Lesson 4: How to attract and engage the empowered prosumer in today’s B2B energy market
Lesson 4: How to attract and engage the empowered prosumer in today’s B2B energy market
It’s a tough market

Energy companies have a serious challenge; the market is more competitive than ever and bigger companies are struggling to stay relevant as smaller and more agile enterprises are stepping onto the stage with disruptive new roles and business models. Contract-switching rates are at an all-time high, making it even harder to stay profitable.

To thrive in this new energy market it is imperative for energy companies to attract and engage the new prosumer with products and services that match their requirements and excel their expectations.

Attract and Engage: Staying competitive with innovative services and products

Keeping the modern energy consumer active and engaged with your services will help ensure that they stay loyal – and this maintains a profitable energy business. Once you have an irresistible offering that attracts and retains customers, you can start to broaden your offering with margin-enhancement offerings that add value for all parties.

Data is vital to forming an understanding of the customer, and you need to accumulate as much data as possible to make sure your products and services match what is needed, and that your communications are effective.

Attraction

Attract your target customers by clearly offering the products and services they want, in a way that is convenient for them and makes sense for their context.

Having a thorough understanding of your target customer’s motivations and drivers is vital to be able to create the right offer. We talk more about this in “Lesson 3: Understanding the motivation and drivers behind customer’s energy contract decisions”, which you can find here.

Engagement

First, you need to engage with the customer by making contact with them and entering into a conversation about what they need and how you can help - hopefully leading to a contract.

Second, you need to keep the customer engaged by giving them a level of service they love and are involved in.

It isn’t enough to give them a good product or service; your service needs to give them control and flexibility. Keep them interested with possibilities of further optimizations, better or preferential rates, and new services always in the pipeline. You can consider ways of ‘gamifying’ the experience with an easy (well-designed) app.

How to attract the modern prosumer
Step 1: Define your role

This will be one of the hardest parts for any established player in the energy market, especially larger companies that have developed a degree of organizational and operational rigidity. For new entrants to the market it is much easier to pick a role, but for an existing company this will be a careful rationalization of existing assets in combination with identification of core strengths. What does your company excel at? What are the market segments you want to target? What scale of service do you want to focus on?

Most energy companies fall into one of three categories; a commodity energy supplier, an energy services (managed) provider, or a broad-spectrum offering that goes beyond the energy market alone. This last category might include related services and products such as insurance, financial products, telecommunications, smart home technology, or maintenance.

Deciding where your core area of operations is, will lay the groundwork for determining which customers to target.

Step 2: Identify your ideal customer, high-value customer

Once you know what area you are operating in you can identify who your high-value target customers are. With a clear picture of what their needs are, you can devise solutions that meet those needs and anticipate future ones too.

Collect Data

There are various dimensions to explore here and the more data you can assemble, the clearer the picture will become. This can come from numerous sources, including:

  • Your own CRM
  • Surveys and interviews
  • Interaction at events
  • Promotions
  • Externally-provided data

Understanding the buyer context in terms of their business model, their priorities, how happy they are with their current service and how involved they are with generation or storage will all help to create products and services that make sense to those customers.

It is also pretty important for the success of future marketing efforts to understand how the (potential) buyer likes to communicate and what methods of engagement are most likely to have a positive impact.

Step 3: Sense and Respond - Fostering a ‘New Enterprise’ mentality

The development of new products and services requires a disruptive mindset that is common in start-ups but rare in big corporations. To thrive in a variable market your company needs to sense using data and respond with agility.

Using data and insights about the buyer context it should be possible to use your new enterprise mentality to create rapid ‘prototypes’ of new services and products, get them onto the market quickly, and to scale them up if they are successful.

Adopting a scrum/agile approach – most commonly seen in rapid software development – will help to keep the right mindset with clearly-defined goals and small, focused teams that are able to think and act independently.

Step 4: Define your products and services

With the solid foundation formed using the above insights, you are now in a position to actually define what services and products to offer.

There is a great deal of scope for this, and therefore a huge opportunity to distinguish your company with a unique value proposition that speaks directly to your target customer.

Regardless of whether you position yourself with a single product/service, or as an aggregator or creator of an energy ecosystem, your main focus should be those services that are normally aimed at customer retention; this way you can be sure you’re offering a ‘main course’ they are hungry for – before offering a margin-enhancing ‘dessert’. Consider possibilities such as:

  • Data and Analytics platforms
  • Advice and Training
  • Smart export price guarantees
  • Rewards program
  • Dedicated client advisor
  • Insight-rich dashboard
  • Hedging/Market involvement possibilities

There are many options within this space for add-on solutions that create unique value propositions: provision of equipment, financial products, smart software enabled solutions (e.g. automatic switching of assets or contracts), or algorithmically-traded hedging possibilities in the spot and futures markets – to name a few.

Your unique offering will make sure that you are providing something that they grow to rely on and cannot be compared to another provider.

How to engage the modern prosumer

Once you have designed the perfect solutions for your target customer, your next task is to engage with the customer, and to keep them engaged in your services or products.

Customer engagement will follow the same basic rules as the regular sales process, but with a focus on a customer-centric service instead of commodity-pushing.

All the data you have collected on your ideal high-value customer will assist in identifying leads and composing the right kind of communications to get a response. Do they prefer an email, letter, or phone call? When is the best time of day to reach them? How aware are they of the possibilities? Do they prefer to make contact at a trade fair first? All these kinds of questions should be answered by the data you have collected.

The majority of today’s ‘involved consumers’ are active in searching for new solutions and are aware of at least some of the possibilities – these clients can be reached more easily online. Passive consumers are harder to reach, but may be receptive to the possibilities once they are aware.

Top tips:

Consultative selling is a fantastic approach to engaging with new leads because you aren’t trying to sell them anything – instead they see you as a valuable resource that can offer advice and guide them toward a good solution. You can offer resources like a free report on the possibilities for their business, as a starting point – this uncovers potential they are not yet aware of, and highlights solutions you can offer. If it becomes clear that you can offer everything they need and want you have a great chance of signing a contract.

Free tools and apps can also be a ‘foot in the door’ – your services can start with something basic like energy monitoring, using an app that gives insights and suggestions for improvements. This could be a trial period or a slimmed-down version of your primary product, giving them a freebie they feel good about and a taste of what you can offer.

Ultimately, your unique product and service offering will also help to drive lasting engagement; great products and self-service experiences that keep the customer involved.

Once they’re hooked on advantages they ‘can’t live without’, they will stay more engaged in their energy contracts while lowering the service burden for you. A well-designed platform will also give the customer total clarity with their own situation and give opportunities for up- and cross-selling in the future.