Are you leaving money on the table? Email marketing is one of the most significant revenue-generating activities that many green industry businesses are not taking advantage of. It could be that green industry business owners don’t realize that email marketing still has a huge ROI. For every dollar you spend on email marketing you can expect $32 in return (DMA, 2018). Sounds like a win, doesn’t it?

It could be that the time and technology needed seem like an insurmountable hurdle. While that might have been true ten years ago, it’s not anymore. Anyone can quickly and easily create mobile-friendly emails and add sign up forms to their websites using any of the many email service providers available.

Maybe it seems like there’s nobody to email to. That’s not the case, either. Current customers and people we meet at industry events are all good leads for email marketing (as long as you asked about adding them to your list).

And last, maybe you’re afraid of seeming spammy. When done the right way, email marketing isn't spamming; it’s helpful!

Here’s how to quick start your email marketing program.

Choose an Email Service Provider (ESP)
You can’t send bulk emails from your Outlook or Gmail account. You need an ESP to manage your email list for you so that your emails get delivered and so that you comply with federal CAN-SPAM laws. An ESP also makes managing your list easy, and when something is easy, you’re more likely to do it.

We recommend MailChimp because it is free for up to 2,000 email address/list members (subscribers), they have an easy to use website, great tutorials, good email deliverability (so your emails will reach inboxes), and helpful live chat for paid accounts. Paid accounts start at $10/month.

Set up your List
Within your ESP you’ll be able to set up your list and customize:
From name (so people know it is from your business)
From email address (should be something like — do not use a Gmail or Outlook address)
Your postal mailing address (required by CAN-SPAM laws)
Your signup form (recommended to request only first name and email address for signup)
Your confirmation or thank you email and confirmation page

It’s very quick to set up your lists, and all ESPs have great video tutorials and articles that will show you how to do this.

Import or Add List Members
Once the list is set up, you can upload list members. If you have an Excel sheet of your current customers (people who have purchased from you within the last year), you may upload those. You may also upload anyone you have emailed in the previous six months to a year during your initial import.

All ESPs allow for bulk upload from a .csv or excel file, and you can also add contacts one at a time.

Add an Opt-in (Signup) Form to your Website
Your ESP will give you what is called “embed code” to add your signup form to your website. If you have a web developer, merely tell them that you’re starting an email marketing program and give them your login information. They can pull the form code for you. If you manage your website, both your ESP and your website content platform should have videos showing how to add form code to your site.

Always include a headline such as “Sign up for our E-Newsletter) and make sure to add the following text wherever the form is displayed:

How often you will send emails (weekly, monthly, twice a month)
What will be in the emails (availability, specials, what’s looking good)

Create an Editorial Calendar
Once you have your ESP set up and your opt-in forms added to the website, it’s time to start your program. Begin by creating an editorial calendar. Unless you’re sending weekly availability or “what’s looking good”  emails, sending once or twice per month is enough for most green industry businesses.

Plan at least four months worth of emails at a time so that you can batch create your content and build your emails, save for last minute additions.

It’s a good idea to work around major holidays or industry events as you plan so that you don’t send something crucial while everyone is at a trade show.

On the editorial calendar, define the:

Send date of the email
The goal of email (get people to place an order, visit, schedule a consultation, request a quote)
The primary type of product or service to highlight
Materials needed (pictures of plants, price lists, graphics)

Keep in mind that, for email programs to be successful, you should provide valuable information to your customers in each email. Think about what will help make their job or their life easier or more enjoyable. “Helpful information” differs between audiences. A landscape contractor will inform customers about different things than a landscape designer or a grower.

Look at the calendar to make sure you’re happy with the mix of emails planned and the dates.

Create Your Emails
It is much easier to get marketing emails out on time if you batch create them. Plan a morning or evening to sit down and develop drafts of several months of email campaigns.

Create one email with your logo, brand colors, and font choices and then copy it to make the subsequent emails. Once you have an email setup you like, you can also save it as a template, but the fastest, most straightforward thing to do is to “copy the campaign” or “duplicate email” for the next email. You also don’t have to change the colors in the email. Just add your logo and start adding text and pictures.

Pro tip: If you want to send people to LandscapeHub to order, make sure you put a link and a logo in the email to encourage online ordering. That is a definite way to boost ROI.

Name each email with the topic and send date so that you can keep them organized. Fill in as much content as you can. Maybe you’re doing a weekly availability email. If you can write your subject line “XYZ Nursery Availability Week XXX,” put a little note at the top of the email, and set up your content blocks so you can just drop in a few pictures of what’s looking good and a link to the list, you will be poised to finish and send the email quickly when it’s time.

Pro tip: Always include a clear call to action (CTA) in your email. Ask people to reply, call for a quote, order online, and so forth.

Build Your List
While you’re at trade shows or networking events, collect business cards. Make sure to ask the person, “May I add you to our email list?” A little trick is to carry a sharpie and write “email” on the back of the card. You can even tell the person that’s what you’re doing. “I always ask people if I may add them to our list because I don’t want to add anyone who doesn’t want to receive communications from us.” That helps build trust with your subscribers, and they’ll be more likely to open your emails.

Stay on Schedule
The best way to have a high-performing email marketing program is to be consistent. You’ll train your subscribers to expect emails from you at certain times, and they’ll be less likely to mark your emails as spam.

Batch-building your emails is an efficient way to get your emails done and help you stay on schedule.

You can make an email marketing program very complicated or very simple. Simple will still make you money. The important thing is to get started and stay on schedule, so you’re always top of mind for your customers.