Why my favourite mailing list isn’t even a mailing list

That’s because it’s a BCC list. It’s from my local farm and gets sent to 20 people who live in the area. It doesn’t even use newsletter software like Mailchimp (gasp). I’ve drawn a lot of great email design inspiration from it over the years.

There’s no on-exit modal, conversion-oriented landing page, or 154-page PDF bonus on their WIX website.

In fact, you can’t even sign up for it online. You have to be at the farm, pay for your veggies and then fill in the piece of paper attached to a clipboard. And then, within a week (or three), you’ll maybe start to get the emails (if they remember to BCC you).

All that said, I love this newsletter so freaking much. It’s even inspired my own.

It’s an example of perfection in email marketing. The woman who writes it isn’t a best-selling author, isn’t a marketer, and probably spends very little time online because she’s busy being a full-time farmer. But still, even though writing newsletters isn’t her “job” she makes sure it happens consistently every week—even though the list consists of only 20 people. And here’s why I love it:

  1. It’s 100% useful. I get this newsletter the day before the farm has its Saturday market. So I know exactly what they’ll be selling and I can decide if I want to go, or how early I’ll line up (if they mention some veggies are in short supply… and there’s always a line-up). I get the email when I need it, eager to know what’s in store for the market the next day.

  2. It’s 100% consistent. I get it every Friday night during the selling season. No excuses, no exceptions. One time the lady who writes it was away so the other farmer wrote it—and it was just as good.

  3. It’s 100% hilarious. I laugh out loud every time I read it. You’d think selling organic, heirloom veggies and homemade pastries could be somewhat boring or monotonous, but they tell a great story every single time. Everything from saving cows to mobster zucchinis. It’s the only newsletter I stop whatever I’m doing to read start-to-finish. It just goes to show you can put your personality into and create interest in anything.

  4. It’s 100% to the point. There’s no fancy mailing list software, no images, just plain-text with a story followed by a list of the produce that’s available. All bells and whistles have been stripped out (or never added in the first place). I get exactly what I need when I need it.

Let’s look at some excerpts from it, so you can see what I mean:

“Fall is all about crops you can depend on for the long haul: the sturdy rutabaga, the cantankerous carrot, the starchy, stable potato. They are like bulky sweaters for your bellies, comfortable and filling, these vegetables will be sure to hold you over all winter long.

“Josie wants to apologize. It was a dirty trick she played on some of you last Saturday. Honestly Josie, who doesn’t put sugar in a rhubarb galette? And the added lemon juice, how cruel. I’m sure she just forgot folks…sure. It must have been the early morning last Saturday. She’s out of practice and maybe a little vindictive after I left her on her own. She’s trying to make me look bad. But never fear, those who have been wronged will have justice. With your best pucker face, let her know how you feel and she’ll get you a new and shiny galette on the house.

“A calf fell down a well this last weekend. For hours, it must have struggled in the murky water until finally discovered at nightfall. With its head submerged, it had finally stopped struggling and began to sink. Mr. Benson dove in the well after it, pushing its nose up, breaking the water’s surface. With his trusty excavator close by and his friends to the rescue, tediously, they brought the calf on to solid ground. Exhausted, but alive, the calf and its cowboys live to fight another day.

“These zucchini are getting too big for their stripes and outgrowing their egos. These vegetable mobsters have been taking liberties in the garden, pushing around (and over) our fragile fresh bean crop. Yes, the only common ground these two share…is…well…just that, common ground. This prickled menace will stop at nothing to get under your skin. In retaliation, we’ve taken some of the biggest most vile offenders and made a fresh batch of our famous relish. But, these guys won’t take this lying down (well, they just might). But be warned. Lock up your cars tomorrow, or you just might find a few zucchini thugs lurking in your backseat!

So you see, cultivating an eager mailing list and a captive audience isn’t all about software, funnels, fancy tips and tricks.

It’s about sending interesting and useful content to the people that need it, with consistency. That’s the big great email design inspiration to walk away with.

You don’t have to wait until your audience is massive, or until you have something to sell. You just have to engage with people in a way that benefits both you and them, with a little bit of your personal flare.

Now excuse me while I wait for another Friday and another email from my favourite farmer.