by Katie Navarra
Today, email is more than email. It is a tool that can be used for a low-cost, effective marketing tool. It can be used to motivate your customers to take an action you would like them to, from visiting your farm stand, purchasing a CSA share, using the U-Pick services available or simply signing up for your e-newsletter.
Email is effective and economical, but it is also extremely popular and should be used strategically to avoid flooding someone’s inbox. “Be clear about what you want people to do,” explained Erik Bunaes, owner of Endorphin Advisors, “if you don’t target the correct people you’re just noise, spam. Then people will unsubscribe and you can never talk to them again via email.”
What can e-newsletters be used for?
E-newsletters can be used to share updates with customers when specific farm products are available. It could include notification on which fruits or vegetables are ready for u-pick or that other farm products are available. They can also be used for coupons and giveaways, surveys, tips or hints for planting a backyard garden or for inviting customers to events like farm tours, hay rides or seasonal attractions.
A carefully planned email marketing campaign can also be used to link customers to other information you have on-line like a company website, blog, Facebook page, etc. “Never send the whole article in a newsletter,” Bunaes suggested, “include a few sentences or a short tease and then link to your blog or website.” This will get readers to a place where you can track an action taken on their part and to a location where detailed information will be available about your farm business.
Advice for creating e-newsletters
First, make it obvious what you want readers to do. Is it that you want them to sign up for an e-newsletter, stop-in to a farm stand or farmers market and make a purchase or share with their friends and family, offer advice or to simply thank them for their business.
Once your goal is clear, it is important to remember that less is more in online marketing. Keep articles short. Topics can include “things that are of interest to your customers, what you know that they don’t know and information that you have access to that they don’t,” he added.
Create a schedule and stick to it. Your customers will begin to look for your newsletter. Be creative with subject lines. “Subject lines are hugely important,” Bunaes emphasized, “limit it to five to seven words total that will tell readers how it will help them today.” For example, don’t simply tell your customers it is the Summer Newsletter. Instead: consider three recipes for fresh picked blueberries. Then within the newsletter announce that the berries are available for u-pick, at the farm stand or at farmer’s markets.
Be sure to include pictures and/or videos that show your farm and that are seasonally appropriate. Use photographs that show your crops growing or employees out picking or working with the cattle during milking time.
How do I find subscribers?
Email campaigns are designed to provide relevant content to users who have granted a business permission to send information to their email address. A successful email campaign is all about growing subscribers. “Fifty-seven percent of consumers will fill out a card with their email address when asked,” Bunaes noted, “all you have to do is ask.” Ask your customers to fill out registration forms when checking out at the farm stand, when buying at a farmer’s market or after they have visited the farm for an event. “You have to make it really easy for people to sign up,” he added.
Be sure to include a sign-up feature on your farm business website and include links to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn within the email campaign so that readers can easily share the information with family and friends and ultimately, hopefully, they too will become subscribers.
This all sounds too complicated
Using email to promote your farm business and products does not have to be complicated. And the good news is that you do not need to be a web expert or even understand HTML coding.
There are a number of companies that provide visually attractive, ready-to-use templates.
The templates can be customized to include your logo and choice of colors and images. Most even allow users the opportunity to actively create their own template or use basic already created templates that simply require text and images.
Regardless of your skill level or computer experience, the majority of email marketing services provide step-by-step instructions to guide you through the process of creating your email, newsletter or survey. These services also allow you to test the message before it is sent to ensure that it is not marked as spam to avoid it ending up in your subscriber’s junk mail.
iContact, Constant Contact and Benchmark Email are just a few of the email marketing services available. Each charge a monthly fee, starting as low as $10 per month. Pricing will vary based on provider and the number of email contacts used, add-on services.
Free resources are available online to get you started. If you are not ready to try it on your own, local businesses specializing in e-marketing campaigns can help you get started.