Five Marketing Lessons from Working with Cacao Producers in Colombia
When Partners of the Americans reached out to recruit me to help Cipaotanche with their marketing strategy via the USAID Farmer-to-Farmer program, I was skeptical. Having served for 27 months in the Peace Corps in Peru, I was doubtful that two weeks was enough to make any kind of impact. Plus – I’m sure there are plenty of Colombian marketing specialists who would be better suited for the assignment; and cheaper to get to Otanche.
But I was excited to lend my expertise. As a bilingual and multicultural branding and marketing strategy consultant – who started my career in international development and who has lived, worked, and volunteered in many Latin American countries – I felt well-suited for the role. I founded Duraca Strategic so that I could help social enterprises maximize their impact. My brand values include giving back, so this felt like a perfect match. Plus, as a digital nomad and founder of Duraca Travels, I’m always up for an authentic travel experience.
I loved learning from the cacao association about how much work goes in to create just one bar of chocolate. In turn, I worked with them to develop a marketing strategy.
Here are 5 timeless lessons any social impact organization can learn from the marketing strategy I put together for Cipaotanche:
1. Hone in on your perfect-match target audience. Your perfect target audience is the one who is ready to buy what you’re offering—and looking for it. It’s not someone you need to educate or convince about the value of your product. In Colombia, the kind of high-value cacao and single-origin chocolate that Cipaotanche produces is not yet consumed by many Colombians. So, we knew their most ready audience would be expats, foreigners, and tourists – and the businesses that sell similar luxury consumables to them. We also talked about leading the charge in introducing this kind of chocolate to the Colombian market.
2. Double down on what’s working. To grow your business, you need to understandn where your leads come from. You need to understand when, where, and how people are buying what you offer – and why. Once you understand what’s working well, do more of it. We captured Cipaotanche’s sales data for the first time. We examined the trends in their sales, and strategized how to do more of what was working well. For example, we found that various companies enjoyed giving Cipaotanche’s Quincha Chocolate as gifts to their employees. Cipaotanche could leverage this connection and expand their market reach by asking existing clients to refer their products to other companies.
3. Be where your clients are when they are thinking about what you offer. Don’t just think about who your target audience is – think about where they are when they want what you’re offering. We talked about reaching out to food tours, souvenir shops, luxury goods grocery stores, restaurants, bakeries, and high-end coffee stores to increase the visibility of Cipaotanche’s products.
4. Share your story. Its important to share your origin story and brand values, and create key messages that aren’t just about sales. Your customers will have a much stronger relationship with your brand if you connect with them on something greater than just the sale of your product. This best practice will help you stand out from your competitors. Cipaotanche has many brand values that clients could identify with: environmental stewardship, community capacity building, youth and women participation, productive and licit livelihoods, as well as farmer agency and access to a fair and reliable market price.
5. Leverage your strengths. It’s easy as entrepreneurs to focus on how much you still need to do. Don’t lose sight of all the things you have going for your business already. In Cipaotanche’s case, they have a lot: a strong community & leader, a solid brand, good packaging, a website, existing clients, and many strategic alliances. That’s a lot to build from!
You can see what my time with Cipaotanche was like here.
This blog was originally published by the Partners of the Americas’ USAID Famer-to-Farmer program here.