Spam emails are a major issue for many internet users. In fact, research shows that out of the 333 billion emails sent worldwide, 85% of those are spam. Although email marketing is still one of the best tools for reaching customers, spam messages can confuse, frustrate or victimize your utility’s customers.

As your utility works to make sure its emails aren’t susceptible to spam filters or misinterpreted by customers, it’s important to debunk the myths surrounding email spam. Additionally, it’s important to know the best practices when it comes to email marketing and spam to ensure you’re building trust with customers.

The following email spam facts will help your utility keep its customers safe and secure, ultimately leading to higher customer satisfaction.

Myth 1: Spam Words Always Get Your Email Filtered

Email spam myth: “Free,” “Save” and “Win” are just some of the words that have been labeled as “spam trigger words,” inspiring fear and distrust among customers and their energy utilities who might use them in their subject lines.

Email spam facts: In reality, these words aren’t the trap everyone thinks they are. This is a lingering myth from years ago when inboxes were besieged by spammers and email providers used simple content filters to determine what was spam.

Content filters look at subject lines, email content and even the image-to-text ratio. As the spammers figured out how to get around those filters, email providers got more sophisticated. More and more, email providers are evaluating the larger picture to identify spam, including sender reputation, deployment patterns and recipient engagement. Those have more weight on whether your email gets delivered than using previously defined “spam words” in your subject line.

For example, as an ode to this email spam fact, PSEG Long Island deployed a paperless billing campaign in 2018 that promoted free LED lightbulbs to customers who signed up for the program. The utility received extraordinary engagement, including a 21.8% open rate and 7.7% click-to-open rate. The subject line the utility used that received these specific results was, “Paperless = Free LEDs.”

Example of email message to show spam facts

This is proof that including the word “free” doesn’t mean your utility’s emails will automatically go into spam folders. On the contrary, it might just increase engagement with your utility’s customers.

Myth 2: CAN-SPAM Compliance Leads to Automatic Delivery

Email spam myth: Your email meets all the requirements of CAN-SPAM, so it will go straight to your customers’ inboxes, right? Not necessarily. As mentioned above, many email providers are using algorithms to determine if an email is considered spam or not.

Email spam facts: Just because your email meets CAN-SPAM requirements it does not guarantee a free ride to the inbox. Overcoming CAN-SPAM is about meeting legal requirements, not deliverability standards. Although meeting CAN-SPAM requirements sets your utility’s communications up for better success, it does not guarantee deliverability or email opens from customers.

Instead, to reach customers’ inboxes, make sure your utility is abiding by email best practices and sending relevant content to the right audience to keep your sender reputation positive and engagement metrics high. This email spam fact is the way to reach customers’ hearts… and inboxes.

One Southeast energy utility grew its customer engagement by creating automated anniversary emails that thanked customers for their business. Rather than developing another transactional email, the utility wanted to create a friendlier touchpoint with its customers. Thus, the anniversary emails were born.

Example email message demonstrates facts about spam

These emails were delivered to both residential and small-to-medium-sized business customers after their first year of service. The emails were personalized to each customer and included helpful links, like newsletter registration, rebate programs and energy efficiency tips. Customer engagement drastically increased from these emails, achieving an average 46% open rate. Additionally, the utility was better able to understand its customers and what they sought from the utility to further develop communications to meet those needs.

Myth 3: There is a Perfect Day and Time to Send Emails

Email spam myth: A popular question in email marketing is, “When is the best day and time to send my emails?” Marketing blogs are full of conflicting answers: send early in the mornings, send Thursdays at 3 p.m., never send on a Monday.

Email spam facts: The truth is, there is no perfect day and time to send your emails. It comes down to one thing: knowing your audience and their preferences. You need to know when your customers are most likely to engage with the emails your utility is sending.

How do you figure this out? When tracking your metrics, include the day and time you sent the email. Then, evaluate the days of the week and times of day where you see high engagement. Don’t forget to also look at the type and topic of communication. Maybe your audience prefers to read email newsletters on a different day than when they engage with promotional messages. Testing different times and days for your utility’s messaging will help to identify these factors and decipher which days work best for your utility and its customers.

According to Questline Digital’s digital marketing data, even the deployment of utility email newsletters and promotional messages differs in time and day. The below charts show the differences calculated in days and times sent between residential and business communications for both email newsletters and program promotions.

While it appears that for residential customers, the best days to deploy a newsletter were Mondays and Thursdays, promotional messages for the same group saw Tuesdays and Thursdays outperform the other days. When it comes down to this email spam fact, customers are in control of when they interact with your utility’s emails. The best your utility can do is track and compare against your own performance metrics rather than those of other utilities.

Myth 4: The Bigger the List Size, the Better

Email spam myth: A lot of marketers think that email list growth is always a good thing. While you do want to reach as many customers as you can, you want them to be relevant and engaged, not just along for the ride. Connecting with them isn’t as simple as just adding them to your list.

Email spam facts: A good email list is about the quality of your recipients, not the quantity. Every year, your utility typically loses a number of subscribers to abandoned or changed email addresses. Sending communications to these inactive email addresses negatively impacts your deliverability by hurting your utility’s sender reputation.

Developing a re-engagement campaign to target inactive subscribers will help your utility clean up your list. Those who want to remain on the list will and those who have inactive addresses will drop from the list. Your utility may lose a portion of its list recipients, but in the end, the quality of your utility’s email list will improve, as will your email deliverability, and your utility will start seeing better results.

Separating Email Facts from Fables

Many of these email spam facts come down to knowing your utility’s customers and audience. Continue to test and analyze your utility’s communications to see what works and what doesn’t. In doing so, your utility will be better able to communicate with its customers and ensure its emails are reaching their inboxes, not their junk folders.

The digital deployment experts at Questline Digital can help you separate email marketing myths from best practices.

As energy consumers choose new electricity sources and show more interest in their overall consumption, the utility industry is paying more attention to the customer experiences it provides. Utility professionals now understand that their relationships with customers need to be built around two-way conversations.

In the latest edition of its “New Energy Consumer” report, Accenture paints a picture of utility customers seeking relationships with their energy providers that go beyond transactional. They are demanding more of their energy providers, especially when it comes to energy-efficient products and services.

The voices of these new energy consumers are getting louder, underscoring the need for utilities to take a customer-centric approach to their communications strategies. Utilities know they need to offer new products and capabilities. But they also need to understand the unique needs of each customer and develop relationships with them.

So, what are utilities doing?

How Content Marketing Affects the Utility Customer Experience

Now that brands in other industries are realizing the importance of creating content for specific stages of the customer journey, utilities are also finding it to be a valuable strategy for customer engagement and retention.

“When it comes to customer experience, a big motivation for utilities is to establish and maintain long-term relationships,” says Brian Lindamood, Vice President of Marketing and Content Strategy at Questline Digital. “After all, unlike most other companies we do business with, we have lifelong relationships with our utilities. That’s why content marketing can be so effective. It’s not about a sales cycle that can be measured in weeks or months. It’s a lifelong relationship.”

An effective content marketing program includes a variety of content types. Offering multiple communication options allows utility customers to choose their preferred method of engagement. Communication channels and potential content formats include:

Newsletters

When it comes to the content marketing channel that utilities use successfully, email newsletters are the winner, hands down. “Newsletters are the main channel for utilities in proactively getting their message into customer inboxes and on their phones,” says Lindamood. “The monthly touchpoint is an effective, low-key way to be visible in customers’ lives without bombarding them with ads or messages.”

The town of Benson, North Carolina has been enjoying outstanding customer engagement from its eNewsletter, which leverages videos, infographics and articles from the Questline Digital content catalog. In 2021, the utility’s monthly newsletter achieved an above-average open rate of 47.3% and an impressive click-to-open rate of 33%.

At Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE), the utility’s Key Accounts eNewsletter is improving engagement — and customer satisfaction — among business customers, with the metrics to prove it. “With Questline’s Key Account eNewsletter, we can track official metrics for customer engagement and have seen a related increase in satisfaction scores,” says Monika Campbell, Manager of Large Customer Services at BGE. “Our Key Account Managers who have higher eNewsletter opens have happier customers.”

Advice from Monika Campbell about improving customer experience in the utility industry

Social media, text and websites

Because millennials and Gen Z audiences are active users of mobile devices and prolific sharers on social media, many utilities are choosing to use social media platforms and text messaging to communicate with these audiences.

“Younger customers are used to getting their bills via text from other companies,” says Lindamood. “We’re seeing utilities increasingly using text messaging, especially for outage alerts, emergency messages and promotions.”

Websites, meanwhile, are used by most utilities for providing in-depth content resources like articles, infographics and videos.

Webinars

The experience of commercial and industrial (C&I) customers is important, too. In fact, because they have more options when it comes to suppliers, maintaining their loyalty can be a greater challenge. Webinars are an effective way to reach these customers and position your utility as a thought leader in energy end-use implementation.

Duke Energy, one of the country’s largest energy holding companies, has seen a substantial increase in customer engagement and its J.D. Power ratings since it began offering webinars to its C&I customers.

Improving the Utility Customer Experience With Relevant Content

A recent survey by Content Marketing Institute found that more than half of the companies delivering an optimal customer experience agreed that content marketing was a major contributor to their success. These marketers make it a priority to deliver relevant content when and where a customer is most likely to see it.

For energy utilities, that means providing customers with helpful content when they need it. “Using content marketing tactics to reach consumers on the channel they prefer can go a long way toward helping utilities meet their safety and educational goals,” Lindamood says. “Providing relevant and helpful information not only increases engagement, it improves the overall customer experience.”

Learn how a content marketing strategy from Questline Digital can help your utility improve the customer experience.

Comparing the effectiveness of video vs. written content isn’t clear-cut. There are numerous factors to consider, like, who the content is for, why you’re making it, what your goals are and where you’re going to use the content. Often, you might even decide to use both formats in tandem to accomplish your goals.

But there are some best practices you can follow to make the choice easier. Check out the following advice from Questline Digital’s content experts.

Chart listing the differences between video and written content

When to Use Video in Your Content Strategy

The popularity of video continues to rise, spanning all audiences. Video content has become one of the most effective tools to capture attention and teach new concepts, but alas, isn’t always an attainable option or even the best choice. It all depends on your goals, timeline and audience. Marketers must identify the best-fit scenarios to invest in video production.

Goals and audience

“I think intent is the most overlooked aspect of video,” explains Matt Irving, Creative Director of Video Content at Questline Digital. He warns that people sometimes make video just to have video, not because it’s the best tool for the job.

Understanding your audience and how they learn best is step one. Do they require visuals? Are they familiar with the subject?

“Video is usually really good at simplifying topics or concepts that are easier to show than describe,” Irving adds. “It’s also good any time you want to show something that’s moving or changing.”

The most popular videos in Questline Digital’s Content Catalog include clips that provide an inside look at how new technology works or explain a complex energy concept. Without video, you can’t see beneath the surface. With animation and video editing, you can offer an x-ray view.

Humans struggle to conceptualize the abstract. With just text to rely on, an intended message about a new program or initiative can easily get lost. “Video works well in demonstrating something that is new or something people have heard about, but never seen,” Irving says.

So, if you’re promoting a new service that requires visual aids or want to explain the inner working of a complex energy topic, video is likely your best choice.

Inspiring action

What do you want your audience to do? Are you trying to make them sign up for a program or convert to a new rate plan? Or are you trying to educate them about an important energy or safety topic?

“The best campaigns use all the tools to move people toward and through the funnel and video can do a lot, especially near the top,” explains Irving.

“Videos can tell someone what’s in it for them if they take action, then facilitate that action. But if someone already knows what they want — say, a new fridge — video is probably not the way to go. If you’re to the last part of the funnel and want to convert with one click, video isn’t your best choice. If you are near the top of the funnel or trying to shift the feel overall, then video is great.”

If you’re introducing a new program or want to educate audiences on an efficiency topic, video could be your best tool. But if you want to push a warm audience to final conversion, asking them to first watch a video could complicate or stall the journey.

Simply put, Irving says, “I don’t sell cars or pizza. My goal is for someone to watch my video then find or call the person that does.”

The right channels

Where your content is shared matters. It’s a fact that videos perform better on social media than articles. Questline Digital’s data shows that videos shared on Facebook attract 200% more engagement than static content.

Why? Because compared to written content, video is much more effective at adding personality and emotion to a message. Social algorithms favor videos because they capture a viewer’s attention quicker and for longer, meaning more exposure to your message.

Videos can also be repurposed across multiple platforms. They are effective not just on social media but also on websites, in newsletters and for advertisements.

When to Use Written Articles in Your Content Strategy

Video isn’t always the answer. Often, written copy emerges as the clear and best choice. If you are still debating video vs. written content, here are some concrete reasons why you might choose text.

Complexity and depth

If you’re releasing new research findings or covering a topic that includes copious statistics, written content is your best bet. Generally, people don’t remember numbers when they see them in video. They will recall the broad strokes of the message, but not the specifics.

Additionally, if you need to go deep into an idea, written content should be your go-to tool. Marketing videos are typically short and cover high-level concepts while articles can cover a topic from every angle.

“Articles are better for discussing a subject from a variety of angles,” explains Scott Miller, Director of Energy Communications at Questline Digital. “Videos are generally less than two minutes long, so they often give a broad overview of a topic or cover a limited part of it. If we want to take a deeper dive, we will typically choose an article.”

Timeliness

If you need to produce and deliver a message quickly, it should come as no surprise that written content is the better choice. Professional video production can take weeks or months and often requires the involvement of multiple people.

Once produced, videos are more difficult to update than a written article. Hitting the edit button and changing a statistic, updating a link or correcting a quote is no issue for text-based content. Updating a video, on the other hand, requires editing software, audio mixing, new graphics, and a number of other steps.

“We want to ensure that our content is relevant today and three years from now,” adds Miller. “So, topics like ‘findings from a recent survey’ are best covered as articles that cost less to produce and are easier to keep up-to-date.”

Audience size

Articles have mass appeal. They can be used for both small and large audiences because of their versatility and ease of creation. If your target audience includes just 30 customers, would you recoup the money spent on video production? Most likely, an article would be a more economical choice for your small audience.

Articles are better for niche topics such as “best lighting choices for college campuses” and videos are best used for broader topics like “how the electric grid works.”

Video vs. Written Content: What’s Best for Customer Engagement?

What content format will you use for your next campaign? We hope our comparison chart and best practices make your choice simpler. Still unsure of video vs. written content? Don’t hesitate to reach out! Our team of experts is here to help.

Increase customer engagement with a content strategy from the experts at Questline Digital.

Featuring a video series within a content marketing strategy is a proven tactic for increasing customer engagement. With the number of content pieces vying for customers’ attention, a video series can cut through the clutter and sustain awareness across multiple assets for weeks or months.

How?

A video series creates familiarity and reinforces consistent messaging over time. With the same on-screen talent, visual look and title, video series increase engagement and promote subsequent video viewings.

Top Benefits of a Video Series

Just as consumers will continue using certain brand-name products because of familiarity, customers will continue watching content in a video series that they know and enjoy. They grow to love the characters or storyline, or both, and begin to look forward to the next installment.

“I believe that you can’t develop a relationship with a movie,” says Matt Irving, Creative Director of Video Content for Questline Digital. “A movie is a one-time thing. With a TV series, you originally had to watch it when it was on and you came back every week to see the characters and story come to life. It’s much more of a relationship. It’s the same with a video series in a content strategy. Being able to come back and recognize something familiar is a huge motivator for customers.”

The creation of a series allows your utility to think about the bigger picture. Rarely are there topics that one video is going to cover in full. When your utility is thinking about a series it needs to understand the stages of the topic, including:

  • What topic needs to be addressed?
  • What story aligns with that topic?
  • How do you talk about the topic?
  • What audience will be interested in the topic?

After understanding these elements, you can start to break down the topic and figure out how to craft it into consumable episodes that give customers the information they need over the course of time.

Chart listing the benefits of using a video series

Improve customer engagement

Video series have the ability to form a relationship with viewers. It’s this relationship that has a positive impact on engagement and encourages repeat viewings.

“If you think you’re only going to see something once, you’re a lot less invested in it,” Irving says. “When you start to see it over and over again, it’s different. People like familiar things. They’ll click on them. If you enjoyed your experience before, you’re going to click on it to have another enjoyable experience.”

Make content more digestible

Video series enables your utility to consider, Are we covering all the things we need to talk about without cramming too much into any one video? With a series you can cover a topic in-depth across many videos, but each episode can be specific and easy to consume.

Reduce production headaches

A video series serves as a template, with an established a tone, format and graphic style. You can add subsequent videos to the series without having to reinvent the wheel every time.

“Series are advantageous in the way that we produce,” says Irving. “Instead of telling those stories in completely different ways that would involve several different shoots, we’re able to concentrate on executing one thing really well and thinking it through.”

There are parameters built into a video series that guide the production process. “This doesn’t mean you can’t adjust and change as you go,” Irving adds, “but it gives a much clearer picture of what you should be judging within the video itself.”

Financial advantages to video series

Turning on a camera at any time costs money. However, if you consider the cost of turning it on multiple times when shooting one-off videos compared to turning it on once and filming content for an entire series, the difference is significant. “You’re going to get a lot better cost per piece,” says Irving.

Build customer trust

Video series can build trust with viewers. When customers see a particular host multiple times who is giving them valuable information, they grow to know and trust that person.

When creating a video series, your utility must have a strategy in place, but not an agenda. This means that you need to strategize the topic so you are delivering valuable information to viewers, but not doing it in a way that “sells” to customers. People feel more comfortable and willing to accept new information when they know the reason behind it is genuine.

Simplify complex topics

Knowing that customers prefer visual elements and learning opportunities, using video series to simplify complex utility topics like beneficial electrification, demand response or time-of-use rate plans only makes sense. Rather than describing these processes in lengthy articles, share the information in a video series focused on understanding the basics or key details.

For example, Questline Digital created an animated video series for the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative (SECC) that demonstrated the convenience of smart home technology to customers and educated them about the benefits of smart tech, electric vehicles and more.

This was a series of three videos, plus an infographic, that included a common narrator — Professor Energy — and used a similar animation style so viewers could easily connect the videos together. The series helped dispel misconceptions about smart tech and EVs and educated customers on the benefits and use-cases.

This series was successful for SECC, achieving thousands of views on their YouTube channel and nearly 42,000 views on their consumer website.

How to Use Video Series to Boost Engagement

Video content is extremely popular among consumers — and it’s everywhere. From their smartphones to computers to streaming TVs, people are inundated with videos of all types. A video series can help your content stand out through strategic planning, creation and delivery.

Quotation - A video series format where you see something again builds familiarity which naturally leads to enagement

Start strategizing with a conversation

When creating content for a video series your utility needs to think about how a conversation would go with a typical customer. What audience are you speaking with? What questions do they have?

“We’re filling in what we think the viewer is thinking and what their questions are,” says Irving. “It doesn’t start with, ‘Oh what if we made something about this?’ It starts with ‘What’s a way we can have a conversation about things that would interest consumers?’”

When it comes to residential versus business customers, the structure is the same. You might have different conversations with each audience, but it’s a conversation nonetheless. For example, for a residential video series, the driving force is typically not about saving money. Instead, the focus is on how it makes customers’ lives more comfortable and convenient. Business customers, on the other hand, want to know how much a new technology is going to cost if they invest in it, and the non-energy benefits they might see as a result.

“The overall strategy is the same,” says Irving. “The only difference is you’re having conversations with different people who have different priorities.”

Deliver content that matters

It’s important for video series to be created with the audience in mind. You can put different types of messages into the mix, but they all must add value to the viewer.

“Because we want to provide valuable information with some entertainment, we live by a code: Content should either be important, interesting or both,” Irving explains.

You can leverage this to draw customers deeper into the series — encouraging them to continue learning with each subsequent episode. “People aren’t waiting for an email to click on the next thing,” says Irving. “If you have their interest in a series, then you should let them be there as long as they want to be.”

However, you also want to give them the choice.

Video series should cover the topic in full, but in a way that allows customers to choose when they watch it and how many videos they watch at once, even skipping individual episodes they may not be interested in. “Allowing that allows you to have the closest thing to a conversation,” says Irving.

Repeat Viewings Build a Loyal Following

Using a video series in your utility’s content marketing strategy can boost customer engagement and satisfaction as viewers come to expect and look forward to new videos. It helps you educate customers about complex topics in smaller, digestible pieces. And it will help build a loyal following over time as customers recognize the series and return to learn more with each new episode.

Learn more about the video series available to energy utilities in Questline Digital’s Content Catalog.

Animation has the power to break through marketing clutter. No matter the company or industry, consumers want entertaining, educational and aspirational content. In a sea of sensory overload, animated explainer videos enable your energy utility to stand out in a memorable, compelling way.

Animation helps brands to develop a unique and identifiable look that instantly separates them from competitors. Graphic imagery is a powerful tool. Graphic imagery that moves? That’s influential.

Benefits of Animated Explainer Videos

  • Eye-catching and attention-grabbing
  • More flexibility
  • High performance
  • Aids understanding of complex topics
  • Memorable

Video content is now an essential element of any marketing plan. Animation provides the flexibility to make branded video content faster and often for less money than live action alternatives.

While live action video depends largely on specific locations, appropriate talent and other external variables, the possibilities are endless with animation. You control every aspect of the environment and characters — your story can take place in the middle of the desert or on the surface of the moon.

For brands on a budget, that means they can do much more for less.

“The power of animation lies in the ability to translate emotions and ideas into a visual experience for viewers,” said Mary Harrison, Questline Digital Animator. “You don’t have to limit your imagination — animation pushes the boundaries beyond what is possible in real life.”

According to Questline Digital Benchmarks data, video and other multimedia content outperforms articles in residential customer communications. We see some of the highest engagement for animated explainer videos that break down difficult energy topics.

Animation provides opportunities for energy utilities to educate their customers on complex topics. Technical information can be effectively explained through simple animated videos, compared to a lengthy article or complicated lived-action explainer video.

“Animation is like having X-ray vision,” explained Matt Irving, Questline Digital Creative Director for Video. “You can see exactly how technology works inside the equipment — something that wouldn’t be possible with live footage.”

3 Ways Utilities Can Use Animated Explainer Videos

When people think of animation, they often think of cartoons from classic Disney movies, Pixar films or TV shows like The Simpsons. However, animation can also be realistic and lifelike — it all depends on what style works best to tell your story.

The subject matter can be serious, educational, technical or even heartfelt. Questline Digital has utilized animation in promotional campaigns ranging from communicating the safety and security of outdoor lighting to PSAs explaining rate cases. There are no limits to the stories that can be told with animation.

Animated explainer videos have the power to capture attention, engage audiences and make your message memorable — which, let’s face it, is not always easy to do.

Here are a few examples of how you can use animated explainer videos in your energy utility’s marketing to increase customer engagement.

Explain new billing programs

Animated video is a great way to educate your customers on the main features of their energy bill or a new billing program. Whether your utility is debuting a new bill redesign or simply wants to educate customers on how to read their bill, animated video makes an impact.

The visual nature of video works best for this type of communication. Instead of describing all the key features in an article or bill insert, your customers can clearly see them in the clip. Plus, you can highlight important changes with animation.

For one major utility, Questline Digital created an animated explainer video highlighting their new and improved bill, which featured a fresh look and easier-to-find information. This educational video experienced strong customer engagement with a 42.7% open rate and more than 14,000 total clicks from a promotional email campaign. The video also experienced nearly 8,000 views on the energy utility’s YouTube channel.

Simplify technical content

One of the most valuable capabilities of animation is simplifying intricate topics. You can provide an unobstructed look into equipment or drastically abridge the complexity of a concept.

For example, in the following video, variable frequency drives (VFD) are explained in just a few seconds with the use of animation. Showcasing how pipe valves and VFD technology differ would be time consuming without the use of graphics.

Educate customers about energy use

From smart home devices to electric vehicles, customers have more energy technology at their fingertips than ever before — and more questions about how best to control their energy use. Animated explainer videos can bring these topics to life, helping customers understand new energy technologies in a fun and entertaining format.

Questline Digital created the explainer video series “The Evolving World of Energy” for the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative. With the friendly character Professor Energy as a guide, the videos help unravel complicated energy topics and demonstrate the benefits to customers.

Step Up Your Storytelling

Explore the limitless possibilities of animation. Questline Digital can help you create customized videos to maximize engagement with your energy utility customers. We handle every facet of the process from pre-production and scriptwriting to art direction and editing.

Discover how Questline Digital can help step up your storytelling with animated explainer videos.