Project Everest

Work Update

Marketing Madness

Lewis Ulm
Lewis Ulm | Jan 19, 2018 | in Knowledge Base

The Market Analysis team over here in Cambodia has recently been trying to formulate a profitable price for the workshops and the blueprints, and it's been tough. Two influential and knowledgeable stakeholders have both emphasised that due to similar NGO alternatives, especially with NGO's offering free workshop alternatives, farmers may not buy our product. However, we won't give up that quickly. 

We know we have a great product - over 60 farmers in December have expressed interest in workshops - but communicating just how great it is has proven to be difficult. The explanation always seems to get lost in translation (one translator told a farmer we were trying to build a hut???) so the actual product has not been marketed well. And that's the key, the marketing

After analysis and further diving into disposable incomes, we set on $8USD per workshop, with some form of a discount when buying a bundle of them. This may be too high, but if we go lower we risk losing money on holding the workshops. 

So we decided to look into other revenue streams - to no avail. One idea was becoming the middleman and taking a cut of the transactions from food to consumer, but this had a number of impacts that were undesirable and difficult to mitigate. What always brought us back was the blueprints: why were farmers interested in buying something so expensive ($150USD)? 

The answer is the marketing. Blueprints are a unique product, NGO's aren't giving these away to farmers. And they're marketed that way as well. The pitch tells farmers how unique it is, and how there is a direct correlation of implementing blueprints and higher yields (all ears at that point). The way workshops are marketed is too simplified and difficult to get across what the actual product is - the farmers have heard the same thing from NGO's.

We're not going to give workshops for free, the $8 will work. If consumers can see the value in the workshops, then they will pay for it, they just haven't seen it yet. So how do we do that? 

Going to farmers one by one is ineffective for marketing, we're taking the same approach as NGO's who visit village by village with free services. We plan on taking advantage of the social structures in Cambodia, and going straight to the village and commune chiefs; the most respected in their communities. If we can go to them with a perfectly crafted pitch, that has been coordinated and developed with a translator to ensure that nothing is lost in translation, then we can sell it to them. If they get on board, they will tell their villages, their communes, and the farmers will listen. If done successfully, we can sell to an entire village or commune in one conversation. To further convince the chiefs and respected people, we can show them our test farms to show how our product works and how it's different from the competition. An engaging pitch matched with physical evidence of success will certainly persuade them. But what do we do now to start this?


  • Create a pitch for workshops and blueprints and coordinate it with a translator so they know what we are talking about when we pitch it
  • Build relationships with people in high places 
  • Test pricing in the market further 


Any ideas on potential improvements to this strategy would be loved, also any ideas on potential revenue streams for FarmEd in Cambodia. 

Zoe Cahill Jan 23, 2018

Hi Lewis

Sounds like you and your team have a solid plan in place to tackle this issue.
I just have one question regarding your comment about building relationships with people in high places. What kind of stakeholders are you trying to build rapport with? Are you thinking along the lines of partnerships with these NGO's or other stakeholders?

I have also tagged the PoC/MA team for Jan in Fiji to comment on their experiences.

Reply 1

Vivienne Smith Jan 23, 2018

Hi ! Awesome article, we've found similar difficulties and we've decided so make a few changes to the way we advertise/pitch/sell our workshops too. Obvs our experiences are different and the cultures are unique, but I hope this helps somehow. Originally, we went to individual farmer's houses and pitched and sometimes sold a $10 FJD deposit on a $50 workshop, a few weeks in advance of the actual workshop date.
Not sure if you've heard, but after getting 23 deposits, only 1 person showed up to our workshop (lol). Here are a few of the ways we are trying to mitigate this:

-Bringing down the price from $50 FJD
-Holding the workshop at a village rather than the town council
-Making the sales closer to the date, with all the details finalised and concrete (i.e. don’t sell the workshop if there’s no venue or set date (oops))
-Give brochures/flyers/something that is professional and will help people remember what it is and why they want to come
-Get village leaders involved in the process, which will tie in to the new SOP of pitching at village meetings rather than showing up at someone’s house out of the blue
-Early-bird discounts, to incentivise people to buy earlier and show up to the workshop early/on time

So the 5th dot point probably relates you guys the most. We've written a new SOP for pitches across the Fiji teams that state that we need to have Sevusevu (welcoming kava ceremony) with the village leaders before any operations in the village. At this ceremony we can pitch our project and get the village heads on board with PE. FarmEd Fiji is now trying to organise the villages into co-ops to increase crop diversity and yield using permaculture on a bigger scale. We can tailor workshops to the individual coops (in collaboration with TECA, a Fijian agency that manages coops).

So yeah doing village meetings may be the best option. We've only just started doing this and 1 village (Nawamagi) is on its way to becoming a co-op and another (Keiyasi) will have a FarmEd workshop with 30-40 attendees. Hope this helps somehow! :)

Reply 1

Lewis Ulm Jan 24, 2018

Hey Vivienne, I'm seeing a lot of similarities between your team and mine. Pretty cool to see we're both on similar pages!
I think the village meetings is a really great idea, much more professional and trustworthy than showing up randomly - we plan to follow in similar suit. The pricing is also a struggle for us (one that may never end...) and I see that the timing problem is a consistent issue. Still getting it in our heads that farmers have very different schedules to us...
Love hearing about your progress though, keen to hear more!

Reply 0

Lewis Ulm Jan 24, 2018

Hi Zoe, thanks for the reply! Mainly trying to build relationships with village and commune chiefs, as they have a lot of influence over those in their respective circles. We plan to sell to them so they can either buy for the entire village/commune, or let it trickle down to reach the villagers with the backing of the chiefs, to give the extra purchase confidence.

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Darcy Connaghan Jul 1, 2018

Status label added: Work Update

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