Energy.com Targets Utility Dereg

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Energy.com, Columbus, OH, is targeting prospective commercial energy consumers in the Chicago area, Columbus and Atlanta with several integrated marketing programs.


The company, which provides consumers with information about utility deregulation, said these areas are ripe for energy marketing because they are places where customers recently been allowed to choose their utilities.


The purpose of the campaign is to educate consumers about energy management and to give them the facts behind deregulation in their areas. It also will let energy marketers use Energy.com as a vehicle to get the message out about their services. For example, the campaigns will let utilities use Energy.com's Web site, direct mail, radio advertising and locally-targeted sweepstakes promotions as advertising vehicles.


Each campaign involves the distribution of the Energy Values Guide, a regional magazine from Prosper Business Development Corp., Columbus. Depending on the area, the guide will have articles about deregulation or energy management and will include ads for energy suppliers and natural gas companies that offer services in certain areas.


Energy.com's campaign in Chicago is focused on business instead of residential customers, since only businesses can make a choice now. As a result, the guide includes articles about energy management, "because energy consumption costs are high-budget items for large businesses," said Tammy Cardosa, a spokeswoman at Energy.com. "Learning how to manage their energy can be a big cost savings for them."


This week, 60,000 12-page guides were distributed through Crain's Chicago Business, a weekly magazine, and 40,000 were distributed through direct mail to businesses in Chicago last week.


The Ohio Energy Value Guide, on the other hand, will be a 16-page guide distributed to 450,000 commercial and residential customers on Sept. 20 in Columbus and the surrounding area. The distribution date is tied to Columbia Gas of Ohio's announcement that it will open its customer base to choice. Columbia Gas is Columbus' major natural gas utility. Unlike Chicago, the Ohio guide will focus on what deregulation means.


"These articles will deal more with the type of questions [a consumer should ask a marketer] when they call asking to switch carriers," Cardosa said.


While it has not been decided yet, the guides either will be mailed directly to the customer or distributed in polybags the way supermarket circulars are distributed.


The Atlanta Energy Values Campaign is scheduled to hit the streets in late October or early November and will focus on residences, but Energy.com hasn't picked a distribution method yet for that area.


Energy.com created mailing lists for each campaign. In Chicago, for example, it selected SIC codes and then received a list of companies in Chicago from Prosper. In Ohio, it used ZIP code lists and neighborhood demographics via Prosper.


Thirty-second and 60-second radio commercials promoting the campaign will air in each area, and names of utility companies will be mentioned in tag lines based on the number of Value Guide ads each company has purchased. Companies also will have the opportunity to work with Energy.com on sweepstakes promotions.


Companies can use Energy.com's Web site for marketing purposes as well. Many of the articles in the guides refer companies to its Web site, where utility business profiles are listed, and consumers can request information from these companies, ultimately supplying them with leads. Companies also can run banner ads on different areas of the site.


According to Energy.com, the integrated marketing approach provides a unique way to educate consumers, develop brand awareness and market on a one-to-one basis.


"Energy.com's integrated marketing program combines more traditional types of media, direct mail and radio, with nontraditional, such as the Internet," said Thomas L. Ulry, president of Energy.com. "[In addition,] this combination allows companies to leverage marketing dollars by working together."


One company looking forward to the results it may receive from its work with Energy.com is UtiliCorp. Energy Solutions, Columbus, a nationwide energy provider that sells energy to businesses in Chicago. UtiliCorp. has an ad in Chicago's Energy Values Guide, is included in radio ads and has a page on Energy.com's Web site. It also sends out its own direct mail materials on an ongoing basis.


"We think [Energy.com's] campaign is going to help us supplement our current advertising because it's visible and it's interesting to business owners right now," said Kay Plzak, director of sales at UtiliCorp. "It is going to allow us to gain some exposure that we otherwise wouldn't have without spending a lot of money all by ourselves."


Plzak is particularly excited about the Web opportunities.


"We think the Energy.com Web site is going to be a popular place for customers to look and learn more about energy," she said, "and we think being a part of it is going to be really valuable for us."
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