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Email Marketing Beats Social Media

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As a small food business owner, there are many options for your marketing mix. Many people put too much emphasis on just using social media to get their brand and product noticed. The truth is, email can be the most powerful component of your digital marketing channels, with a larger audience appeal and greater reach.

Everybody has email. Everybody. And, the majority typically check it more than once a day.

Not everybody is on your preferred social platforms, and most are not seeing your posts.

  • An average email open rate is approximately 22%
  • An average social media reach is approximately 6%
  • If you have 200 email subscribers
    • 44 people will open your email
    • 12 Facebook or Instagram fans will see your message

For social media you’re at the mercy of their algorithms in order to achieve a higher organic reach (the ability to see your posts without advertising). With email you can increase your open rate even more by improving your subject lines and having targeted campaign content.

Social media has its purpose, but mostly for creating brand awareness and building community. Email has proven to be more powerful with a higher ROI (return on investment). Through the Inbox, you can drive more people to your website or other online assets, and the click-through rate (people clicking on your links) is significantly higher on email versus social media.

That leads to more conversions to sales:

  • Email marketing – 3.57%
  • Facebook – .07%

You don’t need to get too fancy, but we suggest that you take a look at starting, resurrecting, or improving your email newsletter as a strategic marketing approach.

Email Newsletter Objectives

Objectives for any marketing tactic do not just revolve around sales, although that’s why you market your business, to get to the sales conversation or transaction. With a regular email newsletter, you can have an overarching objective for all emails (e.g. brand awareness), or specific objectives for individual campaigns (e.g. event promotion, customer loyalty).

Here are some key objectives to consider, and you can have more than one for a specific situation:

Drive traffic to your website

Do you have a promotion, or a blog, or an online shop? Maybe a story or video about yourself, an employee, or a client? Get that email reader over to your website to view that, and keep them on your website so they continue to learn more about your food business.

Generate new leads

Leads are new people who may not have heard of you or your product before. Get these people on your email list so they can start to learn how fabulous you and your products are and lead them closer to a sale.

Increase revenue

This is an ideal objective if you sell directly from your website, but you can also entice people to your farmers market stall or a promotion in a local grocery to buy, buy, buy.

Build customer loyalty

There’s nothing better than a happy, repeat customer. Use your email newsletter to rave about your amazing customer tribe and share things just for them (e.g. recipes, discounts)

Reinforce values, branding, positioning

Are you the cool, enviro product brand, or maybe a trusted family brand. With your email newsletter, you can emphasize your values and mission to appeal directly to your target audience, so that you’re top of mind when they’re ready to buy.

Educate and tell stories

Sharing information that is not promotional is the most attractive to a reader. Avoid just selling and promoting all the time, and give your readers something thought provoking or entertaining. They’ll tend to open your emails more often.

Gather customer feedback

Because emails are more visible than social media, you can often get more input from your readers with simple questions that they can quickly respond to (e.g., hit reply with your answer). If they trust you, they’re also more likely to do a quick survey for you.

Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation

As you build the email list and send your newsletter, you must adhere to the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) and receive expressed or implied consent to put email addresses on it (e.g., verbally said they wanted to received your e-newsletter, signed a form, registered for an event, entered a contest).

Your e-newsletter must also be formatted to comply with CASL and include:  

  • your business name
  • a current mailing address and either a phone number, email or website address
  • accurate contact information that will be valid for at least 60 days after you send the message
  • an easy unsubscribe process

This information shows that you’re a real business and you’re being transparent and compliant.

List Building Ideas

Building your email list is an ongoing routine. The more you continue to grow your list, the more people you’ll engage with and the more impactful your email marketing will become.

Start with in-person activities

  • Pen and paper/clipboard at farm gate, farmers markets, and other events
  • Ask someone in a conversation. “Hey would you like to receive our email updates?”

QR Codes

  • Link to a newsletter signup on your website (or email service provider account)
  • Have one on your phone – “Get on the list to receive great food info!”
  • Put one on your business card – “Sign up for our latest news”
  • Print it on a sign, poster, flyer
    • Enter a contest!
    • Get a free…
      checklist, recipes, health tips, or other
      free item in exchange for email.
    • Discounts and promotions
  • Social Media
    • Use posts to entice people to signup for your amazing newsletter
    • Incentives like coupons and discounts also work,
  • Contests are enticing but keep them short timeline, and frequent.
    • So, not a contest all summer. Keep people interested, so maybe try one weekly.
Farm Food Drink QR Code for Signup

Website options

  • Buttons and links to sign up forms
  • Pop-ups on the screen to sign up

Your Newsletter Structure

Consider yourself a publisher when planning out your e-newsletter – both the structure and time-frame. Just like a newspaper or your favourite magazine, develop and commit to a specific layout that readers will come to recognize and send it on a regular basis. Most email service providers have template that can help you do this.

Image by freepik

Each edition of your e-newsletter should include the following:

Subject Line

This is what gets people to open your email. You can be consistent with something like “Your Company Name Weekly News”, or relate to something within the content of the newsletter – “Exciting New Flavour to Try”.


The meat of your newsletter is what you want to share, talk about, or promote. Make it simple and easy to consume. No fancy words. No jargon or acronyms. Be friendly and personable and talk to that one person reading your email. “You will love this new flavour!”

Depending on your business and what you want to share, you may have one or more messages/stories. For example, you may have a weekly promotion as one story, and education piece for another, and upcoming events to close it.

Graphics & Photos

We are highly visual society, so graphics and images are imperative for your e-newsletter. Make sure your logo is somewhere so your brand is consistently shown. When using photos, try to use your own whenever possible. Take them year-round and build a library.

  • Pics of your product
  • Pics of you selling product
  • Pics of people eating product
  • Pics of people making product
  • Pics of people having fun
  • Pics of pets, kids, nature, neighbourhood

And, occasionally hire a photographer to get perfect product and people images for your advertising, website, and other marketing assets.

Don’t wait, take photos now! [updated]

We’re in a season where farms and plantings look their best. It’s a great opportunity to visually capture your growing products or ingredients and build your marketing assets for year-round promotions. For food processors, you’re likely into your high production season, sourcing from vendors, and selling at farm markets, etc. These are all great photo opportunities.

Call to Action

You should always have some sort of call to action, and it doesn’t have to be to provide their credit card for a sale.

  • Send them to your website – for blog posts, recipes, ecommerce page, events, contests, etc.
  • Invite to events – to the market this Saturday, at the festival – “look for our tent’, etc.
  • Download a coupon or ‘Use this discount code…’.
  • Ask for feedback – What do you like best about our product? Where do you buy it? Please share this email to spread our story?
  • Ask for reviews – Google, social media, etc.
  • Buttons and links to sign up forms
  • Pop-ups on the screen to sign up

Email Newsletter Providers

There are dozens, maybe hundreds of providers. Instead of managing your list from a document and sending from your Gmail or Outlook account, it’s recommended to use one of the established providers. You can link to their site to build your email list; they manage the unsubscribes so you don’t have to. There are templates and features to make you look top-notched, and more advanced options as you get more sophisticated with your marketing.

No matter which one you choose, you will need to spend some time learning how to use it. Most of the following providers have either tutorials, or great customer service to help you get started and keep going.

At Farm Food Drink, we’ve been using Constant Contact for many years, and are happy with the platform, but here are a few more to research and consider. 


  • Look for Small Business Solutions
  • Has a free option

Constant Contact

  • Focus on Email Marketing and Email Templates to start
  • Has a free trial, then $17/month


  • Look at Email Marketing and Newsletter Editors
  • Has a free option

Website Platforms

Some website platforms like SquareSpace, Wix, or Weebly have email marketing features in their systems. Even Shopify can get you started on your email marketing.

If you’ve spent time learning all about your social media platforms and how to use them, it’s time to make a deeper commitment to an email marketing plan. It’s powerful, and effective, and doesn’t have to be complicated.

An email newsletter can do so much for your business. Even if you have a mall list (under 50 people), they’re waiting to hear from you, so get your news out there.

If you’re struggling with any of this, or have a grand plan to publish a newsletter but not sure where to start, contact us to discover how you can develop or improve your email strategy with the Farm Food Drink team.  

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