Learning from the Best

I wrote a few weeks ago that SOIL is focusing on staff capacity building for some exciting new projects this fall. We began in August with an all-staff EcoSan training workshop, so that all employees could have a more detailed understanding of the full scope of SOIL’s work. But that first workshop was only the beginning!

Our second initiative was the brainchild of SOIL’s newly-formed marketing committee. The committee was created to plan a marketing strategy for Konpòs Lakay, SOIL’s organic compost, and Twalèt EkoMobil, our mobile toilet service, as part of SOIL’s overall strategy to create successful social business models for the services we provide. While the committee was enthusiastic about our task, we had one small problem: none of us had any experience or training in marketing.

The Digicel umbrella - a common sight in Haiti!

The Digicel umbrella – a common sight in Haiti!

So we figured what we needed was Marketing 101 – a foundation in some basic principles that would help us get started. And we wanted to learn from the best, so we turned to the logical choice in Haiti: Digicel.

Digicel is a mobile communications company that boasts over 13 million customers in the Caribbean, Central America, and Asia. They serve 80% of the Haiti mobile phone market, and if you’ve been to Haiti, that comes as no surprise. It’s nearly impossible to walk down the street without seeing the red logo – emblazoned on walls, street vendors’ umbrellas, even on globes perched atop matching red street signs. They play clever radio ads and TV commercials. They sponsor soccer teams and other sporting events, as well as “Digicel Stars,” Haiti’s version of “American Idol.” I think it’s safe to say that it’s impossible not to know Digicel here.

Fortunately, Ivy Kuperberg, Digicel Haiti’s Mobile Advertising Manager, was more than happy to help. Over the course of two sessions, Ivy walked our committee through some marketing basics: knowing our product, evaluating our resources, identifying our target clientele, and understanding our competition. We scribbled notes as she fired questions: How much do you charge for one day of EkoMobil service? How much does your competition charge? Why should I choose your service over theirs? (There were more than a few “Hmmm… good question”s). She also helped our committee develop and prioritize a list of action items so we can move forward with our strategy.

Digicel's Ivy Kuperberg with members of SOIL's marketing team: Jimmy, Lafalaise, Herve, and Shannon

Digicel’s Ivy Kuperberg with members of SOIL’s marketing team: Jimmy, Lafalaise, Herve, and Shannon

Lafalaise, who manages compost sales for the Port-au-Prince office and sits on the marketing committee, described the sessions as “extraordinary… Ivy was very helpful, and learning more about marketing is great for SOIL’s future because it will help us advance with our strategy.”

We’re all excited to move forward to put our new knowledge to use, because effective marketing will help grow SOIL’s revenue, which in turn will help SOIL to show that ecological sanitation is not only good for communities and good for the environment, it can also be good for business!


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