An Email Success Story from Down on the Farm

As email marketing evolves, budgets have become bigger, the tools and reports become more sophisticated, but it is important to remember that content still remains king.  Creating a relationship with your community providing meaningful information and building relationships will keep people waiting for your email to hit their in-box.  Friends like to do business with friends.

Some of the most successful marketers come from some of the most unsuspected and perhaps unusual places. In 1992, Carol Ann Sayle and Larry Butler bought a historic farm in an East Austin neighborhood and have been growing some of the most amazing organic vegetables at Boggy Creek Farm ever since. Over the years, they have attracted a loyal following to their farm stand.  Austin is a tech town and one of the customers offered to create a website for the farm in the mid 90’s.  By 1997, Carol Ann took Boggy Creek one step further into the on-line community when she launched “News of the Farm.”  It may have been first email newsletters produced by a farmer and it continues.

The first issue was “what-we’re-going-to-have at the farm stand” and there were only about 20 subscribers. After a massacre in the hen house, Carol Ann added a paragraph that described the tragic tale as a way to let subscribers know that there would be no eggs at the next market. Everyone on the list emailed back with great alarm and sympathy, they passed the email along to friends.

As the years have gone by, Carol Ann has regaled subscribers with tales of the farm.  She writes stories about the characters that populate the farm that include the people who work the land, the chickens and sometimes more nefarious visitors like the ice cream thieves who helped spawn a new flavor after their criminal assault on the freezer. She adds other personal observations to each issue. Over the years, the email chronicled events that range the death of Aunt Penny, the farm’s “spokes hen” and the crop failure of the Roma tomatoes, the source of Larry’s famous smoke-dried tomatoes. The stories are followed up by a link to list of “what-we’re-going-to-have at the farm stand.”

People seek out Boggy Creek Farm after receiving the email. They arrive at the farm stand from destinations as diverse as Seattle and Dallas for the first time asking about the characters from the newsletter and request farm specialties like Gause Yaupon honey and Larry’s smoke dried tomatoes.  The email has also created on-line relationships with readers from around the country who regularly email Carol Ann back after a newsletter has gone out.  The inbound email ranges from condolences over the death of Aunt Penny to requests for products like the smoke dried tomatoes to people requesting advice for their home garden.

Marketers spend millions on research and strategy.  How many CMOs really know their customers or what they want?  Sometimes the answer lies in ideas from one of those unsuspected places like a small farm in East Austin.

What can you learn from Carol Ann?

How can you build relationships with your customers and community?

How can you get people to really care about your product or service?

Can you transcend a business relationship on- line and create committed friends?

Is a large budget necessary to create a successful email campaign?

For Carol Ann, the cost is finding time to gather her thoughts and prepare the email.

Does the size of the list matter? Do you really know who is on your list?

A good question that pops up in so many marketing conversations. Carol Ann has just 3650 subscribers, many of whom have been on the list for over a decade and they do forward to a friend.  They live around the country and on other continents.

“News of the Farm” is the best testimony to the adage that it’s not the number of people on your list, but the relationship you build with them that really matters.

Be authentic. Speak in your own voice.

Carol Ann has created an electronic welcome mat for people to connect to the farm and they do. How can you to the same for your business?

Check out and sign up for News of the Farm.

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One Response to An Email Success Story from Down on the Farm

  1. Amanda Byrom January 17, 2011 at 10:15 am #

    I used to frequent Boggy Creek Farm when I lived in Austin. What a delightful family and farm! I even did a short documentary over the slow food movement and local eating. They were so gracious to let me film and as I did, I grew addicted to their food and have been a lover of local foods every since. Thanks for using them as an example- they are a shining beacon to the local food movement, and apparently in marketing as well! Can’t wait to visit again!

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