Reacting to Industry Crisis: How to Sell to a Customer Whose Revenue Dried Up

The Coronavirus Pandemic changed everything—and change brings opportunity. Here’s how Rogue helped a client in the energy industry pivot.

Would you like to see what it’s like to work with Rogue? What it’s really like? This isn’t a case study; it’s a breakdown of the what, why and how, so you can see how Rogue might help you think differently about your marketing challenges.

This is a long article, but if you want to know more about how Rogue approaches unique marketing needs, you’ll find the rest of this article well worth your time.

Rogue met a really special team:

The work they do is to make sure buildings are using as much energy as they need, and nothing more. The client pays themselves a percentage of the savings they are generating from the client.

Their work is to help organizations with large campuses to recapture 20% (avg) of their energy budget and reapply it to key programs, like teacher raises, technology equity, diversity initiatives, arts, STEM, and more.

In a pandemic-era world where budgets are incredibly uncertain, the ability to recapture budget is critical to preserving as many parts of your organization as possible. And when they help to cut energy costs by that much, no one notices—they aren’t extra hot in the summer, no one is cold in the winter, and no one goes without lights, or with dimmer lights.

When you cut your energy consumption, you also have a positive impact on the environment. For example, lower emissions equate to lower rates of asthma in children. When you cut emissions across an entire campus, usually with dozens of buildings, the lower CO2 output is equivalent to removing thousands of cars from the road each year.

Recapturing Money? What Could Be the Problem?

The value of such a solution sounds incredibly clear when you read it in a few short paragraphs. Who wouldn’t be all over that? As you’ve probably already guessed, the broader situation is not so cut and dried.

Without going into all the details, you could say that it takes money to make money...and to stop losing it.

This client’s customer base is made primarily of K12 districts across the United States. Those districts depend on federal and state funding, including property taxes and business taxes. Since March 2020 when businesses were forced to shut down “temporarily,” 60% of those businesses were forced to close permanently.

All that closed business is having an impact on districts’ (and municipalities’, and state universities’) budgets. Keep tugging on that thread, and you see that private universities and other private businesses aren’t immune, either; when small business in America suffers, America suffers. In short, everyone’s reluctant to bring in any other service, no matter how good it sounds.

Ok, but if the whole value is that you save more than you spend, what’s the specific problem here? The truth is, this client is the only company in their sector that can get savings this way. That’s great when you want to talk about differentiators...but a tough nut to crack when it comes to initial expectations. Observe:

When this client goes to a prospective customer and says, “Hi, we’re here to reduce your energy costs,” there’s a tidal wave of preconceptions that tear through a leader’s mind. And in the wreckage, you’ll find ideas like “have to buy new air conditioning units” and “have to put a bunch of money down, and hope i can recoup it in 5 years” and “my building maintenance team is supposed to be doing this already.”

All of that is true of other energy savings companies (ESCOs). But that’s not true for this client; in fact, this client organized its business this way because of those problems with ESCOs.

And again, because it can’t be overstated, money problems.

The Lay of the Land

They need to figure out how to speak to their audience about their audience’s concerns. Feature-filled emails and company-focused copy just won’t cut it anymore.

This client has no paid media budget. Rogue was able to roll with that, but as you can imagine, a lot of the typical marketing tools had to stay in the toolbelt.

Here’s what Rogue did:

The Approach to Messaging to Customers in Crisis

With so many organizations struggling with their budgets, it’s easy to think that every organization is withholding dollars. That’s not exactly true. But yes, the field is narrower, so getting to the right people has become more important than ever.

So Rogue had to reposition a brand and disseminate a new message with an extremely narrow budget. The good news is that the brand already had decades of experience, and extensive contacts throughout the industry, gleaned from many individual interactions. That gave Rogue a place to start.

To pull it off, Rogue spent 7 months accomplishing these (and other) initiatives:

    SEO Strategy
    Onsite
    Offsite
    Content
    Business listings
    Pandemic Email Campaign
    Emails
    Landing pages
    Lists
    Content Updates
    Case studies
    PR & blog
    Customer Journey

Let’s dive in:

SEO Strategy

With so many organizations pulling back in 2020, that leaves search engine optimization in a prime position to chip away at first-page competition. The best time to start SEO was five years ago; the second best time is today. The worst time to stop, is ever.

Onsite SEO – Websites are constantly evolving—new content, site updates, you name it. Something is happening on your site on a monthly basis. That makes site maintenance, including onsite SEO, a persistent need. Rogue found and affected 300 onsite optimizations to bring the site back up to maintenance standards.

Offsite SEO – SEO is the incarnation of the famous “tree fallen in the woods” riddle: If a brand publishes a website to the internet, and no one knows about it, did it help the business? Say what you will about trees; the answer for the website is a hard “no.” Inbound links are therefore critical to search engine optimization presence. Rogue built out more than 140 inbound links.

Content – Inbound links and onsite keyword optimization are great, but there has to be something on the site worth sticking around to read, watch, or listen to. Rogue made several recommendations for how to consider reorganizing the content calendar, and also furnished 5 infographics based on the incredible work the client was doing.

Business listings – The customer journey outlines the decision-making psychology of a specific part of your audience. One of the early stages of any customer journey is discovering their problem, your industry as a solution, and then your brand as a specific solution. Rogue discovered, adjusted, and/or created 24 business listings and review profiles.

Pandemic Email Campaign

Of course, no email campaign is an island. It takes timing, content, landing pages, lists, automation...you get the drill. Here’s how we pulled it all together:

Audience Segmentation / Lists – The client provided a refined list of target contacts, separated first by K12, municipality, and higher ed institution; then further segmented into three roles. As part of the list, the client also provided key financial estimation for the public institutions, along with projections for how much money they could save annually.

Emails – Rogue wrote 4 emails for each list. Each email had contact fields with custom financial data, provided by the client, to make each message highly personalized.

Email CTA – The CTA in each email was simply to “learn more.” Based on their place in the customer journey, the contacts were not prepared to accept an invitation to download something, sign up for something, or (certainly not) buy something.

Landing Pages – Rogue then directed them to a landing page where the custom information was repeated, based on that person’s IP address, to give them a personalized experience. They could then read more about the work required to make those projections a reality.

Landing Page CTA – The CTA on the landing page was to request more information and speak to a representative about the work. Again, these are long decisions, and no one is expected to purchase at this point. They are in the information-gathering phase of the customer journey, and so they are more likely to take actions that help them gather information.

Content Updates

When you can’t meet face to face, you have to replace meetings—and that’s where content comes in during the Pandemic in a much bigger way than before.

This client repackaged their sales pitch and capabilities in an innovative digital experience. The client was facing a high-value opportunity right in the middle of lockdowns. They came to Rogue with the facts, and they were able to create an account-specific online experience to do the selling when they couldn’t be in the room.

The client’s regular content production apparatus leaned primarily on news updates that were posted to the company’s domain, but were not syndicated. Their audience, however, was searching for terms that were not bringing them to those pages.

In response, Rogue created a list of 6 key content themes to align content around for the calendar year. These themes also have sample headlines and content descriptions to help the client’s content team move the plan into action.

Customer Journey

As we’ve referenced in this article and many times across this website, the customer journey is a critical component to running a successful marketing department. The customer journey is a map of the decision-making process.

It shows you:

    When to ask the audience to take a specific action;
    How to know you’re saying the right thing, at the right time, on the right platform, to the right people;
    What channels may be your best option for a campaign;
    What the audience is thinking and feeling throughout the decision-making process;
    Where you’re light on content;
    And more

Rogue built a customer journey specifically for a K12 district superintendent as their primary audience, with more journeys planned.

That’s the Rogue Way

Did you think we’d have so much to say about a client with no paid media budget? Believe us, we held back! This client was in the position to use its wide audience base, and specific ways to contact individuals directly, to build a successful campaign to reach customers whose budgets had dried up with the pandemic.

If you’ve got a marketing conundrum, feel free to reach out to Rogue. We’re happy to have a conversation with you to see if you’re facing a problem we’re skilled at solving. What’s the worst that could happen—we can’t do it, and you aren’t out any money? Or we can, and you make money?

You have three choices:

    Do nothing more than what you’re doing now (so why would anything change?)
    Keep looking, and try the traditional marketing agency model
    Go Rogue because you have to do something different to get different results

We hope to hear from you soon.