Harnessing the power of small businesses will help utilities reach their efficiency goals, and here are four key steps that can be taken towards improving SBEE program participation.

1. Develop marketing targeted towards small businesses

Marketing to small businesses can be drastically different than marketing to large corporations. While energy efficiency is on the minds of CFOs in large corporations and they often have departments dedicated to energy efficiency, small business owners focus more on immediate factors that impact their bottom line and aren’t aware of the difference energy efficiency improvements can make.

The solution to this challenge is to create marketing materials that speak to small businesses. For instance, some SMB owners want to see the ROI of a potential energy efficiency program, so using hard data and statistics from market research will help grab their attention. Others care far more about non-utility benefits, such as better lighting and product presentation. By developing clear personas, refined over years of experience with tens of thousands of SMB’s, Lime has unique insight on why very different small business owners participate in efficiency programs. Utilizing this data allows us to effectively drive participation rates higher and achieve utility savings goals.

2. Leverage community relationships

Utilities that are looking into ways of improving SBEE participation in specific areas should leverage various “centers of influence†in these areas. One of the best ways of doing this is by interacting with professional unions and organizations that work with the small businesses in the area. When appealing to small businesses, it’s worthwhile to mention that your programs employ other local businesses, which strengthens local economies as a whole.

Lime utilizes these groups to find Ally Force partners to assist with program deployment in a specific area as we begin building these relationships. Many local contractors work on projects for small businesses in a single city or state, which means that creating relationships with these contractors can help you increase the likelihood of getting referrals from other small businesses.

3. Satisfy existing customers

Most small business owners tend to be well integrated in their local community. They trade referrals and contract other companies to do work that they need completed. When you provide great service to a single small business and allow them to leverage energy efficiency programs to reap serious savings on their energy costs, it makes the owner and staff members more likely to talk about it and spread word amongst the community. They’ll be excited to share their success with energy efficiency, as long as they have an outstanding experience that satisfies all of their needs as an energy customer. That means you have to consistently provide your customers with attention, even after installation is complete.

When it comes to a relatively broad solution like a small business energy efficiency program, one of the keys to satisfying your existing customers is making sure that you keep in touch with them after their service begins. Provide them with user guides, updates about their technology, and other information that will make them confident about the success of their energy efficiency project.

4. Provide case studies and personalized assessments

Small businesses don’t have a vast pool of resources to invest in upgrades or new solutions. Because of this, most small business owners are very careful with how they spend their budget on equipment upgrades.

When you combine tightly guarded budgets with the fact that many small business owners aren’t focused on efficiency, it can seem like a challenge to get small business owners to invest in energy efficiency programs.

To overcome this challenge, you need to show instead of tell. One great way to do this is through case studies. By providing real examples of similar companies who were successfully able to cut down their operating expenses, you prove that energy efficiency programs can work for them too.

An even better way to gain the ear of small business owners is through a personalized facility assessment. This kind of marketing tool is valuable because it paints a very sharp picture of the type of benefits that a small business could gain from participating in an efficiency program. It’s tough for a company to ignore someone who uses hard data to prove that they could be saving money by switching to an environmentally efficient option. When this is combined with the non-monetary benefits of an efficiency project, small business owners are compelled to participate.

The Final Word on Improving SBEE Participation

When it comes to marketing to small businesses, the key is to know how small businesses think. Small business owners are steadily becoming savvy to the benefits of conserving energy, both from a cost perspective and as a way to improve their standing with prospective customers. With an empirical, data driven approach to marketing towards small businesses, you can drive higher participation rates in this critical customer segment.