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Savings is the wrong lead message for utility and energy content marketing

Posted by Sheera Eby on June 18, 2014

Energy efficiency is an initiative that many utility marketers are currently undertaking. When it comes to energy efficiency, the prevailing thought among most consumers and businesses tends to be, “Show me the money.” Savings tend to trump many other benefits and is generally the motivator for engaging in energy efficiency measures.

The reality is that energy savings might not be the optimal lead from a content marketing perspective. More consumers and businesses are likely to be searching for something related to energy, but not necessarily energy savings.

For years we’ve known that utilities are in a low-involvement category. If the lights go on, people are fine; their passion for a utility’s core products are only evoked when something doesn’t work. The lights don’t go on. The water isn’t working. The boiler or water heater is on the fritz; could the gas not be working?

The low-involvement nature of this category directly plays into search behavior and what is likely to work best in content marketing. A set of sample searches demonstrate this point. More people are looking for an HVAC technician than how to save money on their bill.

Utilities should own savings-related search terms.
Don’t get me wrong. Utilities with energy efficiency initiatives should absolutely have core content on their website that explains their rebate programs and associated savings. This basic web content should cover details of the rebates, qualification of the rebates, descriptions of the utility’s energy efficiency programs and other related information. Additionally, core web content should provide basic energy savings information for both residential and business customers.

I’d even argue that core energy efficiency pages should be expected to rank very strongly within a utility’s individual footprint. This is content the utility needs to have on its website, just to meet baseline customer expectations. Given the incumbent utility’s position in the marketplace, its website should be expected to rank well on core content such as reducing energy bills.

A utility or energy company’s content marketing needs to provide solutions.
Content marketing should take things to the next level. It needs to address the types of problems users are looking to solve and then capitalize on this search behavior with associated products and solutions. Customers aren’t always searching for exactly what the utility has to offer. Don’t be discouraged when you see that more users are searching for an HVAC technician than energy savings. Rather, use this as an opportunity to determine how to best leverage this search behavior.

For example, as users are looking for a technician or contractor, the utility can intercept those searches. This intercepting can help direct the user to other considerations before hiring a contractor, and leverage energy efficiency programs as those considerations.

Furthermore, content marketing needs to work to help create a group of hand raisers for nurturing. A major retrofit for a business usually has a long decision cycle. Once a utility has determined a business might be considering a retrofit, the utility can provide helpful information on rebates and other support throughout the process.

Content marketing can be successful without social media, but content marketing can be an asset to a utilty or energy marketer’s social media efforts.
Many utilities grapple with how to use social media to support energy efficiency and energy management programs. Several utilities are effectively leveraging social media to provide outage and customer information. A proactive content marketing strategy can provide the perfect communications opportunity to provide energy efficiency initiatives for both residential and business customers.

Social media is most effective when utilized as a teaser, leading users to a web page or an additional source for more information. Content marketing is the perfect synergistic strategy to help a utility or energy company’s social media efforts have more depth and richness.

By nature, content marketing forces an organization to take an authoritative stand on a selected group of topics. In the past, content marketing might have been considered predominantly a branding strategy. But content marketing can work much harder and deliver on multiple purposes when done with deliberation and an action orientation. Leveraging downloads with email data collection and behavior-based email triggers with an aim at driving action can elevate content marketing from being only brand-oriented to response-oriented.

Sign up now to get your free content marketing assessment Content marketing isn’t just putting content up on a web page or utilizing email newsletters. 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.

Topics: Inbound Marketing, Utility Industry

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