As a coach to entrepreneurs, I often see communications to entrepreneurs that span the gamut from general business and funding strategies, to how to save on their energy bills, etc. So, I wondered what it was like to be responsible for that communication and what specific challenges might be involved in that job. I reached out to John Bailes, President of AM Conservation Group who had a great deal to teach me not only about the impact of energy on small businesses but also about the best ways to communicate with small business owners.
Bea: How much energy do small businesses consume?
John: Small businesses are responsible for 44 percent of the energy consumption in buildings.
Bea: What is special about helping small businesses with their energy consumption habits?
John: They’re notoriously hard to engage in energy efficiency, demand response and other distributed energy solutions.
First, they are different in their business model, from online consultant, real estate firm, small retailer, restaurant, etc.
Second, they are diverse in their knowledge about sustainability and energy.
Third, they have different needs in terms of program measures and messaging.
The only way they are the same is that they are ALL busy and usually cash strapped.
Bea: How many small businesses are there?
John: 4.6 million small businesses in the United States and a million more in Canada.
Bea: How much energy cost savings potential is that?
John: There is an estimated $30 billion in energy cost savings potential small businesses are poised to save big; that money can be better spent on creating jobs or improvements to drive revenue. And utilities can save big too, with an estimated 1.07 quadrillion BTU of energy savings in this market. Designing programs that meet all the distinct needs of your customers is essential to success.
Bea: So, how do you overcome the communications challenges with small bing, usiness?
John: Here is our 5 step approach:
1. Identify key target segments within the market
2. Perform market research and develop customer personas
We hone in what sets each target segment apart. With market research, these differences turn into valuable insight for their wants, needs and barriers.
3. Tailor messaging specific to needs and barriers
Tailor messaging specific to the targets’ wants and needs. This not only improves the customer experience, but it translates into conversion rates.
4. Determine strategic channels of promotion
Along with crafting the right messaging, promotion channels make a difference – deliver the message where and when they want it!
5. Measure, tweak, repeat
Finally, measure, tweak and repeat. Here’s what we know. Customers change. Programs change. Needs change. An approach is rarely flawless – there’s always room for improvement.”
So, to YOU the 4.6 million small business owners, let’s start tapping that $30 billion savings today!