Use Email Marketing to Grow

Email is probably the single most important tool in your marketing toolbox. If you’re not using email marketing to promote your business already, here are three reasons why you should make it a top priority:

  1. Audience – Everyone who uses the internet on a regular basis has an email address and 91% of consumers check their email on a daily basis.

  2. Ownership – When you build an email list, you are in direct control of the relationship between you and your customers. 

  3. Conversion – Email is a form of permission marketing, which means the customers on your email list have chosen to be there. As a result, the rate at which email prompts purchases is estimated to be three times that of social media and the average order value is 17% higher. (source).

If you’re not sure where to begin, you’re in the right place because we’ve made a step-by-step guide to help you get started. Use the sections below as a handy checklist. By the end you’ll have a simple framework you can use to get started. Much like farming, there is always something new to learn, so keep an open mind and be willing to experiment.

Step 1: Build An Email Contact List

A letter is no good without someone to send it to and the same is true of email marketing. One of your primary measures of success will be the size of your email marketing list;everybody starts at zero so don’t be discouraged by small numbers to start.

If this is truly your first email list you may want to seed it with friends and family; however, you’ll soon be looking for other avenues to grow the number of subscribers. At a minimum you should make it easy for people to join your list by adding a signup form to your website (example below). Don’t bury the form in a place nobody will find it—make it obvious!

Additionally, you should have a pen and clipboard at every farmer’s market that you attend. Aside from their name and email address, consider asking them what types of communication they want to receive (farm updates, product availability, CSA details, etc.). If you already have a presence on social media, ask them to sign up for your email list, too!

Remember, when people sign up for your email list, you’re a guest in their inbox. If someone asks to be removed, honor their request and don’t take it personally. To the reader, your email is one in a million, which is why you should always strive to make sure the content you’re sending them is relevant, timely, and above all, valuable.

Step 2: Know your audience

Before you assign any chores on the farm you need to have a clear understanding of the desired outcome so you can communicate the task effectively. The same is true of email marketing. Messages are much more effective when they have a clearly defined audience and a call to action (CTA). 

Sales Emails – The goal of these emails should be to increase sales online or drive traffic to an event such as a farmer’s market. The audience should be anyone who is an existing or prospective customer and the CTA should be simple “buy now”. 

Marketing Emails – Sometimes email can add value in more nuanced ways. Depending on your business goals and your audience, it may not always be appropriate to send sales emails. If you have nothing to sell over the winter, for example, should you keep mum until spring or find another way to add value? The way you answer that question will play a large role in how you grow your brand and your business over time.

Step 3: Write your first email

Above all else, always ask yourself this question when writing an email: What value am I delivering to the recipient? Once you know the answer to that question, you can get into the nitty gritty. Let’s break down all the components of an email to make sure we understand each of them.

  • Subject Line – This will be the first thing your reader sees, and maybe the last if it’s not compelling enough to open. Use clear, actionable, enticing language that is personalized and aligned with the body of the email.

  • Personalization – Write every email like you’re sending it to a friend. Be personable and address your reader in a familiar tone.

  • Images – Choose images that are optimized for all devices, eye-catching, and relevant. Humans are visual creatures, which means photos are powerful mediums to tell a story or sell a product. Use this knowledge to your advantage.

  • CTA – Your call-to-action should lead to a relevant webpage and is often highlighted by using a button that says “buy now” or “continue reading”.

  • Timing – There have been many studies that attempt to determine the best time to send an email, but the only answer that matters is what yields the best results for your audience. Start with intuition, experiment with different times and pay attention to the results.

  • Responsive Design – 43% of emails are opened on mobile (source) and every email service provider (ESP) allows you to see what your email will look like on mobile vs desktop. Your email should, therefore, be optimized for all types of devices.


Step 4: Create a content calendar

There’s an old Chinese proverb that says “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” It may seem obvious that any one email will not determine the success of your email journey, but many people feel intimidated nonetheless. One of the benefits of creating a content calendar is that it forces you to zoom out and appreciate the bigger picture. 

Depending on your geography, there may be an ebb and flow to your seasons and it’s okay if the frequency of your emails reflect that. If you have an off season, keep in touch with your customer base by sending recipes or updates from the farm. You want to stay top of mind for when you are ready to sell. Consider once a month or once every couple of weeks. During peak harvest, however, weekly is best. That may seem like a tall order but planning ahead will allow you to prep emails during downtime and share the responsibility of crafting emails with other people on your team.

Step 5: Measure and refine

There are four key metrics to pay attention to when evaluating the effectiveness of your email marketing campaign. Any email service provider (ESP) will allow you to easily review these in a dashboard.

  • Deliverability measures the rate at which emails reach your intended subscribers’ inboxes (e.g. a typo in the email address may cause it to be undeliverable).

  • Open Rate is the percentage of people that open your email once it reaches their inbox.

  • Clickthrough Rate (CTR) is the percentage of people that click on your CTAs.

Unsubscribes measures the number of people who opt out of your email list once they receive an email from you.