Scaling up personalization in the energy and renewables sectors

Energy and renewables companies must embrace a scalable approach to personalization in marketing communication. Some have taken the initial steps, but there's a long way to go, and the skyrocketing competition in the market brooks no delay.

Customer intimacy, anyone? Because it’s do-or-die time for companies that are not yet embracing it like a long-lost friend.

There’s been a new breed of buyers and customers for more than a decade, purchasers whose views, preferences, and buying patterns are oxygen for companies catering to them. So, customer intimacy as a marketing and foundational strategy is de rigueur, and the energy and renewables sectors are not exempt. They, too, offer services and products that are consumer essentials.

Attitudes on personalization are changing, and visionary industry leaders have recognized the value of creating customer lifetime value. The use of non-personalized communications in an environment with low loyalty poses a business threat.

Personalization impacts buying behaviors, and the energy and renewables sectors must wake up to this at every stage of their buyers’ and customers’ lifecycles.

The success of scalable personalization depends on four elements: correct data, the right triggers, an agile organizational culture, and using the right technology. Before we raise the argument on these challenges, here’s the deal-breaker: if these four elements are not bolted into place, all else will be the same old tread.

Setting these elements up takes time and effort, but companies shouldn’t be deterred by the scale of the transformation, or else they will lag. At the early stages of the process, simple actions can produce results that will provide momentum for the more difficult tasks to follow.

According to Harvard Business Review, companies that are ahead in the personalization race have posted a 15 percent increase in sales, their marketing efficiency has improved by 10 to 30 percent, and their customer acquisition costs decreased by almost 50 percent. This enormous potential is already at the fingertips of many energy and renewables companies especially those who possess the analytical and technical skills required. It is only a matter of employing these skills to ramp up their scale of intent.

Let’s dive deeper into how to achieve scalable personalization.

Not more data, but the correct data

The two sectors have large volumes of data, but not all are relevant to draw valuable insights. They need to clean the data using the right tools. Integrating the existing cleaned data with targeted data farming on customer bases will lead to the correct data for personalization. In other words, data merging is the answer; it will help them gain insights into buyer/customer purchase patterns and the underlying impetuses.

Finger on the trigger

The key to successful customer communication is finding the right moment for contact. The energy and renewable sectors are relatively new to trigger-based marketing, which involves identifying and testing specific events associated with buyers and customers. Visits to websites, reading blogs and white papers, opening emails, online searches, clicking FAQs, etc., are some examples of triggers.

When buyers/customers engage with a company, their leave digital traces which hold invaluable information on customer receptivity to offers, prices, schemes, and retention. Analyzing the traces requires three actions: the path of the customer journey, customer touchpoints, and motivations. Companies can build a playbook of triggers and appropriate responses by developing hypotheses about events. Observing buyers’ and customers’ reactions to your approach is key to a learning experience. In some cases, it takes four or five iterations to extract 80 percent of a trigger’s value.

Communication is key to building customer intimacy. Quick response and timing with relevant and thoughtful messages are the deciding factors for success. For example, it is more effective to reply to a customer/buyer within 24 hours than to send a more detailed message later. The ideal response time varies from customer to customer, and loyal buyers and customers may react differently to a piece of news than one-time bargain hunters.

Developing an agile team culture

Personalized campaigns require a new way of operating: working fast, experimenting with many concepts in a short time, and scaling up quickly. To be effective, marketing, analytics, channel management, IT, and other functions must work together, and these teams must be close to decision-makers, have short decision paths, and operate independently.

These activities begin with a use case, track key performance indicators in regular sessions, and promote competition among colleagues through test-and-learn sessions. Adopting this approach requires a radically different mindset for most energy and renewable companies: they must be willing to learn from mistakes and try things that may not seem logical at first. For instance, tests that don’t go as planned should be seen as lessons, not failures. It is easy to fall into perfectionist tendencies during the pilot phases, but it is not the right way. The focus is on testing and refining many pilots at once, not getting it right instantly.

In a standardized process, teams test triggers in pilot campaigns and document what worked and didn’t. Buyers’ and customers’ responses are compared with a control group. For continuous improvement, the results are documented and refined as a ‘learning road map’ that guides the rollout of successful campaigns to a broader customer base. The more effective the team, the more campaigns it can launch, perhaps 20 to 30 per month instead of two to five, as done by conventional marketing teams. The transition from pilots to complete campaigns requires full support from top management.

Choosing the right technology and methods

Scaling up requires three actions: real-time data updates and algorithms, a stable system infrastructure, and increased sales channel interfaces. Most energy and renewable companies are stuck in pilot mode, running a few successful campaigns but finding it difficult to roll them out across buyers and customers.

Data close to real-time can help companies predict buyer/customer behavior. Using an automated interface, companies can continuously update their view of a customer’s likely behavior based on data collected at the right points and integrated into algorithms. It is essential to design algorithms to handle ongoing data updates without manual intervention. Additionally, customer-relationship management or campaign management systems must be integrated to receive and store this information.

New IT challenges arise when data is handled in real-time, so it is necessary to have adequate storage capacity and efficient transmission systems to transport the gigabytes. There is also a need to integrate raw data, customer views, calculations, and campaigns to share information between different stages and formats.

Who best can create personalized content?

Personalization should open not only buyers’ minds but also their hearts and building a customized content system can be challenging for an internal marketing team.

Once the pilots are successful, companies need strategic execution capabilities. To launch outbound campaigns, the marketing team may need training, reorganization, and incentives so they can differentiate between email campaigns that are personalized or not. It is a protracted process and falls short of a guarantee.

According to a survey, many companies have tried and failed. The sure-shot way is to develop a hybrid work environment by partnering with a full-service content agency specializing in energy and renewables. It ensures a healthy collaboration of intent and execution, with both partners giving their best.

For companies who understand the significance of personalization, a content partnership is the shortest route to marketing success.

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