How An Offline Business Gets Online Sales

As you can imagine, farmers aren’t spending too much of their time online. But Earth Fortification Supplies Company (Earthfort), a business that helps with management of soil biology for agriculture, markets to farmers.

So it’s no surprise that most of Earthfort’s subscribers come from offline sources. But what might be a surprise is that Earthfort has a lot of people confirming their subscription and reading their emails, and have 0 complaints on all emails sent thus far.

Earthfort’s goal with email marketing is to increase sales – and that’s exactly what they’re doing.

How do they do it? By doing things right.

Ask Customers To Subscribe

Earthfort gets most of their email subscribers through their soil sample submission forms:



Clients send their soil samples to Earthfort’s lab in Corvallis, Oregon. You’ll notice on the form that there is a box that needs to be checked in order to add someone to the email list. Earthfort isn’t adding everyone that mails in a sample to their list; only people that specifically request to be added get added.

Takeaway: Make sure you ask for permission.

Think of how many mailing lists you’d be on if every single business that had your email address added you to their list. And think about how frustrating it is when businesses add you to their mailing list when you didn’t ask to be.

Have Subscribers Confirm Their Subscription

For both offline and online subscribers, Earthfort sends a confirmation message for people to verify they want to be added:



This confirmation ensures that:
1. You have a valid email address – if you send to email addresses that aren’t valid, it can hurt your sender reputation.
2. The person is really interested – you know they will be more likely to purchase something from you.

On average, over 60% of Earthfort’s new subscribers confirm their subscription.

You can also use the confirmation to get them back on your website. After they click the link to confirm, have them go to a special page on your site that thanks them while also providing easy links to your products and other pages.

Takeaway: Customize your confirmation process. Make sure your confirmation message is clear and personal. If you can, set up a special page for subscribers to land on after they confirm. This page has brought great results for some businesses.

Send Emails Subscribers Want

“We choose to emphasize positive stories and offer information,” says Scott Smith, CEO of Earthfort. “Our content may be an inspirational story of the success on one of our clients, or we may provide technical information or how-to tips.”

This strategy gives Earthfort an open rate average over 70%. That’s pretty high for an audience that spends more time outside than on a computer. Earthfort also lays out what’s in each email:



The content summary at the top makes this perfect for their busy audience. Scott reports an increase in sales whenever an email newsletter is sent out.

Takeaway: Write for your readers. Earthfort markets to farmers. Who do you market to? Make sure you create your emails with these people in mind.

The Biggest Challenge?

There’s always room for improvement. Scott said that Earthfort’s biggest challenge is consistency. “We need to be consistent in communicating (e.g. not miss a regular newsletter update).” That’s a problem many small business owners can relate to, but there are also plenty of tools to help you out.

Another challenge? Getting all their customers to realize Earthfort has an email campaign and its benefits. By incorporating the check box in their submission forms, they’re doing a good job tackling this problem. If you have mostly offline customers, make sure they see your sign up form in your store or office, and talk to them about the benefits.

How Do You Grow Your List Offline?

What do you do to ensure you have valid, interested subscribers added to your list?

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Education Marketing Associate (Crystal Gouldey Moore) on Google

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9 Comments

  1. Crystal, great example. It’s so simple. The only thing I think I would recommend is to make the box a contrasting color – maybe light green or blue – to make the question stand out a bit more.

    May be a way to drive list growth.

    2/12/2013 9:52 am
  2. What if we collect emails offline at farmer marketis but want to bulk load them to our aweber? Would we still need to send a confirmation email even though we asked them in person for permission to be added to our email list?

    Seem like we could lose subscribers.

    2/12/2013 2:38 pm
  3. I have seen some restaurants have a sign up form on an iPad.

    I went skiing this weekend and they asked me for my email address when I rented the skii’s. I was wondering if I would get an email from them with a coupon or a “Thank You” … but I didn’t – talk about a lost opportunity.

    2/12/2013 2:42 pm
  4. Sounds like an effective campaign and technique to use. I’ve helped a barber shop in my city create a site, start an email marketing campaign, and collect the email addresses of people who get their haircut. This has greatly increased his business.

    I think marketing to farmers was a smart idea, and that earthfort has an good marketing campaign going on.

    2/12/2013 7:25 pm
  5. Michael – That’s a good idea for a test!

    Jerry – You can import email addresses into AWeber, but a confirmation message is required. While it’s possible you may lose some subscribers in the process, if they’re really interested they won’t mind clicking on one link to confirm. If someone can’t be bothered to click a link to confirm, they’re probably not going to click a link to purchase something. The confirmation process also helps your deliverability.

    Rishi – Wow, that was a lost opportunity. It will be even worse if they only get around to emailing you after ski season is over.

    2/13/2013 8:37 am
  6. Simple idea but having that signup on the paper forms is a nice easy idea that we will try!

    2/14/2013 5:33 am
  7. Great tips! Very helpful with our business. Since we own an offline business -restaurant-. Thanks for the tips and it was an enjoyable read!

    2/17/2013 10:33 pm
  8. We have been straddling the fence on when to start with Aweber. Reading the above story certainly conveys the idea that we could do they same with our NPO

    2/20/2013 10:47 am
  9. Interesting blog :) I’m glad I came here :)

    5/10/2013 12:37 am

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