Featured Content Barriers to Adoption

Advice from the Field

Social entrepreneurs share their wisdom about marketing to BOP consumers.

Behavior Change starts with an understanding of society and its values. To change a system, Behavior Change is often required at every level.

– IDEO

It’s easy to figure out what’s the most popular restaurant in a new location — just look for the people. Similarly, it’s easy to find the influencer in a community. Just ask anyone who lives in a location, they’ll know who the key influencers are.

– Engineers without Border

Be wary of handing field staff a checklist and then leaving. A checklist can instill the attitude that as long as you’ve accomplished what’s on the list, you’re done. You need people to see the value in what you are asking them to do; they need to understand how the old way is broken and be motivated to create solutions that can address it.

– Engineers without Border

People do not value things that are given to them.

– World Bank Technical Paper #2

Remember that the target group may have more pressing priorities than [your product].

– World Bank Technical Paper #2

Create a compelling value proposition for your product. For solar lighting, it is safety, saving money, education (so kids can study), health, and status. We’ve designed our product to look like a light bulb, which gives the impression of electricity within the home – a big status symbol.

– Solar Aid

Never forget who the product is for.

– Envirofit

How to market to consumers? Create products that people see as aspirational in need or value, and create good marketing collateral that uses voice-of-the-customer appropriate messaging and clearly promotes compelling benefits.

– Envirofit

Consider what the alternatives are for your consumers. Say a woman has 10,000 shillings for food. If she has anything leftover, she can buy a cheap unimproved stove for 1,000 shillings. Is your product even under consideration, or is it too expensive?

– Impact Carbon

Through carbon credits, we can subsidize the retail price of an improved cookstove. We try to set the price level to one that is affordable to the greatest number of consumers but is also higher than the scrap value of the metal. We don’t want to create an arbitrage situation where people are buying the stoves and then disassembling them to sell as scrap metal for a profit.

– Impact Carbon

Invest in marketing messaging to drive consumer awareness and demand. It will further long-term sales.

– Envirofit

What worked for us was sending a sales person door to door with a one-page Xerox. He didn’t carry the stove (too heavy) but would sit down, describe the product in the local language, and really sell it. “If you buy this today for $10, you will get the money back in 6 weeks. It’s only $10. It will save you $100 a year. Yes, I said $100. And that’s every year. If you don’t notice any fuel savings in a month, we’ll give you a money back guarantee provided it’s not broken.”

– Winrock

Don’t make cookstoves a NGO project. Mask it. Make it look like it’s in the private sector, otherwise people will expect it to be free.

– Winrock

Most local retailers won’t use internet. Use flip books, cartoons, even radio ads. We found radio ads more cost effective than TV ads. We created our own jingle with a local musician – if you do this well and it’s catchy, kids will be singing it in the streets. T-shirts are great too, people love t-shirts. They’ll walk around with your free t-shirt and provide loads of free advertising. Musical theaters were also really effective for us, combined with giveaways and stickers.

– Fenix

Live demos in front of a retail shop is expensive but worth it.

– Fenix

Understand your target audience. What are their traditional dishes? How are they prepared? In what types of vessels? How many times a day do the women cook, and when? Does the cooking happen inside or outside? While the number of meals prepared will depend on household income, fuel availability, nature of work, and family size, understanding the different types of households will prove invaluable when designing your product.

– M. Kellen

When we enter a new market, we start with a big group demonstration of the technology in a village. We show the product, answer Q&A, do giveaways – essentially create a big community event to drum up a lot of attention. Afterwards, we do more personalized selling, with commission-based sales agents going door-to-door. We rely on word of mouth to sell the product.

– E + Co

Finding the right price for our product is a real challenge. It was hard to conduct a good study because there was no comparable product in the market already for a benchmark. The best way for us to test is to slowly drop the price and see the impact on net revenue (profitability, not just sales numbers).

– E + Co

We have two main sales channels for our treadle pump. The first is a large 3rd-party dealer network, preferable agricultural retailers who also sell seeds and fertilizers. The second is an in-house sales force that demonstrate the product to dealers and directly to farmers. Our products are not self-explanatory and people do not immediately get the value, so we need to provide more sales support.

– Kickstart

Before you start any project, you need to go out to the community and listen to their needs. What problem are you solving? What doesn’t work in that community? How do you know something is working? This will have a huge impact on the design of your project and may tell you whether it even makes sense in that community.

– David Levine, Haas School of Business

There is no “one” stove. If you think about it, a stove is really just a heating system for cooking. They can differ by region (e.g. woks in Asia), by season (e.g. bbq grill), by family members (e.g. something simple for heating water for elderly member of the household), by specially purpose (e.g. kettle to re-heat tea), even special ones for festivals (e.g. Hawaiian bbq pits for big pork roasts). Take a look at your kitchen – how many devices do YOU have for cooking? A George Forman grill, a microwave, a stove, an electric tea kettle, a Panini press, a coffee maker, …. How does this affect the way that you think about your product now?

– David Levine, Haas School of Business

Uncover stories and images that resonate

– David Levine, Haas School of Business

More questions that you should ask, as part of the preliminary research process:

Can people borrow money? At what rate?

Can a woman buy a stove? For how much? Or is this a joint decision with men?

How do people learn about new products?

Where do women get together and talk?

– David Levine, Haas School of Business

Experiment with new retail contracts. Can you offer a rent to own model, where there is a free trial and regular time payments? The poor get a lot of offers and are risk averse. “Yeah right, we’ve heard that before.” They may not believe that this product will add value to their lives or will break quickly. How can you help them get over that barrier?

– David Levine, Haas School of Business

If a woman saves $2, is it hers to keep or does her weekly allowance go down by $2 now? It differs by culture, but may provide insight into what type of financing models could work.

– David Levine, Haas School of Business

Tap into local social capital like community groups and churches.

– David Levine, Haas School of Business

There is a present bias. $10 today, or $11 in 11 days. The temptation, especially for the poor, is to take the $10 today. Can you think through innovative messaging to help your customers get over this bias?

– David Levine, Haas School of Business

It’s important to realize that you can’t market to everyone as Bottom of the Pyramid and then determine the design of the product. Customer segmentation is critical in understanding the unique needs and characteristics of the many sub-segments.

-PATH

Data measurement and evaluation is a critical part of PATH’s work. We constantly evaluate how our programs are running, the uptake, price levels, etc. and re-adjust as needed.

-PATH

It is possible to do differential pricing by region, and it is simply not true that people do not value things that are free. What is important is that the customer needs to perceive that there is value in the item. When I worked at PSI, we sold bednets and also provided them free at health clinics. The free nets were branded differently and were a different color. We had a lot number on these nets, so that we could trace their origins.

-PSI

Trace back your distribution channel to understand where your product falls amongst the distributor categories. Distributors focus on different product categories. So while you may think your product (e.g. condoms) should be classified as a Fast Moving Consumer Goods (thus sold in practically every small kiosk), instead they may be categorized as Pharmaceutical (and only sold in specific retail outlets). Physically trace back through the supply chain — start with the kiosk where it is sold, go to the distributor that sold them the product, his supplier, and so on to get a full understanding of the distribution channel for your product.

-PSI

Remember that you always approach a situation with your own biases and beliefs. In western culture, the individual is very important but in many African cultures, the collective is more important. Think about the community-level versus the individual. Think about re-framing your messaging away from “this is the benefit that you will derive” to “this is the benefit that the community receives.” Get the community involved, to understand the cost/benefits of your social issue, and see if they will buy in and pledge to make a difference. Remember that what is most important for you (e.g. safe drinking water) may not be the priority in the community. Instead it could be that goats are dying, or the rains haven’t come this season. Recognize that you are only addressing one specific aspect, which may not even be top of mind for the community.

-PSI

When thinking of aspirational messaging, do it in terms that are relateable and achievable to your target group. For example, don’t depict a little boy dreaming to become a pilot, since that is out of reach for 99% of your demographic. Instead, show a kid dreaming of finishing school, or buying his own boat. Use real people with real dreams.

-PSI

If people don’t have a good first experience, they may never try it again. Make sure the product is easy to use and doesn’t require a multi-step manual, which can be very intimidating.

-PSI

A successful project cannot happen without community feedback and focus groups. There is one project where the cookstove functionality was the most important things. The result was a stove where the women had to chop wood into small blocks and continuously feed into the fire, that also got extremely hot and could result in burns, and that was unsafe to have around the children. If the project developers had spent time to talk to the community, they would have realized that this product would never be successful.

-Paradigm Project

Centralized manufacturing makes more sense for us than using local artisans. With local artisans, there is product variability and quality control issues. There are also no economies of scale, because you are purchasing small quantities of raw materials that can be substantially marked up. We have found it better to have one manufacturing site that can supply products to other geographic regions.

-Paradigm Project

Metaphors can be extremely powerful, but need to be relevant to your local users. For example, a friend spent much time demonstrating and explaining the benefits of a treadle pump to a crowd. Despite this, there was little interest from the community in purchasing the pump or changing their traditional ways. A local man interjected with a saying: “The man who believes his wife is the best cook is one that has never left home.” This familiar metaphor helped the crowd realize that the treadle pump may be a better solution, and worth a try.

– Engineers without Borders

We are exploring a new rental service model for our product, starting at the primary school level. In highly disadvantaged villages where there is no access to electricity, we would provide one lamp per family. The children would bring the lamp to school every day, where it would get charged during class time. At the end of the day, the children would bring the lamp back home. The family would be responsible for paying a few shillings a day to cover the operating and maintenance cost, but the hope is that a large company could sponsor a school. It would be a great CSR initiative for the company, and help bring lighting to the rural areas.

– Sun Transfer

Our three biggest challenges have been: 1) the balance between quality and price, 2) distribution for our product, and 3) high-quality after-sales service. Promotional marketing is easy for us; however we cannot be successful until we adequately address these three challenges.

– Sun Transfer

The major barriers to adoption of social products are:

Awareness of the key underlying factors contributing to the problem

Adequate information

Skills and/or religion

Cultural practices

Influences – e.g. attitudes affect others

Accessibility to products and services (both price and distribution)

– CDFU

Our model involves recruiting entrepreneurs to sell our products. Local entrepreneurs pay a $50 fee and are then provided with 4 days of training covering everything from accounting, bookkepping, marketing, customer service, and sales to technical product training and credit financing. We provide these entrepreneurs with a starter kit, essentially a “business in a bag” that includes caps, fliers, accounting sheets, etc. The model works because entrepreneurs must invest into the business and undergo a comprehensive application process. It is an honor to be part of the Barefoot Power network.

– Barefoot Power

In emerging markets, you are almost always working with small operators. You need to invest time and effort in developing systems, procedures, and governance. What are your partners supposed to do, and how is it supposed to work? Simplify to the last big.

– The Supply Chain Lab / Coca-Cola

Keep it simple. When Coca-Cola uses micro-distributors, they only use a few SKUs [stock keeping units]. Don’t attempt to use too many different brands, styles, sizes, etc otherwise your business just becomes too complex.

– The Supply Chain Lab / Coca-Cola

When people do inclusive business chains, they try to move their whole business to that model and have a “one-stop” partner that covers distribution, order generation, product delivery, etc. It almost never works. Find partners who can handle different parts of the business well.

– The Supply Chain Lab / Coca-Cola

Be willing to experiment. Something that works in one region may not work in another, or may only work for a period of time. Continually re-evaluate and adjust.

– The Supply Chain Lab / Coca-Cola

Take time to define your selection criteria. This is something that is frequently overlooked, but is critical. If you’re building a sales team, think about what the individual should look like, what type of education, what skill sets, what age range. If you’re building a distribution partner, think about income, warehouse space, number of employees, …

– The Supply Chain Lab / Coca-Cola

Sometimes a model works in the beginning but not later, because partners get squeezed for profit. Make sure that everyone in the chain is healthy.

– The Supply Chain Lab / Coca-Cola

Follow the whole supply chain. Do time studies t understand where people spend their time and on what activities. Figure out where the inefficiencies are.

– The Supply Chain Lab / Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola breaks their distribution business into four different categories: order generation, delivery, merchandising, and account development. A lot of third parties can’t do all of this. They may be good distribution partners but then need to find someone else to do order generation.

– The Supply Chain Lab / Coca-Cola

Third parties tend to be bad at account development. They don’t have the skills and knowledge. This is a good function to keep in-house.

– The Supply Chain Lab / Coca-Cola

If you combine two activities – selling and delivery – you often get an individual of much lower quality. In many parts of Africa, good salespeople do not deliver. So it puts more pressure for you to develop this hybrid sales and delivery person. If you separate the two, you can get a good sales person and someone else who does the delivery. You just need to be able to run the numbers and make it work.

– The Supply Chain Lab / Coca-Cola

In a given region, even if you have three different distribution partners, you may only need one sales person to service all of the accounts. Use the distributors to deliver, use the sales person to own the account relationships.

– The Supply Chain Lab / Coca-Cola

In Tanzania, PSI is using Coca-Cola’s distribution network to distribute condoms. PSI should use Coke as a distribution channel, but since they don’t have strong of a brand name, they should invest in their own sales capacity.

– The Supply Chain Lab / Coca-Cola

When you can’t make a model work on its own, check out what the local operators are doing. In certain areas where it is difficult to distribute to, see what local entrepreneurs are doing. They may be piggybacking on someone else’s truck, or using public buses to transport goods. There’s such a huge network of wholesalers and distributors, it’s just a matter of using their infrastructure.

– The Supply Chain Lab / Coca-Cola

If the selling job is more complex, you need to find individuals who can introduce your product and let it known where it is available within the market. If you just allow a third party to try and sell a complex product, it won’t happen.

– The Supply Chain Lab / Coca-Cola

In areas like Nairobi and Kampala, the sources for these social goods is often quite limited. You may find one market that supplies stoves and you need to be there. You could be in the market but a lot of people travel to this market that sells stoves and the distances that they travel can be substantial. You need to know the people that are the connectors, that import the stoves. These guys are the power brokers so everyone goes to them. You need to get these guys to sell your product. You need to be close to them.

– The Supply Chain Lab / Coca-Cola

How do you find the influencers in your product category? Everyone knows who they are. Look at the categories that you trade in – where does it come from? Ask your traders, where do they buy it? The chain can be very long but eventually you will find the connectors.

– The Supply Chain Lab / Coca-Cola

Do an outlet survey. Figure out where you want to be and find ways of getting into these places. Make sure that your surveyor knows what you call an outlet. If your surveyor doesn’t know, they may be walking past something that you may consider a shop.

– The Supply Chain Lab / Coca-Cola

Every six months, you may need to update outlet information. Coke updates every 6 months because stores close and open so quickly.

– The Supply Chain Lab / Coca-Cola