Timing is Everything…but What is the Best Time for Outreach for Utilities??
Let’s talk about timing with outreach materials. There are so many programs, tips, updates and announcements to communicate, that planning on what to say and when to say it can be tricky. It’s one thing to just throw it out there for the heck of it and cross it off your to do list. It’s another to develop a strategy and actually set goals, objectives for behavioral change and action from the messaging distributed.
When it comes to outreach, specifically utility outreach, there are two main schools of thought.
ONE: Expose the content to your customers early and get them thinking, a couple months early. As the saying goes; April showers bring May flowers. What happens now provides results a month (or two) down the road. Think of retail stores for example. Swimsuits are in stores in February along with shorts and summer fashion. Seasonal fashion is always in stores a few months before the actual season. Then, when the season its, they rotate to the next season. Or, to tie it to utility topics; consider landscaping tips a couple months before it’s landscaping season so the ‘seed is planted’ (pun intended). That way, customers see the information and have time to process and plan. If they are considering changes to their landscaping, they have information that may sway their decision towards the drought resistant tips you are providing.
TWO: The time is now. This mentality is sometimes unintentional and may be just a last minute decision. If compared to retail stores, it’s the ad you see for the weekend sale, going on this weekend! Taking it to utilities; everyone is wearing multiple hats and has a lot to do, so if it’s not urgent, it’s often not done. If it’s not high water use season, then no need to discuss water savings. Or, if it’s not the rainy season, there’s no reason to discuss yard debris pick up, pet waste or other stormwater/storm drain concerns. But, if it is that time of year, then it’s time to communicate. With this strategy, customers see/hear/read the outreach and the goal is that they will take more immediate action.
So, which is better? Which is correct? ONE or TWO?
Our recommendation: Number THREE!
THREE: We could call it the Christmas Strategy, although Christmas in October is a bit annoying. It is still an example that serves the purpose here. Option THREE is a combination of ONE and TWO. If you provide ideas a couple months in advance, then offer reminders when the time is upon them, customers are much more likely to take action. Marketing research shows that customers need to see messaging multiple times, so providing content spread out over time creates more impressions, opportunity for engagement and better results in the end.
So provide drought resistant landscaping ideas a couple months before landscaping season starts. This plants the seed for ideas, budgeting and planning. Then, offer additional or even the same content again when the season is here. You can apply this to pre-pay or online bill programs, stormwater education, conservation both electric and water for few ideas.
So, when you are planning your next outreach campaign, think of the timing and make sure to capitalize on your opportunities for success with communications a month or two in advance and then again right when the event or offering is most pertinent.