A huge email list mistake

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Thanks for Listening!

Hey there, thanks for joining me again this week. So it’s digital marketing week here on the Small Farm Nation podcast. Digital marketing, or online marketing, is when we cover websites, social media, email marketing and so on.

And this week we’re talking list building.  Now, list building is just the phrase used to describe the practice of building your email list. That’s the “list” we’re talking about.

And today I want to cover a critical mistake—a huge mistake that almost everyone makes. Not just farmers, but I’d say over 90% of ALL businesses. And I don’t want you to continue making that mistake, so we’re gonna set you on the right path today.

Because, as you no doubt know why now, building a thriving, engaged list of email subscribers is hugely important to the success of your business.


Like, way more important than getting followers on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Twitter and elsewhere. Because, in my view, the purpose of those social platforms is primarily to just funnel people into your email list.

That way you can drive them back to your site—the property that YOU own. That’s where you’re going to create brand loyalty and drive sales, not on social platforms.

So, to understand this big mistake you’re likely making let’s walk through the most common approaches to list building.

Now, the good news is that most people have an email capture form on their websites.

I say “most people” but I just did a search, for fun, on CSA farm in a particular city. And I clicked on four farm websites. Three of them had NO visible way to sign-up for an email, and the one that did had a text line that said “join our email list.” A text line that was impossible to see unless you read every word on the page.

So then I clicked on the fifth, then the sixth search results. And neither of them displayed an email capture form! What the heck! How do these farms expect to market to potential customers if they don’t even ASK for their email address?

Please tell me that you have a HIGHLY VISIBLE email capture form on your site.

In most cases in the farming community, the email capture form simply says, “sign up for our newsletter” or something like that.

And that’s a big problem in itself, because signing up for a newsletter isn’t much of an incentive to the visitor. It might have worked—oh—in 1999. But it’s not much of a reason to sign up today when we all have overflowing inboxes. Basically each of these sites committed many of the 12 Fatal Flaws of Farm Websites I talked about last month.

But that’s not the big mistake I want to focus on today.

The mistake, and the opportunity, I want to concentrate on today is what happens AFTER someone signs up for your list.

Because here’s what normally happens. And it’s exactly what happened when I signed up for the one email list opportunity on the search results I just mentioned.

The form simply said, “Subscribe. Sign up with your email address to receive news and updates.”

bad opt-in form

So I entered an email address. And once I did the form was replaced with two simple words: “thank you!”

bad opt-in form


I wasn’t redirected anywhere. And, of course, my email address wasn’t verified because I just entered a@b.com as an email address. So, as a site visitor, I simply see that message and continue on my way, likely to another site.

So, what should have happened?

I should have been directed to a “Thank You” page. And to see an example of exactly how this should work, go to smallfarmnation.com/habits and download my free guide, the 7 Marketing Traits of Highly Successful Farms. When you sign up you’ll immediately be taken to a thank you page. Check it out for yourself at smallfarmnation.com/habits

Now, let me tell you why this thank you page is so important. And listen up here.

This “Thank You” page is the ONLY time that you are 100% guaranteed your new subscriber will see your message. It is the ONLY time. This is your ONLY opportunity to be absolutely certain you are communicating with this new subscriber, this new potential customer who has shared his or her email address with you.


Because many people who sign-up never even see your confirmation emails, or your follow-up emails. That’s for any number of reasons.

Often it’s simply because Gmail or their email service provider puts your message in a promotional or SPAM folder. So, let’s say you use Mailchimp and you’ve set up an auto-responder to email new subscribers to confirm their email address. If that confirmation email goes into a promotional or junk folder, the subscriber never sees it.

And the person quickly forgets about you.

Now, let’s compare this to what happens when you create a proper thank you page.

What happens after they submit the form is that they are directed to a thank you page on YOUR website. So you still have them there. Then, on that thank you page, you can start a conversation with them.

Again, this is the only message from you that you can be 100% certain the new subscriber sees. Because they’re directed here when they sign up.

So, what should be on the thank you page? That’s up to you, of course. And again, you can see what I do by just going to smallfarmnation.com/habits and grabbing my guide, the 7 Marketing Traits of Highly Successful Farms.

But here are some ideas for your thank you page:

  1. Start by thanking them for subscribing. It is a “thank you” page, after all. On my pages I start with “Thanks! Your FREE DOWNLOAD is on its way to your mailbox!” That way they remember to check their inbox. Now after that heading on the thank you page, I write, “Here’s what to do next…”
  2. And what I recommend you list then, as your first point, is to ask the person to check their inbox. If you offered a lead magnet let them know you emailed it to them. And to encourage them to check every corner of their inbox, including promotional tabs and junk folders. Ask them to move your message to their “primary” folder and to add your email address to their “safe senders” list. All this is very important so that they’ll receive your follow-up messages.
  3. Second, if you have testimonials, you may want to display them on this page. But if you do, I’d put them near the bottom after this next point.
  4. Call them to action. There are a number of things you can do here. First and most simple is to direct them to your social pages. Just say “follow us on Facebook,” with a link to your Facebook page, and repeat that for any platforms you want to invite them to. You could also display your top blog posts or web pages and invite them to click those to deepen their relationship with you. But another call-to-action could be to make an offer. This could be a coupon for your physical or online farm store, or call them to sign-up for your CSA. Or something else.

The point is that you now have their attention, on your thank you page. And they clearly are interested in a relationship with you, because they signed up for your list. In addition to having testimonials on the page you could display a video. Of course this could include testimonials, but it should be a high quality video of you welcoming them into a relationship with you. Show them who you are, what you’re all about and how you hope to make their lives better. Just don’t miss this hugely important opportunity to thank them, tell them what to expect next and CALL THEM TO ACTION. The call to action could be:

  • Register for an upcoming event.
  • Join your CSA or delivery club.
  • A promotion, such as to visit you at the farmers market and bring “this” coupon.
  • Ask them to complete a survey so you can gather market research.
  • Share buttons (and an incentive) to share your sign-up form with others.
  • Offer an introductory product.
  • Add links to your most popular content or the content you want to share. This could be blog posts, but could also be pages such as frequently asked questions.

Do not be afraid to call your visitor to action. I know this doesn’t “sound good” or, perhaps, not even politically correct. But we all want to be told what to do on some level. We may not agree, of course, but as humans, we’re looking for clarity and direction. It’s your job to give it. Tell the visitor what you want them to do. Here’s what I mean…I want you to go to smallfarmnation.com/habits and download my free guide, the 7 Marketing Traits of Highly Successful Farms. Then you can see what a well-designed thank you page looks like. There. I called you to action. Now clearly you don’t have to act, and most of you won’t. But as marketers (and if you own a business, you’re a marketer) it’s our job to call our supporters to act. So if you’re making this mistake with your email list of not having a well-designed thank you page, and I’m 95% sure you are, you now know what to do and how to fix it. And when you do, you’ll not only start your relationship off with your new subscriber professionally, but you won’t blow the opportunity to make sure they actually get to read your messages.

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Thanks for listening. Until next time!


Small Farm Nation creates beautiful farm websites and offers online farm marketing courses that help farmers grow profitable farm businesses.