The customer journey is a collection of touchpoints, all of which are opportunities for utilities to offer personalized, relevant value. Marketing automation tools capitalize on these opportunities while improving customer engagement and satisfaction, tracking lead and channel attribution, and measuring marketing return-on-investment and overall performance.

I first became familiar with marketing automation about two years ago in my role as director of marketing at a New York solar company. We implemented Pardot in August 2016 and it integrated seamlessly with our Salesforce customer relationship management system. Before that, lead attribution was a big challenge for us, and any type of nurture campaign to move leads through the sales funnel was nonexistent.

We didn’t launch our Pardot marketing initiatives overnight. My small marketing team of two people underwent three months of implementation training, with full support from our Salesforce administrator to set up all the data connections. Over the following six months, we created landing pages for all digital lead sources. We also developed nurture campaigns in order of priority, starting with new leads and opportunities and eventually adding in campaigns for newly installed solar customers and our overall customer base to drive referrals.

Utility marketers who use automation have increased customer engagement, created more time for other projects, and achieved more clarity and control for improving campaigns.

By leveraging marketing automation, we were able to accurately track lead sources, increase conversions from lead to opportunity, and learn more about our customers’ journeys through the marketing and sales process.

How are utilities using marketing automation?

I was curious to see if the utility industry is actively participating in this marketing automation evolution. In August 2018, E Source surveyed 16 utilities on how they use marketing automation for residential and business customers, which vendors they use, and how they plan to improve their strategy. We learned that the majority are using automation for residential marketing, either in-house or with a third-party vendor, and others are currently researching this option at their utility. Fewer utilities are using automation for business marketing, but almost one-third are researching this option.

Southern California Edison (SCE) included marketing automation in its Residential Rate Reform Marketing, Education and Outreach Plan for Default Time-of-Use Pursuant to Resolution E-4895 (PDF) for its residential default time-of-use launch campaign. Page 9 says:

SCE is executing marketing automation functionalities which will enable a personalized customer experience that aligns with the three-phased ME&O [marketing, education, and outreach] approach. Marketing automation will allow SCE to achieve its overall objective of deploying the right communication on the right channel at the right time.

Darin Read, senior program marketing manager at SRP, mentioned automation in his SMB Marketing and Customer Engagement (PDF) presentation (available with membership) at the 2018 E Source Forum (available with membership) to show how SRP uses welcome emails to onboard new small business customers.

Utility marketers who use automation have increased customer engagement, created more time for other projects, and achieved more clarity and control for improving campaigns. They also plan to apply automation to various customer journeys; integrate segmentation; and train staff to work with data.

Marketing automation is just one piece of the broader conversation about the overall customer lifecycle. By integrating personas and journeys into your automation strategy, you can learn even more about your customers’ preferences, interests, and behavior.

Members of the E Source Residential Marketing Service can read our report Residential Marketing Automation in the Energy Industry and Business Marketing Service members can check out our Business Marketing Automation in the Energy Industry report. Both of these reports provide full automation survey results and case studies from Xcel Energy and ComEd, as well as our recommendations for helpful automation functions and strategies to optimize your marketing campaigns.

E Source will continue to research this hot topic and keep you informed with recommendations, best practices, and lessons learned. If you’re interested in attending an E Source marketing automation workshop, please contact us for more information.

Contributing Authors

Analyst, Marketing and Communications

Jessica is an analyst on the Marketing and Communications research team at E Source and has 12 years of digital marketing and public...