Companies working in the Australian utility sector are currently faced with both growth opportunities and increasing competition for market share. This means that in order to capitalise on the potential increase in sales, they need to stay ahead of the marketing game.
The most successful businesses approach marketing with a multi-pronged strategy. This includes a combination of a great website, effective social media campaigns and a well-researched, well executed content marketing plan.
There are marketing experts, then there are industry marketing experts. You should be working with the latter.
What is content marketing?
Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content. The goal is to attract and retain a clearly defined audience ‒ and ultimately drive action and sales.
Content can be produced in various forms including news articles, blogs, white papers, ebooks, newsletters, infographics and social media posts.
Want to know more about content marketing?
The team behind Utility have put together a free ebook all about fundamental concepts of content marketing and the ways it can be used to accelerate the growth of your business.
Work with someone who knows your industry
Chances are you know your industry better than most, but if creating content is not your main focus, you’re probably not doing it effectively. Writing in the utility space is not typically glamorous. It’s not something that the everyday marketing expert focuses on, but there are ways to find people with both industry knowledge and marketing skills. Look for online or print products focused on your industry and try to work with these people.
Utility Magazine Editor, Charlotte Pordage, explains the unique marketing challenges faced by companies who operate in a technical space and how specialist content teams have an impact.
“The utility industry is complex, wide-ranging and incorporates a vast range of scientific and technical information and jargon that can be hard for someone outside of the industry to decipher. It can be difficult for those working in the industry to find a marketing professional with the know-how and experience to clearly communicate their value proposition and get the right messages across.”
Charlotte says it’s important to have an editorial team that understands the pain points of the end-user, who in the case of Utility Magazine, are often engineers and utility leaders.
“We know that when people read industry articles, they are looking to gain something – whether that be new knowledge, expert insight or solutions to certain problems. When a writer already knows who their audience is, and how to write for that audience, they have a much better chance of producing content that is meaningful to the reader,” says Charlotte.
Capturing the attention of potential customers
The most impactful place to advertise is where people are looking, and there is no doubt that social media is now taking up a lot of attention. With many people constantly holding a smartphone in their hand, it makes sense to try and get their attention while they are using this device.
The trick is to do this in a non-obnoxious way, which is far easier said than done. One of the best marketing techniques is to use content marketing, where useful information is provided to help customers, which in turn builds recognition and loyalty.
What content is useful to potential customers?
A good content marketing piece of work solves a problem for potential customers. You know what your customers are asking. You know their pain points. Some of the best content your business can create will address these issues. Great articles are then read, saved, shared and ultimately draw customers to you when they are ready to buy.
Charlotte says there are many different types of articles that appeal to customers in the utilities space.
“Longer feature articles providing an in-depth look at the current state of the industry can position utilities as thought-leaders and industry experts. Project stories can emphasise a particular area of expertise for a business.
“It’s also a popular idea for businesses within the utility industry to highlight the good work they are doing in the community or show how are they improving the overall customer experience.”
Strategy is the key to success
Successful content marketing, and marketing in general, comes from having a clear strategy that is executed flawlessly. The biggest content marketing mistake businesses make is to release content with all guns blazing for a couple of weeks, then leave their customers listening to crickets for the next few months. Perhaps they hit them with another flurry of content a few months down the track, but they lack consistency or a defined strategy.
All companies benefit from having a clear content marketing plan in place and those in the utility industry are no exception. This plan should include a commitment to release content relating to industry-specific events throughout the year, such as the impact the Federal or State Budgets may have on customers or others in the industry.
The content marketing plan should be flexible enough to be able to respond to unexpected relevant events, such as the release of a new standard that impacts the industry or the announcement of a funding grant. Working with content specialists within the industry makes it easier to lay out article plans for the year. Having dedicated writers who know the industry means this content can be produced quickly and while it is still relevant.
Businesses also need content that can be prepared ahead of time to keep customers informed and increase their own brand recognition. In the utility industry, these could be articles around new products that reduce energy consumption, or a comparison of different water treatment options. Leading businesses will also have some longer-form content available – such as white papers or ebooks – with comprehensive analysis that help to stamp them as an authority in the market.
Be sure that web content suits the online world
Before great content actually makes an impact it’s important for a business website to be in good shape. This includes being mobile responsive, since so many people view websites on their phones. It’s also good to produce content for search engine optimisation (SEO), which means making use of a range of keywords, optimising images for web and successfully building relevant links.
Businesses in the utility industry should also be careful not to disregard social media in their marketing plan. Sticking with the goal of avoiding being obnoxious, there are still ways to interact with potential customers through social media without being too intrusive.
Facebook has a place in business to consumer (B2C) transactions, and to a lesser extent business to business (B2B) interactions. Given many decision-makers are on Facebook, business content can still reach these people and have an impact. The downside is that they are often not in business decision-making mode when using Facebook. Your best bet is to be sharing content of value that people appreciate reading. When they are at work and ready to make a purchase, your business has already made an impression on them.
LinkedIn is a great platform for utilities to foster B2B transactions and nurture relationships. Being a professional network by nature, LinkedIn is a convenient and appropriate way to keep in contact with other industry leaders.
There is often a spike in connections made after networking or industry events such as Digital Utilities, OzWater, Energy Networks, and Asset Management for Critical Infrastructure. Once these relationships are formed, the content-sharing nature of LinkedIn can broaden your reach in the industry.
What’s next for marketing in the utility industry?
The goal will always be to stay relevant to the intended customer base. This is often best achieved through targeted content marketing produced by journalists with industry knowledge as well as general writing experience.
Pure industry experts often lack writing skills to get their message across. Pure marketing experts don’t have the industry knowledge to produce quality content for the intended audience. Find someone in the middle who has both sets of skills.
Want a more in-depth understanding of content marketing?
The team behind Utility have put together an ebook, Content Marketing: The Key To Business Growth. Download your free copy to learn the fundamental concepts of content marketing and the ways it can be used to accelerate the growth of your business.