Top on the agenda of the 10th consultation of the Seed Systems and Crop Management Community of Practice (CoP), in November 2018, was assessing the effectiveness of partner National Research Institutions’ (NARIs) marketing strategies -for early generation sweetpotato seed. To do this, a marketing strategy competition had been launched in 2017 with the aim of encouraging the institutions to strategically plan for effective marketing of their sweetpotato vines, selling them at a price and quantity that would sustain subsequent production of quality early generation seed.
Dr Srini Rajendran, agricultural economist for International Potato Center (CIP), had prepared a set of guidelines for the marketing competition and shared these with the NARIs. Come November 2018, during the meeting in Nairobi, participants from 13 partner NARIs assessed the seven submitted entries for the one with a winning strategy that had evidence of results.
The seven NARIs had submitted their filled-out indicator tables and the winner was decided based on the indicator workbook. The workbook had three main sheets: 1) the customer database where the NARIs would fill in their customer details including the revenue received from the sales 2) a customer follow-up sheet that allowed the NARI fill in feedback from buyers and 3) the indicator sheet that captured financial and technical performance as well as details of the actual marketing strategy such as specific marketing activities carried out. Scoring from participants at the meeting as well as CIP staff; Margaret McEwan, Srini Rajendran and Rosemary Kihiu, arrived at the top three winning marketing strategies.
First place went to Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) Kenya, second place to National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) from Nigeria and third place to Zambia Agriculture Research Institute (ZARI). There was great celebration as the three teams were awarded their prizes during the group dinner on the evening of Wednesday 14th November.
Recently, Dr Christiana Amala Okoye, an agribusiness and entrepreneurship development economist with NRCRI Umudike in Abia State, Nigeria, shared their winning strategy. She oversees marketing of vines at the institution.
‘Initially, the institute gave our sweetpotato vines to the farmers for free as an incentive and an empowerment approach. With the introduction of the SASHA project, we noticed the need to sustain a quality sweetpotato seed system and at the same time be commercially oriented; and that is how we began aggressively marketing our vines’ Christiana began.
The team led by Dr Jude Njoku, the PI, crafted a marketing strategy with three main goals
- Publicizing that NRCRI now had quality vines that resulted in bumper harvests
- Improving the livelihoods of sweetpotato farmers
- Building customer loyalty.
With these goals in mind, the team planned for key activities to which included stakeholder meetings to create awareness and project demand, jingles on radio to reach as wide an audience as possible, field days and exhibitions, demo plots at strategic places, advocacy visits and policy influencing, use of t-shirts and customized caps to create awareness on the availability of quality vines and campaigns on social media.
The efforts paid off as the sales of pre-basic seed cuttings, of 20 cm each, rose to a peak of 54,000 in 2017 from nil in the previous years; and that of basic seed cuttings to an all-time high of 100,000cuttings in 2016 from 33,706 cuttings in the previous year. The team plans to increase the sale of pre-basic seed cuttings to 100,000 and basic seed cuttings to 60,000 in 2020. With the current winning marketing approach that the team is using, they are sure to achieve their targets.
When asked about the team’s greatest marketing celebration, Christiana replied
” We have farmers who now harvest an average of 33.5 tons/ha of OFSP because they bought quality vines from us! Farmers know where to get vines and are now benefitting economically from them. Happy customers are good advocates and keep coming back to buy”
The team is very enthusiastic about the production and sale of quality of vines in the future and look forward to fine tuning their marketing strategy to ensure that it remains relevant to the audience and in so doing ensure that all vines produced are sold.
The sky is the limit for this team!