Focus on particular areas to build a base of knowledge locally, then expand into adjacent areas.
Bringing micro-irrigation technology (MIT) to market in developing countries requires a different approach than traditional sales techniques that focus on making a product available everywhere in massive quantities. Part of the reason for this is that MIT isn’t an impulse purchase for smallholder farmers. As discussed elsewhere in this site, the purchasing decision requires the farmer to change his or her behavior—switching from traditional watering methods to a more precise application that requires learning a new way to evaluate whether the crop is receiving enough water.
To make that change, a farmer has to believe in and understand the technology.
Thus, rather than trying to market the technology everywhere at once, iDE focuses on particular areas and customers to build a base of knowledge and experience locally with the equipment, then expanding into adjacent areas. Using centralized demonstration plots, iDE can both show and train farmers on the correct installation and maintenance of MIT.
When promoting the technology, wide-ranging mass market advertising (i.e., radio and TV spots) were found to be the least successful in generating sales. The successful strategies were demonstrations organized at universities and other organizations, participation in trade fairs, hosting events, and puppet shows near market centers.
Each country program planned its own strategy, then revised the strategy based on feedback and consultation with our sales partner, Whitten & Roy Partnership (WRP).
Case Study: Nicaragua
Nicaragua’s strategy was to find a starting territory that had the greatest market potential, where there existed many producers who grew a crop that needs a lot of water. Based on that area, two more “prime” territories contiguously located were identified and added to the sales coverage area one at a time, incorporating lessons learned from each previous area.
Because iDEal is a small team, the selected areas needed to remain within close proximity to iDEal’s headquarters as well as the homes of iDEal’s Regional Coordinators, to reduce travel time and be most cost-effective when working in the field. The selection process for retailers intended to maximize coverage (“penetration” in an area) and minimize competition.
Case Study: Burkina Faso
Referrals were seen as the key for Burkina Faso. The goal was to start with farmer networks to proactively get referrals and recommendations to meet and present to family, friends, and acquaintances. Sales agents were encouraged to systematically see all of these people before doing market days.
Installations were seen as a way of generating sales, as it was the perfect time to demonstrate the technology and collect the names of nearby neighbors. Additional referrals were collected from every sale and used as the next prospects to approach.
Finally, service calls, which were frequently just a check-in with current producers, were seen as an additional opportunity to request referrals.
Initially, Burkina Faso tried to cover too much territory. After an evaluation, the program focused resources in Ouagadougou and Koudougou to have the greatest amount of oversight and influence on the sales agents, reducing the time spent traveling.
Case Study: Vietnam
Six project areas were identified in the South Central Region based on the hydrogeologic characteristics that included long dry seasons (six to nine months), low annual rainfall (400-700 millimeters), sandy, infertile soil, threat of groundwater saline intrusion, and threat of desertification. Economic characteristics considered included the poverty ratio in an area along with the potential to reach a large number of families. Finally, surveys were conducted to see how farmers were currently irrigating to identify the areas with inefficient irrigation, high labor costs, and instances of water scarcity that affects annual yields.