Project 2: Promotion: closing report

This project was to promote Paperight to outlets and customers as we launch our instant-delivery site.

With this project we wanted to plan and execute a marketing effort to attract new outlets and consumers to use Paperight. Key features of the project plan included:

  • A dedicated outlet-development manager to visit and provide support to outlets;
  • Public advertising of the service (incl. buses, mobile ads, Facebook ads);
  • Mainstream-media coverage (incl. interviews on radio, magazine and newspaper articles, press releases for online reference);
  • Production of an explainer video for our website and others to embed;
  • Production and distribution of a catalogue of Paperight content to 1000 outlets around South Africa, with an emphasis on the Western Cape.

General report-back

We came a very long way under this project, making many twists and turns as we learned by trial and error how best to promote Paperight. It’s a journey that we’re going to be on for some time to come.

Overall, a key learning was that we must help outlets promote themselves as much as, or more than, we promote Paperight itself. And that the only way to reliably make sales in the early days is to create them manually, one by one. You simply can’t dive into advertising till you’ve done the groundwork in person, face to face, hand-holding every sale from start to finish.

We also learned that it’s easy to produce marketing materials that never get used. Under Objectives Achieve below we explain how we fared in each area of the project plan.

Objectives achieved/not achieved

We said: “Paperight’s value is proportional to the number of outlets and customers using it, so promotion is critical as soon as we have a site that can deliver instant PDFs for printing. We need to plan ahead, have the right people in place, and then execute a well-organised marketing campaign.”

For over a year we consistently underestimated how much deliberate, focused planning must go into a marketing plan, and what it would involve. We had a strategy (approach many outlets, and build our profile through PR), but did not build this out into a play-by-play plan. We also thought that we’d run a public advertising campaign, an approach that quickly changed when we realised that we didn’t yet have the outlet footprint or available products required to support that.

As planned, we did bring in a marketing professional, but this wasn’t the right person and we parted ways within a month. We then naively thought we could handle marketing ourselves. It was only when Zoom Advertising did a pro bono marketing-plan workshop with us in June 2013 that we really understood what a marketing plan should be, and hired a dedicated member of the team to create, manage and implement it. This is now in place and doing well.

We said: “We plan to create enough interest that 100 outlets register on Paperight, and 1000 documents are purchased through these outlets over a two-month period.”

It took us just over two months to get to 100 outlets, mostly by visiting them personally. However, 35 of these were duds, not viable as outlets. After three months we had 100 viable outlets registered. Over the first two months we only ‘sold’ (most were free downloads) 100 copies, not 1000. It took us ten months to get to 1000 copies.

We said: “This will also lead to valuable feedback for us, and kickstart the word-of-mouth required for organic outlet and customer growth.”

This was definitely the case, a process that continues today.

Activities planned vs actual

Planned Actual outcome
Approach media contacts, especially in radio and newspapers (broad and community-based), to ask for interviews and articles. We’ve got better and better at this, and now are very effective at getting good PR. PR campaigns are carefully planned and thoroughly executed. But it took us about a year, including hiring a professional for five months (using SAB Foundation funding) to learn how to do it.
Identify key advertising targets, and purchase space. Current key targets are Facebook, Golden Arrow buses and taxis, posters in train stations in Cape Town, and posters for outlet shop windows. We’ve tried Facebook advertising with limited success. We decided against bus advertising, focusing resources instead on producing small-scale advertising for outlets, with generally poor results.
Outsource design of bus-wrap advertising. Not done.
Recruit outlet-development manager. We hired three people for five months: Zukisani, Zimkita and Yazeed. They hit our outlet registrations targets. Yazeed has stayed on under separate projects as business/outlets development manager, and is a crucial member of the team.
Hire in part-time marketing expertise. Our first part-time hire did not work out — we were not happy with performance or approach. We then used these funds to keep on Nick Mulgrew full-time as in-house designer. This has been a crucial role, helping us create very high quality materials and design and copy.
Commission explainer video from Blinktower. We commissioned Sea Monster instead of Blinktower, and are very happy with our explainer video.
Design, print and distribute catalogue of top content. We did this as a poster. We could not distribute the poster properly though, and it quickly became out of date because of the way we included pricing on the poster. The lesson learned was not to print large quantities of posters, but rather the design custom posters per outlet or chain, and let them print them as needed.
Develop outlet-support protocols, processes and scripts. This is an ongoing process. We developed an outlet user guide, outlet introduction/info pack, and various templated scripts and survey questions.

 

Measures of success

Planned output Planned measure Planned target Actual outcome
Visible adverts and media coverage Claimed visibility numbers (e.g. how many people see a bus?) 1m people It isn’t possible to get a good measure for this. When we planned this measure, it was based on using one major advertising method. We changed our approach to use many targeted methods. We doubt we’ve exposed Paperight to anything close to 1m people.
Explainer video Viewers feel they can use Paperight today; leads people to sign up 8 of 10 viewers we survey say they’d use Paperight in the next month; traffic to the site from video embeds leds to >1min time on site and >2-pages browsing The explainer video is still extremely clear and useful in many contexts, especially pitches to publishers and potential partners. But we have not been able to gather data according to these measures. It’s great that after a year of changed messaging, the explainer is still on message.
User feedback, and outlet-support protocols, processes and scripts Ability to answer queries quickly; common issues converted into improvements and added to dev roadmap Every query solved within 2 minutes of first contact; any query that repeats >10 times converted to roadmap item This has been achieved. Queries that are not instantly resolved only take longer because the customer needs patient handholding. Repeat queries have consistently led to development roadmap items that have been implemented.
Developed list of good media contacts Can we get PR messages out through good channels in future? >20 personal media contacts who’d return our calls We have many more than 20 excellent media contacts now, and get great coverage from press releases.
Top-content catalogue Can outlets use it to entice customers to print? Verified distribution to 800 outlets; positive feedback from 80% of outlets we ask We did not achieve this aim. We have conducted a separate survey (here) of outlet’s use of Paperight posters in general that show low take-up: “Of the 145 surveyed outlets only 28 put up posters.” IMportantly, “of the outlets who put up posters, 70% sold books”.
Better understanding of what works and doesn’t when marketing Paperight What would we do differently next time and why? Clear, ongoing write-up of lessons learned on wiki We are fairly good at this. We have a range of reports and protocol pages on learnings from campaigns. (E.g. the outlet survey mentioned above.)
Expanded user base (customers, publishers, outlet partners) Number of users; frequency of use; revenue per outlet Users: 1000 customers, 100 outlets, 50 rightsholders; frequency: average outlet acquires 1 document/day; total revenue per outlet R500/month. Only after several months did we hit the numbers of 1000 customers, 100 outlets and 50 rightsholders. We have never attained the frequency of 1 doc/day/outlet or R500/month per outlet. However, we have established new, clear revenue targets for the network overall  that have been met for 9 months in a row.

 

We expected to see customers using the site at the measurable levels listed above. We’d have liked to see all these measures exceeded. We’d have loved to see these measures exceeded but also to discover new ways to develop Paperight that we never thought of.

Budget

Original budget: R511500

Actual spend: R489372.37

Returned to pool: 22127.63

 

Item Budget Actual Return to pool Comments
Outlet Manager 150000 150000 0 3 outlets managers hired for five months.
Travel 45000 35132.96 9867.04 We managed to save on travel these months
Marketing Consultant 50000 50000 0 Some spent on a consultant, remainder used to give Nick Mulgrew a full position.
Advertising 164500 136998.30 27501.7 We kept our advertising costs low, and spent on many small, targeted efforts and experiments, rather than a few big expenses.
Content Manager 84000 84000 0 Tarryn-Anne Anderson
Computers 18000 10580 7420 We managed to save  by buying cheaper equipment
Unbudgeted 0 22661.11 22661.11 Adobe CS5.5, Additional consultant fees, Bank charges
Total 511500 489372.37 22127.63

 

Outputs and deliverables

Planned Actual outcome
a range of visible adverts and media coverage focused on Cape Town Done! We have developed a large and growing library of ads (posters, flyers, signage etc.) developed by Nick Mulgrew, and keep a running list of extensive media coverage. This project began this work, and we’ve continued it under other projects.
an explainer video we can use indefinitely to show how simple and powerful Paperight is Done. See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vW4lwI0C1I0 and in Xhosa: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JoUjSo4KQk
outlet-support protocols, processes and scripts, stored on the Paperight wiki Done and ongoing.
a more developed list of good media contacts Done. We have an extensive list of several hundred media contacts. When we put out a press release, we select appropriate contacts from the list, and mail each one separately. High-value contacts get a phone call too.
a top-content catalogue We did this as a poster. It was not as useful as expected, largely because we chose to include pricing information on the poster that went out of date quickly.
a better understanding of what works and doesn’t when marketing Paperight This project began this learning process, but we believe our best marketing messages took well over a year to crystallise.
an expanded user base (customers, publishers, outlet partners) Indeed.
user feedback (good and bad) on which to base future development. Yes. We actively encourage this, and could always do more. Feedback is incredibly valuable and we make sure to take it on board every time.

Learnings

The most important learning has been that you can’t make marketing up as you go along. Only a year later (under this and separate projects) have we got marketing planning right, after bringing in Zoom Marketing to help. marketing planning requires deliberate focusing on very specific target markets and products. The scary part is choosing what not to do — it always feels like a huge risk to not take every path. But narrowing one’s offering and one’s targets is the only way to be effective

We tried to take too big and wide an approach at the beginning, and it took a long time to realise that narrowing down was important and would take deliberate effort. That narrowing can only be done if you write down and commit to a detailed marketing plan.

Exit/Sustainability/Viability

Further promotional work will be funded by further Foundation-funded projects until we’re self-sustainable in 2015.

Conclusion

This first promotional project taught us a great deal, which was very valuable. We’re confident we can apply these lessons constructively in future promotional work in ways that grow revenue towards our self-sustainability.

Next steps

Pitch for further promotional funds under a new project, based on our new, detailed marketing plan.

 

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