Content Marketing in the Energy Industry
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From generating wind power to off-grid renewable energy, there are countless incredible innovations that
have come out of the energy sector. However, when it comes to getting information across to the average
consumer, it can feel next to impossible.
From dense technical explanations to lengthy product descriptions, the average consumer is easily confused, overwhelmed, and generally disinterested by much of the content that comes out of the energy industry. So, as a company in the business, how do you come up with a content strategy that won’t just hold their interest, but actually engage them to a point where your brand has the chance to make a lasting impact?
In truth, content marketing is entirely doable. In fact, it’s an asset for any company in the energy industry because, with the right approach, it will enable your business to standout with content people actually want to read. Plus, content marketing can generate triple the leads as an outbound marketing strategy, and for less money. In this guide, we’ll explore how businesses like yours can better understand your customers and offering information in an informative, thoughtful, and engaging manner.
What Goes Into Effective Content Marketing?
Content marketing is a philosophy rooted in offering relevant, valuable content that a given audience
actually wants to read. As a result of offering this content, the brand behind it will be able to build
a reputation of being knowledgeable and trustworthy. In other words, by producing great content, you’re
able to build a strong brand.
However, you can’t just sit down and start writing. Content marketing requires a strategy, which is backed by a great deal of research and understanding. Unless you know who you’re writing for, there’s no way you can offer them value. Meanwhile, unless you know who you’re writing as (i.e., your brand identity), there’s no way you can build an image for your company.
For all of these reasons, there are some foundational components and questions you must address before we can get into the step-by-step of actually creating a custom content strategy for your company. So, let’s address those aspects.
Since the goal behind all of your efforts is to build a strong, reputable brand image, you must first
define who your brand is. Without a brand image defined, your content will seem inconsistent and will
work against your goal of building a memorable brand.
If you haven’t yet taken the time to analyze your brand, remember that a brand image goes far deeper than a company’s logo. It’s your values, your color scheme, the way you make customers feel when they interact with you. Your brand image is the overall perception you’d like the public to have, whether it’s down-to-earth and relatable; proactive and innovative; or caring and nurturing.
Those starting fresh with a rebranding campaign would do well by comparing the primary brand archetypes. However, an archetype on its own doesn’t say who your brand is.
What to do:
Create a brand book. Not only will it allow you to define all the details of who you want your brand to be,
but it will also become a valuable resource that you can give to people who represent your company, be
they professional writers, customer service representatives, or a marketing professional.
As you think more deeply about who your brand is, you should also be spending some time thinking about
who your customers are. Of course, while your brand’s personality is entirely up to you, customer
personas are something you must research in-depth.
If you don’t already have customer personas drawn up, consider them a necessity. Depending on the markets you serve, you might have one primary customer persona that describes most of your clients, or you might have a few to guide your efforts.
For instance, an energy company services individual homeowners along with businesses/offices and perhaps even industrial operations. Each of these sectors would be worthy of their own customer profile, since customers from each segment have varying needs, pain points, and characteristics.
In a big way, customer personas shape your brand identity, as your brand needs to adopt an image and voice that your primary persona(s) will resonate with. Additionally, customer personas will help you later in determining what type of content you should offer as these personas give you a deeper understanding of what your audience wants and needs to know from the content they consume.
What to do: Create customer personas that represent the primary segments of your audience. This requires research as they need to be factual, incorporating things like average age, gender, salary, media preferences, and so on. This information will guide your content strategy later.
After doing the preliminary research to define who your brand and customers are, the next foundational
element you need to take care of is a keyword plan. A keyword plan requires research, but with the help
of tools like Google Analytics, you’ll find that assembling one is quite easy.
The purpose of a keyword plan is to identify the keywords that your target customers are searching for. These range from short-tail to long-tail keywords, and you’ll notice huge variances in the search volume for each. As such, you’ll need to spend some time analyzing this information so you can prioritize which keywords are most important.
If you know anything about keywords, you know that targeting the keywords with the highest search volume will prove most difficult, as no amount of on-page SEO strategies can get you the number one spot. Rather, ranking for high search volume keywords takes a combination of marketing strategies — and time.
So, you can balance out your keyword efforts by first focusing on long-tail, lower search volume, but highly targeted keywords to increase traffic to your site. From there, as organic traffic grows, you can begin building content around the more competitive keywords.
Ultimately, the keyword plan you come up with is going to inform your content plan in a few steps, and it’s also going to guide your SEO strategies from here on out, so it’s very important that you take your time and be thorough in your selection.
What to do: Come up with a keyword plan. Work to understand which keywords are the most competitive and which ones are most valuable to your business, then make a list accordingly.
Understanding Your Customer’s Journey
In every industry, there’s a certain customer journey that prospects go through before ultimately
landing on your website, scheduling a consultation, or signing up for a service. Depending on the
role your business plays in the energy industry, this customer journey may look different.
What follows is a look at the basic customer journey, from awareness all the way to the decision phase, along with examples of how customers pass through these phases in the industry and the type of content you should be sharing with prospects to move them along through the journey.
When a prospect first acknowledges a problem or pain point, they enter the “awareness” phase. In the solar sector, this would include a homeowner who’s just been told about potential tax incentives for installing solar panels. Another example would be a business who has just discussed new ways to pursue their corporate responsibility goals and promote a cleaner environment.
Prospects in the awareness phase typically have minimal knowledge about what’s out there, so their first course of action is to gain knowledge about the potential options and solutions available to them.
During this phase, they’re going to look for a lot of “how to,” “what is,” and “why,” content. Explaining the benefits of a product or offering is important for these prospects, as they’re still deciding whether it’s even worthwhile to pursue a solution to the problem or concern they’ve discovered.
Going back to the example of a potential solar energy customer, a business would want to show them content like:
- 7 Reasons You Should Consider Solar Energy for Your Home
- Understanding The Solar Installation Process
- XYZ County’s New Incentives for Using Solar Energy
Consider offering lead magnets (i.e., a free, informational brochure) to prospects in exchange for their phone number or email address so that you can follow up with and nurture them through your funnel.
As prospects gain awareness of potential solutions and if you’ve done a sufficient job of convincing them that a solution is worth pursuing, they’ll enter the consideration phase where they get more serious about comparing X, Y, and Z. During this phase, prospects understand what the solutions are and how they work, so now they want the details.
Provide prospects with more information about the solutions so they can better understand the cost, the timeline, and all the intricacies of actually implementing the solution. Now is the time to offer up brochures and value-added content that soothes a prospect's concerns. This is when you want them to schedule a consultation or get a quote.
Examples of content to show prospects who are considering their options includes:
- How Much You Can Save With Solar
- Why 123 Corporate Chose ABC Solar
- The Timeline of Small-Scale Solar Installation
Case studies, testimonials, and other content that builds up your brand and tells readers why you’re better than your competitors will play a key role in making sure they end the consideration phase planning to pursue your offerings over anyone else’s. Having a very responsive and proactive sales team is crucial to getting people into the consideration phase and then into the decision phase.
If you’ve offered the right information to prospects in the consideration phase, you should be at the top of the list when they’re ready to make a decision. Depending on your niche and what you’re offering, the decision phase could involve a purchase, subscription, registration, or moving forward with a quote, consultation, or contract.
The content you serve to prospects as they enter the decision phase should all feature a strong CTA. Meanwhile, you need to keep the prospect engaged through email marketing and re-targeted advertising, making sure that your company stays at the front of their mind.
Examples of content you should show prospects include:
- Personalized outreach, particularly to their email inbox.
- Highly targeted promotional content offering added value, like a discounted first year of service if they sign up now.
- Surveys to prospects who engaged with your company but ultimately never converted into customers.
It’s important to remember that, just because a prospect has mentally decided to move forward with your company, that doesn’t mean your work is done. Until it’s official, hurdles still stand in their way. That’s why you need to prioritize proactive service and a frictionless experience that makes closing the deal as easy as possible for them.
Creating an Effective Content Strategy
It may seem like a lot of work to layout the foundation of your content strategy, but as you move forward
with the next few steps and actually begin assembling your content plan, you’ll see why a brand identity,
customer personas, and an understanding of the customer journey are all so important.
To recap, here’s how each of those elements will factor into your content planning from here on out:
Your brand’s identity determines how content is created and presented. It impacts the writing style you use in your blog posts, the visual style of videos you produce, and even factors into the topics you decide to cover, the depth of information you offer, and the stance you take on issues.
Knowing who your customers are, what their pain points are, how much background knowledge they have on topics, and what they’re trying to achieve all directly determines what content you offer and how it’s presented.
Understanding the phases your prospects pass through on the way to making a decision, along with the
information they need in each phase, guides your content plan as well.
In the following steps, you’ll determine what forms of media you’re going to produce, how often you’re going to publish content, where you’re going to share content, and what topics your content will cover.
Many businesses begin with just written content. After all, it’s among the easiest to create because
you can outsource it to a professional
who can turn content around in as little as a day. It’s also among the most affordable, as there’s no
need to rent a studio, hire a videographer, or do any of the preliminary work associated with other forms
Still, if you want to stand out in your industry, you should definitely consider diversifying your content plan. Look to your competitors to see what’s working and what isn’t, and use their moves to guide your own strategy.
Types of content you might consider creating include:
- Written content, which is further divided into white papers, blog posts, social media posts, and so on.
- Image content, like for posting on social media or throughout your website. Unique imagery is crucial to having a social media presence, especially on Instagram.
- Video content, which may exist on your website and/or on a video platform like YouTube.
- Audio content, most often in the form of a podcast series where you can interview internal team members, customers, and industry partners.
If you are just starting out or if you’re working with a limited budget, the basis of your content strategy should be written content. After all, it’s fundamental to having a website, and it’s also key to establishing SEO strategies and achieving rankings and organic traffic.
As you get a handle on the written content part of your strategy, you can expand and create complementary content in other forms.
The types of content you plan to produce will directly impact where you choose to publish your content.
For instance, if you’re not producing videos, you won’t be publishing on YouTube.
The exact platforms you publish on will depend upon your industry and your strategy. Again, look to your competitors and see how they’re performing across platforms.
- Your own company website is foundational to your content strategy, so this should take priority when creating content.
- Facebook is the most popular social media platform on the web, so it’s the most popular pick for those looking to establish a social media presence.
- Twitter, Instagram, and others can be hit or miss, depending on where your audience is and whether they’re prepared to engage with your brand.
- YouTube channels are excellent for boosting engagement and reputation, but only if you’re producing video content representative of your professionalism.
- LinkedIn is critical, especially for maintaining your employer image and connecting with partners and clients in the B2B space.
One of the biggest mistakes companies make when kicking off a content strategy is dividing their efforts across too many platforms. Start with just one or two and establish yourself through consistent, high-value content. You can expand from there.
Once you know the type of content you want to produce and where you’ll be publishing it, you need to
create a content schedule or a “content calendar” so you can begin organizing these plans.
Most often, companies plan out their content calendar for a full year. That way you can factor in holidays, events, and seasonal content that needs to be accounted for. When laying out your content calendar, don’t get overwhelmed with choosing topics.
While you’ll want to schedule content for the year, you only need to put in empty slots. You don’t need to figure out your topics just yet. Rather, if you want to publish two blog posts a week, just define which days of the week you’ll be posting them. Likewise, if you’re launching a podcast, schedule the day of the month or week it will go live.
You'll fill your content schedule in after you have a grasp of the types of content you’ll be posting and your overall content need (i.e., how many blog posts you’ll be publishing in a given month).
Your content strategy is finally coming together, and the final step before executing it is deciding on
the content topics you’ll be covering and plugging those topics into the empty slots on your content calendar.
Fortunately, you aren’t starting from scratch. The content topics you cover will ultimately be rooted in your keyword plan that you came up with earlier, which is why it was so important that you did in-depth research to figure out what your customers are searching for.
You can also look to your competitors for inspiration about what to publish. Plus, you need to factor in content that isn’t based on keywords, like brand building content. This would include case studies, customer testimonials, and behind-the-scenes content that explores your brand’s founding, values, and team.
Ideally, you’ll be able to plan out your content at least three months in advance. You should then begin building up a bank of ideas that you can build upon as time goes by and you utilize ideas. You should never be scrambling to figure out ideas last minute.
In addition to looking at your direct competitors, you also want to look to the industry’s thought
leaders, as these are the companies with the budget and resources who have done all they can to make
their content strategy work. Here are some of the best examples.
This multinational oil company has to fight a lot of negative perception to stay ahead, and in an attempt
to demonstrate their commitment to the environment, they launched Eniday.
Eniday is an online magazine discussing energy innovations and the people behind them. Written content
combines with visual storytelling to make the content engaging for all.
In 2016, Stream Energy was named the “Most Innovative Marketer” by the Energy Marketing Conference for
Retailers. In addition to breeding loyalty and word-of-mouth marketing by offering discounted energy
to those who refer new customers, Stream Energy also makes use
of user-generated content (UGC) to build awareness. They also maintain their own extensive blog.
During inclement weather, Georgia Power
customers stay in-the-know thanks to the company’s ultra-responsive social media center, which is right
next to the Georgia Power Storm Center. When the weather is good, they use their networks to answer
questions, engage customers, and offer advice for energy efficiency. They do much the same on their
blog, where they use lots of visuals to “map their impact” and showcase their social and environmental
Your Content Strategy Relies on Great Content
Now that your content strategy has been laid out, it's time to execute. Here at Scripted, we are proud
to have some of the best energy and environment writers
in the industry. Plus, with our self-service and fully managed tiers, we have plans that can scale to
the needs of any business.
Ready to power up your content strategy? Browse our database of writers and compare our plans to learn more about what Scripted can do for your company.