Chapter 8 - Promotion, advertising, extension, demonstration

Contents - Previous - Next

The promotional campaign
Sales promotion
Personal selling
Public relations (PR)
Seed extension and demonstration
The promotional budget

The promotional campaign

Resources invested in variety development and seed production will be wasted if farmers are not persuaded to use the improved varieties. All promotional activities involve sending messages to the distributors and consumers in order to inform them about a company's products and help them to make their decision to buy a particular variety or brand of seed. It is important to monitor how effective this communication is by ensuring feedback from both the dealers and the consumers. Such communication can be divided into two distinct types:

Non-controllable methods

These are personal recommendations that reflect the consumers' overall perception of the product and service. They are powerful messages and will influence buying decisions. Therefore, it is important to know what farmers think of a product, especially those leading farmers who are targeted in extension work, as their influence may be considerable.

Controllable methods

These are the marketing messages which are carefully designed and directed to achieve the objectives of an organization's promotional campaign. Types of marketing messages which can be used are listed at the top of the next page.

messages sent via the media to inform and influence the farmer

sales promotions
specific techniques designed to increase sales of particular seeds

personal selling
the importance of salesmanship

publicity and public relations
generalized communication which is designed to promote the company's image rather than that of specific seeds

taking the promotional activity out into the held

Farmers in developing countries have certain characteristics:

they have low purchasing power coupled with a low rate of return from farming;
they are generally conservative and therefore are slow to adopt new products;
they may not be well informed;
they often lack mobility and the means to transport goods.

It should also be recognized that educational and literacy standards will not always be high in rural communities. The use of visual material will help to overcome some communication problems. In all forms of communication, companies should always try to make the subject of seeds interesting and relevant to the consumer.

The communication and promotion process must be carefully thought out and the person responsible must be very clear about the aims and objectives and anticipated effect. A master plan should be created with separate plans for each activity and sales region. These should all be timed for maximum effect and designed to reinforce each other. When introducing a new variety, expenditure will be higher as awareness must be created.

As timing is very important a calendar of key events should be drawn up indicating the involvement of all those working on the campaign. Individual responsibilities must be clearly defined and activities involving other services, such as extension, well coordinated. It is important that the effort is targeted and a good reporting system set up to allow for adjustments to be made during the season and resources redirected if necessary. There is, for example, no point in continuing to promote a product if no seed is available.


A company may use an advertising agency in order to benefit from its specialist skills. The assistance provided by an advertising agency may range from the production of a simple poster to a whole series of events and activities linked to a product campaign.

There will usually be one person who acts as a focal point with the advertising agency and who would ideally become familiar with the client's business and market. The process is similar to that described for commissioning market research. Decide what is to be achieved and why, then create a brief which will form the basis of discussion with the agency. The agency can then respond with ideas and costings which will enable a choice to be made. Printed or broadcast media can be used for advertising. It is important to select the most appropriate.

The published print media

This includes newspapers, periodicals, magazines, trade and professional journals. There may be both advantages and disadvantages when advertising in this manner.

Some advantages of the printed media are that:

good coverage can be obtained and, by using the local press and specialist papers, accurate targeting can also be achieved;
it is relatively cheap and immediate;
complex messages can be given in print; these last and can be read again and again;
reply and cut-out coupons with an exchange value can be used to encourage farmers to request further information and buy the product.

Some disadvantages of the printed media are:

the text, and therefore the message, may not be well understood due to language and literacy problems;
only limited space may be available;
printed text has limited impact and colour does not always reproduce well in newspapers;
a daily paper has a limited life and the advertisements will have to compete for attention with stories and other information.

As well as placing advertisements, press releases can be given to newspapers or features written that carry the name of the company and its products.

The broadcast media

This includes television, radio and cinema.

Television. Some advantages of television are:

the impact will be greater as both sound, colour and movement can be used to convey the message;
massive coverage can be achieved and some local targeting may be possible.

Some disadvantages of television are:

it can be very expensive and is only suitable for simple messages;
the exposure time is short and the advertisement may miss the target audience;
TV reception may be poor and if local targeting is not possible the message will not be relevant to many viewers;
there may not be any related interest programmes that will be viewed by the target audience;
in many countries farmers cannot afford television, although televisions are often available in clubs, bars and other public places.

An interesting example of the use of television is in Zimbabwe where the Seed Co-op positions advertisements prior to the screening of the weather forecasts, which are of obvious interest to farmers. Linked to this is the Co-op's catch phrase "only buy the seed you know" which gives instant recognition when seen and heard in other situations, such as in printed advertising and on packaging.

Radio. Some advantages of radio are:

good coverage is achieved; this is not confined to the home as people listen to the radio everywhere, including when they are working on the farm;
it is relatively cheap to broadcast on radio compared to television and advertisements are easier to prepare;
the incidence of local broadcasting, in local languages, is greater than with television;
related interest programmes and farming information spots are usually more frequent.

Some disadvantages of radio are:

reception may be poor in certain areas;
people don't always listen closely and consequently may have poor recall of the message.

Language problems can be overcome through local broadcasting and there is always the possibility of involving local personalities to add interest and relevance to the area. Radio is useful for making announcements, such as the availability of seed in the area. Another form of broadcasting is the loudspeaker van which can be used to tour villages or towns to make similar announcements, particularly on a market day.

Cinema. In rural locations where cinema is the main entertainment a high proportion of the audience will be involved in farming so this medium could be considered for advertising. Advertising slides are not expensive to prepare and these can be shown during the show.

The outdoor media. Outdoor media include posters, signs and advertising on transport, bus shelters, walls and buildings. These forms of advertising can be used to increase the visibility of the company and its products. Outdoor advertising may have considerable and lasting impact at a low cost if it is well situated and if there is not too much competition for the available space. Exclusive arrangements can always be made for the use of space.

In addition to commercial advertising, retailers should be supplied with signs and crop boards. It is important that good sites are chosen which are highly visible and strategically placed to ensure maximum exposure.

Packaging design. Packaging is a form of advertising. Clear printing, the use of colour, brand or company logo and well reproduced photographs or images are all important components of design.

Sales promotion

Sales promotion is the term given to describe a variety of techniques designed to encourage customers to buy. They complement advertising and other promotional activities. They are tactical devices that provide incentives to 'buy now', thus sales promotion is short-term (to achieve an immediate effect) whereas advertising is a longer term communications process. The techniques used to achieve these short-term effects can be divided into either selling to the market channel or selling out of the marketing channel.

Selling to the marketing channel

These are the techniques which, by providing incentives and support, enhance sales to the trade and encourage the distributors and dealers to stock the product. Some examples follow.

Dealer 'loaders'. These are ways of encouraging dealers to build up their stocks in sufficient time, so that inadequate supplies and last-minute transport problems are avoided. Examples are: offering discounts on orders taken early and progressive, volume discounts on large orders (quantity discounts). These discounts can, of course, be passed on to the customer.

Point-of-sale materials. These are materials supplied by the seed company to the sale points to support sales of their product range. They are used to display and attract attention to the product range as well as to provide information. This form of sales support encourages the dealer to order stocks. Examples of point-of-sale materials include colourful display boxes in which seed packets are placed, particularly vegetable seeds, product information leaflets, seed catalogues and audio-visual displays, such as slides with sound tracks or videos.

Dealer competitions. The larger seed companies can afford to offer significant prizes linked to dealer sales' performance. It is also an established technique in the more developed countries to hold dealer seminars in attractive locations. While it may not be realistic to expect companies in developing economies to incur the high levels of expenditure necessary to organize dealer seminars, some form of incentive scheme may be worth running. Overseas suppliers could also be asked to support such schemes by inviting the 'dealer of the year' to visit the producing country. A dealer will also value the status of seeing his name in print so press releases and dealer names featured in catalogues and advertisements can be used.

Dealer training. Training dealers in the use and benefits of the product is a vital form of support. A dealer will attract customers and sell more if confident and knowledgeable about the product. Training should also cover product care in store and stock rotation as well as retail presentation.

Credit. This again encourages higher stocking and can be used selectively to promote certain product lines. Credit can be used as an incentive to dealers where companies have to compete for shelf space.

Sale or return. This is particularly relevant for the stocking of new products as it provides an element of risk-sharing. However, it can be costly to the supplying company. A return system is used to promote preferential stocking but simply stocking the dealer on a sale or return basis should be avoided as the dealer will have no commitment to sell. Such a system should always provide an incentive to take stock. Thus, for example, returns could apply only to stock taken over and above the previous year's sales. There are, of course, quality considerations and companies may prefer to collect unsold stock for secure storage and relabelling to avoid the possibility of farmers complaining of poor germination in a subsequent year. This can be provided as a service to the dealer with the product remaining the property of the dealer. It is important that the supplying company protects its name and image at all times.

Promotional gifts. Small gifts (give-aways) can be given to dealers as added incentives. The seed company's name can be promoted on pens, cigarette lighters and calendars. These serve the purpose of keeping the company and its brand names in the dealer's mind. Small value items can also be passed on to farmers when they purchase their seed. Larger value items may be given to dealers as presents in return for orders for new products, achieving higher volumes or even for displaying a company's seeds in front of its competitors' products. Many of these techniques may only seem relevant to the more sophisticated and competitive market situations but marketing managers should be aware of the techniques that are used to encourage dealers to stock and to promote one product in preference to another.

Selling out of the marketing channel

These are the techniques which assist the retail trade in promoting and selling products to the final consumer. Some examples follow.

Free samples. Dealers can give out samples of new varieties. The indiscriminate use of free samples can be counterproductive, however, as the farmer may not achieve a good result and blame the variety or may not use the sample as it was free.

Seed exchange. Seed can be exchanged for farmers' grain to overcome initial resistance to buying and using improved seed. This is perhaps more of an extension practice which should be organized by the seed company on a direct basis.

Coupon offers. Refundable coupons can be used offering 'money off' the next purchase to encourage repeat orders or purchases of other products in the company's range.

Price reductions. This will obviously be popular but the danger is that revenue will simply be reduced without significantly increasing sales so the technique needs to be used selectively.

Competitions. Competitions only create interest if they capture the imagination, e.g. a yield competition and membership to a 'yield club' for a certain achievement. They can be organized on a village level or directed at a certain group, such as young farmers.

Premium offers. The offer of an extra product for a promotional price can be made. This could be a joint promotion with a non-seed product or linked to seed of another species that could be grown by the farmer.

Field demonstrations and group discussions. These are both very effective ways of promoting seed products and supporting the local dealer. These topics are dealt with later when seed extension and demonstration are considered.

It is important that, before embarking on promotional activities, the marketing manager is given the necessary support within the supplying organization as well as among the distributors and dealers. There is obviously no point in starting a promotion without ensuring that sufficient funds and materials are available and that there is the necessary administrative organization.

Personal selling

While seed products may be well advertised and promoted, a high degree of personal selling and service will always be required. Seed company staff and, where possible, dealers should always be provided with adequate training and familiarization with the products they are selling and the market they are selling into.

A good presentation of the company and its product range is important in making the sale. The company should provide the necessary visual material that can be used in both informal one-to-one and more formal group presentations. A ring binder with sequenced seed product leaflets and photographs is a useful way of conducting a one-to-one presentation. A good seed catalogue is also useful, especially for a product group with a large range.

Public relations (PR)

Public relations is defined as 'the means by which a company tries to develop a mutual understanding between itself and its public'. PR is therefore concerned with what people think of both an organization and its products. The 'public' refers to customers, shareholders, employees, special interest groups, trade unions and the general public.

PR is a long-term and ongoing process, its objective being to enhance both reputation and image, thus creating an external environment in which a company can prosper. It helps convert any negative feelings towards an organization into positive ones. If favourable attitudes exist, consumers will be much more receptive to the direct marketing activities of the company.

It is therefore necessary to identify any unfavourable attitudes among seed dealers and buyers, from which a PR strategy can be developed to reduce the negative effects and build up a more positive perception and image. PR activities include:

press relations
press conferences and press releases are useful ways of disseminating news items such as stories of achievement, policy changes, management changes and new product launches

community relations
good publicity can be achieved by an involvement with, and support of, local events and activities such as organizing farming competitions and giving awards, e.g. an irrigation pump, to individuals or to a whole village

editorial activity
the distribution of in-house magazines, annual reports and dealer newsletters with stories as well as product information, brochures, etc., all maintain contact and can be used to target messages to particular groups

customer care
an extension of the sales contact with dealers or consumer groups beyond the sale; customer care means dealing with any product-related problems, such as poor germination, in order to retain customer loyalty

this involves supporting local sporting, farming and cultural events chosen not only for their potential exposure but for their relevance to the nature of the business; national farming competitions, for example, can give a company a great deal of exposure through the media

groups of farmers and dealer scan be invited to the company research station, seed processing facilities and warehouse; appropriate press coverage can be arranged

Seed extension and demonstration

Extension is taking the promotional activity out into the field and demonstrating to the farmer the value and benefit of using improved seeds and cultivation techniques. In a competitive market, each company will organize its own field demonstrations to promote its individual varieties and brands.

The field demonstration

This is potentially a very powerful promotional technique but good planning and execution are needed if it is to have the desired effect. Demonstrations can be used to:

promote the adoption of certified seed and improved farm management techniques;
conduct comparative variety yield trials;
launch a new variety or restimulate interest in existing varieties;
demonstrate single varieties in a larger block trial;
teach farmers how to grow crops to maximize variety benefits.

The demonstration must involve proper seed and fertiliser usage, soil and water management practices, weed control and plans protection measures and, if necessary, security measures. In order to plan a demonstration the following are some guidelines that should be observed.

Planning ahead is essential. Points to note include:

all requirements must be considered, dealers must be supportive, good land and good farmers must be identified a season ahead when any field problems can be seen;
government agencies, such as the extension services, may be involved so they will need warning of any requests for help;
resources will need allocating so projected costs will require budgeting, e.g. rent may have to be paid as well as inputs supplied; running field days also costs money;
to make full use of the demonstration it should be part of an overall campaign so other promotional activities will need to be reviewed.

Great care must be taken in selecting the location. Aspects to be considered are:

the farmer must have the basic equipment and skills needed for carrying out all the farming operations;
he/she should be well regarded in the locality and be considered a good farmer; selecting the bigger and better-off farmers can produce a negative reaction;
the site should be uniform and have no obvious disadvantages which will affect cultivation;
good access and some space to handle visiting groups is important;
proximity to passing traffic for maximum visibility of signs should be considered.

In carrying out the demonstration the following steps need to be taken:

conducting a soil test for mineral deficiencies;
planning the layout to include own varieties, controls and possibly competing varieties and/or different treatments;
organizing the delivery of inputs and briefing the farmer on the layout and cultivation;
obtaining sign boards for the perimeter and the individual plots (but these should not be posted until it is sure that there are no unforeseen problems);
arranging for regular inspection visits and farmer support for subsequent operations;
planning site use for maximum exposure and advantage at the appropriate stage of development;
informing all those who will be involved, for example the company, the dealers, the extension service and the media.

During the growing season emphasis needs to be placed on:

advertising the demonstration and organizing visits for groups of dealers and farmers; the dealer should come with his own customers; consideration should be given to who else may benefit from seeing the demonstration and who may influence variety choice;
monitoring progress, keeping records and taking photographs;
preparing visual aids and having a supply of product and company literature available;
thinking ahead to a promotion for the next sales season linked to taking orders during the field day;
when groups visit demonstration plots, recording names and addresses for future contact.

Publicity material, such as this attractive brochure cover from Zimbawe, is an important way of promoting a company

An attractively presented catalogue is an important sales tool - these are two examples

Packaging used by two multinational seed companies demonstrating the importance of attractive and good quality packaging

An example of an attractive cover from a promotional brochure by an indian seed company

After harvest, attention needs to be paid to:

analysing and presenting any data generated from the demonstration and circulating the information to those who visited and to the host farmer; following-up any prospects with the dealers.

Other extension-related activities could include the company being present at exhibitions, agricultural shows and gatherings where potential customers are present. This can also be part of a PR exercise. Companies should make sure that other organizations such as the Extension Service, breeding stations, agricultural colleges and universities receive samples of the varieties being promoted.

Group discussions

It is usually not possible to contact enough farmers individually. This makes group discussions a useful way of interacting with them on an informal basis and simultaneously receiving feedback. Such discussions can be organized at a local level prior to the selling season to support the dealer network and should involve representatives from the various sales outlets together with a technical specialist. Visual aids such as video should be used.

Seed seminars

These are more formal occasions which can be used to disseminate technical information and can involve breeders, sales representatives and extension officers as well as farmers. Seed seminars also provide farmers with the opportunity of discussing their experiences with experts. These occasions can be shared with other related organizations and suppliers, such as chemical companies. This will increase the impact and help to share the cost.

Field days and open days

Field days are usually held at demonstration plots but open days can be held at a research station where plots have been sown. If they are held at the supplier's premises a field day provides an opportunity to show farmers what is involved in putting a bag of seed on a farm and the expenses incurred. Obviously, bringing farmers to a central point can be costly but field days provide an effective PR opportunity and can be used to reward dealers and customers.


Catalogues are an essential sales aid and can range from a simple listing of a limited number of field crop seeds to a glossy colour publication of a large range of horticultural seeds. The catalogue both informs the distributors and consumers about a company's products and services while also helping to convey a company's image. The contents of a catalogue can include:

the front cover featuring the company name, logo, date, name of product range, cover photograph or art work;
a listing of contents, if the catalogue is a large one;
an introduction, highlighting new product additions, company developments, awards, official trial results;
a map of the sales area covered by the catalogue with the various company locations marked; representatives, seed supply stores and distribution points; names, addresses and telephone numbers should be given where relevant;
descriptions of terms and symbols used as well as seed quality, grades and treatments offered;
categorized listing of products by species and variety with appropriate product description, unit quantities supplied, special uses, sowing and harvesting period;
useful conversion tables, e.g. imperial to metric measurements or local units;
useful technical information;
terms and conditions of sale;
a calendar, possibly featuring the seasonal planting of the company's products;
a price list, which should not necessarily be an integral part of the catalogue but perhaps an insertion since the catalogue may be current longer than the price list.

A seed catalogue can be expensive to produce which may seriously limit numbers and therefore distribution. Therefore care should be taken to provide a catalogue or brochure which is both economic and serves the intended purpose.

The promotional budget

No rule can be given as to how much to spend on promotion but it is one of the easiest ways of spending money and so should be carefully controlled and well targeted. Obviously a judgment has to be made by management in considering how much to spend on promotion but there is a minimum level of activity that must be maintained, as an organization must be visible to the farmer.

At the product level the earning potential of the product will also influence the amount that can be spent on promotion. It is likely that the higher value vegetable varieties and hybrid field crop varieties will be sold in a more competitive market, requiring more promotional support.

Approaches to budgeting for promotional purposes

At an early stage, a company has to decide on the allocation of funds for promotion. The following are some possible approaches.

"What can the company afford?" This is a weak approach as it will not be related to specific objectives and will therefore have no measurable effect.

Allocating a percentage of the sales' value to promotion. This is a more useful approach as it is related to sales and enables a company to match what might be regarded as an industry standard. This can be used as a starting point in costing into the total company budget a sum that can be made available for promotion. The disadvantage is that by adopting this method, a decline in sales in one year may lead to a lower promotional budget in the next, leading in turn to lower sales, and so on.

Individual product targets. This is the most logical approach as it will be related to specific and measurable objectives by product or product group. Obviously priorities will have to be set and choices made within the company budget.

A small seed company will not have the resources to become involved in all the activities that have been described but the principles involved are, nevertheless, relevant. A minimum necessary level of product and dealer support can be achieved by prudently choosing the most cost-effective activities.

Contents - Previous - Next