Managing Trade Allies for Maximum Value
Contractors are critical to the success of most utility energy efficiency programs, typically contributing 75% of project applications. These relationships must not only be developed, but managed and nurtured. When program managers dedicate time to contractors, they can feel as if they are a part of a team with extended resources. DNV GL’s 9 Box Model enables the development of a strategy that will successfully meet these needs. We began by segmenting our clients’ customer base into two categories: participating contractors and utility market influencers. Because we have a deeper understanding of the value of these segments, and differentiated them from each other, we can target our approach for each segment, and thereby engage, support, and secure the needed performance from the contractor.
The 9-Box strategy defines an objective and identifies a strategy for marketing and outreach. Our strategy is broken down into highest value, high value and moderate value categories, then by sub-categories of contractors. By categorizing our contractors in this way, we can develop terms and tactics to reach all groups according to their potential value or contribution to the program. This enables us to align and prioritize our resources and bring together marketing, outreach and business functions to detail how to continually meet or exceed the goals of our program.
Contractors are clearly the main drivers of energy efficiency programs. To ensure success, we make an effort to recruit high quality contractors and keep them fully engaged. The highest value contractors are ranked and prioritized based on their annual contribution to the program, according to energy saving projects.
DNV GL actively manages the contractor network by providing timely communication, feedback and training opportunities. We only assign contractors in the highest value box to be a part of the contractor network. Those contractors then have a member of our assigned as their point of contact and to maintain the relationship. Their business name is also generally listed on the utility program website and promoted to utility customers interested in pursuing energy efficiency projects. The assigned representative also accompanies the contractor on site visits to gauge their performance and provide feedback to improve their sales pitch.
A lot of effort is made to identify and engage the highest value contractors, including a strong marketing push. While marketing to contractors rather than customers seems contrary to typical marketing strategy, this creates an extended network of outreach staff, who can sell the program directly to your customers.
Marketing activities include developing presentations, case studies and energy profiles. Additional marketing efforts involve:
- Hyper-targeted digital ads
- Chamber of commerce/association ads, events, etc.
- Utility website
- Segment ads, collateral
- Specialized training/events for specific segments
- Multi-channel ads
- Direct mail
While highest value contractors are a key to program success, the next level–High-Value Vendors/Contractors–collectively generate multiple projects each year, consistently resulting in over 100 million kWh in energy savings annually. They also have return customers who complete projects year after year. These contractors use the utility energy efficiency program incentives in their sales presentations and business plans. They attend annual program kick-off, product knowledge meetings and presentations at trade shows. With the goal of advancing these contractors into the “highest contractor: group, we work with them to improve their program knowledge and participation.
Our marketing activities for this segment includes presentations, case studies and energy profiles. Additional marketing efforts utilizing the following tactics:
- Digital ads
- Chambers of commerce / association ads, events, etc.
- Utility website; program emails
The moderate value vendors and contractors account for a small portion of the program’s annual savings. These contractors do not have energy efficiency measures as their prime product or service offering. Often they are brought into the program by their own customers. One method we use to reach these contractors is general email blasts, that don’t have more specific messaging used in emails for the higher value segments. We also encourage them to visit the utility website and to become a designated Small Business Trade Ally, as well as join our Contractor Network to promote their business and expand participation in the program. These contractors generally receive our quarterly e-newsletter, and are contacted proactively to maintain the relationship.
Well-trained contractors speed application processing and improve implementation efficiency. In fact, many projects would not happen without contractor involvement. Thus, engaging the contractor community is necessary for program success. Advancing contractors to “trade ally” status and increasing their participation is important to program success. By dedicating ample time and resources, contractors will feel that they are part of the team. Contractors must be treated as the invaluable resource that they are!
To read related articles in the blog series on leveraging the DNV GL 9 Box Model, follow this links below:
- The DNV GL 9 Box Model: A Six Part Blog Series Focused on Improving Customer Engagement
- Segmentation in the 9 Box strategy for incentive program implementation
- Understanding trade allies to improve program success