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Articles/Press Releases

Who Do You Tell When the Barn’s On Fire?
Fine Tuning Your Electronic Newsletter

By Jane Eckert - Eckert AgriMarketing

At the co-op, it’s pretty natural for farmers to exchange a few thoughts about what works, and what doesn’t. Particularly when it comes to choosing your seed, chemicals, and equipment.

It’s the same for farms and orchards in the agritourism business, but sometimes it seems like we’ve just got a longer list of things we can discuss. One of our most important topics is how to get the customers to come to the farm just as soon as the harvest is ready for them.

In our last article, we talked about using emailed newsletters - electronic newsletters - as a great way to keep in contact with your customers, and to let them know just exactly when the sweet corn, the apples, the maze, or whatever, is ready to visit, buy or pick. These e-newsletters are cheap, immediate, and effective.

Today, we are just going to talk a little bit more about how to make those newsletters more effective, bringing more customers, and more dollars, to your business. If you don’t have an electronic newsletter, this tips still apply to anything you mail, or email, to your customers.

Tell the Right Folks

It doesn’t help you much to tell the baker that your barn is on fire. The fireman’s interested and will try to save your barn; the baker might just send you home with his sympathy, and a loaf of pumperknickle. And that’s the way it works with e-newsletters. If you provide a pick-your-own strawberry patch in May, and pheasant hunting in the fall, you’ve got to keep separate email lists.

In marketing, these are called “target audiences.” As you collect names, addresses, and email addresses, keep some information about who these people are, and keep their names in separate categories. Collect separate lists that describe them, or their interests: hunting, strawberries, vegetables, pumpkin patch, families, locals, out-of-state, online buyers, etc. The more sophisticated your business, the more sophisticated you should be about your lists. If you have these categories, you can send a special email newsletter to just the right people, such as the out-of-state families that hunt.

Tell Them Something of Value

Most people actually like receiving a short article about something that interests them. For example, orchards might send out a different recipe each month to their pick-your-own customers. Many farm customers would appreciate tips about how to store fresh fruits and vegetables. Moms might appreciate some crafty ideas about how the kids can carve a cute centerpiece out of watermelon and cantaloupes. The point is, give you customers something of value, whether it is information, a human-interest story, or some special coupons.

The most effective electronic newsletters contain one or two short articles (just 3 to 5 paragraphs) of something useful, and then perhaps a few words about a few of the special offers you have going on right now at the orchard or farm. Ideally, include one or two small photographs, perhaps showing a close-up of your fine produce or a beautiful peach cobbler, or a family having a great time on the farm.

Tell Them At the Right Time

You don’t try to sell seed to a farmer when its harvest time, and you don’t send a folksy newsletter to city customers on Monday morning. They’ve both got real work to be done, and will quickly forget whatever you said without taking any action.

This advice comes from the folks that track how many people open electronic newsletters, and how many of those people actually click on the links in the newsletter to get more information. They tell us the best days to send a newsletter are Tuesday and Thursday, and that the most effective time is between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Of course, common sense also tells us to avoid holidays, and to coordinate our special offerings with enough time for people to plan their visit.

Get It Said

Finally, the rule of thumb for writing newsletters is “Get it said.” Short, concise, brief copy works most effectively in electronic newsletters and websites. Figure out what your keywords are, and if possible just use bullets or short phrases to make your point:

Hayrides/Birthday Parties:

  • Two hour time allotment
  • Half hour hayride around the farm
  • Campfire, hotdogs, and smores are included!
  • Cost is $80 for 15 people or less

Use Links Back to Your Website

One additional thought about electronic newsletters. Make it a practice to have several links in each newsletter that refers back to information on your website. For example, “for more recipes, see our recipes page on our website”. Encourage people to visit your website to register, to buy online, to get more information, or to see more photos. Each visit to your website becomes like a mini visit to the farm, and builds a stronger bond between you, and your ongoing customer!

Okay, enough. I know that you don’t tell a farmer that the bank called today, just as he’s going to bed. You folks have got a harvest out there! Go out, and have fun! And I hope you sent out your electronic newsletter, so you’ll have lots and lots of customers!

Jane Eckert is the founder of Eckert AgriMarketing (www.eckertagrimarketing.com), a full-service marketing and public relations firm that helps farmers to sell directly to consumers, diversify operations and become tourist destinations. She is also CEO of www.RuralBounty.com, a search directory for agritourism farms and ranches in North America. Jane can be reached at 314-862-6288 or you may email her directly.