At RETECH 2011 in September, there will be energy companies aplenty – big ones, small ones, and ones that are just getting off the ground. While they all have their own niche within the energy market, like wind or solar, they are all in one way or another competing. After all, we still haven’t decided which form of distributed energy is most efficient and which one will dominate ten years from now.
So, as companies continue to crowd the energy space promoting their technology over others, how can they move from simply shouting into the crowd to truly differentiating themselves and their message?
The overarching answer is that these companies need to utilize a marketing campaign to differentiate and drive revenue. The benefits of a marketing campaign are innumerable and include being able to keep up with the latest in social innovation; knowing whether you should be on Twitter; knowing who your targeted media are and how to reach them; and ultimately, how to connect with the appropriate audiences. This critical knowledge is difficult for companies to achieve independently.
Back to basics
There are several traditional tools that surprisingly, a lot of companies don’t take full advantage of – tradeshows, awards, and the press release.
Most companies know to attend tradeshows, where they can meet relevant professionals and find out what’s happening in their industry and who their competitors really are. One of the best ways to stand out at a tradeshow is to speak on a panel with your peers – this can do wonders to strengthen your image as a leader in an industry, as well as enforce the idea that you’re genuinely interested in improving the industry. Most events host a ‘Call for Papers’ where anyone can submit an abstract to be considered for a spot. Before you write one though, make sure you know what the key issues are in your industry and how to accurately address them without being too self-promotional.
Many companies take advantage of this one as they’re probably constantly getting spammed information about them anyway, plus they’re usually free to apply. However, most don’t companies don’t look beyond the obvious ones, such as awards that recognize your CEO or a positive work environment, that can be useful accolades as well. Your customers or investors want to see that all facets of the company are in good shape, and industry awards highlight this.
Let it be known: the press release is not dead. While there are more tools today in marketing, these should all be used in conjunction with the press release. Firstly, a press release keeps all the details of an announcement in one place, marked in time. Furthermore, when you announce something through a press release, there is always a date and time associated with it. This way, you can send relevant editors and analysts the news before it goes live. So, while new media has perhaps minimized the impact of press releases, they still play an important role, so keep writing.
New tools – social media
Should a company working in the energy market even be on Twitter or Facebook? We work with several companies in this sector, and we say the answer is yes. You should think of them as another avenue of communication, just like e-mail or the telephone – while these are common tools, they were also unfamiliar territory at one point. To be able to communicate with one of your customers easily can make or break their relationship with your business.
Furthermore, social media platforms are a source of news. On Twitter, you should be following relevant people, publications and companies, and thus being fed information from sources you care about instead of sifting through aggregate information sources. You’re also being followed by people who care about what you’re doing — your targeted audience. This is true of Facebook, as well. Once your audience follows you on Twitter or becomes your fan on Facebook, you’re able to directly inform your audience of company news and initiatives, as well as have the opportunity to get to know your customers more intimately.
Social media platforms can also connect you to an audience you may have not been aware of, especially within the busy energy marketplace. Being on Twitter and Facebook makes you more reachable to a larger amount of people, which means the company isn’t dependent on having to find and reach their target audiences; sometimes that audience finds them.
Correctly applying these channels
Using social media platforms for your business isn’t as scary as it may seem – just remember to connect with your audience (i.e. followers on Twitter and fans on Facebook). Because this is your business, you should know what your audience cares about. Your social media audience shouldn’t be different than your current audience. Tweet and post relevant industry articles to demonstrate that you’re in tune with what’s going on; announce your new products; ask questions that get people talking; and interact with relevant people, including your customers.
Traditional and new marketing tools will help companies stay ahead of the curve, connect with their audience in a meaningful way, and stand out among competition to grow their business.
Tory Patrick is an account manager at Vantage Communications. See what else Tory and her colleagues have to say on their blog, Vantage Points.