Insights Unlimited Manages Direct Marketing

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With a few states scheduled to begin energy deregulation this year and legislation orders pending in several others, one direct marketing company has developed a program to help energy companies market themselves to new movers.


"There are a lot of consulting companies out there and others that go along with whatever the latest wave is," said Linda Richardson, vice president of sales at Insights Unlimited, Devon, PA, "but we don't follow the latest trends. Our niche is that we help deregulating energy companies get in contact with new movers and handle all of their direct marketing."


Insights Unlimited, which was started in 1992, works with more than 25 U.S. energy companies. Depending on how the distribution of utilities is set up in a specific community, it can work with both the regulated and deregulated sides of a company.


Fifteen percent of the nearly 110 million households in the United States move every year. And, Richardson said, energy companies are among the first to be called by people who move.


"We help them to get in touch with people right from the premove period, which is important, because you are going to want your lights and heat working as soon as you get there," she said. "We also send out packages to them a few weeks after they have moved in."


Richardson said that nearly 30 percent of the people who move switch energy companies.


"Two of the reasons we decided to do this was to help companies from losing their customer base, while at the same time getting in touch with those people looking to change to get new customers for companies and helping them increase their base as well, she said. "We are also focusing on trying to help them set up and put strategies in place before markets all over the country open up to deregulation. We're hoping to give them the ability to go outside their area and get new customers."


Among Insights Unlimited's clients are Kansas City Power & Light, Kansas City, MO, and Allegheny Power, Greensburg, PA. The welcome booklet for Kansas City P&L introduces the company and its services and contains a survey and coupons for area attractions.


"The program has been perceived very favorably," said Robbie Fite, product manager for the residential program at Kansas City P&L. "Research indicates a high percentage of positive response from customers, and it is a real turnaround that's helping to smooth the path for when deregulation comes."


Fite said the packages are helping her company create strong relationships with its customers and are more informative than those from its previous program.


"We're making friends with our customers and discussing the products and services that will be available in the future," she said. "Prior to this program, we sent a small brochure to new residents. This new package is much more customer-oriented."


Jackie Campbell, marketing analyst for Allegheny Power, which provides service in five states, said Insights Unlimited has developed three packages to help it contact new movers and find out what they want.


"The first package is a welcome-to-the-neighborhood message, which will provide them with a list of the services of our company," she said. "It also lets them know about some of the mandates of the Public Utilities Commission in the community. The second package we send out contains a survey. It questions customers on their habits and needs with regards to the way they use their energy. And this lets us know immediately what these new customers need from us."


The third packet, which is sent out shortly after customers have moved in, offers coupons and rebates from local retailers at no cost to the retailers. This ride-along advertising and partnering was a recent addition to the new-mover program.


Campbell said Insights Unlimited has created customized packages for small groups of Allegheny Power's customers.


"We recently had to let people in West Virginia and Pennsylvania know about surge protection, and they put together packages for us that we sent out to only these two states," she said.


Insights Unlimited can create sublists for these companies and divides new movers into an array of categories for separate mailings or exclusion. The categories include brand new vs. transfer and homeowners vs. renters.


On Jan. 1, Rhode Island was the first state to deregulate its energy companies and open up competition. Massachusetts was the second on March 1. The idea behind deregulation is to help consumers increase their choice of energy companies and lower reduce their power bills.
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