How to Revive a Cold List

We've all done it, maybe more than once… We've spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours building up a list only to neglect it and watch it grow cold.

If you find yourself in this situation, well, it's time to get busy!


Before we start, you've got to know, this is gonna get ugly. You're NOT going to be able to keep everyone on your list – many have simply forgotten you and moved on. Like my daughter's favorite song (and movie) says, “Let it go, let it go!”

All joking aside, we're gonna give you the steps to bring back what part of the list we can, but a section of it – maybe a large section – may never come back.

The Content

You've got to give them something and have a reason for emailing them. That's the first step. Now I'm not a copywriter, so what I can tell you here is to go with your gut – do what feels right. For most this is some sort of an apology email and a really strong subject line with a freebie giveaway.

Your goal first and foremost is to get them to open the email. So the subject has to be very strong. Remember, many of these people won't even remember signing up to your list, so the subject has to draw them in again, and encourage them to check it out even if they don't remember you!

Next, you've gotta sell the click. By that I mean, you've got to get them to click through and take action – read your blog post, click to download a free report, or whatever other call to action you're using. The temptation here is to put a whole bunch of different links – don't. That will simply cause confusion and look spammy. You want to give them a very clear and definitive – but singular – call to action.

The Pre-Emptive Opt Out

Remember that many of these people are likely to not just opt out, but to actually report you as spam. So you've got to be very proactive to minimize that risk. Good content is a good start, but it's not enough.

One trick that we've found to work really well is to put a link at the very top of the email that says something like:

"No longer wish to receive our emails? Click Here"

Now, I know, it seems counter-intuitive to ask them to opt out at the top of  your email when in reality you want to keep people on your list. But here's the rationale. If they're gonna opt out anyway, it's best to make it very easy and to not make them jump thru a bunch of hoops which will likely just result in a spam complaint.

The Trick...

The trick with this approach is to make sure and set a tag if they click on that link. We're not actually opting them out from that link, but simply tagging them so that we can manually remove them later

Now be very careful with this. If you say that you're opting them out, do so. What we recommend is using a tag to start a campaign that executes our Simple Opt Out Helper which can automate the process for you so that you don't forget.

There's a couple of different ways to skin the digital cat, so we're going to present you with a couple of our preferred approaches.

Method 1

This method is the safest and cleanest method. It is, however, also the one that is the most savage in slashing your list as well. Know that if you go this route, your list will be greatly reduced, but the remaining people will be very engaged.

If it's been a very long time since you've emailed – over a six months or a year, for example – than this approach is probably the most appropriate (though painful).

STEP #1: You'll want to create a short email campaign that consists of three emails that you'll send over a short period such as six days (one email every other day).

STEP #2: In each email you will want to add two links in the center of the email – one saying “Stay On the List” and the other saying “Remove Me” or something to that effect. The point is, your copy will let them know that they have two choices, click to stay or click to leave.

In your campaign, you create two separate link click goals – one for the “Stay on the List” option and the other for the “Remove Me” option.

In reality, they really have three choices. The third is to simply do nothing – and that's what likely 70% or more will do, nothing.

Now the painful part is looking at how few actually click to stay on the list, but just be prepared – it will be low. The good part is that those that do are explicitly opting back in and going to be very engaged. They know, like and trust you and are choosing to stay on your list by explicit action.

As I've said, this is the most radical of the two approaches, but it works very well. Just don't forget to optout those that choose not to stay and, for convenience, simply use our Simple Opt Out Helper which will automate the process for you.

Method 2

This approach is a bit more conservative. It still requires the contact to take an action, but it's more of an indirect approach. We're still going to email them a small series of emails – the same three emails over six days is the default recommendation.

The difference, however, is that we're not going to ask them to choose to stay or leave, but rather we're simply going to use our Email Engagement Triggers Helper to observe whether they engage or not, and if not, well, they're outta here!

To set this up, simply create the campaign as normal. Then, at the end of the campaign, use our Email Engagement Triggers Helper http post to check their engagement. To keep things very simple, you only need to insert ONE of the API Goals – the “engaged” goal (which you can copy/paste from the Helper menu).

If they have engaged in the past 30 days, then this goal will be set after you call the helper and then will advance in the campaign. If it's not set, well, then that means that they didn't engage with your campaign and therefore you apply a tag to remove them. Then use the same tactic as in Method #1 above by running them through a campaign that uses our Simple Opt Out Helper to remove them from your list.

What we recommend is that after the call to our Email Engagement Helper, you put a delay timer of one week. Then after that week, you apply the tag to opt them out. By doing this, you'll give them a week to stumble across your email in their inbox and take action.

Why this method retains more people…

Our engagement triggers check for opens or clicks. This is done using Infusionsoft's own data, so there's nothing clever we're doing here that is outside of Infusionsoft's Terms of Service or anything. We're simply checking some custom tables accessible thru the API to determine if they've opened or clicked in the past 30 days, and if they have, we're setting the “Engaged” goal.

The reason this will keep more on your list, is that even if they just “open” your email, they'll be retained. Now this is a pretty low threshold of engagement – a simple open – so the list will not be as high of quality as using Method #1 above, but more of the list will be preserved for sure.


Ok, there you have it – two methods, two approaches, but ONE UGLY RESULT! Your list will be much smaller at the end of this process than when you started. So you might want to grab a glass of wine before you start and just “relax into it”, ‘cuz it ain't gonna be pretty no matter what!


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