Effective email list management is critical to digital marketing success. By building digital relationships with residential and business customers, and growing lists to reach more customers, utilities can achieve marketing goals, increase program participation and boost customer satisfaction.

However, as customers ebb and flow, so does your email list. Addresses become inconsistent or nonexistent as they move or change email platforms. To reach your utility’s customers, it’s vital to focus on how to grow your customer database with email list growth hacks.

It’s also important to avoid the negative consequences of poor list management. These can range from complaints and reduced satisfaction to potential legal implications of “spamming” customers who don’t want to be emailed.

The following email list growth hacks will help your utility boost open rates, reduce opt-out and complaint rates, and improve digital marketing performance by connecting with the right customers.

Email List Size: Bigger Isn’t Always Better

Quality over quantity. It’s a well-known phrase, but when it comes to email list growth hacks, it’s easy to think more along the lines of “bigger is better.”

Of course, engaging with more of your customers using relevant content they want to receive is a worthy goal and can result in huge gains in customer satisfaction. But the key here is engagementGrowing a list just for the sake of growth is a big mistake.

Questline Digital has found that without proactive list management, many of our utility partners find up to 80% of their email list has gone inactive and not opened or clicked an email within the past year. Why is that important?

There are several drawbacks to poor email list management:

  • Keeps your messages out of customers’ inboxes. All major ISPs now use subscriber engagement as a primary factor in whether they deliver your messages to the inbox, send it to the junk folder, or block it entirely. Questline Digital monitors something called “inbox placement” to see whether the messages we send for our clients are actually reaching the inbox. We have found that repeatedly sending to subscribers who don’t interact with your emails actually lowers sender reputation scores and the rate at which your mail gets placed in the inbox — even for those customers who have engaged in the past.
  • Skews your metrics (for the worse!). Sending to a large number of inactive subscribers not only lowers deliverability metrics, but it results in lower open rates, click rates and other key performance indicators. It’s hard to get a clear picture of your success with all that dead weight.
  • Damages customer relationships. As much as we’d like them to, not every customer wants to interact with their utility on a regular basis. For some, reliably delivering the energy they need is enough and they just aren’t interested in the information you’re sending. Email can be a very personal thing for some people. Don’t upset them by continuing to send messages they are never going to read.

7 Proven Email List Growth Hacks

To effectively communicate with more of your utility’s customers, take advantage of the following email list growth hacks.

Chart listing seven email list growth hacks

1. Develop opt-in campaigns

Opt-in email campaigns are easy solutions that let customers choose when they hear from your utility. By identifying what customers are interested in, your utility can encourage customers to sign up for emails based on those interests. For example, a customer may be looking to purchase an electric vehicle soon so they would enjoy receiving educational resources from your utility about EVs.

While some customers may choose not to participate, the ones who opt in will be valuable contacts who engage with the content your utility sends them.

Questline Digital recently produced an opt-in campaign for PSEG Long Island. We created banner ads to place on the utility’s website to encourage customers to sign up for its email newsletters. The banner ads led directly to a signup form where customers could specify what communications they were interested in – home, small/medium business or large business. Since its installment in November 2019, this creative campaign has led to 12,885 successful new registrations for PSEG Long Island’s newsletters.

Example of email list growth hacks with signup CTA button

2. Leverage employee touchpoints

For customers who often interact with account managers, like Key Accounts or Commercial & Industrial customers, adding information about opting-in to an email list can be an effective email list growth hack.

The trust that is built between account managers and their customers encourages customers to listen and act when informed about something as simple as signing up for an email list. Ask account managers to encourage their customers to share your utility’s emails with others in their business or industry.

For other employees, such as customer experience associates, add intuitive questions to call center scripts that demonstrate the benefits of receiving emails from your energy utility. After all, one of the best ways to acquire a customer’s email address is to just ask for it. These questions could include:

  • “Would you like to be notified of storm alerts and potential outages in your area?”
  • “What is the best way to reach you via email to share cost-saving energy tips for your home?”

For example, if electric vehicle owners are seeking EV information on your website or via your call center, you can ask them to opt-in to your email to receive program updates.

These questions are especially effective when new or moving customers call to add or change their service and they are open to starting an engaged relationship with their utility.

3. Offer an incentive

Incentives can be the extra push some customers need to sign up for your utility’s email communications. When customers receive something in return after signing up, they’re more likely to do so.

When Elk River was looking to increase subscriptions to its quarterly newsletter, the utility began a promotion for customers to receive a reusable grocery bag and four LED lightbulbs after signing up.

To make the promotion even more interesting, the utility’s Conversation and Key Accounts Manager, Tom Sagstetter, hand-delivered the items to each customer. This promotion increased the utility’s email list size exponentially. Sagstetter delivered more than 300 packages and increased readership by just as many.

Example of incentive used for email list growth hacks
Example of incentives used for email list growth hacks

“The newsletter is a great way to have more regular contact with our customers in a way that’s less formal than, say, their bill,” Sagstetter says. “The promotion we offered not only helped increase newsletter signups, it also helped extend the reach of our conservation message. By delivering the items myself, I was able to talk directly to customers about efficiency and what they were going to get ongoing in the newsletter.”

4. Take advantage of your utility’s website

Customers are likely already visiting your utility’s website to make payments or see past billing statements. Remind customers that you can deliver additional helpful content, like energy education or information about cost-savings programs, directly to their inboxes with this email list growth hack.

Example of email list growth hacks on website

Add simple email signup forms to your website that correspond to the content on each page. For example:

  • On an energy efficiency program page you could suggest, “Enter your email address to receive energy-saving tips and rebates.”
  • The call-to-action on a safety education page might be, “Sign up to get more home safety and energy efficiency advice.”

5. Require an email to access a resource

Consider offering webinars to customers that allow them to learn more about your energy efficiency programs, paperless billing, payment assistance services and more. Or offer consultations for energy-savings education, like an at-home energy assessment.

When providing these resources, require a user to enter their email address to access or sign up for them. Ensure you place an opt-in message so customers know that by signing up, they accept being added to your utility’s email list.

This is not only a great email list growth hack, it’s also a way to find out what topics customers are interested in.

During the height of the pandemic, National Grid and Eversource partnered on webinars to share payment assistance resources for customers. They were produced with closed captioning and broadcast separately in Spanish and Portuguese and included an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter. Over 9,770 total customers registered for the webinars — providing numerous new emails for the utilities.

City of Palo Alto provides similar resources to its customers year-round. The utility offers educational resources on topics like solar power technology, alternative water supplies, electric vehicles and more. Each event is promoted on the City of Palo Alto’s website and gathers names and email addresses when customers register.

Example of webinar for email list growth hacks

6. Include a pop-up form on your website

Pop-ups serve as a powerful call-to-action for customers. The important thing to remember with this email list growth hack is to ensure it doesn’t disrupt the customer’s experience on your website. Make the message clear, to the point and easy for them to click out of if they choose not to opt-in to your list.

Typically, pop-ups are displayed when a user intends to leave the website; after a certain percentage of the page has been scrolled through; or after a visitor has been active on the website for 10 seconds. Test which pop-ups work best for your utility to see your email list grow.

Example of popup form for email list growth hacks

The Forbes Agency Council suggests, “Not every visitor needs to be asked to join your mailing list. Try using pop-ups on specific pages or for specific audiences, such as returning visitors who’ve already engaged with your brand but aren’t in your customer relationship management system.”

7. Leverage social media

Your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram followers might be interested in relevant updates delivered via email. When you post on social media sites asking customers if they are interested in receiving updates, make sure you emphasize convenience and interests that appeal to social users.

For example:

  • “Never miss an update. Get the latest energy-saving tips sent straight to your inbox.”
  • “Sign up to learn more about sustainability and renewable energy.”

Set up social media campaigns to advertise your emails either with a sign-up form directly on the post or with a link that directs customers to a sign-up form.

Through social media you can show customers what they can expect from your utility’s emails. You can do this by using video or imagery that shows content they might receive.

Example of email list growth hacks with social post

“Social media is a really powerful tool for utilities,” says Alexandra Greenberg, Questline Digitals’ Content Strategist. “It offers a direct way to reach customers and share helpful tips or interesting energy facts to keep them engaged. But it’s also a great way for utilities to promote their services and offerings. People really pay attention to social media, and that makes it an essential platform for utilities to communicate with customers.”

Email List Growth Hacks to Avoid

Not all methods of growing an email list are acceptable — either technically or ethically. When planning an email list growth hacks strategy, avoid the following approaches:

  • Buying email lists: When your primary goal is to grow your list as quickly as possible, there’s a good chance you aren’t doing it organically. Buying lists, data mining from other departments or similar tactics can be counterproductive to your overall business goals.

While it may technically be the fastest way to achieve an increased email list, it’s also the number-one mistake marketers could make. There is no way to ensure the purchased emails are legitimate or users who would be interested in your utility’s content. Make sure you keep the business goal in mind. Doubling your list has no effect on the end business goal if it results in a 50% reduction in inbox placement.

  • Adding email addresses without permission: Your utility should only send emails to customers who have expressed direct permission to receive them. Otherwise, adding emails without permission will make not only your customers upset, but it could land your utility in legal trouble as well.
  • Asking for too much information: If customers are interested in signing up for your utility’s emails, don’t make them jump through hoops to do so. Ask them for their general contact information, like their name, email address and phone number. Asking too much personal information can come off as spammy and push the customer to distrust your utility.
  • Offering an incentive that’s not valuable: As mentioned above, offering an incentive is an effective email list growth hack to encourage customers to sign up for your emails. However, ensure you are offering an incentive that is of value to customers, such as Elk River’s LED lightbulbs promotion. Don’t try to offer a rebate that expires tomorrow or a deal that can only be used if you go through X, Y and Z steps.
  • Sending too many emails: Congratulations — you’ve grown your email list. Now, ensure your email marketing strategy is consistent and that customers know what to expect. Sending multiple emails in one week could frustrate customers and encourage them to unsubscribe from your utility’s list, which would be counterintuitive to your progress.

Follow Opt-Out Rules and Opt-In Best Practices

Marketers often wrongly assume that bigger is always better when it comes to customer email lists. While you want to reach as many customers as you can to maximize the impact of your message, that effort is only effective if you email engaged customers who want to hear from your utility.

Adding unengaged customers to your list, on the other hand, could have a negative impact on email performance.

  • Open rates and click-through rates will decline when unengaged customers ignore or delete your messages. That makes it harder to analyze metrics and optimize the campaign for customers who do want to receive it.
  • Unengaged customers may unsubscribe from your list, allow your message to languish in junk folders, or mark it as “spam.” This will not only impact your deliverability metrics, it could affect your reputation with email service providers — threatening your ability to deliver future email to engaged customers.

The way you manage customer info on your email list is not just governed by common sense and courtesy, it’s regulated by federal law.

The CAN-SPAM act, which is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, gives consumers the right to have you stop emailing them — with potential penalties of more than $40,000 for each email in violation. While that could be expensive, the longer-term cost would be the loss of customer satisfaction from repeatedly emailing people who don’t want to hear from you — and ignoring them when they ask you to stop.

Follow these best practices to properly add and remove customers from your email list:

  • Ask customers to opt-in to your lists and use active opt-in methods (avoid passive or automatic opt-in tactics such as a pre-checked opt-in box). You want customers to choose to receive messages from you.
  • Make it clear to customers what they are signing up for. Allow separate opt-ins and opt-outs for different lists and explain the purpose and cadence of each one.
  • While customers may opt-out of receiving certain types of messages, you must also include an option that allows them to stop all messages from you.
  • Make signup easy and unsubscribing easier. Every email message must include a conspicuous explanation of how to opt-out that is easy for an ordinary person to recognize and understand.

Connecting with the Right Customers

Your email marketing strategy will not be successful by reaching the most customers, it will succeed by reaching the right customers. With these email list growth hacks to acquire new contacts, grow and maintain email lists, you can reduce complaints from unengaged customers while nurturing long-term relationships with engaged customers.

The email list growth hacks above are some tried-and-true methods to increase list size, but don’t be afraid to test different ways of reaching customers. With the right strategy, your utility can see significant growth in your email list and improve open and click rates.

Learn how an engagement strategy from Questline Digital can grow your utility’s email lists and build stronger connections with customers.

Consumers prefer video content. In the age of social media and smartphones — even gas pumps are now equipped with streaming screens — video is the most effective way to get your message in front of customers.

Video makes your message both memorable and shareable, while being adaptable across all digital channels. By producing entertaining, informative video content, your utility can increase customer engagement, grow program participation and educate residential and business customers about important energy topics.

But video is also difficult to produce, and it can be expensive. The popularity of video content comes with high customer expectations: They will quickly tune out a poorly made or uninteresting video. To succeed, it’s critical for marketers to invest the time and resources needed to produce content that is appealing and effective.

If your energy utility wants to boost your customer engagement strategy with video content, follow these best practices to create enjoyable, entertaining videos that also educate and inform.

Chart listing the best practices for video content marketing

Top 10 Video Best Practices

  1. Maintain high-quality production values
  2. Entertain as you inform
  3. Keep the video short and on-point
  4. Consider a video series
  5. Create videos with your customers in mind
  6. Use storytelling to deliver the message
  7. Make sure your videos work without sound
  8. Pay attention to the first 3 seconds
  9. Include a clear call-to-action (CTA)
  10. Distribute videos across multiple channels

1. Maintain high-quality production values

Video production is more accessible than ever. Thanks to smartphones, most of us practically have an entire movie studio in our pockets. However, the DIY aesthetic is probably not consistent with your energy utility’s brand. You want your messages to be professional and authoritative, not like a homemade social reel.

Follow these video best practices to ensure your production values reflect that professionalism:

  • Subjects should be well-lit and properly exposed, including key lighting from the front and backlighting. Overhead office lights are typically not sufficient.
  • Capture video in horizontal, widescreen mode. Vertical videos look fine on social media but don’t translate well to other platforms.
  • Use a tripod and avoid unnecessary camera movement like zooms and pans. Shaky, unstable camera work is a surefire way to make your video look amateurish.
  • Hire professional talent to appear on-screen and record voiceovers. Actors who are comfortable, confident and clear on camera make your videos more enjoyable to watch and add authority to your message.
  • Use high-quality graphics and legible type to explain or label items in your video. Utilize bright, contrasting colors so that graphics are clear for smartphone viewers and the vision impaired.
  • Spoken audio and voiceovers should be loud and clear. Professionally recorded music can add interest, especially for an introduction, but make sure it’s not distracting.

2. Entertain as you inform

How do you make a video engaging? By incorporating entertainment.

Video content is an extremely effective way to educate customers about energy topics. Moving images and graphics can make complicated concepts easy to understand. But your videos won’t hold viewers’ attention if they come across as dry, boring or too technical.

To make a positive impression and truly build customer engagement, video content needs to be entertaining as well as informative.

Follow these video best practices to ensure that your message is entertaining:

  • The tone should be upbeat and energetic. For example, approach energy efficiency as a positive change, not as something customers are doing wrong and need to fix.
  • Keep it simple. Most residential customers are not energy experts, and they don’t need to be. Ask someone from outside your utility to review scripts to make sure they’re understandable and don’t overuse industry jargon.
  • Use animation and on-screen graphics to bring topics to life. Don’t explain something if you can show it instead; using animation to show inside equipment is even better.
  • Content for a business audience can be more advanced, but it should still be enjoyable to watch. Save the technical specs for an infographic or detailed article.

Check out this animated video about renewable energy. A typically complex topic is simplified through metaphors, graphics and fun characters.

3. Keep the video short and on-point

It probably goes without saying that today’s consumers don’t have a lot of free time on their hands. Video content is popular not just because it’s easy to consume — it’s also a fast way for customers to get lots of information while they’re on the go. Make sure your videos don’t bore customers or tempt them to reach for the “skip” button.

Keep your content brief by following these video best practices:

  • Videos should be as short as possible while still being informative and entertaining. You don’t want the video to feel rushed, but it should be concise. In other words, stick to the point and eliminate the fluff.
  • With few exceptions, website videos should be no longer than 90 seconds to 2 minutes. If you can’t fit your topic into that time, consider narrowing the focus or splitting it into a multiple-video series. 
  • Social media videos should be 30 to 60 seconds in length, with graphics optimized to display on smartphone screens.

4. Consider a video series to promote ongoing engagement

From movie trilogies to streaming TV series, viewers can’t resist watching the new adventures of characters they already know and love. Presenting video content as part of an ongoing series is an effective way for energy utilities to increase customer engagement. Customers who are familiar with a series are much more likely to watch the latest videos — and learn about new energy topics.

Follow these tips to build long-term engagement with your video series:

  • A video series creates familiarity and reinforces consistent messaging by returning to the same style and format over time.
  • Using the same on-screen talent and series title helps customers connect the overall theme (e.g., energy efficiency) to specific topics (LED lightbulbs and smart thermostats).
  • Questline Digital performance metrics show that content presented in a series increases subsequent viewings, with up to 42% of customers watching multiple videos in a series.

Check out this example from National Grid. The utility worked with Questline Digital to create six testimonial videos that promote results from their EV Make Ready Program, as well as an animated video explaining how the program works. Rather than one, extremely long video, they built a series that more effectively engages customers with digestible, more specific episodes.

Thumbnail images of series for video content best practices

5. Create videos with your customers in mind

When planning topics for your next video, focus on how you can provide value to customers. What interests do customers have? What questions do they ask? Use this information to develop a content strategy that gives customers what they need and provides information that will help them in their daily lives.

  • Do your customers want to learn something new? An educational, animated explainer video can help simplify complex topics.
  • Do your customers need proof points that a program or product is worthwhile? Showcase real-life success stories and commentary from customers with case studies and testimonial videos.
  • Do your customers need help navigating a new service or understanding a program? Give them a step-by-step overview with a tutorial video.

6. Use storytelling to deliver the message

Storytelling helps create an authentic voice that resonates with customers. Focus on narrative-based content that viewers can relate to. Tell a story about a brand, company or service and guide viewers to through their pain points, develop an emotional spark, and then see a satisfying solution to the problem.

When it comes to storytelling, there are a few main points to consider before video development begins.

  • Plot: What story do you want to tell? What is the overarching arc of the story? Does it include enough drama to hold attention?
  • People: Who are the characters in the story and how do they relate to viewers?
  • Place: What is the main location of the story and how does that connect back to customers?
  • Audience: What customers are you targeting with this video — residential or business, specific industries, residential customers with specific interests?
  • Purpose: What point are you trying to make in the story and what do you want viewers to do after?

7. Make sure your videos work without sound

If you plan on sharing your videos on social media platforms, it’s important to ensure your videos convey your message while muted. We all know how embarrassing it can be to have the sound from a video clip on your phone interrupt those around you. That’s why most users opt to default to mute when auto-playing content.

If your video isn’t understandable without sound, you’ll miss out on a large portion of potential viewers. Follow these video best practices:

  • Always add closed-captioning text files. Captioning ensures that your video is accessible to those with hearing impairments as well as mobile viewers who mute their phones.
  • Don’t rely on music. Music is a fantastic feature to add to your marketing videos. However, if the meaning of your clip revolves around the music, those watching on mute won’t understand the message.

8. Pay attention to the first three seconds

You have only three seconds to hook and interest your viewer. If that doesn’t happen, they’ll scroll past or click “skip,” meaning the rest of your video went to waste.

  • Add a strong visual or “opening shot” at the very beginning of your video to immediately capture attention and stop scrolling.
  • Don’t make your logo the first shot or video thumbnail image — this doesn’t tell viewers what the video is about or grab their interest.
  • Include a clear headline on your video thumbnail explaining what value your video is going to provide.
  • Use people and animals to your advantage to trigger an emotional response. Nothing captures people’s attention more than seeing other people or animals on the screen.

Check out this video made by Questline Digital that includes a title image that lets you know exactly what the clip is about.

9. Include a clear call-to-action (CTA)

As mentioned above, defining the purpose of your video is vital — what do you want customers to do after they watch? Is it to sign up for a service, purchase a new smart technology device or send in a rebate request? Whatever it is, make sure you include a clear call-to-action.

Use your CTAs to:

  • Drive visits to specific landing pages
  • Send customers to their My Account preference center
  • Encourage downloads of your utility’s app
  • Ask viewers to share their input

Also, make sure it’s easy for customers to take action; for example, a single click should take them to the correct landing page or a simple signup form.

10. Distribute videos across multiple channels

“Build it and they will come” doesn’t work for most things, including videos. Content cannot simply be created and left alone. To increase views and engagement with your videos, they need to be shared widely across all channels and platforms.

The obvious channels to add videos include:

  • Your utility’s website
  • YouTube or Vimeo pages
  • Social media platforms

Some not-so-obvious channels to leverage video content include:

  • Your utility marketing emails
  • As QR codes on printed materials
  • Within customers’ My Account centers
  • On your utility marketplace site

Wherever your utility shares video content, remember the original purpose: What is your utility trying to accomplish with each video? Who is your utility trying to reach?

Use Video Best Practices to Boost Views and Engagement

Videos are an effective way to engage with your customers in a format that they prefer. Make sure your video content is high-quality, entertaining, informative and concise. Your energy utility will see overall increased engagement and satisfaction, and your customers will be coming back for more.

Learn how Questline Digital’s content strategy and video production services will put these best practices to work for your energy utility.

Subject lines are the make-it-or-break-it text for emails. An effective email subject line will catch the attention of the recipient and inspire them to open the message to learn more. The goal is to drive opens and engagement with your emails. A well-executed subject line can make your utility’s email stand out in the noise of customers’ inboxes.

To ensure successful email campaigns and boost engagement rates, it’s important to follow email subject line best practices, including:

  1. Make it personalized
  2. Keep it short
  3. Don’t bury the lead
  4. Use action language
  5. Include numbers
  6. Don’t use clickbait
  7. Think through emojis
  8. Make it readable
  9. Avoid shouting
  10. Test, test, test

BONUS TIP: Don’t forget the preview text.

Chart listing the top 10 best practices for effective email subject lines

Sample Subject Lines for Energy Utilities

Typically, program promotions can be the most difficult emails to get customers engaged with. After all, people don’t typically enjoy being sold to. Your subject lines for promotion emails need to work hard to showcase the benefits of utility programs, inspire action and catch customers’ attention.

With this in mind, we evaluated the top email sends in 2022 that were deployed to over 20,000 customers for our energy utility clients and have compiled the best sample subject lines for your reference and inspiration.

List of sample subject lines from top performing emails

Make it personalized

Research shows that 74% of customers are frustrated when content is not relevant to their interests. This means personalization is no longer a nice-to-have in digital marketing — it’s essential to increasing engagement with customers.

There are two main ways you can personalize an email subject line:

  1. Make the subject line text personal to what you know about the customer: Consider who the email is being sent to and why. Are you trying to increase awareness of an EV rebate to customers who have shown interest in purchasing one? Then make the subject line stand out for those customers.
  2. Humanize who the email is coming from: Instead of just using your utility name as the sender, state who it’s actually coming from. Questline Digital’s monthly newsletters are delivered from our Marketing Director and customers know that immediately with the subject line “From: Bethany @ Questline Digital.”

By following this email subject line best practice and adding more of a human touch to your utility’s subject lines, customers will see the communications as personal rather than promotional.

Sample of personalized email subject lines

Keep it short

One of the most common questions we hear at Questline Digital is, “How long should an email subject line be?”

The answer?

Email subject lines should be quick, clear and specific. Data shows that the best length is 40 characters or fewer. Longer subject lines are often truncated because of mobile displays and screen settings. Your intended message could be unintelligible if you make it too long.

With nearly 1.7 billion people using their mobile devices to read and share emails, and 42% of users deleting emails that aren’t optimized for mobile, it’s essential that your subject lines are prepared for mobile viewing.

A Marketo study surveying around 200 email samples found that subject lines with four words received the highest open rate at 18.3% followed by five words with an open rate of 17.1%. However, seven-word subject lines received the highest click-to-open rate with 10.8%. Depending on your utility’s goal, it’s best to stick between four and seven words.

Don’t bury the lead

Put important words and information at the beginning of the subject line to catch a customer’s attention immediately. Let recipients understand what they are getting before they even open the email with this email subject line best practice. If your utility is offering a rebate or promotion, make that known upfront. Or, if your utility is announcing a new product or offer, convey the feeling of “insider updates” to customers via the subject line.

Answer the question: How would opening the email benefit them? Customers respond well to specific references to their situation; email subject lines with the words “you,” “your” and “about your” tend to perform well.

Use action language

Customers are more likely to open emails when they see actionable, eye-catching words in the subject line. Some powerful action words to use include:

  • Improve
  • Increase
  • Update
  • Join
  • Congratulations
  • Last Chance
  • Offer
  • Rebate

When deciding what action words to use, consider your goal for the email:

  • Are you trying to pique customers’ curiosity?
  • Are you appealing to their sense of self?
  • Are you trying to build trust?

No matter your utility’s goal, an email subject line best practice is to include action words in your subject line that makes sense with your goal. For example, if you are trying to increase paperless billing enrollments, try using “Enroll Today!”

Include numbers

Numbers naturally catch people’s attention. Humans like to organize information into logical, numbers-backed scenarios. So, including numbers in your utility’s subject lines only makes sense. Numbers can succinctly tell a story that words alone can’t. Plus, numbers differentiate themselves among words — making the email subject line stand out more.

Yesware completed a survey that analyzed 115 million email subject lines and found that those that include numbers outperform those without. Subject lines that include a number were found to achieve:

  • 53.2% open rate, compared to the average 51.9%
  • 32.0% reply rate, compared to the average 29.8%

When considering what numbers to add to subject lines, try including a promo code or dollar amount to catch attention. Subject lines such as “Save $XX when you use promo code XXXXX” are shown to improve open rates as well as CTOR.

Screenshot example of sample subject lines

7. Don’t use clickbait

Your subject line should match the contents of your email. Don’t try to trick recipients and boost opens only to disappoint them with your email message. This is a surefire way to be flagged for spam or lose subscribers.

8. Be careful with emojis

When should you use emojis in subject lines? Questline Digital’s data shows that most subject lines with emojis perform below the industry benchmark. While not always true, they should be used sparingly and with purpose.

9. Make it readable

Using unique text characters or different fonts may seem like it would help your message stand out. But using special Unicode characters makes subject lines unintelligible to users who rely on screen readers. This means your email is not accessible to all audiences.

Screenshot example of sample subject lines

10. Test, test, test

Email subject line best practices include A/B testing. This is when you send two versions of a subject line to a small sample group, measure open rate or CTOR performance, then deliver the “winning” subject line to the remaining mailing list. Through the consistent use of A/B testing over time, an energy utility can narrow down very specific best practices for customer segments. Some tips to keep in mind:

  • Is my sample size big enough? Typically, 500 to 1,000 recipients is an effective sample size and will deliver statistically meaningful results.
  • How long should the test run? More than50% of opens and clicks happen within the first 6 hours after email delivery. However, to eliminate seasonal and day-of-week variables, it’s best to test for one full week before determining a winner.
  • Is there a clear winner? Depending on the sample size, a good rule of thumb is to look for a 25% to 35% performance variance in order to declare a clear winner.

Sample Subject Lines for Energy Utilities

Let’s look at high-performing subject lines in action. We evaluated the top email sends for our energy utility clients and have compiled the best sample subject lines for your reference and inspiration.

Best subject line for promotion emails

Promotional emails, or those that sell products or promote programs, are often the hardest to get customers engaged with. People don’t typically enjoy being sold to. Your subject lines for promotion emails need to work hard to showcase benefits, inspire action and catch attention.

Employing Email Subject Line Best Practices

Bookmark this blog and refer to our list of testing tools and sample subject lines the next time you’re building an email campaign. And remember to test, test, test!

Learn how Questline Digital’s engagement experts can boost the performance of your email marketing campaigns.

A social media strategy is an essential component of an energy utility’s digital marketing plan. You can provide real-time updates, share helpful information, receive feedback and connect directly with your customers. Most importantly, popular social media sites are where many customers spend their time online. In order to reach them, you need to spend time there, too.

To engage your audience and build a trusting relationship between your energy utility and social media followers, you’ll need to optimize what you post, when you post and where you post. Follow these best practices to make sure your social strategy earns shares and likes — and avoids getting unfriended.

Reach the right audience on the right platform

There are a lot of social media platforms out there, and it seems like a new one is generating buzz almost every week. Learning new platforms, creating accounts and managing all these profiles can be overwhelming, especially for time-strapped energy utility marketers.

The good news is, you don’t need to use every social media platform — just the ones that your customers use the most.

Facebook should be the primary focus for most energy utilities. It reaches the most residential customers and the widest audience overall. LinkedIn, meanwhile, is an ideal way to reach business customers. Posting on Twitter and Instagram can be effective, but these platforms aren’t essential to reach your audience.

  • With 2 billion users, Facebook is an ideal platform for reaching a residential audience.
  • LinkedIn has more than 575 million users, and 40% of users access it on a daily basis.
  • More than 80% of Instagram’s 1 billion users follow a business account.
  • There are more than 500 million tweets sent every day from Twitter’s 330 million users.

Use an appropriate voice on social

Social media platforms are more casual and conversational than other customer communication channels. You don’t want to come across as too stodgy, but you should also be true to your energy utility’s brand. Even when you’re being friendly and personable, you want to sound like a trusted community organization, not a sarcastic teenager.

Your energy utility should maintain the same voice, or personality, across all of your social media accounts. Aim to be authentic, helpful, knowledgeable and friendly each time you craft a social media post, regardless of the platform. But change your tone based on who you’re targeting and the situation at hand.

  • Residential customers want to be entertained, while business customers want to stay up to date on industry trends and news.
  • Be personable to delight and amuse your audience on Facebook and Instagram.
  • Be direct with clear and concise language when posting to LinkedIn.
  • Be sympathetic and understanding in your posts when addressing an outage, natural disaster or other crisis.

Pick the best times to post

Social media tends to be ephemeral. Messages are consumed within a fairly short window after being published, without a lot of staying power. In fact, studies have shown that most retweets on Twitter happen with the first hour after tweeting. As a result, you want to post when your customers are online to see it.

You can find loads of conventional wisdom about the best days and times to share posts, but each audience is different. To find out what works best for your customers, try posting at different times on multiple days throughout the week to see which posts get the most engagement. Those results can help inform your social media strategy moving forward.

These recommendations, based on Questline Digital performance metrics, can help you get started:

  • Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram posts shared on Sunday often see the worst engagement; the worst day for Twitter is Saturday.
  • Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are the best performing days overall.
  • Facebook posts perform well when posted from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday.
  • LinkedIn posts see the most engagement when shared from 8 to 10 a.m. and at noon Wednesday; at 9 a.m. and from 1 to 2 p.m. Thursday; and at 9 a.m. Friday.
  • Instagram posts perform well when shared at 11 a.m. Wednesday and from 10 to 11 a.m. Friday.
  • Twitter posts perform best at 9 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday; posts shared weekdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. see high engagement as well.

Keep it short, sweet and visually engaging

Social media users enjoy posts that get to the point quickly and concisely. They want to easily understand what program you’re promoting or why they should click the link you shared. The shorter your message, the better chance you have of capturing their attention.

Even better than sharing a text-based post, try to draw your audience in with an eye-catching video, infographic, animated GIF or photo. Adding visual components to your social media posts makes them more engaging. When posts grab their attention, audiences interact more in the form of likes, comments and shares.

  • According to Questline Digital performance metrics, energy utility social media posts with videos, GIFs and images see the most engagement.
  • Posts with videos get 200% more likes, comments and shares than those with just links or no media at all.
  • Add a GIF or short infographic to your social media post to demonstrate a complex topic quickly and clearly with engaging visuals.

The right social media content can help you build a strong digital relationship with your audience — and ultimately increase customer satisfaction by making your energy utility relatable and accessible. By following these best practices, you can connect with customers on the platforms they use most, at the times they’re online and with the right information.

Download Questline Digital’s marketing tip sheet, “Best Practices: Social Media Marketing.”

Email marketing is an extremely effective channel, giving energy utilities the ability to reach a large number of customers with highly targeted, personal messages. But even the best email campaigns must compete for clicks in crowded customer inboxes.

In order to succeed, an email must be clear, consistent and easy to read. With well-designed messages that attract attention and drive conversions, energy utilities can cut through the clutter to deliver successful results. Follow these best practices to optimize the design of your emails.  

Anatomy of an email message

Every email message should follow standard formatting conventions, both to meet customers’ expectations and to comply with technical and legal regulations (such as CAN-SPAM). When a customer opens your message, they should instantly grasp who it is from and why you are contacting them. Follow this advice to make it clear.

  • Sender Name and Address: Clearly identify the energy utility or affiliated program that is sending the email.
  • Subject Line: Relevant, compelling and actionable; 50 to 70 characters that prompt the customer to open to learn more.
  • Preheader: Summary of contents, 35 to 100 characters, that’s consistent with the subject line and inspires action.
  • Footer: Must include a physical mailing address and a prominent unsubscribe link to comply with CAN-SPAM regulations.
Diagram of different sections of an email message

Make it easy to read

Customers open messages using multiple email programs, web browsers and mobile apps, on a variety of devices, in a variety of situations — from Microsoft Outlook and Gmail on their computers to the Mail app on their phones. In every case, your design needs to be clear and legible.

Often this is easier said than done; a font or color choice may look great on the big computer screen you’re using to design it, but the message may be completely unreadable on a customer’s small smartphone screen. Consider these email best practices to make an impact no matter what devices customers use to read them.

  • Always utilize mobile-optimized design. More than 63% of residential customers read emails from their energy utility on smartphones.
  • Email attention spans are short. Most customers spend less than 8 seconds reading an email from their energy utility. Make your point instantly.
  • Use web-safe fonts to ensure compatibility; body text should be 14 to 16 points.
  • Add alt tags to all images to improve clarity for customers who have images turned off and to ensure compliance for vision-impaired customers.

Eye-catching simplicity

Messages need to be attractive, but designs should also be simple and restrained. Complicated color schemes or intricate images won’t display well on all email programs, web browsers or smartphone apps. A design can be bright, bold or eye-catching while still being clear and easy to read. These tips will help you find the right balance.

  • When using overlapping or adjacent colors allow for enough contrast to be differentiated by the vision-impaired.
  • Don’t be afraid of white space. An airy design prevents your email from looking crowded and allows customers to distinguish the important elements (such as the CTA).
  • Place your utility’s logo in the top-left corner, where customers expect to see it. This quickly reassures them that the message is from a company they trust.
  • Always use a compelling hero image to attract attention, pique customer interest and help tell your story. All-text messages are easy to dismiss as gray and uninspired.
  • Do not embed important text within an image; keep text and visual elements separate. Some websites and email apps do not automatically render images, and the text may be hard to read on smaller screens.
  • An animated GIF can be more effective than a still image. Keep GIF image sizes small, limiting the number of frames and compressing the file, to reduce email load times.

CTAs that convert

The goal of your email isn’t to be read and enjoyed — it’s to drive conversions. Optimize calls-to-action within messages and ensure they lead to specific landing pages where customers can quickly and easily sign up for your program. Use A/B testing to find the best CTA, comparing elements such as the message, color, button size and placement until you find the best-performing combination.

  • Make sure the intention of the CTA is clear and recognizable, such as “Sign up now” or “Get started.” Customers should know exactly why they are clicking and where to click.
  • The CTA button should stand out from the rest of the email, preferably using a dark color on a light background, and it should be large enough that customers won’t miss it.

If your program promotions or communications goals are falling short, the problem might not be the substance of your message — it might be a poorly designed email that customers are quick to delete. By following these best practices, you can optimize the design of your email messages to boost engagement and maximize conversions.

Download Questline Digital’s marketing tip sheet, “Best Practices: Email Design for Energy Utilities.”