Good Segmentation Is Key for Commercial Customer Engagement

Bob Ornstein

Not surprisingly, business owners are focused on running a successful business—it takes time, energy and money to keep customers, employees and other stakeholders satisfied while maximizing profits. Therefore, energy efficiency is not always top of mind for most businesses, although it can add substantial savings to the bottom line. It takes a compelling message to draw business owners’ attention and money away from their core products and services.


However, through segmentation, Ecova can help engage with commercial customers about energy efficiency in terms that resonate with their business. Our approach goes beyond segmentation by industry vertical, such as identifying whether a business is a restaurant or hotel. We have a 16-field matrix to uncover important details about the financial and organizational structures that dictate how building owners and tenants make decisions. Pinpointing where the business lies on our matrix helps determine the probability of that business participating in an energy management project and the types of energy efficient projects that decision makers will consider. This helps Ecova customize its engagement so that businesses feel that energy efficiency is worth their valuable time.

First, Ecova uncovers who pays the utility bills. The entity that pays the bills likely has the most interest in improving energy performance. Unless it’s an owner-occupied building, determining who pays the bills can be quite nuanced. There are different types of lease structures that split responsibility for bill payment between landlord and tenant. Moreover, in an office building, the building owner may be responsible for the common area bills, while the tenant takes charge of bills within their space. In this case, a utility program representative would need to have separate discussions with both entities to understand their investment criteria. There may also be restrictions on what types of upgrades a tenant can authorize.

We also find out the decision maker’s time horizon for maintaining a presence in the building. If the tenant or owner expects to change their ownership or occupancy in the short term, they may not feel a need to invest in efficiency since they likely won’t see the payback.

Of course, we also determine where the decision-making power lies for making energy efficiency improvements. For example, with a national chain, many of the key decisions to make capital improvements may lie at a national headquarters, while O&M decisions may be in the hands of a site manager. Franchisees often have more independence than corporate owned sites. When approaching a national account, Ecova knows that different types of projects will make sense depending on which level of the organization we’re interacting with.

These segmentation strategies take time to develop and implement, but they help Ecova develop targeted messaging around energy efficiency that improves the likelihood that we are engaging with the right customers.

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