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Be creative when optimizing your human resources, and always try to generate ways to PULL demand rather than PUSH.
Greenlight Planet faced a unique challenge when promoting their line of low-cost, solar-powered lanterns in India. Almost every person who saw the Sun King™ in action wanted one for themselves, but getting the word out using traditional forms of mass communication proved challenging. People who had never been exposed to kerosene alternatives had difficulty conceptualizing solar lighting through radio advertisements, printed fliers, billboards, and wall paintings. The promotional collateral could describe the futures and benefits of the product, but it was nearly impossible to understand how the product worked and how it could be incorporated into daily life.
To create a buzz that was long-lasting, Greenlight Planet built a large team of sales agents to canvass the country and physically demonstrate the tangible features of the Sun King™ product. However, they didn’t employ a total market coverage approach. Instead, when they launched in a new district, Greenlight Planet would send a small reconnaissance team to find a small number of customers (say 3 for a population of 1500). The sales team was strategic in their choice of customer. They were looking for influencers in the community — people whose opinions mattered, whether they were school teachers or local politicians or police chiefs. These sales might be the hardest sell for the team, but it was important for the agents to be persistent. Once they successfully sold a few Sun King™ lamps, the Greenlight Planet team would leave the village for a few weeks.
During this interim period, Greenlight Planet was waiting for a word-of-mouth buzz to start circulating through the village. If the initial sales team had chosen their targets well and the customers were happy with their purchase, then the hope was that the influencers would share their positive solar lantern experiences with their existing social networks.
After several weeks, the Greenlight Planet team was ready to return to the region with a big splash. They brought in a large sales team, covered the area with posters and marketing fliers, inserted direct marketing material into the newspapers, and started partnering with retail outlets. Using testimonials from customers who had already been using the product for several weeks, Greenlight Planet set up shop in the village and began trying to drum up more sales from the rest of the households.
Interview with Radhika Thakkar, Greenlight Planet. http://www.greenlightplanet.com/