We are often asked how to revive, warm up, and reengage an email list that has not been emailed to in a long time. In order to do this you will want to conduct what is known as a “re-engagement campaign”. This is exactly what it sounds like: you already have the email addresses on your email list, and at some point they all gave you permission to put them on your mailing list (right?), so presumably at some point you were engaging with them, but you have not engaged them for some period of time. Here’s how to warm that list back up and turn those people into a warm, responsive email audience.

It’s really important that you warm up an old, neglected email list correctly, because it’s really easy to do it wrong, which can get you and your email into a lot of trouble, and will cause your email to end up in the spam folder. And not just the email that you send to that old list! Sending too much too soon, or too enthusiastically, to that old list can cause other email that you send to start landing in the spam folder as well! It’s so important to remember that your email sending reputation is, ultimately, a universal email reputation. What do we mean by “universal reputation”? There are many different ways that the inbox providers, ISPs, and spam filters identify an email sender, and they cross-reference and aggregate all of the information about your email sending practices, from a variety of sources. And that’s not all: they also share this information with others in the email receiving industries. So it’s not like you can silo your sending to one list and keep it from affecting your email reputation elsewhere.

This is why it’s critical that you treat that old list with kid gloves, warm it up correctly, and re-engage the people on the list gently. This will also get you the best results in terms of engagement, both at first, and in the future!

Here’s how to do it right. Note that this same method can be employed to re-engage the inactive people on your otherwise active, regular mailing list; to do this create an “inactive” segment based on “last open date is before”, and then follow the steps below. You should also not be sending to them with your regular sends to your active list, and you can make sure that you aren’t doing that by only sending your regular email to an “active” segment of “last open date is after”. A general rule of thumb that we recommend is that if someone has not opened your last 4 emails they should be removed from the “active” segment, because at that point they are either going to start hurting your email deliverability, or already are.

First, remove any obviously dead or fake email addresses.

While we generally do not recommend using an email verification or “list hygiene” service, this is one situation where it may make sense.

Next, make sure that your authentication is set up correctly.

This means your SPF. It also means your DKIM and DMARC, rDNS, etc., but at a minimum it means SPF.

A word about formatting.

Ideally you will send your first email to that list as plain text, and with at most just one or two links (which should go back to your website, not your social media accounts, not another website, the links should go back to your website).

Also, the domain in those links to your website should be the same domain as your “from” address that the email is coming from.

All of the above steps are to help minimize your email landing in the spam folder. When you send email to people who haven’t heard from you in a long time, some of them will report it as spam. Others of them will delete it without opening it. Each of these actions can cause the spam filters to give you negative spam points, so you want your email to be as squeaky clean and unspamlike as possible out of the gate.

Take extra care to craft a really great subject line.

Once an email gets past the gauntlet of spam filters and inbox spam filtering algorithms, and lands in the inbox, your subject line has to do all of the heaving lifting of getting people to open your email. This is especially true when you are re-awakening an old email list, because there is every chance that the people on your list won’t recognize your name, unlike folks who have heard from you recently. So really take the time to create a compelling subject line. Think about the email that you receive, and what sorts of subject lines move you to open an email.

Keep the content brief and breezy.

Don’t make a big deal about the fact that you haven’t emailed them in ages – in fact, it’s often best not to mention it at all. Instead chat a bit about what’s new, what’s been going on in your business or your life (depending on who your audience is), and then give them a great reason to continue the relationship and to continue opening your email. What that great reason will look like is different for every business, and every list, but if you can’t come up with a good reason for them to continue with you, then, well, why should they?

Be consistent.

After that first re-engagement email, wait a couple of days before sending the next one, and then after that be consistent in sending them email. How often you should email a list is almost entirely dependent on your industry, your individual business, and your audience, but a good rule of thumb is to send to them about once a week (more if appropriate to your business and their expectations).

And speaking of expectations, be sure to set those expectations as to how often they will be hearing from you. One of the primary non-content-based reasons that people stop opening email is because you are either sending email to them too often, or too infrequently. Of course, as we’re talking about warming up an old list, that falls into the too infrequently category, but once you’ve re-engaged them be sure to find a sending schedule that is appropriate for your audience (not for you, for your audience).

Questions? Hit us up with an email here.

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