Like other government-regulated industries, energy companies are well acquainted with the unpredictable, ever changing environmental and geo-political conditions currently impacting the globe. In an industry such as this, a marketer is not only faced with the obstacle of government regulated service and price, but also gaining the trust of a very large and diverse market of consumers.
So what are energy marketers concerned about? They want customers, especially large commercial accounts, to see them as a partner in managing energy consumption. As a consumer, we want our energy company to educate us on managing our bills, and to keep us up to date with how economic changes might impact us financially. Marketing directors are recognizing the crucial need for customer engagement, and the increasing demand for social media communication.
Here are some of the ways energy marketers are developing content that will help to educate and build better relationships with their consumers.
Investing in content strategy
Marketing can sometimes be first in line for budget cuts, especially within the energy industry. This decision often comes from the assumption that the audience who will see an advertisement for an electrical power company may already be a customer. That assumption was more likely to be true in the past, and less true as the industry becomes more competitive. However, content marketing isn’t just about increasing brand awareness – it’s about maintaining a positive brand image and reputation.
Content marketing strategy takes thorough planning, analysis, and management. Typically, there is a team assigned to this important task that is responsible for creating content based on a well-planned schedule made weeks in advance of deadlines. If the internal marketing team does not have the expertise or time to develop relevant and impactful content, the energy firm may call an agency or freelancer to do this creative work. With these clearly identified investments in content marketing, the organization is able to monitor results and analyze returns on investment from increased website traffic, social media followers, and sales.
Making daily informative posts on social media and creating blogs with relative content is a crucial aspect of communicating that you are a knowledgeable partner in managing energy consumption. This requires collaborating with knowledgeable experts in your company by having them involved in creating content such as webinars, blogs, or white papers. In addition to keeping your customers up to speed on current energy industry issues and developments, you also must keep up with new content strategies to stay one step ahead of the curb.
During the Energy Marketing Conference for Retailers, Stream Energy was named the “Most Innovative Marketer of 2016." Within a crowded marketplace this company put themselves in a unique position through “selling energy by word of mouth.” Stream Energy demonstrated new and innovative ways to reach customers, through encouraging existing customers to sell Stream's services, sign up new customers, and get paid for it. For marketers, this business model relieves their workload, by developing the customer’s motivation to recommend the firm's service through a referral fee arrangement. Not only is Stream changing the market, they are consistent and informative, by regularly posting content that educates and provides tips on cutting costs and making more environmentally sound decisions. This type of innovation and content regularity conveys the company’s confidence in their service, and ultimately boosting their credibility.
We’ve already discussed how it can be difficult for companies to spend dollars on content marketing and advertising, and it is especially hard to justify investing in social media operations. However, social media is a crucial platform for energy companies and a tool that is necessary to engage with and better understand their customers. Being readily available on social forums allows you to have a quicker response time when issues arise. This is the time and place to get to know your audience, understand their problems or concerns, and act promptly to resolve those problems. In the eyes of the customer, this makes you less of a large corporation, reminding them that behind the comment box sits a person who genuinely cares.
The marketing team at CATMEDIA witnessed first hand a major energy firm embracing the social media platform. On a visit to the Georgia Power headquarters in Downtown Atlanta, we were given a tour of the company’s new Social Media Center, and it was impressive. The company saw an increased demand for social media engagement, and decided to create a new state of the art center where they can provide fast and accurate communication with their customers during severe weather. According to Georgia Power's Vice President of Customer Service, Louis Scott, investing in highly advanced technology and equipment allows them to “ quickly collaborate, solve problems, and respond to our customers day and night.”
Savvy energy marketers approach content creation with the same mindset. Making content that states your position on controversial matters shows the public you care and are concerned with much more than turning a profit. Authentic, current, and engaging content builds relationships and allows your target audience to see a voice and personality behind your brand. In addition, engaging, relevant content encourages your customers to converse and express their feelings with you.
Being transparent builds trust
According to studies issued by Mindshare North America, 91% of consumers agreed that it’s important for companies to communicate honestly about their products and services. Content marketing allows you to do just that, by encompassing the methods to change perceptions and improve communication with your audience. More than ever is it important for not only large established firms, but also newer, entrepreneurial start-ups to provide transparency, especially when it comes to the controversial subject of energy. As experts in the energy industry, you are knowledgeable of complex issues such as increasing demand, geopolitics, and fluctuating gas prices. It’s safe to assume that your customers are not quite as familiar with this kind of information. However, providing them access to your available content can help keep them informed and updated.
One of the most effective ways for companies to be transparent with their consumers, is by admitting defeat when they are wrong and rectifying the situation with honest and fully disclosed information and facts, that will lend to developing quantifiable solutions. While this is situation based, it also opens a window of opportunity to reshape the perceptions of your brand. One example goes back to the Duke Energy's coal ash spill several years ago. The company launched a website, “Environmentally Speaking,” which was comprised of video and image-heavy human-interest stories, along with how-to-guidelines from Duke employees and managers. It eventually evolved into a platform for discussion on national and state level environmental issues, updates on topics related to coal ash and other offshore energy, with the objective “to connect with the public and share what’s happening.”
Through the creation and use of info graphics, blog posts, social media, and video logs (vlogs), you can relay information about matters such as pricing and billing information that is likely to be received and shared by a much larger audience. On these platforms, you have the ability to break down exactly how your services work, what causes prices to fluctuate, and why certain things have unexpected or counter-intuitive results. Most importantly, you are given the ability to stay connected with your audience at all times during moments of crisis. This kind of sharing of very specific information helps gain the trust of your consumers, and helps build and maintains a positive brand image.
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CATMEDIA is an award-winning Inc. 500 company based in Atlanta, Georgia. Founded in 1997, the company specializes in advertising, creative services, media production, program management, training, and human resource management. As a Women Owned Small Business (WOSB), CATMEDIA provides world-class customer service and innovative solutions to government and commercial clients. Current CATMEDIA clients include Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).