Communication strategy for marketing of energy products
A principal element of market-based solutions consists of understanding households in displacement settings as customers who take conscious buying decisions. This means that for sustainable energy products and services to take hold among refugees and host communities, marketing schemes are key. Fine-tuned to the given conditions, they can both increase the acceptance and usage of sustainable energy solutions as well as demonstrate the functioning of market structures in camps and settlements. To assist vendors of energy products and services in formulating adequate marketing schemes, ESDS commissioned a handbook that guides the development and implementation of marketing strategies for off-grid energy products and services with entrepreneurial advice. While the handbook focuses contextually on Northern Uganda, the described principles and lessons pertain to displacement settings in general and contain valuable insights for energy entrepreneurs and others involved in disseminating energy solutions. As a next step, ESDS plans to employ the handbook in trainings for operators of energy kiosks in Ugandan displacement settlements.
Developing a Handbook on Communication Campaigns
Refugees and host communities react, as any other customer group, to key messages and communication campaigns in their decision to purchase energy products and services. Especially when it comes to selling technologies newly introduced into the community, like a certain model for improved cookstoves, marketing strategies are integral in ensuring that sustainable energy solutions are accepted and used by households in displacement settings. They can inform customers about available products and services, including their benefits and limitations, and guide them in selecting solutions that fit their needs and preferences. This in turn increases the adoption of sustainable energy products and services and stimulates demand in a self-driven process. Establishing market-based conditions in displacement settings, being one objective of the ESDS project, contains therefore as one cornerstone marketing strategy.
This is the reason why ESDS commissioned the development of a handbook that sets out marketing and communication campaigns for energy products in displacement settings. It advises readers on preparing, designing and implementing marketing strategies and offers in a clear and understandable language the necessary steps that entrepreneurs should follow in order to incorporate the handbook in their business activities. The principal target groups are energy kiosk operators but its general applicability allows it to be also used by retailers, cooking stove or fuel producers, shop owners or repair shops.
Northern Uganda serves as a case study to put the guidelines into practice which enhances the usability of the handbook as all described actions have a practical component. As such, the handbook features a roadmap that outlines all steps a marketing campaign must follow and describes measures for each.
As the first step of a marketing strategy, the handbook describes the importance to set specific goals that the entrepreneur aims to attain via the campaign and to identify the target groups. This allows to determine what influencers and channels can be used to communicate with them for which key messages are essential: Their framing influences the appeal of the marketing campaign on the target group for which it must be defined with their needs, problems and behaviors in order to fine-tune the marketing campaign.
4 Elements of Market, Customer and Products
Subsequently, entrepreneurs must incorporate four main elements as part of a market, customer and product analysis for which the handbook provides the related information for Northern Uganda. It informs on the contextual circumstances which underlie the marketing scheme. Answering these questions below is a prerequisite to refine the strategy and adjust it to the local conditions, it necessitates knowledge and a certain familiarity.
1. Know your background
- How and for what purposes is energy used?
- What are the dominant cooking technologies and fuels?
- What sources are used for lighting?
- What gaps can be identified in the energy supply?
2. Know your products
- What products are bartered in the setting and what products are traded currently and could be introduced?
- What are their benefits and challenges, regarding affordability, saving opportunities, health and safety?
- How aware are customers of each product?
3. Know your market
- Who offers or distributes the products in the camp?
- How demand and supply in the market for each product?
- What experiences did customers make with each product?
- What is the willingness to pay for each product?
- What marketing and awareness campaigns are conducted?
4. Know your customers
- What are the demographics, countries of origin and dominate languages?
- What is their socio-economic condition and household expenditure?
- Who takes decisions in the households? Who are respected community members?
- How is their access to economic opportunities and financing?
- What is the preferred payment method?
- What methods of communication are used?
Marketing Strategy and Roadmap
After having specified the objectives and target groups of the campaign and determined the contextual information, the marketing strategy can be designed by specifying the messages, choosing the channels and developing an action plan. To assist in this, the handbook provides practical tips how the insights can be utilized and offers several sample key messages for products as well as a template action plan that sets the most important parameters. The handbook also contains a ready-to-print poster that visualizes the golden rules of marketing and can be used as clear and short summary.
As final element of the roadmap, the handbook emphasizes the importance of monitoring the success of the campaign and defines to that end several key performance indicators. To help in their utilization, the handbook features templates for tables that can be filled out to track success as well as a guideline for a developed Excel dashboard that calculates them based on the input from these tables. This offers a practical and simple to use method to monitor the business performance.
As demonstration of the complete roadmap, the handbook provides an example campaign for the operator of an energy kiosk that explains all steps from beginning to validation together with a detailed description of each activity. This simplifies the application of the handbook, allowing especially laypersons to implement its elements.
Given its practicable usability and relevance, ESDS plans to incorporate the handbook in training courses for energy entrepreneurs in displacement settings which will be selected from local communities to operate two solar-powered energy kiosks set up in Northern Uganda. As these will sell energy products and services, they can employ the marketing strategies of the handbook and thereby contribute to the proliferation of sustainable energy solutions in their local context.
For further information about the handbook, please contact *****
GIZ's Energy Solutions for Displacement Settings (ESDS) and Energising Development (EnDev) projects cooperate with UNHCR to enhance the access to sustainable energy in displacement contexts, and the Energypedia page has been created to share learnings across various practitioners to spur the development of clean energy solutions.