To Market, To Market to Sell A Biosolids Program

In a WEF webcast, four successful clean-water agencies share their biosolids marketing success stories.

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Truck it to farm fields. Ship it to composters and blenders. Fertilize trees. Bag it up for sale at the garden store. Let people come and pick it up.

Biosolids products make it to market in all these and other ways. In a Water Environment Federation webcast May 6, representatives from four clean-water agencies shared their marketing strategies, triumphs and stumbles.

If you missed the live webcast, you can still view the presentation materials and hear a recording. Taken together, the speakers offered various lessons for agencies looking to market a product or do a better job of promoting the one they have. Speakers were:

  • Chris Peot, director of resource recovery, DC Water  
  • Peter Kusion, manager, fertilizer manufacturing division, Ocean County (New Jersey) Utilities Authority  
  • Gayla Wright, beneficial reuse manager, City of Denton, Texas 
  • Kate Kurtz, biosolids project manager, King County, Washington  

The four agencies presenting showed that biosolids marketing has come a long way from simply shipping it to cropland in unlabeled trucks. Successful programs demonstrate strategic discipline and considerable diversity in product development and promotion. If you watch the webcast, you’ll be exposed to several universal lessons including:

1. Make high-quality products.
The more you can sever a product’s connection with “human waste,” the easier it will be to market and sell. Odorless Class A product is often the ultimate goal, although Class B products can be highly successful if rigorously managed.

2. Emphasize value.
You’re not dealing with a noxious waste. You’re offering something that gives users an economic benefit. Expect to receive revenue in return. Remember Peot’s words: “There is no such thing as waste, only wasted resources.”

3. Build a brand.
Create a name, a visual identity and a personality around your product. Ocean County calls it OceanGro; Denton calls it Dyno Dirt; King County calls it loop. Display the brand everywhere – on brochures and posters, in ads, on facility signage, on trucks and equipment that handle the product.

4. Know your customers.
Understand what they need and the kind and quality of product they expect. Ocean County learned a lesson when it began bagging OceanGro fertilizer for sale at garden centers. Retailers sent pallet loads back because they got wet. The authority should have used plastic instead of paper bags because garden centers have little dry storage space.

5. Promote like crazy.
Print and radio advertising. Fairs and trade shows. Give away samples. Promotional hats and garden tools. Master gardener groups. Cable TV programs. Movie theaters. And anything else you can think of.

6. Get online.
Don’t just put information on your website. Create a special web page or website for your product. Put videos out on YouTube.

7. Enlist credible third parties.
King County’s program looks for well-spoken, well-respected farmers to talk to the public about its products.

8. Never stop improving.
Make the product better. Improve operating practices. Survey residents about their awareness of the product; survey users about their level of satisfaction. Use the information to make program course corrections.


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