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Transforming utility topics to be customer-centric and drive customer engagement

Posted by Sheera Eby on April 9, 2015

Most utilities are focused on improving their customer experience, enhancing their brand reputation and establishing themselves as a thought leader. Researchscape reports that the majority of consumers expect their utility to provide them with personalized advice. Educational content can be a useful technique to engage customers on a myriad of topics.


Engaging customers on energy related topics can sometimes be challenging. Content marketing can help utilities be in the right place at the right time. Content marketing is one of the key solutions utility marketers can employ to deliver the useful, practical information customers crave. Here are a few examples of topics that can be highlighted by utilities in content marketing to help foster customer engagement.

Click here to download 12 Powerful Examples of Energy Marketing.

#1 - Content marketing for utilities can respond to consumer fears over new technologies such as smart meters
According to Pike Research and data from a 2013 Smart Grid Customer Survey, only 31% of participants said they had positive feelings about smart meters.1 The results of the report seem stable as the margin of error for the study was 3%. Smart meters have been a source of controversy since they were introduced. Consumers who expressed unfavorable feelings about smart meters gave several reasons:

  • Fear that smart meters would cause their electric bill to increase rather than go down
  • Concern that smart meters would create a “Big Brother” type of monitoring situation and possibly even give the electricity provider control over distribution and use
  • Not understanding how they’d benefit from smart meters


The key with content is not to simply state the benefits of smart meters, but lead with solutions that smart meter information can provide for customers. Formulate content around money-saving energy tips and have smart meters be a means to that end. The key in developing customer-centric content is to lead with the angle that solves a customer’s problem versus leading with the benefits of the company’s product.



#2 - Use content marketing for utilities to empower customers on rate options
One of the biggest challenges for utilities is engaging customers around topics such as rates. While customers are more engaged in states that have choice, utility rate plans are still more of a housekeeping topic for many customers versus an active decision. Whether your utility is in a state where customers have choice or simply offers rate plans for peak usage periods, content marketing can help.


There are 23 states where consumers can choose the company they want to buy their electricity from. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, consumers have much more freedom when it comes to choosing a rate plan and the contract term.2 Help customers understand how plans differ. Explain the specifics of each plan, and the advantages or disadvantages plans offer for customers whose needs vary greatly, but again take it from the customer perspective.

For states without deregulation legislation, consider how to marry energy savings with rate plans. Build an article around a key phrase such as “reducing utility bills.” If your utility offers any plans for load shifting or incentives for load shedding, highlight those plans a strategy for reducing a utility bill. This transforms content that otherwise might be company-focused to customer-centric engaging solutions.



#3 - Position online tools around customers’ needs
Most utilities offer online tools that serve as a useful mechanism to drive engagement among customers. Content marketing for utilities can be the perfect venue to tell this story. In truth, most online tools are a means to an end from a customer’s perspective. Educating business and residential customers about online tools is important, but generally not enough. Customers need to fully visualize the specific types of information that will be generated from using the tools. Additionally, the utility can demonstrate the applications of the tools, how certain customers have used it, and more importantly, the outcomes.


If your utility offers an online energy audit tool, for example, an article titled "Five Areas Where HVAC Systems May Be Wasting Money and Energy” can discuss common ways that businesses can increase HVAC efficiency. The article can highlight customers’ ability to identify those areas as a key feature of the online energy audit. This type of content allows the customer to see the linkages and draw a conclusion on what this can mean for their home or business. The key is not to talk about the tool first, but focus on the customer’s problems with the tool being a solution.



#4 - Transform rebates to energy saving measures
Many utilities offer rebates and incentives for energy efficiency products. Some customers could be pushed over the purchase threshold if they understood what rebates and incentives were available for energy saving products. Content can be used in a storytelling and customer-centric fashion to help customers visualize the types of energy saving measures that can be employed. Authoring this type of content can position a utility as a trusted advisor. Additionally, content can engage customers by educating them about the products that have rebates.


Content needs to go beyond rebates. Demonstrate what changes in a business or home can be made to qualify for rebates. Educate customers about the benefits of upgrading various older products to newer, energy efficient models. For example, an article titled "How to Improve Retail Performance with LEDs" can discuss the savings LEDs offer and demonstrate new uses for LED lighting, such as creating ambiance and the application techniques that best accomplish the desired level of light.


Content for utility marketing and digital marketing is the solution to many of the challenges facing utilities and a proven technique to driving customer engagement. J&C has partnered to deliver an innovative ground-breaking program for market leader PG&E. We’ve got great learnings to share and can help your utility launch a transformative content marketing strategy.




Topics: Digital Marketing

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