AESP: A Marketing Supercharge

AESP: A Marketing Supercharge

Marketing and Implementation: Strategies to Supercharge Your Programs is the theme of this year’s AESP Spring Conference & Expo. Here are some takeaways from Day 1 about successfully marketing energy efficiency programs.

When Corporate Communications runs EE marketing, the EE team often winds up without the marketing help they need. Corporate Communications departments at utilities are set up for a very specific, important purpose: to promote the company’s reputation and build the corporate brand (and, in so doing, deal with criticism and crises, manage the media, and communicate with policy makers and investors). It’s a totally different construct with a totally different end game than marketing EE programs. EE marketing is about selling a product and hitting very specific, aggressive goals. It’s a totally different style of marketing and requires a different mindset. Take a look at how most companies outside of the utility space set up their marketing and communications teams. There’s typically a Corporate Communications team to promote the corporate brand … and then each individual brand or line of business within the company has its own brand managers and marketing team whose job responsibilities and accountabilities are aligned with the sales goals of that brand. Utilities should follow suit. Based on some conversations I had at the AESP conference, though, many EE program managers are still not allowed to have their own marketing person or team, leaving them dependent on Corporate Communications to handle the job, which is secondary for the Corp Comm guys.

Even though EE is a driver for customer satisfaction, it still won’t make every customer happy. An attendee at the conference mentioned receiving a post on the company Facebook page the other day from a concerned customer. The customer was upset that the utility was spending so much money to run TV ads about EE. Only one problem: The utility isn’t running any TV spots and hasn’t for more than three years. The point is this: Customers will find reasons to complain about their utility. It’s just too easy to blame utilities instead of taking responsibility for personal consumption. And utilities are a particularly favored punching bag right now: Our latest Energy Pulse study shows that for the first time in eight years, utilities are at the top of the blame list for high energy costs. That’s the top of a list that includes oil companies, the government and unrest in the Middle East. My conversation with this marketer ended with her saying she’d be happy to satisfy the 80 percent and let the other 20 come along in their own time. A good way of looking at it, I think.

A one-size-fits-all message to all of your EE customers will fail. I sat in a session during which one of the presenters discussed a small-business marketing tool his company has. This iPad-based tool works to audit all small businesses, which I can believe. What was troublesome is that the marketing efforts to promote those small business audits were broad and general, talking to every small business owner as if they’re the same, regardless of their category. I was very pleased to hear the last presenter of that session bring it all back around and talk about the absolute need for segmenting your audience and, with that critical information in hand, developing the right message for the EE team that drives the results needed for success.

There’s more to report, so give a shout if you’d like to chat. Energy efficiency is challenging to market these days (most Americans are disenfranchised because they haven’t seen results from their efforts), so it’s really helpful to learn from each other.

About the Author

Suzanne Shelton

Where Suzanne sees opportunity, you can bet results will follow. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of both the advertising world and the energy and environment arena, Suzanne provides unparalleled strategic insights to our clients and to audiences around North America. Suzanne is a guest columnist in multiple publications and websites, such as GreenBiz, and she speaks at around 20 conferences a year, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and Green Build.

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