The best marketing strategy for Canadian energy advisors

The federal government just opened up the floodgates again with the announcement of the Canada Greener Homes Grant. And now you’re asking yourself, “What’s the best way to market my energy evaluations services when everyone is fighting it out tooth and nail per postal code?”

After digging into the consumer research, here’s what messaging you should embrace and what to avoid if you want to generate more leads.

Your four messaging options

As an energy advisor, you are selling consumers what is essentially a commodity service – an energy assessment is mandatory in order to access financial incentives, all your competitors are trying to keep their pricing within the $600 coverage bracket, and you all have to audit the exact same list of criteria under the EnerGuide label.

So, how do you avoid a race to the bottom?

  1.  Avoid focusing on price and don’t give consumers a sour taste in their mouth by offering FREE* Energy Assessments.
  2.  Differentiate yourself from your local competitors – do you offer better service, more value, have more experience, better tools, or do something special for customers?
  3. Take up more real estate in your customer’s brains so that you come to mind when they have to select an option from NRCAN’s service provider list. This can be accomplished by offering valuable services or information, earning trust, or associating your company with strong emotions.The emotions you want to tap into aren’t evoked by the experience of a home energy assessment. No, they come from the benefits the homeowner will ultimately get after the headache of navigating the dual energy assessments, renovations and government grant applications.

In the end, it’s not an infinite list.

Energy efficiency retrofits result in:

  • a safer, comfier, healthier home
  • lower energy bills (i.e. energy savings, financial savings, more money in your pocket)
  • increased property value (i.e. better resale value)
  • reduced environmental impact (i.e. green, morally responsible thing to do)

Out of these four, which should you focus on?

“The first rule of selling energy efficiency is that you don’t talk about energy efficiency,” Andy Frank, President of Sealed, told Canary Media. “We’re focused on delivering a better standard of living for people [and] homes that are more comfortable, healthier and cleaner for the environment.”

Let’s unpack this statement. Once you understand consumer behaviour and priorities, you’ll see why you should focus your messaging on improving the in-home experience.

How financial incentives change consumer behaviour

The Canada Greener Homes Grant changes consumer behaviour and artificially increases market demand for EnerGuide energy evaluations. NRCAN noted this phenomenon in earlier iterations of the program.

According to one study, financial incentives are triggers that can prompt renovation decisions or speed up the decision-making process. In marketing terms, that means customers who are aware of the grant have leap-frogged through the top of the sales funnel and require far less persuasion.

A bonus bit of advice: take the marketing budget/resources you would have spent on these customers and instead spend it educating the wider general public about the program. Use targeted advertising to identify people who have perceived a renovation problem and raise their awareness about the financial incentives available.

Research has identified which homeowner is most likely to renovate:

  • Homeowners with smaller properties, older properties, large households, households with young children or seniors, and households that have recently moved.

Understanding the renovation decision-making process

Energy efficiency renovation decisions are not distinct from amenity renovations in the early stages of the decision-making process. Specific attributes, like energy efficiency measures, become more defined in renovators’ minds later on, when they are planning and finalizing their retrofits.

“Homeowners start thinking about efficiency renovations just as they do amenity renovations – as ways of resolving certain conditions of domestic life that create tensions, imbalances or issues within the home,” the study Quantitative Modelling of Why and How Homeowners Decide to Renovate Energy Efficiently said.

Underlying reasons fall into three categories:

  1. Prioritizing: the design or function of the home isn’t meeting the competing and conflicting demands placed on the space.
  2. Embodying: the physical abilities of young, old or ill household members aren’t being met by the home’s setup.
  3. Home as a project: the family’s sense of identity isn’t reflected in the design or aesthetics of the home.

You’ll notice that homeowners generally don’t wake up one morning deciding out of the blue, “I want to save $100 a year in energy costs by replacing my doors,” nor, “We’ll go green and reduce our GHG emissions by installing a more energy-efficient furnace this winter!”

Rather, something begins causing problems in domestic life – Gramma complains about always being cold, the hot water heater breaks or mould starts growing in the bathroom. The family begins researching solutions, seeing if they should fix or retrofit to solve the problem. And as they are finalizing their renovation decisions, they may choose an energy-efficient option because of the superior benefits it provides.

Health, safety, and comfort is the winner

Once homeowners have your list of recommended energy efficiency retrofits in hand after their energy assessment, NRCAN’s own research says renovation costs and potential energy savings will come into play, determining what retrofits they will choose to undertake. But financial savings didn’t spur the initial action.

The same goes for reducing a family’s carbon footprint. Another study found that while pro-environmental behaviours are a good predictor of whether a household will participate in an energy efficiency audit program, “Canadians are hesitant on making major changes in their lifestyle to reduce their environmental impacts.”

And spending thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars on home retrofits simply to ‘go green’ qualifies as a significant investment. Being eco-friendly is an associated benefit, not the driver.

In the end, the messaging that will resonate most with renovators is that a home energy assessment identifies retrofits that will resolve their domestic tensions and give them a safer, healthier, and more comfortable home.

If you want to see this messaging in action, check out our work for F2 Energy.