For utilities implementing energy efficiency (EE) programs more cost effectively, marketing can be a double-edged sword. Marketing is necessary to draw customers’ attention to the programs and increase participation, but it doesn’t always draw a direct correlation to increased (or decreased) participation. When programs are challenged to run more cost-effectively, marketing dollars are the first to be scrutinized.
Sizing Up The Challenges
Utilities face a challenge to attract customers to their EE programs while maintaining cost-effective portfolios. Different programs within the portfolio are run in silos, with disparate budgets, so precious marketing dollars are often spent on redundant efforts: speaking to the same audience and competing for the same share of voice in the market. Essentially, this model lends itself to doubling, or even tripling the cost to acquire a customer, both in terms of resources and direct costs.
While utilities fluently speak the ‘language’ of energy efficiency, customers do not. Customers may not be able to distinguish one program from another and may become confused about what the utility’s call to action is, or worse, get hit too many times with messages that are not relevant to them and come away with a negative experience. Without an easily understood, relevant, and actionable message customers will tune it out, and the utility will lose its opportunity to inspire action.
Secondly, it’s important to acknowledge that acquiring a new participant in an EE program is twice as expensive as up-selling, or cross-selling, to a customer who has already participated in another program. Yet most EE portfolios focus most of their marketing dollars on acquisition rather than upsell, which often prevents data sharing across programs. Because there is little to no segmentation or targeting within or across programs, there is little opportunity to maximize the return on marketing dollars through cross-sell marketing.
A Portfolio Level Approach
The solution to these challenges is to bypass the traditional ‘silo’ tactic to program outreach and instead approach it from a holistic portfolio level. Ecova Marketing & Creative Services has developed Customer Engagement Mapping as a tool to begin this approach, allowing us and our client a ‘bird’s eye view’ of all marketing touch points at a portfolio level. This allows us to understand every interaction the customer has with a utility’s brand, and informs the strategic planning needed to drive customers toward a targeted outcome. Mapping customers’ interactions with the program from start (when the customer first hears about the program) to finish (when the customer achieves energy and cost savings) provides us with a sophisticated understanding of:
- All potential customer touch points
- Data we can glean from each interaction
- The expected frequency of interactions
- Best places to divert acquisition dollars in favor of cross-sell marketing
- Customer perception / emotional effect of interaction
Engagement mapping then leads to development of the customer journey. Sophisticated segmentation and targeting allows us to use data to define which customers should receive which offer. Instead of hitting everyone with every offer (the very expensive ‘slash and burn’ method), marketing becomes more about reaching the right customer with the right message at the right time. This creates a clear, step-by-step journey for the customer, speaks to them in a personalized way that acknowledges their past participation, and helps them build on their successes, thereby inspiring further participation.