“Remember Us?” How to Warm Up an Email List That Has Gone Cold

So you’ve had that old Mailchimp account for your company’s email list in place since day one. You used to send updates and cool stuff when you had the time.

But then you got busy. Your focus turned to your product. To sales. To partnerships. To funding. To (a hundred other things). Maintaining a warm and active email list fell to the wayside.

It happens.

A lot, actually. Your company is definitely not alone. Even highly active and successful online companies let their email list go cold for a while (too long).

At some point, it dawns on you: You’ve got to start sending to your list again. You know that email is the key ingredient of a smart content strategy, and today that’s more true than ever.

The fear of sending to a cold list

Look, I’m not going to tell you to “just hit send… now!” without acknowledging the very real blowback that might occur. And the longer it’s been since the last time your list heard from you, the more careful you need to be.

What could go wrong?

Mass unsubscribes, for starters. You’re probably a lot like me. When I receive a newsletter from someone (or some company) who I’ve never heard of before and don’t recognize, I’m probably going to hit the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom. Even if I did personally opt into your list, I probably don’t remember because it’s been so long. That’s a perfect reason to prompt an unsubscribe.

Or worse, your email could be marked as spam. You should feel lucky if your readers chose the “unsubscribe” link instead of the faster/easier “Report Spam” button.

The more people who report your emails as spam, the more “dings” your email address receives in the eyes of Gmail, making it more likely that your emails will skip users’ inboxes and go directly to the Spam folder. Not good.

Should you just start from scratch?

If your list is really old, does it even make sense to email those people? Maybe it’s a better idea to simply move on and start building your list from scratch again.

I don’t think so. There’s still an opportunity to reconnect with people who, at one point or another, expressed interest in what you had to offer. Maybe they joined your early access list because your original pitch spoke to them. Maybe they started a free trial of your software.

So you’re right to see an old list as a huge opportunity to reconnect with people who might still be warm prospects both for your content and your product.

What NOT to do

  1. So you’re ready to do this. You’ve got your list loaded into Mailchimp or Drip or whatever email tool you’re using. You’re starting to write that first broadcast email.

But wait! Before you do… Let me share some all-too-common mistakes we see at this critical stage. Here’s what NOT to do when sending your first email in a while:

DON’T assume they remember you

Sure, your subscribers may have personally opted in or tried your software in the past. But even just a matter of a few months can seem like years in Internet time.

Chances are, they don’t remember you. So don’t assume that they do. Don’t start off your email as if you’ve just emailed them a week ago. You’ll have to fully acknowledge and get past the fact that it’s been a while, and I’ll show you how below.

DON’T assume they follow you elsewhere

So you haven’t sent an email to them in a while. But that doesn’t mean those people haven’t been following your Twitter account, or your personal updates about what you’ve been working on, right?


A handful of fans might still keep tabs on your company in other channels. The vast majority don’t. So don’t assume that the person on the other end of your email is also a Twitter follower.

DON’T sell anything

I won’t tell you that email is never the place to make a pitch for your product. It is, when the right time comes.

That time is not the first email you send to your list in months. Let me repeat: Do not try and sell anything right now.

No “start your free trial”. No “here’s an exclusive coupon”. No “check out these awesome new features of our product.” None of that…

The purpose of this email is to reconnect and re-establish a positive relationship with each subscriber. The way you do that is to give them something of value, which I’ll show you how to do below.

DON’T be impersonal

This is a general best practice when it comes to email marketing, but it’s even more critical when you’re sending to an email list that has gone cold.

Don’t plaster your company branding across the top of your email. Don’t sound like a corporate robot. Don’t make your email a collection of banner ads. These are sure-fire ways to get unsubscribes, reported as spam, and forgotten.

Best Practices

I told you what not to do. Now what’s the right way to reconnect with a cold email list?

Here are four best practices:

Remind them who you are

Like I said, the vast majority of your email list doesn’t remember you. So priority number one should be to personally re-introduce yourself and explain why they should keep reading (and stay subscribed).

For example, try something like this:

“Hi (First Name),

A while back you tried out our software, probably because you were looking to [solve a common problem that your software solves]. But this email isn’t about our software.

It’s about…”

And that’s where you get right into the value proposition of this email (yes, even something as simple as an email must have a value proposition, or a compelling reason for the person to open it and keep reading).

Give something of value

The purpose of the email is to give them something they want. For free.

How do you know what they want? Well, researching your target customers is a huge topic, which we’ll unpack quite a bit in many articles on this blog (like this one).

The purpose of this email can’t just be to say, “Hey, remember us?” It has to be more compelling than that. You’re emailing them today to give them something they can (and will) use, right now.

We recommend something educational. Here are a few ideas:

  • A new email course – In this email, you can include a link that will automatically trigger a sequence of educational emails to help them accomplish a certain result, like “get more sales” or “optimize your website” (the topic would depend on your customer’s primary pain points.)
  • A white paper or report – These might come off as “fluffy”, but with the right amount of research and real, actionable, insights, these can be very useful for your audience. Include a link in the email to download the free report.
  • The launch of your new blog – Don’t announce your blog if you haven’t published anything yet (don’t say, “Stay tuned for our soon-to-launch blog!”). Wait until you have a couple of high-value posts to share and present them as the must-read resources that they are.

By the way, your subject line should reflect this awesome piece of value that you’re giving away in this email. After all, that’s the purpose of this entire email.

Make it personal

Like I said, this email shouldn’t come from a machine. It should come from you.

Your emails to your list shouldn’t come from a machine. They should come from *you*.

Start with a friendly greeting, like “Hi [First Name]”.  Haven’t collected first names on your email list? Then try something simple like “Hey there,”

Write with a personal, conversational tone. Yes, you represent a company or a brand, but behind that company are real people, like you. So put yourself out there and make a personal connection.

Use plain text

As a general email marketing best practice, plain text is best. Again, this is especially true when sending to a list that hasn’t heard from you in a while.

By plain text, I mean keeping the look of your email… Plain. It should look and feel like a personal email that you’d receive from a colleague or friend. Not a branded advertisement that happens to show up in an email inbox.

Not only does a plain text format support the previous goal of being personable in your voice and approach, it also makes the email more likely to be opened and read. Hitting delete or “report spam” is a decision made in a split second. Using a plain text format can often buy you a few more moments and get the person to read your first sentence or two (which should hopefully result in them reading your entire email).

Let’s do this!

So hopefully these tips will help you successfully reconnect with your email list if it’s been forever since your last send. Now go ahead and get your email list re-engaged!