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How Dirty Girl Produce Uses Customer Journey Builder to Meet Shoppers Where They Are

After 20 years of selling his crops at restaurants and farmers markets, farmer Joe Schirmer discovered a simplified way to sell what he grows.


  • Industry: Independent farming
  • Location: Santa Cruz County, CA
  • Year founded: 1999

Published: July 27, 2022

In 1999 Joe Schirmer bought a 3-acre farm called Dirty Girl Produce from 2 friends who were burned out on running it. Having already worked there for 2 years, he had a vision for how he could expand the operation—and he did. Over the years, he grew the farm to 40 acres with more than 20 crops and was selling to about 150 restaurants and 10 farmers markets in and around Santa Cruz, Berkeley, and San Francisco.

Although he’d been drawn in by the challenge of farming, after 20 years, it was beginning to wear on him, particularly when it came to selling his produce to restaurants. Sometimes it was difficult to get in touch with the chefs who placed the orders. Other times, those chefs moved on without leaving a new point of contact. Joe found himself chasing down small sums owed to him scattered around town. Those costs added up.

He needed a new strategy, but that was tough to conjure while keeping the farm afloat. “When you’re so immersed, it’s hard to step out of your comfort zone and do things differently,” Joe says.

But when COVID-19 broke out and everything shut down, farmers markets and restaurants included, the opportunity to pivot arrived.

The challenge: Meet customers where they are (without having to be everywhere at once)

“I really wanted to get [Dirty Girl Produce] online—to get us up to speed on technology and how it could really help us,” says Joe. “Then the pandemic forced us into it.”

Joe turned to Barn2Door, a Seattle-based startup that helps farmers digitize their businesses. Barn2Door is a Mailchimp partner and offers a Mailchimp integration, making it easy for farmers to use both platforms to streamline and expand what they do. They revamped Joe’s website, linked it to his store hosted by Barn2Door, and created a Mailchimp account for him.

Barn2Door quickly solved many of Joe’s problems. Now he had a way to communicate directly with his customers, including chefs. His new online store gave them the opportunity to buy produce as it became available, which he notified them about via newsletters. His picked-to-order organic produce had always set Dirty Girl Produce apart, and now it was easy to solicit, process, and fulfill orders fresh from his fields.

With this change, he didn’t have to chase down every chef by phone or in person to collect money he was owed, nor did he have to attend every market to find new customers. Joe’s products were available online where and when his customers wanted them.

As he and his account manager, Miranda Kaopuik, saw success, they decided to try an even more targeted approach.

The tools: Barn2Door + Customer Journey Builder

In August of 2021, sales slowed down. This was typical for Joe’s sales trends, but Miranda had an idea: The new technology at their fingertips might offer a solution. “Joe and I got on a call and I was like, ‘Hey, let’s talk about what kind of customers we want to target right now,” Miranda says.

With the summer vacation season coming to an end, they decided to design a campaign targeting customers who hadn’t bought anything from Dirty Girl Produce in 60 days. Miranda built out an automated workflow with Customer Journey Builder, a highly customizable Mailchimp feature that allows you to automate marketing messages based on how people have (or haven’t) interacted with your business. With just a few clicks, Joe and Miranda could reach their audience at strategic moments, automatically.

For users who hadn’t made a purchase in the last 60 days but had interacted with at least one of Dirty Girl Produce’s last 5 emails, they sent a cheeky email with the subject line “Caught you lookin’ 👀” and a 10% off discount offer.

Six days later, customers on this journey received a follow-up email, with the subject line “❗️Hurry! 10% OFF EXPIRES THIS WEEK,” an effective FOMO (fear of missing out) strategy to incentivize a purchase.

Customers whose records indicated they hadn’t made a purchase in 60 days nor opened any of the last 5 emails were sent on a separate path in the journey. They were sent a first email with the subject line “❗️THIS WEEK ONLY” and the same discount offer.

Six days later, these customers received a second email that also created a sense of urgency, with a “24 HOUR DISCOUNT” subject line.

The result: Boosted sales and even more journeys

In just one week, Miranda and Joe’s first automated customer journey experiment resulted in a ~35% boost in sales from recent previous weeks.

The key was speaking to their customers in a timely, targeted way. For the customers who regularly interacted with Dirty Girl’s marketing, the emails were playful in tone. For those who had strayed further away, the emails created a sense of urgency. Both groups received a strategic follow-up.

“It was really cool to see those results,” says Miranda. “People need to be pinged a couple of times before they end up purchasing.”

So far, Dirty Girl Produce has also used Customer Journey Builder to sell the last of the farm’s tomatoes at the end of the season—targeting all customers who’d bought tomatoes the season before. They also used it to test a new product. Joe and Miranda had seen great success selling farm boxes, which offer customers a family-sized share of what’s fresh that week. When Miranda pointed out that a smaller farm box might be more appealing to people who live alone, they used automations built in Customer Journey Builder to confirm that she was right. Both initiatives resulted in more sales than weeks prior, as well as insights that Joe and Miranda can continue to apply.

Dirty Girl Produce dried goods

“My favorite part about the integration is being able to bring the products directly into those newsletters and campaigns,” says Miranda. Images like those of juicy strawberries, bright rainbow chard, or the cornucopia offered in Joe’s farm box tell customers what’s on offer and give them a direct path to buy. Miranda says that’s important. “The more steps or blockers that you put in front of customers, they're going to get lost.” Instead, Joe’s customers can make a purchase immediately, from wherever they are.

Automating their marketing with Customer Journey Builder also means a more sustainable operation—in all senses—for the produce Joe sells and the people who pick it. His products are picked to order, which prevents waste and saves time. It also gives him a clear indication of what his customers wanted this season, so he can estimate for each season accordingly. Plus, with this and other Mailchimp and Barn2Door features at work, Joe and his team can focus on preparing deliveries instead of chasing business.

“Orders come in by 10 o’clock, and then the next day people are getting stuff that’s picked the day before,” says Joe. “Just having that layer of communication between the customers, it’s been pretty huge.”

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