Rolling Marketing For Commercial Energy

Rolling Marketing For Commercial Energy

Commercial energy marketing is about maintaining a drum beat. The most effective campaigns tailor messages to Industry Segment + Utility + Energy Solution. Small teams trying to do this quickly get overwhelemed. Below is an alternative tactical marketing plan optimized for a small team. To improve efficiency, we use templates and repeatable tasks to streamline campaign creation. To improve effectiveness, we simultaneously set up a short term and long tail inbound funnel.

My experience is leading small 2-3 person marketing teams, with a $3-5K monthly budget, and an engaged/supportive sales team. Drawing from those resources, we found the following extremely effective:

The Plan In A Nutshell

In a nutshell, the plan works like this: W start by identifying a target sector. We figure out messaging that resonates with the sector. We create collateral customized to that sector. We then launch email, direct mail, and cold call campaigns. After that, we spin customized collateral into articles used for a sector specific PR and conference circuit. The process takes 2 months to launch. By month 3 it is on autopilot. Starting in month 3, the marketing team begins prepping a new sector, while outside PR and inside sales finish with the current sector. The best part of the process is it keeps rolling sector after sector, with a small team, without giving up the long tail investment.

Commercial Energy Marketing_Plan

Breaking Down The Steps

 

Step 1: Identify your sector. Build Target List.

First, id your sector. This plan is built around tailoring content and distribution to each target sector. Normally, sectors are defined with three elements: Industry + Geographic Area + Energy Solution. See article on How To Define A Sector for more on this.

Second, built a list of targets in that sector. The list should be prepped for direct mail and later email.

  • The Direct Mail list can be generated using Hoovers.
  • The email list is typically acquired by partnering with a trade association or sponsoring a trade event.

 

Step 2: Develop Messaging & Online Foundation

A quick bit of market research should tell you how to frame your UVP and other messaging to resonate with the sector. With this messaging strategy in mind, create:

  • A Sector Landing page. Have a landing page on your site showing your dedication to the Sector.
  • Four blog posts. I’m assuming you don’t have case studies yet, so general articles will have to suffice. An easy tactic is spinning relevant articles. For example, look for articles about companies in that sector going solar, installing storage, or implementing energy management. A post about your sales rep attending a sector conference is also a nice touch of credibility.
  • Inbound Linking. Your marketing ops person should also be driving the SEO and Linkwheel process. Every piece you create should be posted everywhere you can. Create as many inbound links back to it as possible.

 

Step 3: Develop Outbound Collateral

As you move from sector to sector, you’ll need to tailor your content to each new target sector. The key is to develop the tailored content efficiently. To do that: (1) give your MarCom person a short, specific, checklist of materials, (2) draw from existing templates, changing only messaging and imagery as needed. My typical content checklist includes:

  1. Intro Email: This is email #1 in the sequence. Plain text. Introduce yourself as serving the sector. Mention a few benefits. Include a link to your landing page and blog posts.
  2. Sector Case Study: This piece highlights a company in the sector that went solar. The key is to have sector-specific imagery with concrete savings numbers. Develop the piece for both print and email.
  3. How To Guide: Create a 4 page, full color, how-to guide for the sector. Example: Solar Buying Guide For Hospitals.
  4. Newsletter Email Topics: Over a Friday brainstorm session, your team should come up with 5-6 interesting topics relating to the sector and energy. Emphasis on “interesting.” Write these topics up as short (250 word) blurbs to use in an email series. The objective of these emails is to (1) be interesting enough not to be blocked as spam, and (2) keep your brand top of mind with these customers.

 

Step 4: Build the Drip Process

People always underestimate the effort required to hit “Send” on an email campaign. The best tool I’ve found to reduce the effort is InfusionSoft. Inside Infusionsoft, you can pre-program all of the following:

Direct Mail – Mail the case study and/or brochure to everyone on the target sector list. Yes, InfusionSoft manages direct mail plus email. You can even tell it to send an email follow-up X days after the direct mail piece is sent.

Email – Set up at least 9 emails to go to each target, over the course of 3 months. Stagger the drip campaign to send 2 interesting pieces for each (1) salesy piece emailed. One easy way to streamline email content: send digital versions of everything you create as emails. This includes the blog posts and direct mail pieces.

 

Step 5: Sector-Specific PR and Conferences

Once your online foundation is created and your outbound efforts are tee’d up, turn to creating inbound leads through PR in trade press and conferences. This is where the long tail leads come from.

Setting Up PR

Before developing a PR plan, you first have to figure out the sector’s PR landscape. To save costs, do this research internally. Begin by finding the top trade publications and events. Then, determine which trade pubs take guest content. Make sure to look up their editorial calendar, to find any relevant deadlines approaching.

Next, generate a few article ideas. Look at recent conference topics to see what is considered “news” for that sector. The hardest part of PR is getting the article published. This is where $3K to a PR agency can really add value. In other words, my advice is outsource this step.

Conference Speaking Opportunities

After the trade PR begins, shift efforts to getting invited to speak at industry conferences. Compile a packet with a few of your articles published in trade mags. Send that packet to the conference coordinators. Request information about speaking at the conference. Some will ask you to propose a topic. Others make you pay-to-play. You don’t know until you ask.

 

About The Author

Brandon Conard is the Director of Zenergy, providing energy finance advisory services to developers and investors. He has more than 16 years of legal and energy experience, with expertise in raising tax equity, early stage project development, commercial energy analysis, solar fund structuring, and project finance. Previously, he was Chief Strategy Officer/VP Structured Finance at HelioPower, CEO of Greenzu, and Director of BlueMap. As former Weil, Gotshal, & Manges attorney, Mr. Conard also understands the changing energy, tax, securities, construction, and environmental hurdles every clean energy project must clear. He’d love feedback on this article. Send it to info@zenergy.com.