📫 Farmers don’t read email? 3 keys to inbox success with ag audiences

Guten morgen!

Comin’ at you live this morning from the suburbs of Frankfurt, Germany. It’s that time of year again – our family trip to my wife’s hometown.

This trip is always special for many reasons:

  • Watching Oma & Opa soak in every minute of their great-grandkids reminds me just how important family time is.
  • The “traveler’s mindset” always unlocks a host of creative content/project ideas for my clients (and myself!).
  • So much good bread. So much good beer. Does life get any better?

Anyway, off to eat a schnitzel. Enjoy the content goods below!

On today’s docket:

  • Farmers Don’t Read Email? 3 Keys to Inbox Success with Ag Audiences
  • Ag marketing gigs
  • Digital content tidbits

📫 Farmers Don’t Read Email? 3 Keys to Inbox Success with Ag Audiences

It’s not uncommon for me to hear from prospective clients (and sometimes even existing ones…) about their complete lack of faith in email marketing for farmers.

I hear things like:

  • They’re just not sitting at a desk all day like a SaaS product manager
  • Farmers are busy and don’t have time to constantly check their email
  • Farmers prefer more direct communication, either in-person meetings or phone calls and texts

Let’s call a spade a spade: these are excuses.

Do farmers really read email? Of course they do.

Farmers, like everyone else running a business in 2024, are plugged in. They’re checking emails for fertilizer invoices, tax updates, and market reports. It’s how they get things done.

The smart operators…

The market watchers…

The technology adopters…

They read, research, and are hungry for information. And guess what? They read emails.

Plus, if a grower is not in their inbox much, they might not be the type of operator we’re seeking to influence or engage anyway.

Wouldn’t we all rather connect with the “cream of the crop” farmers who are actively seeking information and making smart business decisions?

Here’s the thing: If you can feed your content to a farmer, maximizing value on as little email inbox real estate as possible, they will consume it. Heck, if you make them smarter or a better operator, they may even tell their farmer friends about you.

Love that word of mouth, amirite?

There are multiple proof points here. I’m a bit of an email junkie, so here’s a few examples of groups we know are doing it well:

  • Van Trump Report: There’s got to be some value if a farmer is paying $60/mo to read about markets, ag news, and “boots on the ground” farmer insights.
  • Harvest Profit: Before being acquired by John Deere, Harvest Profit founder Nick Horob was known for his savvy, straightforward farm business content and resources.
  • Ranching.com: A newer cattle community-oriented newsletter that serves up industry recaps and resources.

Heck, even Magnetic Ag, the all-things-ag punny newsletter I started back in the day had 12,000 readers — more than 25% of whom were farmers. They weren’t even the target audience, but farmers still somehow found their way in, liked the content, and shared it with others.

(And we have the postage records to prove it. Let’s just say the Magnetic Ag mugs we mailed to referral program participants reached more far-flung corners of the Corn Belt than I ever imagined.)

But assuming that:

  1. The threshold for sniffing out B.S. email is higher with farmers, and
  2. You don’t want to squander the “right of passage” you have

What are some ways to make sure you get it right?

I’m glad you asked…

1. Get specific

Money is made in email marketing when you focus on the details.

Let’s take these three samples of email content you could send:

  • Good: How to combat white mold in soybeans
  • Better: Where white mold made itself known in 2023 and how to combat it in 2024
  • Best: The 2023 white mold outbreak in Indiana & Illinois: Why it happened and what to do about it in 2024

See the narrowing of the topic?

Imagine you’re a farmer in Indiana or Illinois who battled white mold last year. The content’s analysis, advice, and context feel like it was destined for your inbox. Suddenly, the chance of you clicking on that call to action (CTA) is way higher than if you’d just gotten a generic “how-to” on white mold.

With dialed-in content, all you need now is to segment subscriber lists by geographies, farm size, past purchases – whatever is relevant – when you distribute. The list size might shrink, but open rates and click-through rates will soar.

Pro tip here: Want to scale this tactic up without a ton of extra work?

  1. Write a master white mold article that covers all facets of the disease.
  2. Create shorter blog posts (most of the same content, but 50-75% of the length) with slightly different, tailored details. Base these new angles on what different geographies or audiences experienced.
  3. Those shorter, more specific posts live in the email, but your CTA points back to the broader piece on your blog or resource center. There, you can feed them recommendations on top products that combat the disease.

2. Get Actionable

I’m all for an insights-packed, “punch in your face” content newsletter. Building trust, authority, and audiences are pillars of email marketing.

But ultimately, all of our email efforts areshouldneed to be judged on their ROI abilities.

And I know the pushback I’ll get is “we don’t want to be too salesy…” – ya, ya, I get it.

I, too, just want to read about the See & Spray tech without getting a $100K sprayer shoved down my digital inbox throat.

But after sending a lot of emails with my team (to the tune of over 2 million), I’ve noted that if you lead with 95% value and use 5% of the email to sell, you’re doing your job.

That ratio satisfies top-of-the-funnel readers who just want to learn about the latest See & Spray tech without feeling pressured. At the same time, it gently scratches the conversion itch for bottom-of-the-funnel folks ready to take action.

Take note of these newsletter examples I mentioned earlier:

Lead with value, but end with a conversion – of some sort. You’re doing a disservice to yourself (and the entire marketing function!) if you don’t make an effort to move more leads down the funnel.

In some cases, that’s simply moving a reader to sales or product collateral. In other cases, it’s getting them to request a demo or reach out to a service provider or dealer. And in some e-commerce corners of agriculture, it’s actually making a sale (oh what fun!)

The CTA decision all depends on your business. But the goal is that every email has some sort of opportunity to take action. Make sure you don’t miss this step.

And if you have in the past, don’t sweat. I’m right there with you – guilty as charged. 🙋🏻‍♂️

3. Get human

I know this might make some corporate marketers cringe, but I’m shooting it straight:

An overly professional, corporate tone of voice will put farmers to sleep faster than a warm glass of milk, counting 200 sheep, or listening to that one Ag Econ professor drone on about macro pricing trends.

Their thumbs will begin to scroll or swipe before finishing the first sentence.

We all do it: over-correcting and sounding overly professional because it, unfortunately, gets ingrained in our psyche.

And I know there has to be some middle ground here – I don’t expect big, public ag companies to start slingin’ slang or farming phrases like they’re drinking Miller Lite on the bed of a tailgate (wouldn’t that be fun though…).

But there has to be some give and take. Making a super clear point in a relatable voice should be the goal. Helping a farmer either (1) take action or (2) ruminate on your key points for days to come is the key.

Good content reflects this. Let’s take another look at Nick Horob’s content. Here’s a direct quote from a reader:

  • “Nick’s advice and guidance have helped my farm navigate the volatile and emotional cycles of the last six years. I highly recommend his common-sense approach.”

Makes sense. Just check out this content clip from Nick:

Here’s some social proof on the Van Trump Report, too:

  • With over 20 years of experience trading professionally at the CME, CBOT, and KCBOT, Kevin is able to “connect the dots” and simplify the complex moving parts associated with today’s markets in a thought-provoking yet easy-to-read format.

We all need to make our content more approachable.

Connect your company’s boots on the ground (your sales team, agronomists, technical support vets, whoever) with your content. They could almost serve as quasi-editors, helping you sniff out the corporate speak.

This is really more “content” advice, but there are a few ways this translates to email specifically:

  • Sender name: Most email platforms let you customize the “from” line. Ditch the generic company name and get personal! Use something like “Jen from Acme Co.” instead of just “Acme Co.”
  • Localize your intros: Marketing teams often have control over content, but loosen the reins a bit. Let regional folks add their flair. For instance, if you’re sending an email to Oklahoma ranchers, let Bob, your Oklahoma rep, write a 3-4 sentence intro. He’s the local face of your company, and farmers will appreciate hearing his “voice” in their inbox. (Don’t worry, you can still have final say!)
  • Reply-to magic: Lots of people rely on open rates and clicks as metrics of success in email marketing. But I’ll jump on the Ann Handley train and say that if you can get people to ACTUALLY reply to your email, you’re winning this game. [Read her post here: The One Email Metric To Track]..
  • Content that connects:

    • Feature employee social media posts that resonate with farmers.
    • Include real-life pictures from the field (with actual people in them, not just crops!).

I’ve got more “get human” tactics in my bag of email tricks, but I’ll save those for another time.

For now, let’s make email marketing for farmers less stuffy and more about building real – human – connections. They’ll thank you for it.

— — — — —

As you plan out your content strategy for the year ahead, try to keep these 3 hacks in mind. And hit reply with how you’ve made your email content stand out (see what I did there?).

💼 ⭐️ Open Ag Marketing Gigs

Here’s a new section for all of you job or gig hunters! Every month, I’ll post a new batch of roles (both full-time and contract) that are floating around the industry.

*If you’ve got one you want to feature to our 280+ readers/marketers, simply email it to me at travis.martin@imagine-content.com or DM me on LinkedIn.

Need a little extra help with all things content? Chat with us at Imagine Content to discuss how we help ag brands build trust, authority, and audiences. We’ve worked with 25+ ag brands on content strategy + execution, SEO, design, and content analytics. Get in touch to see past work and share where you’re needing help.

Or, do you need a little more design capacity? Subscribe to our simple, unlimited design service to support your existing graphic designers or utilize an outsourced team.

Digital content links worth sharing:

1. Content development continues to be a beast.

From the folks over at Keap & their ‘The State of Business Growth in 2024’ report:

My takeaway: Content is easier than ever and harder than ever.

2. Google be googlin’

The “g-word” is at it again: SEO updates, SGE timelines, and more. But I do really like Search Engine Land’s piece on how notability and transparency matter in the new-ish E-E-A-T framework.

3. Grow that brand – or personal – LinkedIn audience

LinkedIn is my channel of choice to grow my personal audience + I study it for some of the B2B brands I work with for their non-farmer, more agribusiness audiences. If you’re the same, check out these solid insights on Engagement Rate Data and Top-Performing Content Insights via Social Insider.

That’s all for this month, folks!