Capturing customer attention has become more important than ever for utility marketers. With high customer expectations and the vast array of digital media and communication channels available, it’s not easy to cut through the clutter and connect with customers. One powerful solution is video marketing for utility companies.

Why does your utility need video marketing? Personalized video marketing can:

  1. Capture and hold customers’ attention
  2. Educate customers about complex topics
  3. Personalize the customer experience
  4. Increase program enrollments
  5. Boost customer trust and loyalty

The Value of Video Marketing for Utility Companies

The fact is, people prefer video content. A staggering 73% of consumers prefer learning about a brand through video. It’s one of the most successful ways to get your utility’s message in front of customers.

Video makes your marketing messages easy to digest in a memorable and sharable format. By conveying information in a visually compelling manner, video is an invaluable tool to connect with utility customers.

Videos for educational content

Whether it’s to educate customers about water conservation or explain a new rate plan, videos are an effective way to address the specific needs and concerns of utility customers.

Utility marketers have a lot of information to share, and it can be difficult to communicate without overwhelming customers or resorting to technical jargon. When it comes to educating customers about complex topics like time-of-use rate plans (TOU) or demand response programs, videos can deliver detailed information in an easy-to-understand and accessible format.

For example, the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative (SECC) wanted to engage its customers in a fun and educational way. Questline Digital helped SECC develop a video series, “The Evolving World of Energy,” to illustrate the industry’s dramatic transformation with real-world examples.

Questline Digital developed the creative concept of Professor Energy, a lively animated character to serve as the guide and narrator. In each video, Professor Energy educated and entertained viewers with captivating storytelling and eye-catching animation. SECC shared its videos on various channels, and as a result, generated nearly 62,500 views.

Personalized video marketing

One facet of video marketing that’s gaining widespread popularity is personalization.

According to McKinsey and Company, 71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions and 76% of consumers get frustrated when this doesn’t happen. Utilities can leverage personalized customer videos to make each customer feel valued and recognized.

The effectiveness of personalized video marketing lies in its ability to address individual customer needs and concerns. For utilities, this could include offering personalized program recommendations based on an individual’s energy or water usage, providing customized bill comparisons to help them save money and educating customers about relevant topics based on their interests.

Statistic about the performance of personalized video marketing for utility companies

Personalized video marketing combines the impact of personalization with the entertainment value of video, making it a highly powerful tool. It creates meaningful experiences that resonate with each viewer, building customer trust and loyalty as it drives programs participation.

Increase in program enrollments

Video marketing for utility companies is crucial for driving participation in programs and services.

Customers will engage with a program or service when they have a clear understanding of how it works and how it will help them, so prioritizing customer education is crucial. Videos are emerging as the most effective way to do so, as a staggering 96% of marketers found that videos have helped them increase customer understanding of their product or service.

A well-produced video will simplify complex concepts, making it easier for customers to understand how your utility’s offerings could benefit them. When customers are well-informed, they have the confidence to select programs and services that best suit their needs. This not only benefits the customers but also strengthens their relationship with your utility.

Review about personalized video marketing for utility companies does it really work

PSEG Long Island used video marketing to educate its 680,000 residential customers about energy use and saving opportunities in their homes. The campaign included information about beneficial electrification, energy efficiency, smart technology and safety.

Questline Digital created an interactive microsite simulating a family’s home, featuring 29 animated videos demonstrating energy-saving behaviors and products. A text call-out and CTA connected each video to a related program, product or more information on the utility website. In just four months, the utility’s Smart Energy website garnered over 66,000 video views. Because customers were well-informed about PSEG Long Island’s offerings, they were able to choose programs and products suited for them.

Sharing videos on social channels

Video marketing is a versatile means of communication for utility companies. It’s easily accessible and sharable on social sites, amplifying customer engagement across many digital platforms. Videos posted on social channels generate up to 1,200% more shares than text and images combined.

With the surge in popularity of TikTok and Instagram Reels, it’s evident that quick, entertaining videos are here to stay. Even industries not typically associated with social media entertainment, such as utilities, are finding success in this space.

In a recent webinar, Jonathan Nelson, Senior Marketing Manager, Acquisition and Engagement with the American Marketing Association observed, “Utility companies might not necessarily think that they are out there to entertain, but they absolutely are.”

Utilities should take advantage of video marketing on social media and connect with customers in an entertaining format. “When people are on social media, they’re looking for something to make their day better,” says Nelson.

Leverage the Advantages of Video Marketing for Your Utility

In 2024, videos will make up for 82% of internet traffic, so your utility’s content needs to stand out. The rise in popularity of video content has raised customer expectations — viewers are quick to tune out a poorly made or uninteresting video. To succeed, utility marketers must follow best practices to create video content that is both appealing and impactful.

Videos should help customers solve a problem, answer a question or bring value to their lives. When done correctly, video marketing is extremely valuable in connecting with customers. It can capture their attention, educate them on relevant topics and programs, and ultimately improve customer engagement and satisfaction.

Learn about how Questline Digital’s video solutions can improve your utility’s customer engagement.

So much to do, so little time.

Marketers in all industries face a constant struggle of managing a heavy workload with limited resources. In the utility space, working on billing updates, program promotions, marketing services and assisting with daily customer questions can feel like it takes an army to accomplish. In the public power sector, that army is typically made up of one person.

It’s no secret that municipal utilities typically have smaller marketing teams, while still trying to accomplish the tasks of large investor-owned utilities (IOUs). It’s a difficult space to maneuver in, but it’s not impossible. In fact, despite being small, these municipality marketing teams play a profound role in enhancing customer satisfaction, building community engagement, and driving overall success.

Regardless of team size, it’s imperative for municipal utilities to fine-tune their marketing strategies. A carefully planned and well-executed marketing initiative can dramatically boost customer engagement, enrich service offerings and make a substantial contribution to the utility’s bottom line. Small municipality marketing teams face many challenges, but there are ways to navigate these hurdles with a strategy that drives meaningful results.

The Challenges for Municipality Marketing Teams

Small marketing teams often grapple with several common challenges. The top two? Time and money.

Time is always at a premium, with countless tasks demanding attention. There’s never enough time in a day to accomplish everything on a to-do list, so priorities must be made.

Budget constraints can limit the scope of marketing initiatives, making it difficult to keep up with larger utilities that have more resources. With little or no budget, marketing initiatives can falter, missing the intended mark.

However, these challenges are not insurmountable. With the right approach, even a “team of one” can achieve impressive results.

Meeting Marketing Hurdles Head-On

Smaller municipality marketing teams don’t have the luxury of assigning tasks to various teammates or picking and choosing the projects they work on. Instead, they’re all-in on anything and everything. It can be difficult at times, but with the right strategy in place, smaller marketing teams can thrive.

Developing a marketing strategy

As a team of one, efficiency is of the upmost importance. To empower your municipality marketing team, it’s essential to first establish an effective strategy and clear goals. In doing so, the marketer will better be able to maximize both their time and energy.

When developing an effective marketing strategy:

  1. Establish clear goals: Understand what the team wants to achieve with your marketing efforts and what the utility’s overarching goals are. Whether it’s increasing customer engagement, promoting conservation or driving program participation, having clear objectives will guide your strategy.
  2. Understand your audience: Know who your customers are, what they want and how you can provide value to them. Use data-driven insights to create messages that resonate with your audience.
  3. Create quality content: Focus on creating content that is informative, engaging and provides value to your audience. This could be blog posts, infographics, webinars or social media updates.
  4. Leverage digital tools: There are numerous digital tools available that can streamline your marketing process. Tools like Canva for designing visuals, Hootsuite for managing social media, and Google Analytics for tracking website performance can make the team’s job much easier.
  5. Measure and adjust: Regularly measure your marketing efforts against your goals. Use the insights gained to adjust your strategy as needed.

Social media marketing

Social media is a powerful tool to use to your municipality marketing team’s advantage. Connecting with utility customers on Facebook, Instagram or X (formally Twitter) is an easy way to reach customers with important information and receive their feedback in real-time. Although not always positive, it’s important to allow your customers to express their feelings and respond accordingly when appropriate.

For a small team, however, the thought of managing multiple social media accounts can be daunting. It can be hard to find time to post on all the platforms, plus keep up with the constant changes in algorithms. There’s a learning curve to social media. Still, there are many tools to assist small teams in developing social media content.

  1. Scheduling tools: An easy way to have posts ready for the week is to schedule them in advance. Many platforms offer their own scheduling tools that teams can use directly. There are also paid tools like Sprout Social and Hootsuite that offer advanced scheduling and reporting capabilities.
  2. Design tools: Small teams typically don’t have in-house designers available for projects. Luckily, platforms like Canva and Adobe Express allow anyone to create images and graphics for social media. Both tools include ready-to-use templates in various social media sizes, and both have free or paid versions.

Agency partners, like Questline Digital, can even provide images and copy for social media that are available for anytime use. A simple “copy and paste” and you’re on your way to building social engagement.

Community engagement

A major way for municipality marketing teams to make an impact is through community engagement. A marketing team may be small, but that doesn’t mean it can’t lean on partners who can help. In fact, collaborating with community partners like the local government, schools or non-profit organizations is a surefire way to spread the message about your utility’s programs and services.

For example, in an interview with Rochester Public Utilities (RPU) in Minnesota, Patty Hanson, Manager of Utility Programs and Services, discussed how important community is to their organization. They have a multitude of community events throughout the year to connect with local organizations and share important information with customers about their electric and water programs and services.

“We have coming up our 21st Annual Arbor Day Celebration. That’s a huge community event. We engage the school district and do a poster contest through the school district, we invite students, third through fifth, and bring in live music,” says Hanson. “We have partnerships with nurseries, the Boys and Girls Club, Minnesota Energy Resources, all these different vendors.”

Sustainability and conservation are important topics within the Rochester community, as well as weatherization and energy efficiency. Connecting with different types of customers in the community about these topics is an important goal for RPU, including those who may be lower income or who speak different languages.

“We actually did a partnership with Minnesota Energy Resources [the local natural gas provider] where we did weatherization events at trailer parks and we handed out LED bulbs. We talked about how to read your bill and conservation measures that people can take,” says Hanson. “We also have our Neighborhood Energy Challenge where we provide free workshops and offer a discounted energy audit, only charging customers $50 or providing it free of charge for low-income customers. We sent out 867 multi-language postcards promoting the event to low-income customers receiving financial assistance. We have a very diverse, multicultural base in Rochester.”

By working with the local community and holding different events, RPU is able to effectively connect with customers. For all small municipality marketing teams, community involvement is an important tactic to reach as many customers as possible.

Small Marketing Team Success Stories

Success means different things to different people. When it comes to small teams versus large teams, success also takes on a different meaning. While there are many similar measures of success among IOUs and public power, there are some things a smaller team might want to additionally focus on.

What does success look like?

Measuring the success of a municipality marketing team’s initiatives can be different than measuring the success of a team of 10 or 20 from a large utility. Since one person can’t accomplish as much as a large team, it’s important to pick and choose what metrics of success to focus on.

For any sized team, measuring success in terms of key performance indicators (KPIs) is important. Some of these KPIs include:

  • Open rate
  • Click-through rate
  • Follower growth
  • Social media engagement
  • Website traffic
  • Event attendance

However, while the numbers from each of these metrics speak loudly, sometimes success needs to be measured more qualitatively than quantitatively. These metrics come down to the goals and expectations your team set at the beginning of an initiative.

Some qualitative metrics that are less tangible, but just as important to consider, include:

  • Credibility: Are customers turning to your municipal utility for answers and resources?
  • Awareness: Is your municipal utility becoming more recognized online or in the community?
  • Customer education: Are your customers showing more interest and knowledge in the topics or programs you’re sharing with them?
  • Customer feedback: Is your utility receiving positive feedback from its customers about the initiatives you’re working on?

These qualitative metrics are just as impactful as the analytics following an email deployment or social media post. It’s important to reflect on all aspects of success when it comes to a smaller team.

Small Marketing Team Success Stories

Remember, despite being small, you’re not alone. There are a vast number of resources available to assist with your municipality marketing team’s goals. For example, one Southeast utility’s marketing team wanted to increase training opportunities for its account managers. However, as a team of one, the utility didn’t have the resources or time to produce quality training materials.

Instead of stretching its bandwidth to a breaking point, the utility partnered with Questline Digital to produce and host monthly training webinars. Through live webinars and on-demand recordings, the utility was able to build up a robust library of training resources without exhausting its internal team.

Quotation explaining the value of webinar services for a municipality utility marketing team

Keys Energy Services shared its initiatives as a small team at the recent American Public Power Association Customer Connections Conference. Julio Torrado, the utility’s Director of HR and Communications, shared a multitude of examples of his work to connect and engage with customers.

The presentation’s focus was on humanizing your utility’s brand. Torrado shared examples of successful customer engagement tactics, including hosting a calendar drawing competition for schools, planning bucket truck rides for the community, sharing lineworker day-in-the-life photos on social media and more.

As Torrado shared these examples, he asked the following questions to the audience:

  • Are your communications friendly? Approachable? Easy to understand?
  • Are your outreach efforts as reliable as your power system?
  • Are you visible on both sunny and cloudy days?
  • Do you showcase a wide cross-section of employees from varied fields, or do you keep using the same faces?
  • Are you the first place a customer turns for information?

Although Torrado has worked as a team of one, he reinforced connecting with outside partners to assist with various initiatives. Collaboration, whether within the organization or outside, is imperative to producing work that resonates with customers.

Social media example of post for a municipality created by a small marketing team

For example, Torrado has specific lineworkers he can call or text to ask for photos in the field. He also has strong relationships with local school districts to help promote calendar contests and other community events. By partnering with the community, Keys Energy Services saw some of the largest engagement with a Facebook post reaching over 220,000 views.

Small Team, Big Impact

Being a team of one in utility marketing doesn’t mean you can’t achieve big results. By building a clear strategy, leveraging data-driven insights, getting involved in the community and making use of digital tools, you can drive significant results even with a small municipality marketing team. Remember, it’s not about the size of your team but the impact of your efforts.

Learn how to empower your small marketing team with turnkey digital tools from Questline Digital.

An effective digital marketing strategy is essential for reaching utility customers and establishing a long-lasting digital relationship over time. To genuinely connect with customers, utilities must embrace a relevant outreach strategy.

As another year has come and gone, the digital marketing landscape has continued to evolve with the emergence of new trends and technologies. It’s crucial for utilities to adapt to the evolving digital marketing landscape to ensure their communications are relevant and engaging for customers.

Our recent webinar, “2024 Digital Marketing Trends and Best Practices,” provided insights and strategies from marketing experts Brian Lindamood, Questline Digital’s VP of Marketing and Content Strategy, and Jonathan Nelson, Sr. Digital Marketing Manager, Growth with the American Marketing Association. They discussed what’s new in the digital marketing world as well as best practices for the upcoming year to revolutionize the way utilities engage with customers.

What’s new and trending for digital marketing in 2024?

  • Content Marketing
  • Newsletters
  • Social Media
  • Artificial Intelligence

Content Marketing Trends for 2024

To kick off the webinar, Nelson introduced the EEAT, which stands for:

  • Experience
  • Expertise
  • Authoritativeness
  • Trustworthiness

This is a framework used by Google to evaluate content for search engine optimization, or SEO. Content that encompasses EEAT is more likely to show up on the first page of Google search results, which makes it a valuable guide to follow while creating content.

Nelson recommends that utilities should incorporate the EEAT framework in everything they do. He advises to consider your audience and assess if your content is engaging and consumable.

“You’re writing for someone who is not nearly as involved in the industry as you are. Take time to explain and walk them along the process and your thoughts,” says Nelson. “My general recommendation is to write something that you want to read. You should be publishing and creating content that you’re excited about.”

The concept of EEAT lends itself to the work Questline Digital does with utilities nationwide. “EEAT is right in the wheelhouse of how we create content for utilities. Content marketing is a chance to educate customers about utility topics to inform them without being promotional. You can explain programs without directly selling,” says Lindamood. As content becomes educational and engaging, it builds trust among customers and reinforces the utility’s authenticity.

Newsletter Trends for 2024

Newsletters are another way that EEAT and authenticity can be implemented into utility digital marketing strategies. Newsletters provide a chance for utilities to establish a digital relationship with customers that extends beyond the monthly bill. They are an engaging and meaningful touchpoint that offers an opportunity to add value to customers on a consistent basis.

“No one likes parting with their money. Having a form of communication where you aren’t asking for money and you’re just providing value is a fantastic route for any organization to go after,” says Nelson. “I think utility companies in particular have a huge opportunity to help educate and reach out to their community.”

Lindamood agreed, explaining that newsletters are an especially effective way to deliver relevant and timely information directly to a customer’s inbox. “As a consumer, it saves time and cuts out the digital clutter of trying to find that information on your own time,” he says.

Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) utilized this approach, establishing a monthly residential email newsletter that included educational content for customers, plus information on the utility’s programs. As a result of this implementation, SWEPCO saw a substantial increase in J.D. power scores for customer satisfaction and increased participation in its energy efficiency programs. 

Like SWEPCO, the results of consistent digital communications, such as newsletters, can be substantial. “Newsletters have an impact on your overall brand and company health,” says Nelson.

Social Media Trends for 2024

Harnessing social media is imperative for proactive digital marketing and customer outreach strategies. “Social media and content marketing are linked very closely together. I don’t think one works super well without the other,” says Nelson.

Many industries, including the utility industry, use social media not just for content marketing but also as a customer service channel. For effective customer service, X (formerly known as Twitter) and Facebook were recommended by Nelson, as they are ubiquitous and have robust direct messaging services.

TikTok and Instagram reels, centered around videos, offer an ideal platform for sharing educational and entertaining content. “Utility companies might not necessarily think that they are out there to entertain always, but they absolutely are,” says Nelson. “When people are on social media they’re looking for something to make their day better.”

In fact, businesses that are not traditionally associated with social media are succeeding. Nelson provided an example from the Milwaukee Public Library, which is effectively creating entertaining content on TikTok and encouraging engagement. The library’s efforts are enticing more visitors to the library, a substantial win for digital marketing tactics. With the rise in TikTok and Instagram Reels, vertical videos have become common and Nelson doesn’t see this changing anytime soon.

Another popular social media platform, LinkedIn, had a major algorithm update to their feed this past June, which now works similarly to the EEAT framework. This means that the more that content follows EEAT — experience, expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness — the more likely it is to show up on LinkedIn users’ feeds, therefore increasing engagement.

While many usages of social media from X to TikTok are rapidly increasing, organic social media reach for companies has been declining and is continuing to do so. Nelson advises utilities not to be discouraged. He explains, “It’s just how the system works.”

Artificial Intelligence Trends for 2024

It’s widely recognized that artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming an important tool and widely discussed topic for marketers. “Something is new with AI every day,” says Nelson. “Don’t wait to start using it. Get comfortable through trial and error and give it a shot.” 

AI signifies a transformative change in technology, reshaping the functioning of various industries, and carries the potential to revolutionize the landscape of digital marketing. Nelson mentioned that AI has streamlined workflows and made it easier to solve marketing challenges, without replacing digital creators.

There are concerns with the accuracy and security of AI, but Nelson and Lindamood both recommend that these concerns can be mitigated with human oversight. While AI has not reached the stage of surpassing human capabilities, it stands as a highly valuable resource to make humans more efficient and effective in their work.

“It’s here to stay,” says Nelson. “This is going to be the next internet, the next smartphone. This is something that is going to change how everything functions.”

Quotation advice about artificial intelligence for 2024 digital marketing trends

Overall Best Practices for 2024 Digital Marketing Trends

  • Go where your audience is, not just where you want to be.
  • Use personalization and segmentation to make sure your messages are relevant to customers’ interests.
  • Don’t get bogged down in other people’s best practices; do what is right for your utility.
  • Make sure your marketing strategy is driven by business goals, not the other way around. You should be communicating with customers for a reason.

All of these best practices are driven by consumers interests, preferences and needs. “Everything you do should have a purpose,” says Nelson. “Meet your customers where they are.”

An example from AEP Ohio highlighted the importance of providing relevant content to customers. The utility sought to increase engagement among business customers. To do so, the utility implemented monthly newsletters that were segmented by industry type, including healthcare, education and manufacturing. The results of this segmentation campaign were substantial, driving up to an 84% increase in customer engagement.

“AEP Ohio’ success underscores the point that customers will engage with content that they’re interested in, that’s relevant to them,” says Lindamood, “and a segmented content strategy is a good way to achieve that.”

An effective digital marketing strategy is critical for utilities to meet customer’s expectations and engage with them in their preferred channels. Incorporate the latest trends and strategies into your utility’s strategy and reinvigorate your digital marketing efforts for 2024.

Learn how Questline Digital can enhance your utility’s digital marketing strategy and build stronger relationships with your customers.

Energy utilities are making strides to improve grid resilience, increase renewable energy sources and give customers more rate plan options than ever before. As a result, utility time-of-use promotions are ramping up across the country.

According to Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative (SECC) research, only 28% of customers are aware they have rate plan options and less than 50% of customers know what kind of rate plan they have. Promoting time-of-use rates (TOU) requires a strategic approach to help customers understand the “how,” “what” and “why” of alternative rate plans. Yet, the message is often not getting through to customers.

This leads to an important question: Why aren’t your TOU promotions working? The reality is that it’s not easy to encourage customers to switch to a new rate plan. It requires a solid foundation of information and education before you can even launch the adoption campaign to get customers to convert. Here are four reasons why your utility time-of-use promotions might not be successful — and how you can improve them.

4 Reasons Your Utility Time-of-Use Promotions Might Not Be Successful

  • You aren’t equipping customers with TOU education
  • You aren’t segmenting your TOU promotions
  • You aren’t focusing on the right TOU benefits
  • You aren’t helping customers maximize savings on TOU

Reason #1: You aren’t equipping customers with TOU education

First and foremost, customers are looking for trustworthy and transparent information on alternative rate plans. Residential time-of-use rates are a brand-new concept for most customers, and they are looking for a trusted energy advisor to help them understand their options. That’s why utilities need to create a variety of TOU educational resources and make them easily accessible to customers.

“That’s the one thing we always see in our research — their utility is the first place a customer goes to find energy-related information,” says Nathan Shannon, President and CEO of SECC. “Utilities need to make their websites more intuitive and consumer-friendly so customers can easily find TOU information. Once customers know they have rate plan options, 70% said they would be interested in signing up for one of them.”

SECC recommends creating an array of TOU educational materials for customers, including videos, fact sheets, articles, infographics, email campaigns, direct mail and social media posts. Utilities are more likely to reach younger generations through videos and social media, while older customers may be more reachable through direct mail and articles.

“There is always a move toward more digital communications, whether video, infographics or social media,” Shannon says. “But the reality is customers are still opening their mail and looking at their bill inserts, even millennials. That’s why it’s essential to have a multichannel approach in utility time-of-use promotions.”

Reason #2: You aren’t segmenting your TOU promotions

To connect with customers, utility time-of-use promotions must be relevant to their needs, and interests. Instead of sending one marketing email to a mass audience, segmentation is a must in today’s world of hyper-personalization, allowing you to address the preferences of different groups of customers. Think of any streaming service, ecommerce website or mobile app — they are designed to be as personalized and relevant to the individual as possible.

Utilities need to take advantage of the customer data available to them, notably smart meter data. With this information, TOU promotions can be segmented by groups of customers, like homeowners, renters, EV owners, customers with high energy usage, and more. You can even segment based on how engaged a customer is with utility programs and services. Those with greater engagement are more likely to try new services, like TOU rate plans.

“With smart meter data, you can tell if a customer owns an electric vehicle based on if they consistently have peak demand at night while they are charging,” Shannon says. “With this knowledge, you can send information on TOU rates and EV charger rebates. Utilities must use the data they do have to customize promotions to specific groups of customers.”

For its TOU promotions, Fayetteville Public Works Commission utilized targeted messaging to reach customers who were EV owners or potential adopters. The utility took advantage of analytics to identify residential customers who showed a propensity for EV adoption. Fayetteville PWC also reached out to EV clubs and car dealerships in its service territory.

“Try to keep it as simple as possible,” explains Lamont Hinson, Community Relations Associate at Fayetteville PWC, in a Questline Digital webinar. “We try to break down those ‘journalistic W’s’ so explaining what’s happening, why it’s happening, when it’s happening, and how the customer could potentially benefit from it.”

Reason #3: You aren’t focusing on the right TOU benefits

TOU marketing messages should focus on the benefits that resonate most with customer values. SECC found that most customers care first and foremost about energy costs.

According to SECC’s survey “Alleviating Americans’ Energy Burdens,” a quarter of all Americans — and 34% of those earning under $50,000 per year — report having struggled to pay their electric bills over the past 12 months.

To encourage participation, utility time-of-use promotions should illustrate the potential savings offered by an alternative rate plan. Customers are very literal and want to know exactly how much they could save if they make the switch.

“We’ve seen throughout our consumer research that consumers highly value personalized, concrete benefits that they will receive, and tools like bill calculators with the customer’s energy usage data included can help with this,” Shannon says. “Further, utilities can help mitigate high bills through bill protection for the first six months or year.”

Saving money isn’t the only thing that matters to customers. Being in control of their energy usage is extremely important, especially with the rise of smart meters and smart home technology. With the ability to control when they use large amounts of energy, a TOU rate plan means customers are also in control of how much they can save.

“Control, cost and comfort are the three words that resonate very well with customers,” Shannon says. “Saving money and being a good steward of energy is important, but there are times when customers want to have that control to be comfortable in their home.”

Many consumers also want to know about the environmental benefits of participating in a new rate plan or utility program. According to Shannon, “clean energy” and “renewable energy” are terms that resonate well with most customers in utility time-of-use promotions.

“Our Simply Sustainable and Green Pioneers customer segments are highly motivated by environmental benefits and would be encouraged to enroll in a TOU plan if these are made clear,” he explains.

Reason #4: You aren’t helping customers maximize savings on TOU

Getting a customer to switch to an alternative rate plan isn’t the end of your TOU campaign — it’s just the beginning. To ensure success, utilities need to communicate with customers to make sure they understand their new rate plan and that they are making the most of it.

For example, utility time-of-use promotions should educate customers on common high energy-consuming appliances to avoid during peak demand times. A large Northeast energy utility provides a helpful infographic in TOU marketing emails highlighting home appliances that consume the most energy. This gives customers a visual reminder of what appliances to pay attention to when making energy usage choices.

You should also provide advice to help customers change their energy behaviors, like doing a load of laundry with your morning coffee or running the dishwasher before you go to bed. These simple tips can make a tremendous difference for customers who need to make small swaps in their daily routine.

Educate and Build Trust with Utility Time-of-Use Promotions

Marketing time-of-use rates can be a challenge for energy utilities, requiring ongoing communications with customers. However, improving utility time-of-use promotions is possible with the right strategy. By serving as a trusted energy advisor, utilities can help customers reduce energy usage — and save money — on TOU plans. By sharing helpful educational resources, segmented messages and detailed savings information, utilities can go a long way to encourage TOU participation.

“In general, I would say keep it simple for most consumers,” Shannon says. “Customers are really interested more in the concrete benefits to them and their communities, and since this is a new area for many people, communications should focus on what actions customers need to take and what benefits they’ll receive.”

Improve your utility’s time-of-use promotions with educational content and a strategic engagement campaign from Questline Digital.

Effective communication has become more important than ever for utility marketers. To truly connect with customers, water and energy providers must adopt an outreach strategy that goes beyond a simple, one-time approach.

In fact, it takes five to seven interactions for a customer just to remember a brand. An effective communications strategy requires a consistent series of touchpoints that work together to build trust, loyalty and familiarity over time.

The key to success lies in maintaining consistency in utility customer communications. By establishing regular and reliable interactions, utilities can cultivate trust and loyalty. This forms the foundation of a genuine digital relationship, leading to a multitude of benefits.

The Benefits of Enhanced Communication with Utility Customers

Consistency in utility customer communications cannot be overlooked. The benefits of such an approach are substantial, including:

  • Stronger digital customer relationships
  • Increased customer control in decision-making
  • Enhanced operational efficiencies and reduced costs
  • Increased customer retention and loyalty
  • Boost in brand awareness and reputation
Chart listing the benefits of consistent utility communications

Building strong digital customer relationships

Prioritizing consistent utility customer communication is essential for fostering a strong digital relationship. By regularly sharing relevant information, your utility can keep customers informed and engaged on your utility’s services and operations.

Brian Lindamood, VP of Marketing and Content Strategy at Questline Digital, emphasizes the importance of maintaining consistency in order to build strong digital relationships with customers. “Merely reaching out to customers when there is a need does not constitute a true relationship,” says Lindamood. “To form strong digital relationships, utility companies must consistently deliver proactive messages that align with customers’ interests and needs.”

Ensuring regular delivery of relevant and personalized content is vital for building and maintaining a strong digital relationship with customers. By consistently providing valuable information, you establish yourself as a reliable source they can turn to. This not only keeps your utility’s audience engaged but also allows them to foster a deeper connection with your brand.

One way to foster engagement is through consistent touchpoints like newsletters. Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) achieved increased engagement and participation in its energy efficiency programs by doing just this. The utility established a monthly residential email newsletter that included educational content for customers, plus information on the utility’s programs. By maintaining this consistent digital relationship, SWEPCO saw a substantial increase in customer engagement and satisfaction.

Increased customer control in decision-making

When it comes to utility services, the complexity and unfamiliarity of industry jargon can often leave customers feeling confused and frustrated.

Regular communication with utility customers is crucial in helping educate them and improve understanding of programs and new technologies. As customer education increases, the more empowered they’ll feel to take control of their energy and water usage. This can be achieved by providing educational resources that allow customers to stay updated with the latest trends, important news, billing updates, rate options, program promotions and more.

When customers are well-informed about their utility’s offerings, they have the confidence to select programs and services that best suit their needs and goals. This not only benefits the customers but also strengthens the relationship between the utility and its customers, fostering trust and loyalty.

Enhanced operational efficiencies and reduced costs

By streamlining communication channels and processes, utilities can eliminate inefficiencies and minimize the risk of miscommunication. This not only saves time but also reduces operational costs, allowing utilities to allocate resources more effectively.

Sarah Sharp, Business Development Consultant with Questline Digital, says, “There is a lot of information to communicate for utility customers, so it is important to minimize jargon and send information when it is most relevant.”

Well-informed customers are less likely to phone a call center, and when they do have questions they will know where to find answers using digital resources. A consistent digital relationship also drives adoption of programs like paperless billing and autopay, further reducing operational costs for utilities.

Pull quote about the importance of consistency in utility customer communications

Increased customer retention and loyalty

Maintaining consistent communication with utility customers enables utilities to position themselves as trusted community resources. “Building trust is the most crucial element in customer communications,” says Sharp.” If people don’t trust you, they won’t listen to you.”

In building trust, customers will know that they can turn to their utilities for guidance on their energy and water usage, cost-saving tips, programs to participate in, and more.

Consistent outreach also raises the visibility of the utility across different touchpoints. “Customers are receiving information in many different channels. When it comes to omnichannel communication, it is crucial to be consistent between channels,” says Sharp. This means ensuring your messages are consistent in tone and language, as well as being delivered in the channels customers expect to receive communications in.

Boost in brand awareness and reputation

Through consistent messaging across channels, utilities can reach a wider audience and showcase their commitment to customer satisfaction. This increased visibility and positive reputation can build new customer relationships and strengthen existing ones.

One way to demonstrate this commitment is to focus on proactive communications versus reactive communications. For example, informing customers about potential outages during storm season can help them be better prepared, even if an outage doesn’t occur. This proactive approach not only builds trust but also highlights the utility’s dedication to keeping customers informed and supported.

One major investor-owned utility in the Northeast focused on these types of communications to ensure customers received timely updates ahead of forecasted storms. By leveraging pre-built email templates, the utility was able to quickly deploy messages with information regarding the projection of the storm, as well as highlighting self-service resources customers could use to stay connected.

Best Practices to Ensure Consistent Communications with Utility Customers

Consistency in customer communication plays a pivotal role in a utility’s outreach strategy, but it can come with challenges as well. Here are two ways to foster success.

Conduct regular training and upskilling programs for employees

Providing regular training and upskilling programs for employees helps them develop strong communication skills and stay updated with industry trends. This ensures that all customer-facing employees are equipped to effectively communicate with customers.

For example, with limited resources and a small training team, one Southeast utility faced challenges in educating its customer-facing employees to address customer questions. To combat this challenge, the utility leveraged monthly training webinars that were customized to meet the needs of the account managers, who were then better prepared to engage with customers.

Leverage marketing automation tools

Customers want a seamless experience from start to finish, and that’s not possible unless employees have the resources they need to quickly and easily communicate with them. By managing their customer interactions with automation tools, utilities can ensure timely outreach that meets customer expectations from beginning to end.

A Midwest energy utility integrated a customer relationship management (CRM) tool to replace their traditional way of deploying emails. Questline Digital’s Engage platform enabled the utility to manage and send quick-turn communications to its customers, using pre-approved templates and centralized customer lists. As a result, the utility successfully sent nearly 3.7 million operational emails, facilitating a seamless and timely customer experience.

Harness the Power of Consistency in Utility Customer Communications

Consistent communication with utility customers brings numerous benefits, such as improved customer satisfaction and loyalty, enhanced operational efficiency and increased brand awareness. By implementing consistent communication strategies and leveraging appropriate tools, energy utilities can establish themselves as trusted advisors while delivering exceptional customer experiences.

Learn how Questline Digital can help your utility deliver consistent customer communications and build stronger digital relationships.