We all know the power of social media and the key role that it should play in our marketing strategy. One drawback with social media is that you don’t own the platform so you are at the mercy of whatever company is behind it. They could change what they let you do, who you are able to connect with, charge for things that used to be free, or even just go out of business when the newest platform comes out.
Facebook has been a good example of this. We have all built up these great networks of people that like our page but Facebook has now decided that we will have to pay if we want more than just a handful of people to see our posts in their news feed. At the moment, it may still be the best and cheapest marketing tool available to us, but the point is that they could continue to up the price or change their policies and procedures and there isn’t anything we can do about it.
That is why we should be diligent in building a customer email list. An email list should be looked at as an asset. It is something you own and control. You are not reliant on a third party application or company to allow you to communicate directly with highly targeted customers who already know you and your products and services. They are an easier sell and your best source of referrals.
Here are some things that can help you build this extremely valuable asset:
I have found the most effective way to build your email list is with an opt-in on your website. This could be in the form of a static graphic on your home page or even a pop-up that appears when they get to your site or are about to leave your site. In order for this to be effective, you need to give them a reason to sign-up. In our business, a $1 off coupon works great! They simply enter their name and email address, hit submit, and they automatically get added to your list and a coupon is generated and sent to their email. You have now provided your guest value, while building your list.
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of software packages out there that can automate and streamline the email collection and automation process for you. For most of us, a well-known free service like “MailChimp” will be all that we need. It gives you what you need for pop-ups, email sign-ups, and the automated emails that get sent after they have opted in. It is extremely easy to use. It also provides an easy-to-use interface with lots of templates for sending emails to part or all of your list at any time you want. If you have signed up for our “Week in Review” emails or our free eBook, we use MailChimp to do that. Setting it up will be super easy for whomever handles your web design. If you handle it personally and are not sure how to implement, feel free to reach out to me and I will give you a hand.
Getting your followers on your List
Many of us have built a great social media following for our businesses. This is a great place to start to build your list. In addition to offering coupons through social media with a link that takes them back to your opt-in form on your website, I encourage using social media for contests that will not only help get your followers more connected to you but will also serve to build your list. Be creative with your contests. The more creative and out of the box, the more followers may connect with it and even share it with others. The key will be to make the prize worth it as that will boost participation significantly. The better the prize, the greater the participation, the more your list grows.
Sign-up your farm guests
Those who are already coming to your farm should also be a main target for your mailing list. Again, it is important to incentivize them. Typically, you want their incentive to be emailed to them to be sure they are giving you a legit email address and to encourage them to return. Things such as 10% off your next purchase or a coupon for some free apple cider donuts or a BOGO coupon for your entrance fee are all great ways to incentivize sign-ups. It can be as simple as them putting their name on a sign-up sheet and having one of your employees adding that email into MailChimp at the end of the day which would then automatically send the incentive to them. You can get more sophisticated / self-service by installing a large touch screen monitor in your high traffic area with the incentive advertised right on the screen and your guests can sign-up and receive that incentive immediately to their phone. This provides even more motivation for sign-ups if they know it is something they can cash-in on immediately, such as a free donut or a ticket for the corn cannon.
Putting your list to work
Now that you have your list, it is time to put it to work for you. A regular email from you (weekly or monthly) can play a huge role in keeping your business in the minds of your customers. Here are some things to consider when mailing to your list:
Don’t overuse it. This can backfire similar to over-posting on social media and may result in communication fatigue to your list.
Provide value. Be sure that you are only sending emails that are providing value to your list by announcing important dates or events, letting them know about special pricing for them, or by giving them information they can apply in their homes such as gardening or cooking tips.
Keep them short. The days of long newsletters are gone. Most people today are looking for short and succinct communication. If you make your emails too long, they may not get read.
Make them fun. Do things to help your readers look forward to opening them. Something as simple as a clean farming joke, funny picture or story, or crazy contests are all great ways to keep your list looking forward to the next email.
Building an email list doesn’t happen overnight and it does take some work but that asset will prove to be an extremely valuable marketing tool the larger it grows. If you haven’t started building an email list, don’t put it off. Make it a priority for this year. Don’t just put an opt-in on your webpage and hope for the best. Be intentional and creative to drive traffic to that opt-in every chance you get.