Focus on Energy took home the 2021 Inspiring Efficiency Marketing Award with its well deserving digital strategy for the Wisconsin Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Resources Program. The team innovated the marketing strategy to fit their communities’ needs as those needs shifted during the global pandemic. From increasing their social media presence to developing accessible online training and events, they saw an opportunity to reach their customer communities in a new way. This commitment to remaining a resource and never tiring in their mission to increase energy efficiency and build more resilient communities in Wisconsin is why Focus on Energy stood out in the application process. Check out our interview with their team below to get a behind the scenes look at how they did it.
Q: What was the motivation behind starting this marketing strategy?
The marketing and communications world has been experiencing a gradual shift to digital engagement due to rapidly advancing marketing technologies. When the pandemic began in early 2020, FOCUS ON ENERGY® (Focus), Wisconsin’s energy efficiency and renewable energy resources program, was forced to accelerate its virtualization efforts and adjust its marketing and outreach strategies to properly reflect these societal changes. Focus centralized its digital marketing strategy on highlighting virtual tools and resources, using social media to its full advantage and developing accessible online training and events programs. We recognized the opportunity to advance virtualization as an educational tool—one of the first and most important steps to increasing the adoption of energy efficiency and reducing energy waste—to create stronger, healthier and more resilient communities for Wisconsinites.
Q: What was the most difficult aspect of implementing this strategy?
Focus encountered numerous technical challenges along the path of converting some of our traditional engagement tactics to a virtual approach. Beyond the software selection, setup, content development, implementation and staff training; these new platforms demanded considerable staff time from concept to launch. Without a dedicated tech support team in some cases, integration was challenging at times. Developing the user experience for virtual events took a considerable amount of effort to coordinate, record and edit the multimedia for use on a responsive online landing page experience.
Q: What impact has your marketing campaign had on energy efficiency in your community? Were there any unexpected effects?
The virtual engagement approach that Focus on Energy used during the pandemic contributed to the significant cost-effective energy savings and high customer satisfaction for the program. The Program also reached new all-time highs in customer satisfaction, despite many challenges and the economic impacts of the global pandemic.
In 2020, every dollar invested in Focus on Energy projects returned another $4.32 in benefits directly to energy customers, more than $88 million in health benefits, and $537 million in total net economic benefits. Satisfaction with Focus on Energy continued its upward trend reaching an all-time high of 9.4 on a 10-point scale. The year- over-year increase in satisfaction with all Focus on Energy offerings shows that the program continues to find ways to innovate and improve the customer experience online.
One unexpected result was the significant growth and customer adoption of the Online Marketplace. There was a 717% percent increase in revenue generated from the email sends listed, which were distributed between April and August 2020. The online marketplace also netted 32,594 new customers in 2020. This indicates that Focus was able to serve significantly more people with energy efficiency, bringing increased energy and cost savings to more Wisconsin households. One of the most successful digital marketing advertising efforts was the Packs Offering that utilized award winning digital marketing campaigns that helped drive delivery up 70% (61,839 packs in 2019 to 105,299 packs in 2020).
Q: Innovation was key for your campaign’s success as it needed to thrive during a global pandemic; how will you continue to innovate your marketing strategy in the future?
The digital engagement approach Focus used during the onset of this global pandemic has become a core part of our outreach strategy moving forward. The popular saying is that first impressions last a lifetime, and the simple fact is that in the modern age, a brand’s opportunity to make a good first impression is happening in the digital sphere. Taking a digital-first approach is more cost effective and engaging than traditional marketing approaches and will help Focus increase engagement with all stakeholder groups.
Complex energy efficiency technologies draw even the most seasoned energy stakeholders online seeking more information. By leveraging our digital content strategy and learning resources, we can help them make sense of this landscape. With the addition of marketing automation, we can nurture those interested parties with automated, personalized communications that deliver the right message to the right person at the right time. With this automation strategy, Focus hopes to accelerate the number of customers participating in our offerings by provided better communication through a customized user journey into the future.
By modifying and continuing to innovate new virtual engagement tactics, Focus on Energy will be better positioned for the uncertain future of in-person events and service offerings. Thanks to websites, blogs, reviews, video content and other forms of online content, the Focus audience has the power to research everything they may want to know about our offerings, service or brand—enough, even, to decide to move forward with energy efficiency projects—long before Focus is even aware these customers exist.
Focus cares deeply about the strength, health and resilience of Wisconsin communities and their consistent place as a leader in education and support for energy efficiency in the state makes them a unique candidate for any award. Their ability to think on their feet and jump into virtual marketing at a faster rate due to the pandemic shows they are not only innovative, but also committed communicators and creative thinkers.
If you know any marketing campaigns, strategies or programs implemented in the last two years that have gone above and beyond, nominate them for the 2022 Inspiring Efficiency Marketing Award! Applications are open until September 17, you can find the form here.