Content marketing is a key strategy to connect with your energy utility’s customers. In this webinar, Kurt Hansen, Questline Digital AVP of products and partnerships, focuses on how to use content marketing to educate customers about solar power and electric vehicles. He also demonstrates how to use customer segmentation to reach specific audiences.

Content marketing shines bright for solar

More customers are showing interest in solar technology. They want to know what to do with solar energy, if it would work for them and how your energy utility is going to be part of the relationship as they begin their solar journey. 

Content marketing allows your energy utility to be proactive and act as a trusted solar resource to customers. Hansen notes that developing a content marketing strategy is truly that — strategic. It is not a one-off email or simple blog post. This strategy needs to have a breadth of content to support any messages being pushed out to customers.

Your energy utility should work with industry partners to find out what your pain points are and where you specifically need help from a content journey perspective. Content marketing is about creating trust and familiarity over the long run between your energy utility and your customers. “It’s building a relationship,” Hansen says.

When sharing content, make sure it is interactive and engage, such as with quizzes, videos or slideshows. These content assets build a stronger and more memorable digital relationship with customers.

Another aspect of a content marketing strategy is a using on that your energy utility should also focus on? Creating an omnichannel campaign will help your energy utility reach customers through email, social media or blog posts.

The solar power customer journey

“For U.S. consumers, the primary motivators for going solar are saving energy and reducing environmental impact,” Hansen notes. Focus on these key points throughout the solar power customer journey to meet your customers where their interests are. Also, consider segmenting your messages to target customers based on where they are in their solar journey or where they live. By combining your segmentation strategy and content strategy, your energy utility can see higher levels of customer engagement.

While a customer may deal with solar energy contractors, installers or other outside vendors, your energy utility ultimately holds the long-term relationship with that customer. If they are unhappy, your energy utility will be getting the phone call.

Be proactive and stay in front of potential customer concerns. For example, installing rooftop solar may not be the best option for every customer that’s interested in renewable energy — you want them to learn that before it’s too late. “Your goal isn’t to get everyone to install it, it’s to get the right people to install solar,” Hansen says. The key is for your energy utility to be a resource that customers will turn to for help in the future.

Content marketing paves the way for electric vehicles

Similar to solar power, more consumers are becoming interested in electric vehicles and are looking to their energy utilities for help and advice. Typically, this conversation is led by the auto industry. However, this is a major opportunity to be an EV resource for your customers.

Your energy utility needs insights on what customers are interested in EVs as well as their motivation for going electric. By sharing a fun EV quiz with your customers, you can develop a segmentation strategy based on their answers. This will help your utility understand how to target specific audiences with different EV messages. Your customers will also better understand the role of their energy utility in the decision-making process. 

Based on research conducted by the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative, Questline Digital developed content to reach four customer segments interested in electric vehicles:

  1. Green Champions
  2. Savings Seekers
  3. Technology Cautious
  4. Movers & Shakers

Understanding these segments will help your energy utility align your content strategy to their interests and questions over the course of their buying journey. Keep in mind, this is not something that is achieved with a single video or email.

By creating a comprehensive content marketing strategy that supports your solar and electric vehicles program goals, your energy utility will naturally become a trusted resource for customers. Instead of pushing a hard sales message, sharing educational content that answers their questions will build a strong relationship and increase customer satisfaction.

Learn more about Questline Digital’s content marketing solutions for your Solar Energy programs.

Infographic explaining why homeowners and renters are different customer segments

Homeowners and renters are very different audience segments. Your energy utility needs to know how best to communicate to these customers based on their needs and interests. While homeowners are often focused on long-term energy savings, renters are more concerned with quick ways to save that don’t require a huge upfront investment.

Read on to learn about the energy utility programs and services that resonate with these distinct groups of customers.

Energy savings

  • Renters often don’t have the means or desire to invest in improving their rental properties. However, they still want opportunities to save energy and money on their bills. Communicate energy-saving tips for small, inexpensive things they can do that will make a big impact on their bill. For example, recommend LED lighting, water-saving showerheads or smart power strips.
  • Homeowners want to save energy and money but are also willing to make an investment in their property that will increase its value in the long run. Your energy utility should recommend energy efficient products through rebates and incentives. Showcase the latest ENERGY STAR appliances, smart thermostats or EV chargers on your online marketplace and help these customers transform their homes. 

Renewable energy

  • Community solar programs are a valuable option for renters who may not have the finances or permissions for installing their own PV panels. These programs, also called solar gardens or shared solar, offer a way for renters to benefit from renewable energy. Community solar provides participants with the opportunity to positively impact the environment and save on their energy bill.
  • Solar panel installation is an effective way for homeowners to create a more energy-efficient home. Despite the upfront costs, help customers see PV installation as an investment that will add long-term value to their home. 

Energy efficiency

  • Help your renters make their homes more energy efficient while they live there. Share DIY videos, workshops or classes on how to effectively install faucets, weather-seal their doors and more. Any opportunity to save money and energy on their rental home is a win for these customers.
  • Promote your energy utility’s energy efficiency assessment to homeowners. Let them know this is a unique opportunity for an energy expert to assess their property for energy efficiency upgrades like insulation or a new HVAC system.

Electric vehicles

  • Renters may be interested in, or have already, purchased an electric vehicle. But how do they charge it? Renters don’t always have the option to install EV chargers at their rental property. Offer solutions such as a map with the nearest EV chargers in their area or tips on consulting with their property owner about adding smart chargers. Your energy utility can also offer more information on purchasing hybrid vehicles as another efficient alternative to electric vehicles.
  • Homeowners who have purchased or are considering purchasing electric vehicles also need to be aware of the charging options for their home. Level 1 and 2 smart chargers are acceptable for home use and can be installed in a garage. Offer smart charger promotions to customers to persuade them to make this purchase and to showcase your energy utility as a trusted resource on this topic.

Make sure your energy utility has a plan in place on how to segment and market to these different audiences. Focusing on specific needs and interests for each group will lead to greater customer engagement and long-term satisfaction.

Is your energy utility reaching the right audience with the right message? Learn more about Questline Digital’s proven approach to digital engagement.

As an increasing number of U.S. cities focus on climate goals, city leaders are taking steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from public transportation systems. One of these environmentally friendly initiatives is the electric bus. Transit agencies across the country — from Seattle, Washington, to Portland, Maine — are beginning to incorporate this innovative technology into their fleets.

A sustainable solution     

With environmental concerns growing in importance, city leaders are considering the impact of public transportation, including emissions from traditional diesel buses. In dense urban areas, bus exhaust is also a major health concern for citizens. In the U.S., the transportation sector makes up nearly 30% of total greenhouse gas emissions.

Electric buses are one solution to counteract this negative environmental impact. Currently, there are about 650 electric buses on U.S. roadways — a small fraction of the total number around the globe. About 425,000 electric buses are in use worldwide, with 99% of them operating in China. Recognizing the advantages of the technology, U.S. cities are beginning to catch up by moving forward with clean public transit initiatives.  

A recent study finds nearly every state transit agency owns, or will own in the future, at least one electric bus. Showcasing this growth, the number of zero-emission buses in 2019 increased nearly 37% from the previous year.This number will continue to rise in the years and decades to come. In fact, several major metropolitan areas have long-term commitments to replace their fleets with battery-powered buses, including Los Angeles by 2030, San Francisco by 2035 and New York by 2040.

Benefits of electric buses

According to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI), electric buses offer many benefits over diesel-fueled versions — notably zero carbon emissions. They are also quieter, easier to maintain and have lower operating costs.

Just like charging a personal electric vehicle, electric buses utilize power from the U.S. electrical grid. However, some parts of the grid are more advanced than others, with greater reliance on renewable energy resources. A recent study finds that electric buses have lower carbon emissions than diesel buses in all regions of the country. As the U.S. electrical grid becomes cleaner and more diverse, cities will see even more positive impact from electric bus implementation.

Forward-thinking cities  

With a commitment to sustainability, the Port Authority of Allegheny County (Pennsylvania), in partnership with local energy utility Duquesne Light Company, purchased two new electric buses in March 2020. Duquesne installed fast chargers and electrical infrastructure to support the buses, which travel to and from downtown Pittsburgh. The Port Authority shares data on the buses, which gives the utility valuable insights into the demand on the electrical grid. They plan to purchase additional electric buses for a new downtown bus route.

King County, Washington, has been leading the country in battery-powered public transportation. The county, which includes Seattle, has 185 zero-emission buses with a range of about 140 miles per charge. The county is working with local utility Seattle City Light to ensure the power needs are met for the advanced electric infrastructure. An early adopter of electric buses, the county has an aggressive goal of 100% renewable energy-powered public transit by 2040.

In Austin, Texas, the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Capital Metro) purchased two electric buses. The battery-electric vehicles feature zero-emission technology, and will help reduce the city’s carbon footprint. This is just the start of cleaner transportation in Austin; the transportation authority has plans to purchase 80 electric buses in the next five years.

Overcoming speed bumps for electric buses

Perhaps the biggest challenges for electric bus adoption are high upfront costs and range anxiety. While many transit agencies are apprehensive about the higher upfront costs (approximately $770,000 per vehicle versus $445,000), EESI finds that powering electric vehicles is 2.5 times less expensive than diesel.

With improving battery technology, most electric buses nowadays have a range of 225 miles and can operate all day on one charge. Charging infrastructure requires construction buildout, which is both expensive and time-consuming. However, with the right partnerships, including coordination with local utilities and other city partners, these concerns can be mitigated.

As barriers continue to break down and cities make the environment a priority, it is clear that electric buses are here to stay for the long haul.

Learn how to drive Electric Vehicle adoption with a Questline Digital content marketing strategy.

Launched in 2008, Tesla’s battery-electric vehicles continue to take the industry by storm. The cutting-edge technology was first introduced with the Model S, which, according to Tesla, “has become the best car in its class in every category.” It boasts the longest range of any electric vehicle, 0 to 60 mph acceleration in 2.28 seconds and over-the-air software updates.

Are all of these impressive features worth the purchase prices? Questline Digital’s own Jeremy Harning, Senior Director of Software, purchased a Tesla in December 2018. Having a little over a year in the driver’s seat, Questline Digital sat down with him to hear his honest review of the vehicle.

When did you decide you wanted to purchase a Tesla?

I would say it was shortly after the Model 3 came out. I always admired the car, but I didn’t really have enough money for a Model S. When the Model 3 came out it was at least close to the ballpark of what I wanted to spend on a car. And there was about a $7,500 tax credit, which is basically like someone giving you that money to buy the car.

What led you to decide you wanted to own a Tesla? What did you admire?

Definitely environmental (reasons). I’m a big proponent that we need to get off fossil fuels for a lot of reasons. (Now) I could get this energy from a clean source, whereas before, with a gas-powered car, I couldn’t do that. That’s step one — to get us off of fossil fuels we have to stop driving around these cars that can only burn fossil fuels.

The other thing is a much more selfish reason — the performance value proposition. The car does 0 to 60 in three seconds. You have to spend serious, serious money to get into that kind of acceleration range for anything else. The first time you experience it you feel like you’re in a spaceship, not a car. So those things together kind of made it a no brainer for me.

Did you research the car before you went to a dealership?

Yeah. They actually don’t have dealerships, so you have to do a lot of research on your own. You can go to a showroom, but you can’t buy the car there — all the cars are bought online. Researching that, the tax credit, the likely cost reductions and the cost of ownership — those are all things I did prior to going to the showroom.

Was the showroom helpful in giving you new information?

Yes. It just helped clear up any questions I had about the process itself. I talked to them about wait time and how the car gets delivered and the options around leasing and buying and financing and all that. Then for me, personally, I wanted to sit in the car and see if my six-foot, five-inch body would fit in it. Being a very tall person, I wanted to make sure that the Model 3 wasn’t going to be too small for me.

What was the most surprising thing you learned about Tesla through your research and visit to the showroom?

When I started researching cost of ownership, I was surprised by how incredibly low it is. You don’t really understand that until you start doing the math, but there is literally no maintenance on the car besides tires and washer fluid.

When you start adding that up — and add in expected depreciation — you could buy a much cheaper car, but over the lifetime of that car you’re going to end up spending as much as you would on the Tesla. It actually compares to a Honda Civic as far as cost of ownership. The longer you own the (Tesla), the more that pays dividends because of the reduction in gas costs, the reduction in maintenance costs and then the high residual value the car maintains.

The lack of maintenance doesn’t even seem possible, and yet it is.

Yeah, people are most skeptical when you tell them you never have to replace the brakes, but the thing you learn when you drive the car is that you never use them. When you let off of the (acceleration) pedal, it turns the motors into chargers and the resistance of those spinning magnets slows you down at a very fast pace. So, you’re really only using the brakes when you have to stop quickly, which is a small percentage of all the driving you do.

Is there anything you wish you knew before purchasing it?

There are downsides. For one, if you live in a cold-weather climate, your range is drastically reduced when the temperature drops below 40 degrees. You’re talking probably 30% reduction from the range you can get in mild temps.

When you’re going on long trips, even though the car says you might get X number of miles, you have to keep an eye on it and watch what your energy consumption is, because if the battery gets cold as you’re driving it’s not nearly as effective.

Was range-anxiety ever a concern for you?

I would say it was and was not. I do most of my driving around town so I knew that if there was a problem, I could just use the other car, because we have a normal internal combustion car as well. For me, it wasn’t going to keep me from buying a Tesla.

I’ve actually taken it on several long trips since we bought it and Tesla’s charging network was specifically designed for long trips. They put them right next to the highway and put them at intervals that all their cars can handle, even in the winter. If I was going to drive from here to California, all along the way there are charging stops. The charging stations are integrated into the navigation computer so when you tell it that you’re going on a long trip it knows exactly when you’re going to need to stop, how long you’re going to need to stop, and how many spots are available at that stop at any given time.

Did working in the energy utility industry influence your decision to buy a Tesla?

Yes. This is technical, but for me, understanding how demand curves work and how much waste goes into keeping power lines tight between high peak and low peak demand. Basically, we waste a lot of energy trying to make sure that people’s power isn’t going to go out if they suddenly use more energy.  The more we dump that “wasted” energy into storage, the less we have to burn or convert from other sources. That’s a big part of Tesla’s vision for the future. It’s a part of things that I’ve learned from working in the utility industry, so I think it definitely influenced my decision to purchase an electric vehicle.

How much did you spend on gas every month with your old vehicle compared to now?

I was spending a little over $160 a month, which is four $40 tanks of gas a month. Now I use roughly 900 kWh of energy per month on my car, which at the current rate is $126. So, I save about $40 a month in gas.

What are your favorite features of the car?

I would say the fact that the features are all configurable, which means they can constantly update and iterate on the car. Since I bought it, they’ve added — I can’t even count how many things it can do now that it couldn’t do before. And those just come at night, over the air, while I’m sleeping. You wake up and it says your car had an update, here are your new features. As a software developer, that’s just awesome.

Promote EV programs and boost adoption rates with an Electric Vehicles Content Strategy from Questline Digital.

As electric vehicles continue to grow in popularity, energy utilities have the opportunity to drive the trend forward as both a trusted resource and EV adoption influencer.

In 2018, more U.S. consumers purchased electric vehicles than ever before – an 81% increase from the previous year. While electric vehicles still only make up a small percentage of total U.S. car sales, demand continues to grow each year. A recent Deloitte report projects that electric vehicles will be priced on average the same as gasoline-powered vehicles by 2022.

Encouraging EV adoption

With the right resources, energy utilities have the power to educate residential and business customers about the benefits of electric vehicles and encourage EV adoption. According to a Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative (SECC) survey, 42% of consumers said involvement or endorsement from their utility would influence their adoption of new technologies like EVs.

When it comes to EV adoption, barriers are often caused by a lack of knowledge about technology and perceptions of high upfront costs. In fact, fewer than 22% of consumers surveyed claim to have a complete understanding of electric vehicles.

Top 5 roadblocks to EV adoption:

Residential customers: 

  • 65% – Not enough charging stations in the area 
  • 60% – Upfront cost of EVs is too high
  • 50% – EVs do not have enough range
  • 50% – EVs increase electric bills significantly
  • 48% – Too expensive to install charging equipment at home

Business customers:

  • 55% – Prohibitive initial purchase price – 55 percent
  • 44% – Inadequate charging infrastructure at facility
  • 35% – Inadequate product availability
  • 32% – Not enough public charging infrastructure
  • 24% – Difficult to get buy-in from top leadership

From charging stations to EE programs

As a provider of electric vehicle “fuel,” energy utilities are a vital source of information for electrification and energy efficiency programs. EV owners are looking for ways to save money and better manage their energy usage. That’s why it behooves energy utilities to promote programs like time-of-use billing and managed charging to EV customers:

  • Electrification: Consumers are increasingly managing their energy usage through smart meters. Encourage EV customers to take advantage of this trend to more effectively manage their energy usage.
  • Time-of-use billing: Introduce EV owners to off-peak rates and incentivize customers to time-shift their energy usage. For example, customers would receive a lower rate by charging their electric vehicle during off-peak hours of 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.
  • Managed charging: This type of program is key to managing increased demand on the grid. By encouraging smart grid-capable EV charging, customers can be rewarded for participating in demand response programs.

Unlike owning a gasoline-powered vehicle, EV ownership is truly a lifestyle. EV owners need to install charging equipment in their home, and business customers must install charging infrastructure at their facilities. However, many consumers are unaware that energy utilities provide EV services. In fact, 60% of consumers said they would look to an outside retailer instead of their energy utility.

The road ahead

As more and more customers choose to live a sustainable, eco-friendly lifestyle, electric vehicles will be at the forefront of this movement. In fact, the International Energy Agency forecasts that 125 million electric vehicles will be on the road worldwide by 2030. That’s why energy utilities need to position themselves not only as EV experts, but as trusted smart home and electrification service providers.

Questline Digital’s Electric Vehicles Content empowers energy utilities to drive EV adoption.