If you are a farm that sells directly to your customers, you need to have a solid farm marketing plan that leverages email. Email is the most cost-effective channel to improve your over marketing and sales strategy as a small or medium-sized farm.
Email is the primary communication channel for many businesses due to its ease of use for managing information. Although emails work well for traditional business communications, it creates a lot of issues in direct farm marketing. Especially when you try to generate sales like CSA’s, market sales, wholesale, and on-farm sales. These issues happen because your sales as a farmer are seasonal and complex! As a farmer, you have to predict what your customers will want, harvest when the weather permits, and then go back-and-forth in-person, through text, on the phone, and through email to sell your food on your potential customer’s schedule.
Although marketing with email and generating sales can be hard work, if you follow our farmer email marketing plan you can save a lot of time and increase your direct sales. We have broken down this post into two sections that describe the main points of running a successful farm marketing email list. The first section will help you get new contacts and the second will help you sell more food to your customers.
Step 1: Build Your Email Contact List
The first step to selling more food with email marketing is having a healthy list of emails from customers who are interested in your farm and the content you will provide. The strategy for building this list will vary based on who you are selling to and whether your emails will be for marketing or sales:
- Marketing Emails focus on keeping your customers aware of your farm and up-to-date on what is happening on the farm.
- Sales Emails focus on directly generating sales for a specific event or online.
For example, a farm marketing email might say “You might be interested to know we are growing a cool new variety of lettuce this upcoming summer!” In comparison, a sales email might say “Buy four heads of our new lettuce variety on sale this week so you can pack a salad for work each day this week!”
We have outlined some of the best methods for building an email list below.
Website Email Sign-up Form:
Web forms essential method for gathering and capturing emails and works for nearly every sales channel. Include a way to subscribe to your email list on your website, such as a contact form. Write some information about the email submission box that describes what type of emails you will be sending and how often. Make it exciting! If someone has come to your website, they are likely already interested in your products and operation and are looking for ways to learn more, stay in touch, and buy your products.
Pen and Clipboard:
This is an extremely useful and often neglected email list building strategy. Be sure to have a pen and clipboard at every farmer’s market that you attend and during any other time you are encountering potential customers for your farm. On the clipboard, be sure to ask for name and email. To go above and beyond, you can include checkmark asking customers what types of communications they may be interested in receiving:
- Farm Updates
- Product Availability at Upcoming Markets
- CSA Details
- Direct Delivery
- Restaurant or Business Sales
This method for building a farm email list is slightly more complicated but is another excellent way to reach an engaged audience. A referral program can take form in many different shapes. One of the best ways is to have a partner like a farm, cafe, restaurant, or even a customer of yours feature your farm in one of their emails or social media posts and include a link to your site. For example, if you are a vegetable and herb farm, consider partnering with a fruit or grain farm to be featured in their email list. Alternatively, if you are selling at farmers markets, leverage social media and ask your customers to tag you in posts that highlight their meals that use your fresh, local ingredients!
Step 2: Write and Send Perfect Emails
Marketing for your farm with emails shouldn’t be intimidating. Putting in a few hours upfront to create a plan about how often you intend to send and what will be the purpose of the emails will pay off during the season by creating more engaged customers and increased sales. Most often we classify farm emails into two categories: Sales and Marketing. When thinking about your email plan, you should consider sending both types of emails. Moreover, we recommend picking one purpose per email and sticking to it.
If the types of emails that we are describing here are confusing, don’t worry! We’ll lay it out for you here in a simple way.
Farm Marketing Emails:
If you’re sending the following types of emails, likely these are marketing focused emails.
- Farm Updates
- Farmers Market Reminders
Send these types of emails when you want your audience to be more AWARE of your farm and to help them LEARN more about you, your farm, and ways to participate.
The most effective farm marketing emails include useful content like beautiful pictures of your farm, family, or audience. They should explain the exciting things happening on your farm within 1-3 short paragraphs. Lastly, don’t forget to include ways for your audience to engage with your farm. For example, if you have an email that describes how much preparation you have done in the spring to prepare for the summer’s farm markets, don’t forget to include the markets that you will be attending and the market’s hours and locations.
If you’re sending these types of emails, likely they are sales focuses emails.
- Farmers Market Pre-market Sales
- Notice of Farm Events
- The opening of Wholesale Sales Periods
- CSA sign-up Reminders
The purpose of these emails is to get your audience to ENGAGE with your farm. These emails should have clear subject lines about their purpose.
“Big Leaf Farm – Wholesale Order List – Aug. 15th.”
This concise subject line makes it easy for your customers to recognize your emails. These emails should include content intended towards driving your customers to a particular action, like “Click Here To Order.”
For example, if you have an online order platform like Cropolis, the emails should include interesting messaging about the new products available and instructions on how to order like, “Check out our available products this week by clicking the green ‘Place Order’ button!” Sales emails are generally shorter than marketing emails so keep your messages short and relevant.
Lastly, we find that eye-catching pictures can be useful in these emails if the email has no other formatting, but generally are not necessary because you want to keep a focus on the goal. If you are selling foods either through wholesale or for pick-up at farmers markets, consider including a list of available products directly in the email. If this sounds like it may be too much work, you should check out Cropolis for making this process quick, simple, and seamless.
Sending frequency depends on the type of customers you are trying to reach. For marketing emails, we find that any more than once per week during the season and once every 2-4 weeks during the off-season is the best timing. For CSAs, a newsletter every 2-4 weeks during the season and once per month during the off-season about the farm and what to expect in your CSA is best. Lastly, for wholesale, a monthly or bi-monthly email is optimal to keep your customers engaged. With sales-focused emails, however, you will want to send out an email every time an order period opens or every time a sales event like a farmers market occurs.
To improve your farm marketing plan, you want to improve the way you approach your email marketing and sales. More effectively using email on your farm allows you to engage new customers and generate more sales. Cropolis brings together the best practices of email so that you can worry less about getting caught up in the tiny details and focus on what you do best, growing and producing the healthiest foods available. If you are interested in learning more about building an email marketing plan or demoing Cropolis software contact Taylor@cropolis.co for more info.