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  • Charles Comenos

Your Cold Email List Isn't Dead, Yet.

Adventures in Email Marketing - Part 1

There are few assets in digital marketing that are as valuable as your list of opt-in email subscribers. Why? First, email is highly cost effective, delivering a four times higher ROI than other marketing channels, approximately $44 dollars in benefit for every dollars spent. Email delivers an excellent bang for your marketing dollar, and unlike other platforms, it’s continuing to show strong growth. With the number of total email users in the U.S. projected to reach 229 million by 2020, and Americans checking their emails more and more, email marketing is poised for continued efficacy and relevance .

But there are other advantages too. With email marketing you don’t have to rely on the dictates of a third party platforms like Linkedin or Twitter. Instead, you get a direct, personal conversation with your audience. All you have to do is keep them interested and engaged. Luckily, email makes that easier by allowing for highly targeted campaigns that few traditional channels allow.

But many companies fail to to seize the opportunity that their email list presents. In particular, letting your email list go unused, or "cold," is problem that I've seen among a great many clients. After a prospect signs up for your list you have a very short window in which to make initial contact — at maximum a week. In situations where you were connecting with your contacts on a regular basis then stop, you're allowed three months of silence before those contacts are considered cold. It's the harsh reality, but it’s true.

There’s Hope for Your Cold List

Just because your email efforts have gone dark for a while doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. An email list that has gone cold can still be revived, with a little work.

The first step is to evaluate your list from the bottom up and make sure it’s properly segmented. Email list segmentation is an important topic (one that I’ll cover in greater depth in another blog post), but at its most basic level it involves grouping contacts based around a unifying characteristic. In this case, the first group are the contacts that you think would appreciate hearing from you again. In the second group are people who you think aren’t relevant or interested anymore. It's always better to start fresh with only relevant contacts instead of beating a dead horse, so lets cut the second group loose.

If it’s been a long time since you last contacted the people in your first group — over a year, let’s say — you may also want to consider running the new version of your email list through an list verification services, such as MailGet or NeverBounce, to ensure that old or dead email address are removed. Sending emails that hard bounce can have a very negative effect on your email deliverability and domain reputation, and should be avoided at all costs. If you're using an email service provider like MailChimp or AWeber, getting a high rate of spam complaints, about 10 for every 10,000 emails sent, may even get you kicked off the service.

Depending on the size of your final, cleaned up list, you may want to consider cutting it into smaller pieces for your first email too. Doing so can make tracking the open, bounce, and unsubscribe rates easier, and provide a valuable bulwark in case a problem should arise. Once you have a streamlined list of contacts, it’s time to send them your first email.

Welcome Back Subscriber

It’s time to draft your first email, the most important in the warm-up process. This email should be personalized reminder of why they signed up to your list in the first place. What does that mean? It means focusing on the benefit and value that your emails or newsletter will provide in such a way that they’ll want to rebuild a personal connection with you and your company.

To be successful with this first email, you’ll want to keep your eye on three important factors.

  • Stay focused on their needs. Don’t talk about how long it’s been since you last emailed, or the cause of your absence. Do remind them that you’re going to provide useful information that will help their business. Focus on the value that you provide.

  • Offer something valuable. There’s no better way to reignite a dormant relationship by offering them something of value. Whether it’s a piece of written content like a white paper or blog post, or an invitation to a webinar, having something to offer is a great way to break the ice.

  • Be personal and personable. Remember that what you’re really trying to do is establish a personal connection with your prospects, and the best way to do that is with content that is direct, lively, and enthusiastic.

Note: This should be a plain text email, not an HTML newsletter. HTML can sometimes affect email deliverability, and tends to detract from the personal impact of an email. Aim for something short, just a few brief paragraphs that get straight to the point in 60 - 150 words. Here’s what an example email might look like.


Good Morning Georgia,

The IT Solutions Group has been busy filling our updated newsletter with useful content for our subscribers, and we’re set to launch our first issue very soon.

To give you a small preview of what the content you can expect to receive, we’ve written a in-depth blog post about the upcoming version of Microsoft Office 365, and some of the interesting ways it can streamline your workflows at ABC Widgets Inc.. We think the blog post will help you be more effective in your work, and would love to hear any comments or feedback you have on it.

I sincerely hope you’ll stick with us as a subscriber during this exciting time, but if you’re no longer interested in receiving important technology advice that can improve the efficiency of your company, you can to unsubscribe at any time with the link below.

Warmest Regards,

Robert Mitchum, IT Solutions Group


You’ll see that all the basics of good copywriting apply. The body copy is concise, casually written, and includes a call-to-action that helps you gather more information about your campaign, in this case click-through rate, bounce rate, and other analytics data from your website. Of course you'll want to add a great headline to this email, based on how you segmented your list and your prior relationship with your contact. The topic of writing good headlines is another topic I plan to cover in a future blog post.

Remember, in these early days the goal is not to set the night on fire, but merely to make sure your contacts are ready and excited to receive subsequent emails.

Be Prepared to Stay the Course

Maintaining a regular company newsletter or email other campaign to nurture prospects can be more time consuming than people realize. For companies without the right marketing staff or contractors in place, the workload can get overwhelming fast, which leads to it being deprioritized or overlooked, which in turn leads to your email lists going cold again. It can be a vicious cycle

That’s why it’s important that before you warm up your contacts you have a sense of your medium- and long-term email marketing goals. As with other digital marketing disciplines, it’s sustained, high-quality effort that wins the day. You should have well-considered answers to questions like, how often do you want to send out a new campaign or newsletter? What’s the scope of these campaigns? What existing design and content resources can be reused, which need creation? What are my KPIs for measuring success? What are my goals as defined by those KPIs? Remember, when planning these elements the goal is to stick to a realistic schedule and deliver something of reliable value to your prospects.

For some businesses, effective email marketing may also take a shift in perception. Some companies may get hung-up on the costs of planning and executing an email strategy, forgetting that it's an investment that pays proven dividends. For those companies, it may be worthwhile to review the extensive literature that illustrates the benefits of email as a lead nurturing tool, and muster the courage to give real email marketing a chance. The benefits of doing it right are truly too great to ignore.


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Charles Comenos,


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