not yet time to give up on the rest.

Send a second email for re-engagement, 2 days after sending the first one.

Follow the same principle as the first email and write as much personally as possible.

The only thing you need to keep in mind before your send the email out is that this email should only go to the subscribers who did not engage with your first email – Opening an email, even if they did not click on the link, is a form of engagement.

Segment all the subscribers who engage with this 2nd email as well.

Step-6 : Delete the uninterested Subscribers

By the end of Step-4, you will have a list of subscribers who are really interested in receiving emails from you. The rest are subscribers who are not willing to join you again.

There is no use spending time and energy on marketing to these subscribers. So, you can now delete all of these subscribers.

Don’t get emotional and leave some subscribers that you think might engage again after 3 months. That is a wasteful thought and nothing of that sort is going to happen.

The earlier you delete these subscribers, the more money you will save from the Autoresponder costs.

And that is all.

You now have a clean list with subscribers who are ready to engage with you and your content and it will be easier to market to them. Other benefits from this short list, includes lower autoresponder costs, better open rates and CTRs and better monetization.

Over to You Now

Now that you have seen how to warm up a cold email list, how do you plan to use these tips? Is there a better way, you have been doing it? Do let us know by commenting below.

If you have any questions you can write to us using the contact form here or, by also commenting below.

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About the author

My name is Dilip. I am a fan of the internet and love the many opportunities that the world wide web provides. If used constructively , the internet can give you an opportunity to lead a life free of the 9-5 treadmill and will be able to give more time to your family members.
Read about internet entrepreneurship at my blog.

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