Though the concept of energy hasn’t changed very much over the last 20 years, both the overall energy industry and individual markets have evolved and undergone immense transformations. As one of many industries working to readjust amid a changing landscape, the energy industry finds itself at the center of a narrative we’ve grown familiar with in recent years. Digitalization has shifted the dynamic between customer and service provider, changing the way we all do business. Much like water, energy has historically been considered a commodity, but as more and more options become available, even commodities can be shopped around for a better value. Customers are no longer interested in pure products matching their needs. They are looking for services that aim to solve their problems and improve their lives.[i] With this highly evolved and informed customer in mind, energy companies are reconsidering some of their long-standing marketing strategies and implementing new ideas. In this blog, we will discuss a few of the latest industry trends and some of their benefits.
Less Promotion—More Education
As with any form of communication, tone is extremely instrumental in conveying the intended message to an organization’s target audience. In the age of enlightened customers, companies must take heed to and understand customer needs, interests, and concerns. Large energy customers such as major corporations may want renewable energy to meet their sustainability goals while residential customers may be more interested in clean energy and being equipped with the technology and tools to efficiently manage their energy usage.[ii] Today’s customers are knowledge seekers. To better engage them, energy companies are approaching content with more of an educational tone of voice. By doing so, energy companies are able to present the benefits of their services without overwhelming their target audience.
Marketing via Social Media
In a world driven by Millennials who thrive with the latest technology, it has become nearly impossible for businesses to prosper without engaging audiences via social media. One of the most impactful ways energy companies are utilizing social media as a method of reaching their customers is during times of crisis such as power outages. Energy companies post safety information, give service updates, and respond to customer inquiries directly from their Twitter and Facebook accounts. By utilizing social media as a means of communication and engagement, energy companies are able to demonstrate that their customers’ concerns are being heard and dealt with in a timely manner.
Understanding the Importance of Branding
In the energy sector, branding is not so much about the company providing energy. It’s more so about the story behind the type of energy the company provides. Many of today’s energy customers are deeply concerned with climate change, and the interest in solar and renewable energies is continuously growing. Energy companies that are engaged with their customers realize that each source of energy has its own story to tell, and this story is what gets customers excited. By focusing on these stories, energy marketers can appeal to a wider audience while gaining more business.
Keeping an Open-mind
In a lot of ways, the energy sector has a unique challenge on its hands when compared to other major sectors. Energy companies are now faced with the task of having to engage and market to an audience that has traditionally been a bit lackluster with regard to energy and utility services. Think about it for a moment. When was the last time you deliberated about your current energy provider or considered the possibility of switching to another provider? In reality, as long as the lights are on when we get home we don’t really don't give our electric service much thought. This is the kind of customer with whom energy companies must now connect and engage, and doing so requires some creativity and “out of the box” thinking.
Many energy companies are now using tactics such as online games or interactive quizzes to educate and connect with their customers. These approaches are easier to understand by their target audience and have proven to be effective in informing customers on energy efficiency. By leveraging quizzes and games via social media, energy companies have been able to better inform their audiences, build brand awareness, and cultivate a renewed interest in energy.
Relevance Through Communication
One of the key marketing rules within any industry is to remain relevant and stay up to date on the issues that concern the target audience most. This fundamental rule is also remarkably important in the energy industry where customers expect their energy suppliers to actually know something about them and help them manage their energy consumption. Energy customers also expect energy marketers to use this knowledge when communicating with them. We all know from personal experience what happens with mass, non-personalized communications. When you receive that flier in the mail about making $50,000 in one week or read an advertisement addressed to you about the benefits of a reverse mortgage (though you don’t currently own a home), this is mass, non-personalized marketing. Non-personalized communication is typically written off as “junk” and immediately discarded.
In contrast, a personalized communication has the potential to actually capture the attention of the target audience and generate more business. “Tests among utility and energy customers show that personalized information, including personalized URLs empower and reinforce both email and direct mail communications.”[iii] Energy companies that customize communication to speak to the specific needs, interests, and concerns of their customers maintain relevance and successfully captivate their target audiences.
The ways by which people choose to communicate and engage is continually evolving and transforming. As a result, many industries are progressively revisiting and tweaking their marketing approaches to connect with their target audiences. Energy marketers are seizing many opportunities to engage their audiences with energy education and efficiency at the center of the conversation. By tuning into what affects and interests their customers most, energy companies will continue to successfully build upon and expand their customer base.
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[i]Venturini, Francesco. "5 disruptive trends that will change the energy industry forever."Pulse. LinkedIn, 24 May 2016. Web.
[ii]Wood, Lisa. "A Bold New Energy Vision. "Electric Perspectives. N.p., May & june 2016. Web
[iii]7 Considerations for Utility and Energy Response Marketing "Jacobs & Clevenger. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 July 2014.
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