You Say 'Energy Efficiency,' Your Customer Says 'Home Improvement.'

Posted by Energy Wire on July 9, 2015 at 2:42 PM

As marketers, we’re constantly challenging ourselves to think differently (and more humanly) about energy efficiency – to remove ourselves from the daily grind of heating and cooling programs, product rebates and financing offers. How can we approach participation from a truly customer-centric perspective? How do we start a movement that inspires action across audiences? How do we get people to care about living an efficient life?

At KSV, our team is constantly hitting the road to learn what makes your customers tick. We talk to homeowners, small business owners and even large C & I decision makers about the barriers, motivators and overall benefits of energy efficiency.

The result? Unexpected insight into the consumer relationship with energy efficiency; insights that tell us we, as an industry, need to make some core changes.

The good news? There’s a solution. We can get people to act, but we have to re-frame the energy efficiency message as we know it. We need to ground the message in the very things your customer already values. (See: Energy Efficiency vs. Home Improvement)

In 2014, 69% of research* participants stated they found themselves adapting to inefficiencies in their homes and/or businesses rather than seeking solutions. We heard:

“You come into the house and you put a sweater on, and you just kind of leave it at that.”               – Homeowner

“You have to educate someone about the inefficient areas so they pay attention to it. They just assume some costs are constant and part of their daily lives. People just get used to it. They think it’s outside of their realm of control.” - CEO, Global Software Company

People are so normalized to everyday inefficiencies in their homes and/or workplace that it is only when these inefficiencies cause a disruption in expectation that they are noticed.

This is a huge barrier: increasing participation/sales in programs and products that customers aren’t aware they even need. If their bills are consistent, that means they’re efficient… Right? How do we disrupt the customer expectation of what is “normal”?

Earlier this year, we surveyed 1,350 homeowners across the country to give us an even deeper understanding of the customer attitudes, perceptions and outlook for energy efficiency.

People have a strong and positive outlook for energy efficiency. In fact, 75% expect significant impact from energy efficient products and services in as little as five years (for their home, the U.S. economy and the world). But only 18% reported participating in a utility E.E. program last year. And 64% of homeowners reported NOT making any E.E. improvements last year.

This disconnect tells us a lot, especially: we're still talking about energy efficiency all wrong.

Customers again and again said, "It's not about energy efficiency. It's about improving my home."

'Energy efficiency' lags action, intent and motivation. It’s complex, remote (in time and consequence) and intangible. To bridge the gap between awareness and action, we need to re-frame the energy efficiency message around the customer and their priorities. (And their priorities are different than yours. (See: Utilities want to be customer-centric, but what’s centric to your customer?)

We can’t ask people to do things and expect them to care. We have to position and communicate the benefits of our products and programs as such a good fit for them that they actually want the solutions you’re offering. Until they want it, they’re not going to invest time and resources into it.

If we can build desire for energy efficiency, we’ll give it intent and we’ll disrupt the notion of “just putting a sweater on.” Successful energy efficiency programs provide the opportunities for increased customer engagement, satisfaction and the ability to be seen as a resource. All of these ladder up to being a true “trusted energy advisor.”

Next week, we’ll look at trusted advisors in other industries and how they communicate through the priorities of their customer. Let’s see what we can take away.

Lauren Bell / Engagement Manager / / 802.862.8261

Topics: Customer-Centric Marketing, Utility Communications, Energy Efficiency