Sally Neas - Jul 31, 2016

Email Marketing: Getting Started For Your Farm

Odds are pretty good that you got into farming because you love the feeling of dirt under your fingernails and sun on your face more than the glow of a computer screen.  And yet, even the most technophobic of us know that the digital world offers powerful tools for sustainable farms, especially when it comes to marketing.

In particular, email marketing can yield a high return: for every $1 invested in email marketing, there is a $44.25 average return and almost half of email recipients made a purchase based on an email in the last year.  Common uses of email marketing for sustainable farms is weekly CSA newsletters,  emails with farmer’s market updates or monthly newsletters.

Before diving in, you might want to first check that email marketing is right for you.  The answer to this question really lies partly in whether you are willing to spend the time with email marketing.  As is evident through its high return-on-investment, it’s not a huge time commitment; certainly nothing like planting a field of tomatoes or thinning an acre of apples.  In a few hours, you can compose a thoughtful, engaging and attractive marketing email.

But, you have to be willing to spend those few hours on it.  A rush job can result in inaccuracies, embarrassing grammatical mistakes or an ineffective email.  And, although your customers aren’t expecting the next great American novel, you need to be comfortable enough with writing to compose a well-written email.

Once you have decided that email marketing is right for you, the next thing to think about is your goal.  Marketing should always be strategic, with clear goals and communication.  What that goal is will depend on the structure of your farm.  For example, if you are a CSA farm, then the goal behind email marketing might be to inform your customers of what is in their weekly CSA baskets.  Or, if you sell at farmer’s markets, the goal might be to develop name recognition and a customer base to increase sales at the market.

When undertaking email marketing, you will want to start by gathering email addresses.  Add any email addresses you may have already collected through CSA’s or community events.  Also be sure to include a link to subscribe, or, better yet, multiple links, on your website.  And, you can always gather more email addresses the old fashioned way— with a clipboard, paper and a pen, while selling at farmers market or other events.

Lastly, you will need to decide how frequently to send an email.  Marketing experts hotly debate what the most effective frequency is.  Some are in the camp of “more emails equals more sales” while others believe less is more.  What it really boils down to, especially for sustainable farms, is considering your audience.  This harkens back to the goals of your email marketing.  For a weekly CSA, it makes sense to send a weekly email.  Or for an educational farm that frequently hosts events, you might want to send a few emails a month.  If you are selling mainly at farmers markets and wholesale, then a monthly or quarterly email might fit the bill.

Of course, there is more to consider when jumping into email marketing, such as what makes for a compelling email or what content to include.  We will tackle these topics in future blog articles, but we hope these tips are enough to crack the seal on a potentially profitable marketing strategy for your farm.

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Sally Neas is a California based writer, educator and organic gardener. She spent 3 years farming at Veggielution Urban Farm and Camp Joy Gardens has taught garden education in the Pajaro Valley School District with Fitness 4 Life. Her writings have appears in YES! Magazine, Modern Farmer, Taproot Magazine and her own blog Voices from the Great Turning. She is now in graduate school at UC Davis studying Community Development.


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