KSV

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Your Customers Don't Trust Your EE Financial Messaging.

When it comes to inspiring the EE customer to participate in programs or to purchase an EE product, the typical industry message is rooted in the benefit of financial savings. And it makes sense.

Who doesn’t want to spend less on their energy bill?

But, KSV’s proprietary research tells us that the typical customer response to “savings” messages is rooted in distrust. Fundamentally, there is a lack of understanding and skepticism in why a utility would want customers to save money on their monthly bills.

Customers are thinking “How do I know I will actually save money, or actually be paid back for these expensive upgrades? And how long will that actually take?”

One residential homeowner is quoted “I’m just not sure if there will be a financial payoff to making the adjustments or that it would actually add value to my home.”

In a situation of uncertainty and distrust, how can you relieve these barriers?

One solution: Provide a guarantee.

92% of research participants state the lack of an energy and cost reduction guarantee as one of their top three barriers to EE program participation.

What guarantee can you provide? A reasonable payback period? Annual savings? Convenience?

Without a guarantee, you’re asking customers to trust you. Do better than that. Give them no option but to trust you, and be accountable for that. 

Building customer trust in your programs will only lead to increased customer satisfaction. And this is how you transform your energy company into an energy brand.

Lauren Bell / lbell@ksvc.com / 802.862.8261

 

What Resonates with the EE Customer: Saving Money or Wasting Money?

How do you inspire customers to participate in your EE programs? Do any of these sound familiar? "Lower your monthly bill!" or "Save on energy costs!" or "Save energy. Save money!"

We, as marketers, are communicating the benefit of financial savings to our customer. And for the most part, this message works.

So, we guide customers on ways they can save money program by program... But do they all really value this idea of savings?

The Consumer Federation of America reports that only 50% of Americans have good savings habits.

There's no denying that selling the financial benefits of participation or purchase can and do work. But is the message saturated, and uninspired?  

In a society of spenders, why do we constantly provide ways for our customers to save money? What happens if we talk to customers about the very opposite? 

While conducting proprietary consumer research, KSV asked utility customers all over the Northeast what inspired them more when it comes to taking action in EE program participation and/or purchase: Saving money? Or not wasting money? 

We were surprised to find an even split.

50% stated they were more inspired to participate and/or purchase when the result was financial savings. Is this an old habit response?

50% stated they were more inspired to participate and/or purchase when the communications were focused on not wasting money. Is this an opportunity response? 

Because we're spenders, one could argue that wasting money wouldn't resonate. (After all, we live in the Starbucks generation of $5 coffees.) But the truth is that customers want to spend their hard-earned money on things they want, not on the things they need.

Either way you spin it, your message is resonating. But if you find that your message is saturated, now could be your opportunity to reach that other 50% with just a simple change. 

Food for thought. Get in touch if you're interested in the full research report. We can even chat about it over a Starbucks. 

Lauren Bell / lbell@ksvc.com / 802.862.8261

Three Things to Consider with Energy Efficiency Messaging

Consumer Research Disrupts Conventional Thinking on

How to Get People to Embrace Energy Efficiency

Utilities and their marketing mavens may be speaking the wrong language to their customers, according to our recent proprietary consumer research.

You would think the chance to save money would motivate people to insulate their homes and replace energy-hogging appliances.

And you would be wrong.

KSV's research, conducted among families and businesses in the northeast U.S. earlier this year, tells us that the money people think they have to spend outweighs what they think they could save. What they really crave is comfort and well-being.

It appears to us that utilities are talking energy efficiency and potential dollars saved, and customers are seeking comfort.

That disconnect is a significant opportunity for utilities to retool their energy efficiency messaging.

Three things to consider...

  • Talk to the right customer, those ready to make a decision.
  • Stop talking about energy efficiency and start talking comfort.
  • Empower your customers with understanding.

There are four more such insights in our report, "What People Really Want to Know About Energy Efficiency." Reach out to Lauren Bell to get them.

Ashley Nicholls / 802.862.8261 / anicholls@ksvc.com

Part III – Residential Customers: The Energy Efficiency Conversation in Social Media

We’re focusing on how your residential customers engage with energy efficiency across their own social channels. In order to increase their participation in your energy efficiency programs, we want to first understand how/if they’re talking about energy efficiency with their friends. Is energy efficiency relevant to their conversations? If so, how are they talking about it?  On a personal and homeowner level, energy efficiency content tends to be focused around two primary conversation types: exploratory and experience sharing. Users look to social media to ask their peers about processes, costs, and benefits, relying on their extended personal networks to supply information about offers, opportunities, struggles and worth to these types of changes.

If the user has already gone through an energy efficiency program, the natural next-step is to share their experience on social networks, especially popular when regarding home upgrades. This content is often posted in hopes of gaining positive feedback from their networks and peers (“Your house looks great, Sarah!”), but also to help others make similar improvements to their homes and lives. With these types of posts, energy and cost savings tend to take a backseat at the beginning, with the topic instead focusing on the ease or difficulty of the switch itself. Later on however, the savings will play a headline in sparking further conversation.

More than ever, customers are also using social media as an outlet for customer service frustrations and praise. They want their friends to know if their ENERGY STAR appliance changed the entire look of their kitchen, or adds convenience to their day, etc. They also want friends to know if it doesn’t work properly or if they never received their promised rebate. When it comes to service or audits, the expectation is that poor reviews will receive faster resolution.

Our Thinking: Social engagement with personal and homeowner energy efficiency content tends to be quite high, with users answering the questions and supporting the interests, efforts and experiences of their peers. Whether or not this positive engagement leads to further outreach or action however, is still up to the efficiencies (or potentially, deficiencies) of their personal networks to decide.

Also see:

Three Pillars to a Social Media Strategy to Boost J.D Power Scores

The Energy Efficiency Conversation in Social Media (Part I – Industry)

The Energy Efficiency Conversation in Social Media (Part II - Small and Large Business)

Part II – Small and Large Businesses: The Energy Efficiency Conversation in Social Media

This week, we’re focusing on how your business customers promote energy efficiency across their own social channels. Because in order to increase their participation in your programs, we should first understand how/if they’re using energy efficiency to increase engagement with their own customers. How is energy efficiency relevant to their business and to their customers? How do they communicate about it? Is it working? shutterstock_172140206Small Business

On the small business side, social postings about Energy Efficiency tend to revolve around the business’ role in the local or regional community, as well as the environmental impacts of the efficiency programs. If relevant, the messaging may also include references to local job support.

Engagement with these postings tends to be a bit stronger, percentage-wise, than those prompted by the educational tone of the industry sector (but will be less overall, as many of these businesses have far smaller social media footprints to begin with). Positive reinforcement is a base goal for small businesses talking about Energy Efficiency, with general community goodwill and “…this is why I support X!” as their target response.

Our Thinking: Small business has an opportunity to challenge other like businesses to engage in Energy Efficiency measures, perhaps with an efficiency shoot-out (who can save the most kWh in the next quarter?) with friendly competitors and peer businesses in their community.

Large Business

For large companies and businesses, energy efficiency postings and content on social media tend to revert mainly to self-celebration. “Find out how we’re making a difference…” is generally the entry point to these posts, linking off to a blog or news article about how “green” and/or “eco-friendly” the company is being or has become (See: Coca-Cola, Pfizer, Nike, BP, etc.). Little to no emphasis is put on the financial impacts of these changes; the goal appears to be a hope of mentally offsetting their audiences’ potential negative feeling towards the company’s inefficient production or distribution cycles.

Engagement with these postings is very low by most large company standards. At this level in social media, users, fans and followers are linked to a company to support its products or programs, with a bit of cognitive dissonance sometimes thrown in towards environmental efforts (of course, this depends on the company, its history and mission). The difference here is on Twitter. With Twitter, large companies and businesses that tout their Energy Efficiency initiatives are often met with a solid round of negative feedback, as these postings are more public than on other social media channels and subject to far more scrutiny. To combat this, you’ll often see a large business post about Energy Efficiency during social media “off-times”, while also quickly binding this output with before and after content not related to efficiency programs, so as to “bury” this content with posts that feature their more appreciated products and services.

Our Thinking: Successful EE content in this realm often revolves around recurring posts and content, as opposed to one-offs. Daily/Weekly Energy Tips, Twitter Hashtags to follow a long-term conversation, and basic question-and-answer tactics to help shape the content quell the negativity, while also helping to open up the conversation a bit more with their target audience. When the focus is tilted away from the company and leaned back onto the user, we see a relatively sizeable shift in the community’s response, as well as a rise in engagement numbers overall.

Also see:

Three Pillars to a Social Media Strategy to Boost J.D Power Scores

The Energy Efficiency Conversation in Social Media (Part I – Industry)

One tactic to keep customers engaged in their EE customer journey.

shutterstock_157952597First Party Data. Is it invasive to use this tactic to create personalized connections with your customers?

Or, does it actually provide value by ensuring the messages customers encounter deliver a benefit from your brand?

Real quick, let’s define what we mean by first party data. It is personally identifiable data like email records, physical addresses and purchase history. It is information that is collected by a company in the course of serving its customers.

What does this mean for utilities when they are marketing energy efficiency to their customers?

It means utilities have a HUGE opportunity to acknowledge where the individual customer sits in their EE customer journey.

The journey is a long one when we consider the need to be made aware of the benefits, to be inspired to do research and finally to take action. And action can mean different things for different customers. LED bulbs are an easy entry point while appliance purchases require a greater need and willingness to invest. Utilities support this journey through offerings like rebates and audits, and should be capturing that 1st party data to inform personalized messaging going forward. This personalized messaging will not only push your customer to act, but also push them to participate in the next program, product or offering.

Through recent proprietary research and customer interviews, we know that customers’ most frequent response to energy efficiency is: “I just don’t know where to begin.”

First party data allows you to leverage data intelligence and place relevance in the paths of your customers. It allows you to personally show them not only where to begin, but also where to go next.

It’s time for utilities to embrace the fact that they have powerful data at their fingertips and that this data can sharpen their communications approach befitting the most important part of this relationship: the customer.

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The proprietary research mentioned was conducted on the barriers, benefits and motivations to participating in energy efficiency programs across Residential, Small Business and Large C & I audiences in the Northeast.

Get in touch, and we'll share the full report!

Adaptors vs. Solution Seekers

shutterstock_14192422669% of research participants state they find themselves adapting to inefficiencies in their homes and/or businesses rather than seeking solutions. Here’s what they said:

You have to educate someone about inefficient areas so they pay attention 

to it. They just assume some costs are constant and part of their daily lives. People just get used to it. They think it’s outside their realm of control.

- CEO, Global Software Company

“It’s all about ease and it’s become our habit to do the least expensive thing.”

                                                            - Small Business Owner, Healthcare Professional

“You come into the house and you put a sweater on, and you just kind of leave it at that.”

                                                            - Homeowner

KSV Customer Insight: People are normalized to everyday inefficiencies in their homes and/or workplace. It is only when these inefficiencies cause a disruption

in expectation that they are noticed.

So, how do you increase participation in programs that customers aren’t even aware they need?

Be the disruption in your customer’s expectation.

How do you that? We can help!

We recently conducted an in-depth research study on the barriers, benefits and motivations to participating in energy efficiency programs across Residential, Small Business and Large C & I audiences in the Northeast.

Get in touch, and we’ll share the full report!

Lauren Bell

lbell@ksvc.com

802.862.8261

Are you talking tech?

imgresUtilities are working hard to inspire their customers to take action on energy efficiency. There is great opportunity for these power providers to leverage consumers love for technology in this effort. Consumers covet technology across multiple daily experiences. It empowers, simplifies, enhances, excites, connects and creates efficiencies across so many needs and wants. Every day we are engaged with technology. The technology conversation is a great insertion point for utilities. So how should they do it?

By having a voice in the tech revolution that is defining contemporary times. The utility voice should be present in the "internet of things" conversation. This is where customers can be engaged in two things that excite them.

1. Emerging technology

2. Improving how they experience their homes

Here is an example of a utility (Reliant) that is doing just this by partnering with a high profile product (Nest).

Pretty cool, right?

Sure LEDS and high efficiency furnaces are rooted in evolved technology, but those purchases are not exciting. They are not toys like a mobile phone controlled air conditioner or thermostat is. Communicating around things like “you can turn your AC on from work when you are readying to head home.” Tech is cool and so is feeling like your mobile phone is a remote control capable of making your return home more comfortable and less expensive.

The energy efficiency conversation between utilities and customers is evolving from “you should do this” to “this is the benefit of doing it”. Given the love for and dependence on technology exhibited by today’s consumer, utilities need to develop a strong voice around technology enabled energy efficiency. Make it fun, make it about participating in a young yet promising tech revolution that is keeping people connected to controlling their home energy use remotely.

ENERGY WIRE: The Top 10 Industry News + Marketing Opportunity

1.) In an international energy efficiency scorecard, the U.S placed 13 out of 16 countries—lagging behind Germany, China, South Korea, the E.U and India. 2.) Increasing energy end-use efficiency is the largest, least expensive, most benign and most neglected way to provide energy services.

3.) The EIA expects a 3.1% increase in the average annual residential electricity price this year.

4.) In 2015, residential electricity prices are projected to increase an additional 2.4%.

5.) The Northeast region of the U.S is expected to see the sharpest price increases in electricity.

6.) In 2011, U.S. electricity use was more than 13 times greater than electricity use in 1950.

7.) During the first half of 2014, total consumption of electricity was 2.5% higher than during the same period last year.

8.) Residential and commercial sectors increased consumption during the first quarter of the year as a result of colder temperatures in the eastern half of the United States.

9.) Total electricity consumption is expected to grow 0.6% during the second half of 2014, resulting from a 5.1% year-over-year increase in cooling degree-days and projected improvements in energy efficiency.

10.) U.S. energy intensity has fallen 2.5% per year, owing more to improved efficiency than to changes in consumer behavior.

Marketing Opportunity: 

Energy consumption in the United States continues to increase and the shifts in weather patterns are affecting energy demand.

The imminent rise of energy prices in conjunction with new EPA guidelines may be the catalyst for customers to invest resources in energy efficiency, but there are other benefits too. The far ranging benefits of energy efficiency are widely untapped, leaving customers unaware of their existence.

In recent qualitative research, we uncovered that 88% of research participants, across C & I and residential audiences, stated that the non-financial benefits of energy efficiency would motivate them to make improvements to their homes and/or businesses.

Why? Customers are typically not given a guarantee of savings or ROI, so they don’t have trust that spending money will later save them money. The non-financial benefits such as, health, comfort, productivity, and stability, actually resonate with customers, so start educating them.

Reach your customers with marketing communications that cut through the clutter. Stop talking about saving money, unless you’re guaranteeing it.

shutterstock_149578544

America and the Environment: Six trends that define what we’re thinking

climate-change-300x280 2Every year, Joel Mackower of GreenBiz performs a truly important and valuable public service by summarizing most of the past years research on how we feel and think about the environment. It’s easy for those of us who passionately follow the issues to lose touch with mainstream America’s point of view. Though it has to be said, in a time where our politicians don’t pay much attention to the public’s point of view, it probably matters less that we wish that it did.

While the year has been filled with extreme weather events and an increasing consensus within the world’s scientific community, we’re not taking climate change more seriously, despite the given fact that our military and armed forces express no doubt about the severe impact climate change will have on the planet. We are buying more “green” stuff, but that rarely translates to a lighter footprint on the planet. Some of our largest global companies are finally getting serious about sustainability, but they are not yet impacting their consumers.

So the highlights of Joel’s review find –

Trend number 1: Climate change is getting worse, but we don’t seem to notice

“There has not been much change in Americans’ climate and environmental values over the past two years,” based upon ecoAmerica’s VALS-based climate and environmental values research series. The study found that sadly, traditional environmental values were trending “very slightly downward” in 2013 from prior years.

“Americans are less inclined to believe in economic and technological benefits of solving environmental problems. The association between environmental protection and economic growth also dropped, from 82 percent in 2011 to 71 percent in 2013. This may be a result of an active campaign by climate deniers to undermine support for climate solutions.”

Trend number 2: We’re not willing to do much about climate change

Also according to ecoAmerica, 71% of Americans say they are “somewhat” or “very” convinced that climate change is happening, and 76% believe that humans “definitely” can or “might be able to” reduce climate change’s impacts. However, “These statistics seem encouraging for climate solutions advocates — but they obscure a more complicated reality,” say the authors:

“Amidst the Americans who are convinced that climate change is happening are two different groups of people with different attitudes and motivations. Most Americans are only “somewhat convinced.” They don’t associate climate change with their other priorities and are not inclined to support action. Only the “very convinced” are willing to take action. This group tends to be made up of higher-resourced Americans with greater wealth, health and education.”

Trend number 3: We’re confused

Americans don’t seem to know whether the environment is getting better or worse, according to Gallup’s annual environmental pulse-taking. Gallup found that 50 percent of Americans think environmental problems are getting worse and 42 percent think they are getting better. Compare that to 2008, when 68 percent thought the environment was getting worse and 26 percent thought it was getting better. That suggests Americans are more optimistic about the fate of the Earth than they were six years ago.

Trend number 4: We’re confused, but not totally

Overall, says Gallup, Americans remain more negative than positive about the environment. They are less likely to see environmental quality in the U.S. as “excellent” or “good” (44 percent) than to see it as “only fair” or “poor” (55 percent). More broadly, Americans are not very concerned with the climate, at least compared with other issues.

Trend number 5: We like to buy “green” stuff, but not as much as those in other countries

Surveys about consumer attitudes toward buying green products and services continue to be optimistic, continuing a trend that has persisted for twenty-five years.

More than half of shoppers in twenty-four countries say they “care what efforts brands are making to help the environment,” according to Ipsos OTX, the global innovation center for market and opinion research firm. Those most likely to agree they would be willing to pay more for environmentally friendly products are from: Indonesia (59 percent), India (59 percent) and China (58 percent). Just under a third (32 percent) of U.S. consumers agreed, tied with Russians.

Trend number 6: Don’t mess with our food

Environmental issues get personal when it comes to food. Americans say they are “willing to sacrifice variety and dollars in order to eat more consciously,” according to the 2014 Cone Communications Food Issues Trend Tracker. Although family satisfaction reigns supreme (97 percent), shoppers consider health and nutrition (93 percent) and sustainability (77 percent) important factors when deciding what to buy.

ENERGY WIRE: Your Bi-Weekly Energy News

  1. KSV_3522_14_EnergyTop10_7_10 (1)Google owned smart thermostat company, Nest, bought Wi-Fi video surveillance company, Dropcam for $555 million. Hinting at Google’s plans to expand its line of smart products to control the entire home.
  2. Honeywell and GE have also developed competing thermostat and cooling systems, which use similar tracking technology as Nest to optimize energy usage.
  3. Apple has developed a software platform, known as Homekit, which allows iPhone &iPad users to use their devices to control the entire ecosystem of their home through remotely connected products.
  4. Android is in the process of developing a home management software platform of their own, known as Nearby.
  5. Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android control a combined 94% market share in the smartphone software industry.
  6. Startup companies such LIFX are developing remote lightening systems that can be programmed to turn off automatically or adjusted remotely via phone.
  7. There are currently a number of third party applications available for mobile phone and tablet users that allow individuals to track energy usage, and develop strategies to conserve power.
  8. An EPA study has shown consumers could reduce their energy usage 10-30% using programmable thermostats.
  9. By 2018, the research firm IHS Technology predicts, people will have installed 45 million smart-home services.
  10. 58% of online U.S. consumers are familiar with home automation while 61% are interested in learning more about these solutions.

POV:

Emotional levers are the driving force behind smart home technology purchases. Marketers, utilities and energy service providers have an opportunity to tap into an increasingly important, and emerging field, with resonance. The way to achieve this is through an honest recognition of the innate underlying desires amongst energy consumers. The majority of these emotional triggers may appear straightforward— security, safety, comfort, peace-of-mind, connectivity and convenience. However, a surprising lever is the desire to be perceived as having a pulse on emerging smart technologies.

The primary barrier, outside of cost, to energy efficiency program participation is a lack of awareness—both in terms of inefficiencies in ones’ home and/or business as well as a lack of awareness regarding programs that would enable an increase in efficiency.

Smart home technology rectifies this by providing consistent feedback and comparisons to energy consumers by monitoring their consumption. No longer can consumers turn a blind eye to energy guzzling appliances, electronics OR their very own practices. Lack of awareness, as a barrier, can be overcome. The feedback provided by smart home technology forces reflection, which lays the groundwork for change in both energy consumption behavior and desire.

STOP Talking about "Energy Efficiency" and Increase Program Participation

After months of research, interviews, and data analysis, we learned that the topic we’re marketing highly depends on context in order to resonate with customers. The misperceptions around “energy efficiency” are so great that people either stop listening, delete, or move on when they hear the term used in a general context. 5Reasons (1) Overall, customers associate the term “energy efficiency” with an expensive upfront cost and a long and uncertain payback period. (Now we understand why they’re not interested!) This perception is legitimate once you understand that the majority of customers correlate “energy efficiency” with products and technology. They immediately see it as an investment. And in a lot of cases, an investment that is out of their reach.

By using the term “energy efficiency” in the wrong context, you are most likely experiencing a high drop off in customer interest. When using it in the right context, it can both increase customer interest and even drive purchase.

Check out five of our research takeaways below, and reach out if you’d like more information, deep consumer insights on the topic, and what actually inspires customers to take action.

1. Energy Efficiency is rarely top of mind across commercial and residential audiences. For some, it's not even on the radar.

  • 69% of research participants state they find themselves adapting to inefficiencies in their homes and/or businesses rather than seeking solutions.
  • 10% state they do not have inefficiencies/inconveniences in their homes and/or businesses.

2. The money customers think they have to spend (to participate in energy efficiency programs) outweighs what they think they could save.

  • 98% of research participants correlate "energy efficiency" with an expensive, upfront cost.

3. Energy Efficiency is associated with products/technology, and therefore a longer payback period.

  • 83% of research participants correlate "energy efficiency" with a long and uncertain payback period.

4. People are quick to embrace the bigger benefits of energy savings when presented with them - comfort, productivity and stability.

  • 88% of research participants state the non-financial benefits of energy efficiency would motivate them to make improvements/upgrades to their homes and/or businesses.

5. ESCO's continue to push into the market, drawing away the attention from utilities.

  • 92% of research participants state the lack of an energy and cost reduction guarantee as one of their top three barriers to energy efficiency program participation.

 

ENERGY WIRE: Your Bi-Weekly Energy News

The energy news you need to know... and how it affects your marketing communications.  KSVEnergyWire_06_12_14

1. Under the new EPA rule, “The Clean Power Plan”, carbon emissions will need to be reduced 30% from 2005 levels by 2030.

2. 2014 U.S emissions are approx. 15% less than 2005. This first 15% reduction was low-hanging fruit; reducing another 15% will be much harder.

3. States have until June 30th, 2016 to create individual plans to reduce their average emissions per megawatt-hour of electricity.

4. Power plants are responsible for almost ½ of Americans’ carbon pollution.

5. Currently, there are no limits on the amount of carbon power plants emit.

6. EPA’s new rule is expected to result in severe expansion of natural gas as a fuel for power generation. Gas emits ½ the carbon of coal when it is burned.

7. Coal- fired power plants are responsible for about 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.

8. The U.S consumes 9 times more energy from burning coal compared to solar and wind, combined.

9. In 2012, 37% of U.S electricity came from coal, 30% from natural gas, 19% from nuclear power plants, 7% from hydropower sources and 5% from renewable sources such as wind and solar.

10. By 2030, over 30% of U.S electricity will come from coal as well as about 30% from natural gas. Wind, solar and other alternative sources are expected to provide about 9%.

How this affects your marketing communications: 
Despite skepticism that the proposed EPA rule will negatively affect jobs and that utilities will be forced to raise rates, we feel that this is an exciting opportunity for innovation in the energy efficiency space.

Under the national spotlight there inevitably will be an increased awareness of energy efficiency. If done right, utilities can bring transparency to their energy savings goals as well as leverage the national attention on the importance of energy efficiency.
Gaining the trust of customers is much simpler when you have a mutually, albeit, nationally and globally, beneficial goal. While this is a great opportunity, this is also a great challenge. Utilities need to continue their trust building momentum by being at the forefront of an energy efficient conversation.
The time to start the conversation is NOW.

What do your customers really want to know about energy? And what will make them make efficient choices?

shutterstock_161242466We recently challenged ourselves to think differently about energy efficiency – to remove ourselves from the daily grind of heating & cooling programs, appliance rebates and financing offers. How do we approach participation from a bigger angle?  How do we start the movement that we so desperately need to inspire action across audiences? How do we get people to care about living an efficient life? So, we hit the road to learn what makes your customers tick. Talked to hundreds of people across the northeast and mid-atlantic. We spoke with homeowners, small businesses and even large C & I decision makers. We talked about the barriers, motivators, and benefits of energy efficiency.

The results? Unexpected data and insights into the current mindset of customers on energy efficiency awareness, participation and programs.

But the most compelling piece? The tactical nature of it all.

Rooted in research, here are the six steps we determined increase customer engagement with energy efficiency programs:

  1. Talk to the right customer. Sounds obvious, yet it’s the most common mistake. Most of the time, the person paying the bill is not the same decision maker for system upgrades.
  2. Disrupt the normalized lives of your customers. Show customers the inefficiencies they have adapted to because they’re no longer aware.
  3. Give them a roadmap. Help your customers prioritize and then implement energy efficiency upgrades, allowing them to track where they are on the path to an efficient lifestyle. Right now, your customers simply don’t know where to begin.
  4. Stop talking about energy efficiency. There is a list of misperceptions around the term energy efficiency; energy savings actually inspires more participation.
  5. Empower customers with understanding. Give your customers data they can understand and relate to. Give them the information to properly track their goals and progress.
  6. Provide a guarantee. Is it time? Is it money? Is it simply around a better life? If you want customers to take action, guarantee them something. What does making energy efficient choices actually provide them? The benefits are endless, but your customers don’t know this.

Based on this research, we’re changing the way we communicate about energy efficiency. We’re evolving the conversation into one that our customers can understand and relate to. After all, that’s what a conversation is, right?

Relationships Matter

Reach_imageRelationships. They are an integral part of our lives, both personally and professionally. In the marketing world, we strive to build and maintain strong relationships with our clients, vendors, and each other. Businesses, in turn, have a responsibility to foster long-lasting relationships with their customers. Marketing initiatives are key to this effort. Whether it’s a coupon offer for Carter’s on Facebook or tips from a utility company on how to make a home more energy efficient, every relationship is important – and worth the time and effort to maintain it.

So, what could be more important to a utility than building relationships with customers? Trick question, because it’s the most important thing.

Take energy efficiency. In order for utilities to be seen in their customers’ eyes as a valuable resource on the topic, utilities have to know their audience. Every person comes from a different background and life experience. The only way to market effectively to customers about energy efficiency is to know where every customer is coming from and to listen to them.

For example, my relationship with my utility companies doesn’t extend beyond the fact that I pay my bills every month. Unless there’s an issue, I don’t hear from them, and they don’t hear from me. But that’s because I rent my apartment. So making energy efficiency updates to the apartment building is not my decision. At this point in my life, I don’t need to hear from my utility. But, are my landlords being contacted by these same companies to share with them how to save money by making my building more energy efficient, and in the long run, saving me money too? I certainly hope so!

Utilities need to understand where their customers are coming from, and their specific needs. That means marketing initiatives that speak specifically to landlords and property managers to make them aware of energy efficiency options for their buildings.

It’s picking up the phone when customers have questions about how to make their homes or apartments more efficient.

It’s doing the research to really investigate their markets and find out who is living there, and what those customers’ needs are.

It’s having an actual person on the other end of the phone in times when customers don’t need information about how to save money by saving energy, but when they want to know the timeline of when their power will be coming back after a storm.

Whatever the situation is, it all comes back to relationships, and how they have been created and maintained.

And the strength of a trusting relationship, whether it’s with a utility or a friend, is the most important thing.

Dear utilities, please learn from our country’s diminishing reputation.

Utility SunriseAmerica is getting hammered in the media.  Whether you read it in today's New York Times, "Running Out of Time", or today's Wall Street Journal opinion piece, "Ignoring Inequality", our major media are playing their role in hammering the American reputation, America's brand value.  It’s easy for us to see the diminished value of America abroad, what’s not as easy is to see it right here at home.  This challenge for our country is also a challenge for every business.  America and our businesses must speak out more forcefully.  If we don't do it, no one else will.  We live in a culture where minority voices can wreak havoc on our business.  And this is especially true for you, our utilities, and other energy-related companies. You continue to support your brand "from behind".We see how well this is turning out for America. Maybe it’s time to rethink this strategy for our businesses. Maybe it’s time to step up as the energy leaders that you are.  For decades, utilities have been reacting to the loudest voice in the room.  And this loud voice not only gets your attention but it also gets the attention of the regulators and the media.  Just weigh the positive media against the negative media on issues such as gas drilling, new pipeline permitting, oil transportation or electric rates.  Actually, just try to find the positive on any of these issues in our mainstream media outlets. It would be like looking for that needle in the haystack.

It’s time to step up and tell your side of the story.  And there are endless stories to be sharing, stories that will fill your brand value cup.  Stories that told often enough will create a strong brand value in the hearts and minds of your customers, and help the brand withstand those hits, which are all too common in our world.

For this story telling to increase brand value, you have to lose your fear of controversy.  Whether it is an energy efficiency story about making customers’ lives better, easier, healthier, and helping the world or creating greater awareness on the safety programming underway in an ever-changing climate of bigger and bigger storms or reminding us of the basics of electricity.  These are all valuable stories.  These are all stories that need to be pushed out to customers.

Many of these stories already exist on your websites.  The challenge is your customers have no reason to go to your site and gather this information.  Be more aggressive in telling these stories across social media, and do so with greater consistency.  Increase your PR efforts and event participation. (And by participation, we don’t just mean sponsoring a ball team at a ballpark; we mean taking the opportunity to tell your brand story through the ball team atthe ball park.) Improving brand value is a commitment.  Increasing efforts today will realize positive outcomes in both the short term and the long term.

Now, if only America could follow suit...