How could email marketing benefit your dairy diversification?
The dairy industry has long suffered from low profits and the whims of large supermarkets. Dairy farmers across the country have had to give up their herd due to the pressures of increasing costs, TB and low profit margins. Adding value to your milk through dairy diversification can be a saving grace for many dairy farms. But dairy diversification and direct selling require a marketing strategy, and one often overlooked option is email marketing.
When considering marketing channels for your dairy diversification, you may end up focusing on social media platforms and forget to consider alternative channels of communication. However, social media is not the be-all and end-all of marketing, and just because you use social media to market your farm, this doesn’t mean there are not other marketing channels that could also benefit your dairy diversification.
Email marketing was once a very popular marketing channel and is still used successfully by many businesses, but the increasing pressure of GDPR compliance and ever stronger junk/spam filters mean that many small businesses tend to avoid email marketing. This doesn’t mean email marketing doesn’t have value in your dairy business, but its role must be carefully considered, and email marketing should be used in a targeted way rather than the more traditional blanket approach.
Creating an audience for email marketing
The key to successful email marketing is having the right audience and for some businesses, developing an email marketing list can be difficult. Ideally, you need to be able to capture customers’ details at every purchase. Regardless of what dairy diversification business you have, it is likely you take orders via card payment; this could be via online payments, retail transactions or at events. These orders and transactions should provide a wealth of customer data to use in marketing.
You will need to consider how you remain compliant with data protection laws such as GDPR. It is worth noting that despite us leaving the EU, the UK doesn’t currently have its own replacement for GDPR, so working to those rules is the best option until such time as new processes are announced. If you are a member of FSB, they can provide advice on this, and we would also recommend further reading through the ICO website, which oversees data protection concerns for the government.
Broadly speaking, there are two main routes to being able to contact someone. Firstly, opting in, which has to be an informed decision by the individual to agree to be contacted by the business. You can get this through a tick box at purchase, a sign-up form, or in a follow-up email. Secondly, you can contact someone on a lawful/reasonable basis. For this, the person doesn’t have to have opted in, but there are limits to the type/quantity of emails you can send, and it’s generally a greyer area in terms of compliance.
The lawful basis available to your dairy diversification will depend on who you are contacting, where you got their information, and why you are contacting them. The most common reason for contacting someone is likely to be “current customer”. If the individual has purchased from you in the last two years and has provided their email address, then you can contact them under this lawful basis. However, once two years have lapsed since their last purchase, you must stop.
If your dairy diversification is looking to target wholesale routes to market, then the rules are slightly different as you will be contacting businesses rather than individuals. The rules are somewhat more relaxed, but we still recommend reading up on this through either the FSB or ICO. If you are a member of other groups such as the CLA or NFU, they may also have an advisory team to assist on this topic.
What to promote in your dairy diversification through email marketing
Email marketing works best when your audience feel like they are treated as VIPs. Ideally, you want to ensure you can record as much data about each contact’s preferences as possible. For example, if you are a cheese business that produces different types of cheese, try to record which cheese each contact has a preference for. There is no point in marketing a new blue cheese to a contact who doesn’t like blue cheese or can’t eat it for a dietary reason, for example.
The level of data you have will develop over time, and you can take opportunities to review and improve data by asking contacts to complete surveys or by tracking their purchases, amongst other options.
Your email marketing should include exclusive news, such as early access to sales, alongside educational contact that will engage your audience. You want to ensure that your audience sees the value in opening and reading your emails, even if they aren’t thinking of making a purchase. For example, you could include recipe ideas using your products, or if you offer tours on your farm, you could offer early access or exclusive dates for your subscribers.
You can also use your emails to show your customers you value their opinion, for example, offering them the chance to vote on two versions of a new product line. Maybe you do flavoured yoghurt and can give subscribers the chance to submit ideas for new flavours.
Many of these content ideas can also be replicated on your other marketing channels such as social media, but make sure you prioritise your email list first. For example, if your email list gives you the ideas for the flavours, you could then do a final vote between two options on your social media.
How email marketing helps your dairy diversification to make more money
Initially, your email marketing should be focused on engagement and relationship building, as this will encourage more customers to sign up and to open/read your emails regularly. If you just use email marketing to push sales, then customers will likely become bored and stop opening them.
Once you have created that relationship and improved the data you have on each customer, you can use that to cross- or upsell products to your audience. For example, if you know they have recently bought a specific product, you can send them an offer for a complementary product or service.
Making your customers feel valued increases brand loyalty and encourages them to promote you to others. This in turn brings in further income, but it is hard to track these increases as a clear cause and effect.
Cross- and upselling are easier for you to track and allows you to increase the value of each customer. This includes re-engaging customers who have not purchased for some time. For example, if a customer only tends to purchase seasonally, consider how you might encourage them to purchase at other times of year. This could be a special offer or encouraging them to try a new product that is in season at other times of year.
Choosing the right software
There is a huge range of email marketing software providers out there and each will have their pros and cons. Many people start with platforms such as Mailchimp. This is a good idea if you are new to email marketing, but personally, I find Mailchimp somewhat overpriced and restrictive. Once you are more confident using email marketing, I suggest swapping to software that offers more flexibility and clear data records; for example, we use InTouch.