The first step to building an effective marketing and sales capability is the initial assessment of the market in order to better understand market opportunities and challenges around product distribution. A market assessment is critical as an organization embarks on marketing and sales of a product. Further understanding the target users is invaluable as an organization develops all aspects of a marketing and sales program.

The diagram below shows the four key activities in Marketing and Sales. Each activity is explained in detail in the sections below.


Consumer sensitization, education, and community engagement

Creating awareness and engaging communities is vital to a successful cookstove rollout. There are two areas that are critical to successful communications and engagement strategies: the message and the medium.

The Message: In order to engage people effectively an organization needs to create a clear, meaningful message that will be understood and resonate with their target customers. Input from the market assessment around purchasing drivers and the values of a product should be used to craft simple marketing messages that will convey a relative value proposition to the end user. In addition to the value proposition, this message should also convey educational and health aspects to the user. It is important to prioritize the primary and secondary messaging internally to reference as an organization launches varying marketing campaigns. Often organizations will want to include as many benefits as possible into their messaging. However, the message should be focused, not broad. For example, end users will often consider money savings as their top priority. Therefore crafting a core message around savings, despite the other benefits, is critical to communications.

The Social Marketplace, a tool sponsored by Impact Carbon, has collected a number of sample communication materials in their Resource Center.

The Medium: After the core message is crafted there are various ways in which this can be communicated to the target population. Grass roots marketing efforts which deeply engage the community have been proven to be extremely effective at consumer sensitization and sales. Studies around this phenomenon can be found in a recent report from Hystra involving marketing new devices to end users at the bottom of the pyramid (BoP):

Examples of this type of engagement are local demonstrations with community leaders and product ‘road shows’. Impact Carbon, an organization which has tested a number of community-based marketing initiatives, has found that engaging key influencers within the community for sales demonstrations and messaging is often more effective than leveraging official local representatives. Key influencers are people within the community that are heavily engaged in local activities, whom others know and trust.

It is also critical to engage local government as much as possible. They can often support messaging and education initiatives at the local and /or national level. In addition, institutional networks such as schools and health centers can be engaged to share health messages around efficient cookstove use for their community. Organizations can and should work with these networks to supply them with marketing and educational collateral to distribute on behalf of the organization. All material should have clear contact information so the audience can learn more if interested.

An interesting case study on community engagement around cookstove distribution can be found here. This emphasizes the value of local road shows and user testimonials in messaging and sensitization.

Base of the Pyramid Marketing

Social marketing is the use of marketing strategies and techniques to achieve a social goal. Borrowing heavily from traditional marketing techniques such as market research, branding and messaging, demand creation, and marketing analytics, social marketing campaigns are able to encourage populations to purchase socially beneficial goods and services.

BoP marketing strategies should be heavily informed by the initial market assessment discussed earlier. These insights will be critical to the 4 P’s of Marketing:


Each of these pieces should be carefully analyzed and key decisions made based on target users , the competitive landscape, and market positioning. One tool which can be referenced to help with that process for each of these major categories is the Social Marketplace. The Social Marketplace Marketing Toolkit outlines the 4 P’s of Marketing, above, as they apply to social goods and services such as cookstoves.

After the initial marketing strategy is designed, organizations should ensure that marketing messaging and tactics are continually updated and optimized by a) monitoring customer feedback via the customer based sales database; b) by measuring the return on investment of each campaign by assessing the cost of sales vs. total revenue; and c) monitoring distributor and retailer feedback on the efficacy and implementation costs of each campaign in different locations. To do this, the cost of each sales trip should be recorded, including the time and resources committed as compared to the revenue from each sales initiative. This information enables organizations to focus on the most cost effective sales campaigns. Similar to standard marketing practices, continuous analytics and performance monitoring is critical to ensure successful marketing.

Building a Sales Force

Once a marketing strategy has been established, it is time to begin executing cookstove sales.  Organizations may leverage partners for distribution and sales or alternatively sell directly through an internal sales force. The following diagram outlines the major steps to building and managing an effective sales force:

1. Recruiting a Sales Force

At the onset of building a sales team an organization should identify key characteristics of candidates that would build successful sales agents. Below is an example of qualities that make strong sales people:

  • Strong communication skills and the ability to convey concepts effectively
  • Entrepreneurial and resourceful
  • Experienced in following operational procedures

2. Compensation and Retention

Most sales team salaries are structured with a commission based incentive. This means that instead of paying only a flat salary rate per week, month, or year, they are paid based on the number of units they sell. Bonuses should also be put in place to encourage major milestones and achievements. It is important when designing compensation structures that these include clear rewards for intended results. For example, if the goal is number of stoves sold, sales members should get a bonus for each stove sold. Alternatively if the goal is higher priced sales, the sales members should receive a % of sales revenue that they bring in, since they will then get more money for higher price points.

In addition to compensation, structuring the right roles and level of responsibility within the sales team is critical to optimizing a sales force. It is advisable to establish a limited and well-defined task structure, avoiding an overly broad scope of responsibilities.  It is also vital to provide sufficient levels of training and support from the onset.

3. Effective Sales

Building the market: It is important to set the sales team up for success. Creating market demand through broad awareness and education campaigns, as mentioned in previous sections, will make it easier for the team to push products. A sales team cannot be expected to conduct a full spectrum of marketing activity simply by selling products, this must be a joint effort as a sales team should not be relied on to build an entire market. Organizations, including manufacturers, can work together to create initial demand through awareness building. It may be beneficial to share marketing materials with partners so that they are able to help build awareness within their community as well.

Determining Sales Tactics: It is important to track the costs of sales initiatives. In order for sales teams to successfully execute low cost sales models so it is important to track the cost of each method and assess which is most effective so that sales teams are able to focus on the most low cost and effective initiatives. The cost of different sales channels (door to door, vs group sales) will vary based on location, product, organization, etc, so it is important to track the overall cost benefit in order to make informed decisions that will optimize the results of the sales team. For example, selling to large groups or selling through retailers may be more effective than door to door methods. In practice, this would mean that a sales team could train local shop owners to sell as retail agents, essentially doubling the power of the sales force by using existing networks.

Training: Providing sufficient training and onboarding to the sales team at the onset will ensure that they are well versed in the product and techniques that increase uptake amongst end users. This includes core marketing messages on the product and its benefits, and other material that is key to the overall value proposition.