Consumer marketing is evolving every day; and in some cases, it seems that it's evolved to come full circle.
Relatively low-tech engagement channels like direct mail enable utilities to provide a better customer experience for their small and mid-sized business customers. Can Business Energy Reports help your utility improve satisfaction, increase program participation, and unlock opportunities for future growth?
Direct Mail For SMB Engagement
How many neighborhood dry cleaners operate in your service area? How many coffee shops, or nail salons? Small accounts are everywhere, they're the backbone of your non-residential customer base and, as we've pointed out before, effectively engaging these accounts can have huge upside for energy efficiency, customer experience, and new revenue opportunities.
Ask yourself though, if you were to design the perfect EE program for mom and pop stores, how would you make them aware of it? If you just wanted small accounts to access the AMI data that you've invested millions in collecting, how would you help them do so?
Chances are you don't have accurate email addresses for most of these accounts. SMB owners are also busy people, so they don't typically have time to answer phone calls from your contact center, and digital only options are a tough sell for the less technically savvy folks.
As customer-centric business models become more important to energy providers the communication barrier with SMB accounts is going to become a higher priority. How will you get to those hard-to-reach customers?
Direct mail in the from of business energy reports can help you engage hard-to-reach small and mid-sized business accounts.
After all, home energy reports have been leveraged in the residential market for years with well-documented success. It's time energy providers applied a similar strategy to their business segments, albeit, with a few small differences.
The Benefits Of Mail For SMBs
Direct mail helps you touch underserved or hard-to-reach segments because they come from a familiar channel and are more likely to reach the energy decision maker at each account.
Delivery advantages - utilities often lack accurate email addresses for the majority of their small accounts. However, billing addresses are ubiquitous and customers are already familiar with receiving communications from their energy provider through that channel. Your SMB customers expect to receive mail from their energy provider and are actively looking for it each time they open their letter box. In advertising, thats called "active interest" and it's one of the most valuable traits for predicting who will respond to a promotion.
Targeting advantages - Mailed energy reports delivered to small and midsized business customers also offer a clear path of communication with the contact who is most likely to be the key decision maker for that account. BERs increase the likelihood an account will participate in energy efficiency programs, incentives, and other promoted utility opportunities because they place relevant information about those options directly into the hands of business owner. Delivering relevant, personalized, and actionable information helps those individuals better understand their energy usage and options for reducing their bill.
What BERs Should Include
Utilities need to ensure they are sending their customers the right type of information. After all, small accounts have a different set of needs, understanding, and priorities from their C&I or residential counterparts.
Sending a repurposed home energy report to non-residential customers won't be effective. SMBs usage varies too greatly from segment to segment, making a one-size-fits all approach to outreach less impactful. Likewise, SMBs differ greatly from C&I accounts. They have less capital to invest in long-term projects and generally less sophisticated energy needs.
As such, business energy reports need to be tailored to provide value to each customer based on their unique use case. Segmenting is critical to the success of these programs.
At the same time, energy providers need to be avoid overwhelming the recipient with overly complex energy information, or programs that are fiscally unfeasible for small accounts. Cut to the point - data doesn’t matter if you can’t translate it into value for the end user. This mantra is especially true with non-residential accounts that have limited time and limited patience for unnecessary information. Utility direct mail should include key energy usage information and relevant comparisons against their historic usage and the usage of similar peers.
Explain things in layman terms - Mailed business energy reports also need to include simple and easy to digest insights about billing changes. Noting the factors that effect and energy bill, such as plug load, outside temperature, price per kWh, and more help consumers better understand their usage and answers questions before they’re asked.
Keep it relevant to them - mailed reports need to show the value of an action in real dollar terms. Utilities can better induce an action by providing personalized, specific, and easy to execute next steps that highlight an estimated savings value. SMB accounts want to know how much impact a potential program can make on their bottom line, give them that information in a clear and easy to digest way.
Benefits For Your Customers, Your Staff, & Your Utility
Customers are happier with their utility when they feel that content is personalized to their unique needs. Delivering billing explanations, customer specific incentives, and other key information on a regular basis will improve consumer sentiment and could lead to increased revenue.
Energy efficiency savings from HERs are well documented. Those same behavioral changes can be achieved in non-residential customers as well. Business energy reports will help your staff promote various utility programs and provide an easy way to measure the uplift.
Finally, public utility commissions across the country are increasingly interested in expanding communications with underserved markets. Utilities that deploy direct mail reports to their SMB segments will have a simple, cost effective way to regularly touch underserved accounts.