My local energy company just installed a fully programmable digital thermostat in my house at absolutely no charge. That's pretty good green marketing if you ask me. In exchange for the ability of my utility company to prevent brownouts by controlling my air conditioner temperature by a few degrees on hot days, I was able to have a new fully programmable thermostat installed for free.
In addition to having a technician come to my house for the installation, I also received a welcome letter, a quick reference guide, and a refrigerator magnet with a dedicated 800 number I can call should I have any questions or problems while participating in this program. In short, by joining their "Easy Cool Rewards" program - my utility company made me part of a community.
As energy costs continue to rise, a staggering 4 out of 5 households think the price they pay for their household energy is too high. The time is right for utility companies to launch green marketing initiatives that address key customer pain points. If these marketing efforts are implemented sensibly, they will not only help meet customer needs but they will also help create positive awareness around the utility company's brand.
So where do you start with your green marketing efforts? Ideally, you'll want to begin by listening to your energy customers biggest problems and identifying a well-planned approach to solve their problems. The best way to do this is to get their feedback on ideal solutions. They may not have all the answers but opening the door to a conversation with them is critical. For example, Reliant energy recently launched an online community to share energy news that allows its customer to easily view their energy usage and share energy saving tips. It's an effort designed to show the transparency of a household's energy usage while also building customer loyalty.
Utilities should seek to expand their online presence beyond their corporate websites. Consider these following activities to help build online reach:
- A Commitment to Social Media - Comcast Cares is an excellent example of how a Twitter presence can support phone and email help. Twitter is also a great place to listen and search for feedback and address unhappy customers. Remember, even if your company isn't on Twitter your customers will be.
- Explainer or Tutorial Videos - Videos are a great way to increase your audience as you can post them on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and many other places. Explaining how to do something or why to do something - maybe it's installing more energy efficient windows or when to consider insulation - is a great way to be helpful and get your video shared.
- Email Lists - Although email technology has been around for awhile, it's still an effective way to provide weekly or monthly exposure of your brand to your customers. A weekly energy update or quarterly energy checklist would be useful and thoughtful ways to show your customers you care.
- Thought Leadership Content - This can be a whitepaper or tip list that energy customers can download and share. Offering downloadable content is also a good way to enroll customers into a targeted email campaign. Be sure to ask them to provide their email address when they download your content.
- Corporate Blog - Southwest Airlines uses its corporate blog to share behind the scene stories of life at Southwest. Build a team of bloggers across departments so that all dimensions of your energy company can be presented and all marketing efforts including your green marketing efforts can be supported and shared.
Once you've genuinely built your online presence and have shown your helpfulness to your customers, you'll likely be rewarded in the form of better feedback and your customers will become your informal marketing distribution arm by sharing your videos, Twitter posts and other valuable content you create. In developing an infrastructure for your green marketing efforts, you'll not only increase customer loyalty, you'll also have a reusable platform you can weave your future marketing efforts into, going directly to your consumers.
Now, think about the positive ripple effect of a Facebook or Twitter post when I share my positive experience about my free thermostat. How many more people would think of my energy company in a positive light? By enhancing their online presence beyond their corporate websites, energy companies can be helpful to consumers and build their brand at the same time.