How to Warm Up a Cold Email List

How to Warm Up a Cold Email List

By Alyson Stanfield

You were told you needed an email list, so you asked people to subscribe. And they did, but you didn’t do anything with their subscription. Those poor people sat in your system. For months. Maybe years. Never hearing from you. Your list has gone cold. Ice cold.

Now you realize how silly it was to ask people to subscribe only to neglect them. You’re ready to commit to staying in touch with your list on a regular basis, but you wonder:

Will they remember me?
What will they think if I just start emailing them after all this time?

You’re right to be concerned. Regular emails – regardless of whether you call them newsletters or not – are so valuable because they keep your name in front of people. And they keep the list warm. If you are ready to pay attention to your list consistently (and clear that you will keep the commitment), you have a little bit of work to do.

You need to reintroduce yourself to your list before you ask them to attend an opening or to buy your art, because it’s not polite to call on people only when you want something from them. There’s no sense procrastinating your first-in-a-long-time email because the longer you wait, the more painful it will be to write. Not to mention the energy it will use up in your head and heart in the meantime.

Once you’re clear on the commitment, there are three options for an opening email to reestablish a relationship with those on your list. You can use them individually or in combination with one another.

1. Remind Them Who You Are

Remind them who you are or how you met and what you intend to do from this point forward.

You were nice enough to sign up for email updates about my art and then you rarely, if ever, heard from me. As a reminder, I make . . .

Or …

As a reminder, we met during . . . [ if your list is segmented and you know the context ]

Then add …

I just wanted to give you a heads up that I have recommitted to sending an email update every month. I would love to share my work with you and you don’t need to do anything to make that happen. But if you ever want to unsubscribe, there will be a link at the bottom of any email for you to do so easily.

I appreciate your faith in my work and look forward to staying in touch.

2. Use Humor

If you have a sense of humor, anyone on your list could use a little chuckle. But you have to make sure it’s a good fit for you, your art, and your brand.

The dog ate my keyboard! I meant to send an email update earlier, but I’ve been sans keyboard and busy with canine vet visits.

Inserting an appropriate photo of Fido would be a good touch here – as long as you also include your art.

3. Give and Then Give More

Nothing warms people up more quickly than a “gift” from the heart. I put gift in quotes because your present doesn’t have to cost a thing. It only has to be authentic. I suggest an insider story about an art-related project, exhibition, or trip that will help them feel more connected to you. It might even be something you shared on your blog or social media that you repurpose for people on your list. Consider sending a second or third email with additional gifts.

Never do these two things: 

Now, there are two things you must refrain from doing at all costs in your long-awaited missive. DO NOT:

1. Apologize for not emailing

When you send your first email to a cold list of names, please – for the love of all that is sacred – don’t say, “I’m sorry you haven’t heard from me.” Most people on your list haven’t been waiting to hear from you (sorry), so the apology isn’t necessary.

2. Try to catch people up

Have you ever read an email that tells you everything that has been going on with that person since s/he last wrote? They’re like family holiday letters. Obviously if there’s something the recipients need to know (you moved, you had a health scare) you can mention those things, but don’t use your opening email as a “this is everything that has happened since I last wrote” message.

Stay focused on the present and future – where you’re going rather than where you’ve been – and make a schedule for future emails.

Alyson Stanfield is an artist advocate and business mentor at This article was originally published on her Art Biz Blog, which is consistently listed as a top 20 art blog. Read more articles like this at

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