Case Study: How Prairie Homestead Grew Their List to 50,000 Homesteaders Strong
How do you grow and tend to a widespread audience and still find time to milk the cows? Email marketing.
By Kristen Dunleavy June 2, 2015
Jill Winger lives in the middle of nowhere – and she loves it. The self-proclaimed homesteader and her family reside on a working farm in the southeast corner of Wyoming, 30+ miles away from the nearest grocery store. And yet Jill connects with 50,000 people every day all over the world, thanks to email marketing.
From Farm to Laptop
Jill wasn’t always a homesteader. In fact, it wasn’t until she and her husband purchased a 67-acre farm in 2008 that she developed an interest in gardening… then building a compost pile… then keeping dairy animals. She wanted to spread her growing love of modern homesteading to the rest of the world, so she started a blog in 2012.
Since Jill hadn’t set out to be a blogger (it turns out that homesteading is pretty time-consuming), she didn’t actively try to grow her audience beyond using an RSS feed. Besides, there were cows to be milked. “I didn’t understand the value of an email list for the longest time,” she said. “It took forever to get my first 1,000 subscribers.”
The Power of the Incentive Offer
The release of Jill’s first free ebook marked the turning point for her email marketing success. Why? A free incentive offer in exchange for an email address is a powerful and effective marketing tool, as Jill quickly learned. An ebook covering a hot topic with useful content is a double-whammy. Jill’s ebook was about essential oils, a topic that just so happened to be gaining massive popularity. Those early readers got hooked and continued coming back for more.
Saving Time with Email
As The Prairie Homestead started gaining more and more followers, Jill experimented with different ways of getting the word out about her business. Naturally, one of those ways was social media. “I used to spend a crazy amount of time on Facebook,” Jill admitted. “I tried to manipulate the Facebook algorithm. It was tricky. Then I focused on email instead, and now I don’t need to spend nearly as much time on social.” The trick was using social to promote her content and using it together with email marketing – not relying solely on social media for her success.
Content That Goes the Extra Mile
One of Jill’s most recent email newsletters was opened by more than 12,000 people. She attributes her awesome open rates to a steady stream of reader feedback that has helped improve her email content over time. “I used to send full blog posts as they were published,” she said. “They weren’t getting big open rates and I got spam complaints, so I ditched the daily post format in favor of weekly emails and it’s been very successful ever since.”
Email marketing also gives Jill the chance to get extra mileage out of her content. For example, her Homestead Toolbox Newsletter lets her repurpose older blog posts that her new subscribers may otherwise miss. Jill focuses on creating engaging, useful content (check out her welcome email below), so she only spends about an hour each week creating her newsletter. That means less time in front of a screen and more time running the farm.
Jill’s next step for The Prairie Homestead is growing it into a nationally known brand. Her advice for other email marketers out there? “Don’t give up! It can be tough when you’re first starting out. I still have flops. Keep experimenting, and eventually you’ll land on that winning formula.”
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