aQysta: Digital Marketing in the Times of COVID-19

In this virtual era, the advancement of technology offers tremendous opportunities for companies looking to market their products and solutions to their target customers without needing to meet them in person. Additionally, a robust marketing plan helps increase visibility, engage with target audiences, and generate interest and sales leads.  The practical use of various online tools also provides real-time insights to help improve businesses’ productivity and expansion efforts. Succeeding with online marketing, however, requires resources and strategies to create quality content and build followers.

Launched in September 2020, the WE4F Asia EDGE Ag-Energy Marketing Prize provided a grant for marketing and technical assistance to help build marketing toolkits and strategies for two top growth-ready enterprises – aQysta and EGreen. The prize’s launch during COVID-19 helped these companies adjust to an unprecedented event that has dramatically changed consumers’ behaviors and the way in which enterprises operate.

Wanweena Tangsathianraphap, Communications and Knowledge Management Specialist from the WE4F South and Southeast Asia Regional Innovation Hub, spoke with Ms. Annisa Anindita, Project Manager from aQysta Indonesia, to learn about the impact of the prize and the company’s marketing strategy during COVID-19.

Since COVID-19 is still spreading in many countries, including Indonesia, what is the current on-the-ground situation?

The regulation at the moment is [that] we work from home, I guess until the end of the year. I think that is best for everyone, because we work with smallholder farmers, [and] it’s usually in rural areas. Everyone is wearing masks, so you can still go for a field visit. However, we try to limit that in-company. I think for site visit, it is [just] to check the site visibility for the pumps and the water source.

Talking about COVID-19 and the present situation, how has it changed the way you do business especially in terms of marketing and sales?

So mostly what we usually do with marketing is that we go from site to site and meet the farmers. That has not happened much since last year. What we have been trying to do to substitute site visits is to use the data we have and then we analyze them. It was a coincidence [that] with this award, [we were] provided [with] social media support and [from] that, we got into the social media marketing.

So, you were moving to online channels? Could you please explain a bit more about that? What was your online marketing strategy at that time? How did you manage the channels?

We did have social media before receiving [the] award. Although there were quite a number of followers, the content was more [about] informing people [of] our product and activities. The WE4F marketing campaign support boosted our confidence in social media [campaigning after receiving the prize].

We were active on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram, but primarily to showcase our activities which were quite generic. So, the conversion [rate] of people [who] contacted us was low.

Could you tell me what happened after receiving the award?

So, after we won the award, USAID Catalyst, the team that ran the Asia EDGE Ag-Energy Prize, quickly set up a meeting and we discussed what we hoped [to gain] from this social media support, and our targets. And then they made a [social media] schedule and strategy of what [and how] to reach [customers]. It was very organized, and I think that is the good thing about WE4F. [The team] explained everything very clearly.

For the WE4F marketing campaign support competition, we received [a] $1,000 USD voucher for social media and an introduction video. So, it was during the pandemic that we created the [explainer] video and also prepared our social media. We [also] really received help from USAID Catalyst on how to set up our social media campaign on Facebook and YouTube. Our team in Nepal worked closely with them, thereafter the campaign generated a good amount of leads.

So, after implementing this pilot intervention with WE4F, were there any changes or direct impact for your business?

Yes, definitely. With our previous offline marketing campaign, we were struggling to generate leads. I mean, we had to actively approach people and that is very hard compared to when people approach you because they have already had internal motivation for your product. And with this social media marketing campaign, the leads generated were like…more than 1,000 people contacting us and that [was] Facebook alone.  They all were people who were interested in our product, so that was really a good experience.

And so, moving on, we have implemented what we set up from the WE4F marketing campaign support, and we are continuing that until now. Also, in other focus countries, we are paying more attention to social media marketing.

Could you elaborate more on the specific marketing activities that you will continue or maintain?

[During the] marketing campaign, the $1,000 USD voucher was [split amongst] YouTube, Facebook, and WhatsApp [ads].  The best response came from Facebook. So, we [will] only continue with that [platform] for our social media marketing campaign. That is one of the lessons that we learn[ed] from the marketing campaign. We realize that social media marketing is important. So, we [are] continuing with the strategy but changing the content. 

[We are also] still maintaining the leads generated from [the] WE4F campaign. What [was] interesting is the leads generated from government officers, which is something hard [in normal circumstances]. If they do not come to you, you need to go to their office to give a presentation. It does not always come [easily]…like you know sometimes [you] need connections, but through the campaign, we received quite a number of government organizations interested in our product and we are maintaining that communication.

Apart from the marketing campaign funding, what do you think are important factors that generated more leads for you?

Good question. Besides more funds, I think it is the viral effect. Because a lot of people were clicking on the video and sharing, so the video [was shown] to other people. There were a lot of people sharing the video through Facebook and commenting. With limited funds, we could not reach that pace, it was just one person clicking and then that [was] the end of the story.

Another thing is the content. I think [in the past] we posted a picture or a video, but it was not edited. I think content plays a big role.  We tried to reuse the same video again in February and March [this year] but with limited fund[ing]. The result was not the same…I think less people responded to the ad. Our team thinks [that] because we have been using [the video] for some time, it is [now] time to find something new…to make our marketing interesting.

What is the main lesson learned you have from implementing the online strategy? 

I think social media marketing is a great way to generate leads, like a massive number of leads.  With the number of leads generated, you can connect with people who are interested in your product, and from that you can analyze the data. We did an analysis on what product people are most interested in, what their struggles are, what they have been using, what crops they grow. That is, for us, valuable information to analyze.

Although, social media marketing campaign is great for generating leads, we also need to figure out how to really reach our target groups of customers. A lot of people are just asking for information. We need to find the strategy to find more serious customers. I think that is something everyone experience[s].

With [an] innovation product, it is not like a product you buy from e-commerce, where people stay online, and they just click and buy. There is a process to finally mak[ing] the decision to buy, especially [when] we are talking about smallholder farmers. We have been thinking more of how we can really optimize our social media campaign to really reach our target groups.

This has been an eye opener of how social media can help generate leads, but [now] we need to move the next level.

aQysta is a developer of hydro-powered pumps which do not require any fuel or electricity to be operated. Its flagship product “Barsha Pump” is an award-winning innovative pump, which has, so far, been rolled out in across 13 countries. The company has a vision to become a global leader in hydro-powered pumping solutions and with it create a sustainable impact.  aQysta’s Indonesia branch won Asia EDGE Ag-Energy Marketing Prize in 2020, and its Nepal branch won the Water and Energy for Food (WE4F) Grand Challenge S/SEA Call for Innovations in 2021.

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Wanweena Tangsathianraphap is a Communications and Knowledge Management Specialist for the WE4F South and Southeast Asia Regional Innovation Hub. She helps connect people together and bridge the gaps created by time, distance and culture through various communication tools. She believes in the power of knowledge sharing that it helps transform one’s ideas and shape personal view towards the world.