Creating a content strategy without using performance metrics is like taking a road trip without a map — and without a destination in mind. You won’t know how to get there, and you won’t even know when you’ve arrived! Performance metrics are the roadmap that guide your content strategy and the signpost that tells you when you’ve achieved your goals. Without them, energy utility marketers would be lost.

What performance metrics should guide your content strategy? There are three major milestones that energy utility marketers should look for in their digital marketing KPIs:

  1. Popularity
  2. Engagement
  3. Effectiveness

How to measure the popularity of content

Your content won’t achieve any of its goals if your customers don’t see it. The first performance milestone assesses the popularity of content by looking at the pageviews that measure how many times an article was clicked or the video views that indicate the number of times a customer started watching a video.

It’s important to understand that popularity metrics like pageviews only measure how many times a customer clicked on a piece of content — they do not tell you if that content is engaging or effective. But pageviews indicate that your content covers the right topics (or not) and if you’re doing a good job of conveying those topics with enticing headlines or links.

Depending on your content strategy, it may also be valuable to measure the source of these pageviews: Did these clicks come from social media, a newsletter or other email, or search engine results? This will help you understand if particular topics are more popular with customers on social media, for example, or if certain headlines generate traffic from search engines.

How to measure content engagement

This is where marketers can distinguish popular content from high-quality content. If an article generates a lot of pageviews, but customers don’t stay on the page long, you might have a good topic but a bad article. Your audience is looking, but they apparently don’t like what they see.

Engagement metrics like time on page for articles and infographics and percent completion for videos tell you if customers find your content to be interesting or valuable. When the average time on page is two minutes for a 500-word article — or close to one minute for a 60-second video — it’s a strong indication that customers think your content is useful and engaging and they’re spending quality time with it.

How to measure if your content strategy is effective

The most engaging content in the world won’t help you reach your marketing destination if customers don’t take action. That’s why the final milestone is so important: It measures if your content is effective at achieving your goals.

For many energy utilities, the primary goal of their content strategy is to build long-term engagement and strong digital customer relationships. The engagement metrics mentioned above will be your primary way to measure if that strategy is effective. In addition, you can measure the open reach of eNewsletters to see what percentage of your customers engage with your content over the course of a year. You can look at pages-per-visit or return visitors metrics on your website to see if customers are engaging with multiple content assets over time.

But what if your marketing goals are more specific, such as driving program participation or marketplace sales? To determine if your content strategy is effective, you can measure click-through rate to see what percentage of customers clicked on a link or CTA and conversion rate to see how many of them completed a signup or purchase on the landing page.

Performance metrics are critical to a successful content strategy

Don’t get lost on your marketing journey! Let performance metrics be your guide to a successful content strategy. By identifying popular topics and engaging content, and making sure that content supports your marketing goals, the right performance metrics will help you measure and optimize your energy utility’s content strategy.

Download the Energy Utility Benchmarks Report to see how your content strategy compares to industry performance metrics.

Our world revolves around relationships — from romantic love to rapport with coworkers. For energy utilities, digital customer relationships are vital to grow customer engagement, increase program conversions and improve customer satisfaction scores. In fact, brands that lead in great digital customer experiences outperform the competition by nearly 80%.

How does your energy utility build stronger digital customer relationships?

Just like you need to join a club to make new friends or download a dating app to meet someone special, your energy utility needs the right tools to connect with customers. Questline Digital’s 2021 Energy Utility Benchmarks Report provides industry trends, insights and data to help energy utilities build digital relationships through consistent customer touchpoints. Read on for key takeaways from this year’s report.

Infographic showing how energy utilities accelerate digital customer relationships with performance metrics

Digital engagement is booming

The coronavirus pandemic has forever changed consumer behavior — and customers in 2021 expect to have a digital relationship with their energy utility.

This relationship goes beyond transactional messages like billing notices, outage alerts and other generic emails. Your customers are looking for ongoing touchpoints that address their unique needs and interests, such as relevant program promotions, educational eNewsletter content and behavioral emails based on their actions. 

With record-high email open and engagement rates last year, it was clear that customers wanted to hear from their energy provider during the pandemic. In fact, the average open rate of 40.4% in March 2020 was 49% higher than Questline Digital’s previous benchmark rate. Even customers who are less digitally savvy opted for the convenience of digital communications. For example, paperless billing promotions experienced a 7.5% CTOR in 2020, more than 53% higher than the previous year.

In 2021, as life begins to return to normal, maintaining strong digital customer relationships will continue to be a driving force of energy utility communications.

Personalization is powerful

Today’s consumers are accustomed to a world of personalization and expect a similar experience from their energy provider. Personalization is a must-have marketing strategy to drive customer engagement and build stronger digital relationships.

The latest research finds that personalized emails deliver six times higher transaction rates, and targeted emails generate 58% of all revenue for marketers.In 2020, energy utilities took advantage of personalization in virtually every touchpoint, including Welcome Series, eNewsletters, program promotions and ancillary messages. For example, many energy utilities now use abandoned cart emails, popular in the retail industry, to boost traffic to their marketplaces.

Segmentation is a popular tactic in the “personalization” bucket, especially when looking to capture attention with program promotions and eNewsletters. Instead of sending a generic message to an entire email list, many energy utilities are now sending relevant messages to a targeted segment. Whether creating marketing personas for paperless billing campaigns or industry-specific eNewsletters to reach business customers, energy utilities have successfully utilized segmentation to increase conversions and engagement.

Digital engagement: The gift that keeps on giving

Digital engagement with one customer touchpoint offers far-reaching benefits and extends to other types of energy utility communications.

For example, Welcome Series graduates — customers who have opened at least one Welcome Series email — engage with future email communications from their energy utility at a 29.8% higher rate compared to non-graduates. The higher engagement from relevant, consistent eNewsletters is another benefit of ongoing customer touchpoints. Our Benchmarks data finds residential eNewsletter readers open promotional emails at a 16.1% higher rate.

In 2020, energy utilities discovered the true value of digital customer relationships, in good times and in bad. Engaged customers with an established digital relationship with their energy utility were much easier to reach than unengaged customers. That’s why it’s essential for energy utilities to start building stronger digital relationships now, so they can easily connect with customers when the unexpected happens.

Accelerate your digital customer relationships

Two-way communication is key for any successful relationship, and this is especially true between energy utilities and their customers. It’s all too easy for customers to lose interest in their energy utility’s marketing messages if they aren’t relevant or don’t provide some benefit to their daily lives. To accelerate your utility’s digital customer relationships, start planning your engagement strategy for every touchpoint throughout the customer journey.

Download the Energy Utility Benchmarks Report to discover more industry trends, data and insights to build stronger digital customer relationships.

Performance metrics are the secret sauce of digital marketing, allowing marketers to directly measure the results of their campaigns. But why settle for evaluating performance metrics after a marketing campaign has run? Why not use those metrics to your advantage — to evaluate, adjust and improve performance during a campaign?

That’s the promise of A/B testing: Sending two variants of an email to a portion of your list to determine which performs better. By following these best practices, you can use A/B testing to drive email opens and clicks and improve the results of your energy utility’s marketing campaigns.

What is an A/B test?

An A/B test, also known as a split test, is a digital marketing tactic that involves testing two versions of a campaign asset to determine which performs better. In some cases, the “winning” asset may be immediately deployed; in other cases, the asset may be further tested against another variation in an iterative process to optimize several different campaign elements.

A/B testing can be used to evaluate any type of digital marketing asset, but it is commonly associated with automated email marketing. In an email campaign, the test is sent to a small percentage of the list — say, 10% of the list receives version A and 10% receives version B. After a period of time, the better-performing version is determined and the email platform automatically deploys the “winner” to the remaining 80% of the list.

What elements of an email campaign can be tested?

Nearly any aspect of an email can be tested — but it is critical to test only one element at a time. If there is more than one difference between version A and version B it will be impossible to determine why one performs better than the other.

Email campaigns commonly A/B test one of these elements:

  • Subject line: What message prompts the higher open rate?
  • Sender: Should the email come from a company, person or other brand name?
  • Call-to-action: Which color, button or active verb drives more clicks?
  • Headline: Which title pulls recipients into the message and results in conversions?
  • Imagery: Do recipients respond to a photo, illustration or particular design treatment?

What are the benefits of testing a subject line?

The subject line is the most common element tested in an email campaign. It is the single-biggest driver of email opens — and if recipients don’t open your emails, your campaign has no chance of success.

A subject line test allows you to see what message better resonates with your audience so you can optimize results. Questline Digital’s performance metrics show that emails with A/B-tested subject lines achieve 7% higher open rates.

What are the benefits of testing a call-to-action?

While email opens are obviously a critical first step, your campaign’s call-to-action is what drives results. Without clicks on a CTA button or link, your email won’t achieve its conversion goals. A/B testing can optimize those clicks.

Emails with A/B-tested call-to-action placements improved click-through rates by 16%, according to Questline Digital performance metrics. Depending on your message’s design, we recommend testing the size, color or placement of a CTA button and the text used in the call-to-action.

What A/B test sample size works best?

There isn’t a hard-and-fast rule to determine how big your A/B test sample audience should be. The variables to consider include the total size of your list and the expected response rate. Basically, you want to send to enough recipients so the test results are statistically valid and achieved in a timely fashion. Accounting for these factors, sending a test to between 10% and 20% of your list is usually sufficient.

How long should you run an A/B test?

As with list size, there isn’t an easy answer to how long a test should run. For a large list, 24 hours is usually sufficient. If you have a small list (and time to wait), running an A/B test for a full week has the advantage of eliminating fluctuations caused by the time or day you send.

How do you determine the winner of an A/B test?

The variable that a test measures is determined by the element you are testing and your campaign goals — typically open rate, click-through rate or conversion rate. These parameters are defined when setting up an automated A/B test; for example, the “winner” is the subject line with the higher open rate.

When testing the following elements of an email campaign, these are the metrics typically evaluated to determine a winner:

  • Subject line: Open rate or click-to-open rate
  • Sender: Open rate or click-to-open rate
  • Call-to-action: Click-through rate or conversion rate
  • Headline: Click-through rate or conversion rate
  • Imagery: Click-through rate or conversion rate

In order to eliminate random chance or errors from results, it’s important to measure the statistical significance of the test. A good rule of thumb is to look for 95% confidence between the variants; depending on the sample size, this translates to a 25% to 35% difference in performance metrics.

For example, if subject line A earns a 20% open rate and subject line B has a 22% open rate, you may not be able to determine with statistical significance that the subject line is the cause of version B’s performance. But if subject line A has an open rate of 20% and subject line B drives an open rate of 26% — an increase of 30% — you can say with statistical significance that subject line B is the winner of your A/B test.

Reach your marketing goals with A/B testing

Don’t just rely on digital performance metrics to analyze marketing campaigns after the fact. Use performance metrics to your advantage to optimize results during a campaign. With A/B testing, your email campaigns will deploy higher-performing subject lines, CTAs, messaging and content, boosting results and helping your energy utility reach its marketing goals.

Learn how to build stronger customer relationships with a digital engagement strategy from Questline Digital.

A successful content marketing strategy usually hinges on two factors: understanding your customers, and producing relevant content to connect with them. The secret is to make sure that both sides of this equation are in balance. Once your content is aligned with your audience’s needs and interests, the results will show.

But how do you actually measure the results of your content strategy? The reality is that while successful content marketing will increase customer engagement and lead to measurable outcomes such as program signups, the key performance indicators go way beyond simple conversion rates.

Is your content strategy working?

Content marketing is a long-term approach to customer engagement that positions your energy utility as a helpful resource in customers’ lives. When your content answers their questions and offers useful advice, customers will not only be more satisfied with their energy provider, they will be more likely to participate in your programs.

Engagement metrics will help you understand how this content is performing. For example, the number pageviews indicate how popular a piece of content is. If a page hosting your utility’s most recent energy efficiency infographic is racking up a lot of pageviews, it means your customers find it helpful or interesting.

If a piece of content is lacking in pageviews, however, it could mean that it isn’t providing value to customers. The popularity of your content (measured in pageviews) will help you understand topics and formats resonate with your customers.

Average time on page is also important for understanding the value of your energy utility’s content. When combined with pageviews, the results show just how engaging a piece of content is — that is, the content isn’t just popular, customers are spending time with it.

For example, what happens if your energy efficiency infographic is receiving a lot of pageviews but customers are only spending a few second with it? This could mean that your headline or link is piquing customer interest — they click to the page — but when they get there they find the infographic is not valuable or interesting so they quickly leave. So, the infographic appears to be popular but it’s not effective. That’s why it’s important to review all performance metrics in context when evaluating your content strategy.

If your content includes a CTA linking to a program page or other promotion, it’s also valuable to review the number of clicks it receives. Try testing different CTA options, such as “Learn More,” “Sign Up” or “Get Started” to see what connects with your customers and improves the click-through rate. These metrics indicate if customers find the content relevant and valuable enough to click through to the program or other information.

Drive results with content performance metrics

When it comes to content strategy success, the performance metrics are just as important as the quality of the content itself. This insight will show your energy utility what content is working and what isn’t, so that can optimize engagement and drive program results. Remember to review metrics in content, rather than separately, to get the complete picture of how customers interact with your content. As you develop your content marketing strategy, understanding your data will help set up your energy utility for success.

Boost customer engagement and drive program results with a Content Marketing solution from Questline Digital.

Digital marketing performance metrics are vital to understanding the success of any email or social media campaign, especially for energy utilities. Metrics like click-through rate, reach and time on page can help energy utility marketers understand what content is resonating with customers and what actions customers take as a result.

In order to analyze the data, however, you first must understand the terminology. With a variety of metrics across different digital channels, there’s a lot to keep track of. That’s why it’s important to start at the beginning.

Email campaign performance metrics

When it comes to analyzing the performance of email campaigns, understanding the basic terms will set you up for success. Here are the most common performance metrics used in email marketing:

  • Delivered emails are all sent emails minus any emails that bounce. A delivered email is one that has been successfully handed off to the recipient’s mail server.
  • Delivery rate is the number of delivered messages divided by the number of sends.
  • An open occurs when all the images are downloaded in an HTML email.
  • Open rate is the ratio of unique opens out of the total delivered.
  • Unique Opens refers to distinct subscribers who open an email.
  • Unique Clicks refers to distinct subscribers who click an email.
  • A click happens when an email recipient clicks on any link in an email.
  • The click-through rate (CTR) measures unique clicks on any link in an email.
  • Click-to-open rate (CTOR) differs from CTR by comparing the number of unique clicks to unique opens.

Email list performance metrics

Digging deeper into understanding the performance of emails, these metrics help marketers measure the growth and health of their email subscriber lists over time:

  • Open reach is the percentage of subscribers that have opened at least one message sent in the past year. It shows how much of your list is engaging with emails over time.
  • Click-to-open reach (CTO reach) is the percentage of subscribers clicked on any link after opening a message in the past year.
  • Opt-out rate measures individuals who opt-out by using an unsubscribe link in an email.
  • A complaint occurs when a recipient classifies the email message as unwanted. This is more commonly known as marking the email as “spam.”
  • Complaint rate calculates the total number of complaints in relation to messages delivered.
  • List growth is the rate the subscriber list grew in the past year. It’s calculated by taking all subscribers in the list over the course of a year and dividing it by the total size of the previous year’s list.  

Content performance metrics

Apart from the email clicks and opens that drive customers to your energy utility content, these metrics will help you evaluate the performance of that content:

  • Pageviews are the total number of times a website page was viewed. This metric is a great way to gauge which piece of content is most popular with customers.
  • Unique pageviews combine the number of pageviews generated by the same user during the same session. This metric allows you to estimate the overall percent of your audience that is interested in the content, and how many of them are repeat visitors.
  • Average time on page is the amount of time users spend on a single content page. If your average time per page is relatively high, then you’re doing well, particularly if the pageviews are also relatively high. However, if the average time per page is low, it means your visitors are simply skimming the content, probably because it is not very engaging.

Social media performance metrics

On social media, performance metrics go beyond clicks and views to measure engagement activity such as shares and comments:

  • Engagement rates track how involved consumers are with your content based on likes, shares and comments.
  • Impressions are how many times a post shows in someone’s timeline.
  • Followers are the number of people who follow your particular social media page.
  • Likes are the number of times someone likes either a post or your page in general.
  • Shares and retweets measure how many times your post has been recommended to others from someone’s personal page.
  • Reach is the potential number of unique viewers were exposed to a post.
  • Response rate and time measures how quickly and when someone responds to a direct message or comment on your social media page.
  • Web traffic is the amount of users who visited your website from your social media pages.
  • Share of voice is how users are talking about your business compared to others.
  • Sentiment connects to share of voice by taking what customers are saying about your brand and putting them into negative or positive context.

Put digital marketing performance metrics to work for you

Understanding performance metrics — for email campaigns, content and social media — is critical for your energy utility to measure the success of marketing campaigns and improve future efforts. Devote time to these metrics and you will see customer engagement and satisfaction increase as your marketing becomes more effective.

Creating a campaign is only one step on the way to success — analyzing its success is the next big step.

See how your digital marketing performance metrics compare to the rest of the industry with Questline Digital’s Energy Utility Benchmarks report.