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Right place, right time: Capitalizing on energy-related searches to drive traffic

Posted by Sheera Eby on July 24, 2014

When decision makers for small and medium-sized businesses need new lighting, new equipment or require the services of a technician or contractor, they often rely on the Internet instead of traditional forms of advertising and marketing to find a resource. Utility and energy companies have an opportunity to be in the right place at the right time and appear in top search results when customers are looking for solutions. Adding useful content can help optimize a website for search engines and capitalize on customer search behavior.

Unlike traditional ads that hard-sell an energy or utility company, content marketing is educational information often presented as an informative article. According to a study done by Roper Public Affairs, this is the type of educational format that more than 80% of decision makers favor.1 The study demonstrates that content marketing is a preferred format to get information from a company via a series of articles instead of from an ad. There are more differences between traditional ads and content marketing than the format. One of the greatest distinctions is content marketing can intercept users and allow a company to be in the right place at the right time. These distinctions help get utility and energy companies' websites in front of decision-makers. Furthermore, it increases the likelihood that those decision makers will engage and increase their brand perceptions.

How content marketing differs from traditional ads.
In utility marketing, traditional ads that directly sell a utility or energy company's products and services can sometimes alienate customers. A common concern I’ve heard is, “Why is my utility spending money on advertising?” Content marketing is more subtle, and has the opportunity to be perceived as customer-centric communications. A utility’s content marketing can educate customers by providing valuable information. Customers also seem to be open to this type of information from their utility, and to a certain extent might even expect it. It also establishes the utility or energy company as an authority on energy management and energy-related issues.

Content marketing secures the utility or energy company and ultimately your marketer in decision-makers' minds as the place to go to learn about energy management and usage, energy efficiency and measures they can take to positively impact their utility bills. These are all topics that many small and medium-sized business decision-makers don’t regularly put much effort into actively investigating.

Content marketing for utilities done on a consistent basis can provide a strong communications platform for discussing energy management initiatives that can help solve customers’ problems. By unfailingly providing new content as part of a utility marketing strategy, the utility or energy company not only builds up a perception of dependability in the minds of decision-makers, but it also keeps the company's website on search engines' radar and helps utilities be in the right place at the right time when decision-makers are searching for information or solutions related to energy management. The key here is “related,” as a user isn’t always searching for a rebate; as they are more likely to be searching for new equipment or a contractor. This is where being in the right place at the right time is critical for a utility or energy company.

What that difference can mean for utility and energy marketers.
There are a number of challenges in energy and utility marketing these days:

  • Encouraging customers to use online tools for account information and bill management
  • Educating and engaging customers regarding energy usage and management
  • Delivering energy efficiency and demand-side management goals
  • Collecting customers' email addresses
  • Driving subscription and usage of new programs and products
  • Creating an authoritative position in the marketplace

Utility customers are often skeptical of traditional advertising. Where customary ads as a means of utility marketing fail in these areas, content marketing for utilities is practically tailor-made to speak to all of these issues. It is designed to educate, engage and highlight the utility or energy company's expertise. It can also be used as a means to build an email list through opt-in opportunities, a function that few other utility marketing strategies accomplish.

Implementing content marketing for utility and energy companies.
Content marketing can be written to target any segment of the population, no matter how specialized. A matter of fact, there is value in getting content as close as possible to search behavior. Content marketing’s versatility is one of the attributes that make it so useful for utility marketing. In fact, taking advantage of this aspect and tailoring content to speak to sub-segments is essential for content marketing, according to Inc. magazine.2

Content can be designed around top issues that are on the minds of small and medium-sized business (or residential) decision-makers. The content can include topics such as considerations before calling a contractor for a repair or planning a facility upgrade. Businesses searching for contractors are ripe for information and can be directed to a utility or energy website if the content is relevant.

Creating a content marketing strategy.
There may be more than an adequate number of topics for utilities to cover in content marketing. Determining topics for content is only part of the equation when creating a content strategy for utility marketing. Keywords play another critical part, especially when search engine optimization and increases in website traffic are key goals.

Sign up now to get your free content marketing assessment Strong content marketing creates engagement and initiates a meaningful dialogue with customers. Content marketing is an effective strategy that utilities and energy marketers should adopt to meet a number of different objectives. To learn how your company can build a cohesive, actionable utility or energy content marketing strategy, set up a time to get our personalized assessment and recommendations for your company.

Sources:

1. Forbes
2. Inc.

Topics: Inbound Marketing, Utility Industry

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