Monday, June 2, 2014

Ideas for Marketing More Compost

One of the folks that worked at the waste-to-energy facility asked me for some ideas on how they could better serve their customers and how they could sell more compost. They were getting quite a pile of inventory.

I'm one of the biggest advocates for compost from the waste-to-energy facility. I'm sure we send several hundred folks to get compost each year in the course of our work at the farmers market and talking to fellow growers.

Here are 26 ideas for an even bigger success...

  1. During the peak season of the year consider having a "Compost Ambassador". There are lots of folks that have to or would like to do community service. The "compost ambassador" would help load for customers, maintain the pile, pull weeds and day to day tasks like that. This would take some of the load of explaining the rules from the scale house. The lead ambassador would be a great job for a student in the RCC Horticultural degree program.
  2. Many folks are disappointed they have to load their trailer or pick-up. Maybe they could use one of the skid loaders to load vehicles below 10,000 lbs GVW. Last time I dropped off some cardboard I counted several loaders and none of them were being used at the time.
  3. There are many large users like landscapers or garden centers. These organizations would appreciate a bulk price that is lower. We use about 300,000 pounds a year and are probably one of the biggest customers.
  4. Along with the bulk price allow a prepaid account so you only have to write a check once a month. I think they do something like this for the waste trucks so the process likely already exists.
  5. Reprocess the compost in the spring to get some dry material. The trammel machine should be serviced in the fall and the area under the exit conveyor could be left clear so the loader operator can set aside some of the wet compost to get at the dryer compost in the center of the pile. This compost can be reprocessed to produce nice, dry, fine compost early in the spring. It might also be a good idea to get a large tarp and cover an area of the pile to keep it dry for early spring use. All of these things take a little advanced planning but would make the compost customers very happy. Lots of folks were frustrated with the conditions of the compost this spring.
  6. It would be very easy to print up a simple information sheet that could be given out to new or prospective customers. This could contain information about the use of compost, analysis of that year's compost, safety tips, and the rules of the waste-to-energy facility.
  7. Cooperative advertising with some of the garden centers in the community and the waste to energy compost area.
  8. Send the composting staff to training so they know how to make good compost, what it is and how to use it effectively. These folks are one of the main "faces" that the public sees and interacts with. They should know what they are doing.
  9. The compost site management could walk through the farmers market on Saturday morning and give out information sheets to customers and farmers alike. Other community groups set-up tables or booths. Maybe one of these other groups would adopt the compost facility and do it for them. These potential customers are one of the best sources for large scale use. But few of them even know it exists.
  10. Provide the ability to transport large quantities of compost to farmers and gardeners. Create a list of local carriers and rates.
  11. Selling complementary products as a way to defer costs. Shovels, gloves, etc.
  12. It would be easy to use some mature compost to start a vermicomposting (worm) site. The worms in vermicompost are worth many times what the compost is. I looked on the internet and red wigglers are $25 per pound, that is the same price as 2000 pounds of compost. The enriched compost is also worth more.
  13. Dry and mature compost could be bagged and sold for a premium price. That equipment is probably a lot cheaper than the bailers and loaders used in other parts of the recycling operation.
  14. Dry and mature compost could be put into bulk totes similar to bagging, but on a larger scale.
  15. Start a composting web-site with up to the date information, facts and prices. This is very inexpensive to do these days. Get a high school computer class to set it up for free.
  16. It would be a big improvement to the quality of the compost to not put the compost on gravel. There is a lot of small gravel in the Rochester compost. It doesn't hurt anything in terms of quality of use, but I have heard complaints from the public.
  17. Survey the compost users for other ideas. This is very easy to do with current computer tools or just have every customer fill out a survey as they pay.
  18. Some people are very avid and positive customers. Get testimonials to use for promotion.
  19. Instead of running the compost center as a community service, at a loss, run it as a business. If you had to make a profit, what would you do differently. Sometimes our thinking limits our success.
  20. Press releases and free media coverage. The local stations love content like that.
  21. Partner with Quarry Hill nature center for publicity, promotion, awareness and environmental friendliness.
  22. Do a compost auction on e-bay or Craig's list.
  23. Instead of free giveaways use the auction concept to generate some income and spread out the compost pickup.
  24. Promote compost for use on lawns. It is the best lawn booster and dethatching substance around.
  25. Create a compost "hot line" to call for all things compost. 
  26. When it rains more than an inch during the day or overnight. Set out some fresh dry compost.
I know not all of these things are immediately feasible. But what if 50% could be done in the course of a year. It would make a big difference and the compost facility would be an ever bigger success.

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