4 Affiliate Marketing Strategies for Utility Brands

 

When you move into a new property, whether buying or renting, one of the first things you need to do is organise your home utilities such as broadband, gas and electricity.

For customers, moving is an extremely expensive process and it only makes sense to make sure you’re getting the best deals on these essential services. This means there is a lot of competition between service providers to not only offer the best deals but also provide a great service.

Many internet service providers and energy suppliers have entered the affiliate market in recent years and it has become a highly competitive area, particularly in cashback. It’s now important to have competitive cashback rates in addition to having competitive costs on a customer’s monthly bills.

In this article, I am going to highlight four key areas that all Utilities brands should consider when working in the affiliate channel.

1: Educate

One of the biggest complaints you hear from customers of Utility companies is that they don’t understand their bill: “What does kWh mean?”, “What’s a standing charge?”,Why do I need to pay line rental?”.

As a supplier think about how you can share information to your affiliate partners. Look to provide content, guides and other educational pieces as this will not only help you attain new customers but also helps create stronger relationships with your partners. Additionally, if you can clearly explain to customers what makes up their bill and how they could save money this builds trust and will help convert your customers. This is an obvious short-term benefit but think of the longer-term benefits too! For suppliers who are Advertisers directly, you’re more likely to retain customers as they have trust in you; for Price Comparison Sites you now have a customer who is more likely to return each year!

2: Use Seasonality

In the affiliate industry when we talk about seasonality we’re often referring to the impact of the Christmas period on retail as well as key events throughout the year such as Mother’s Day and Easter. 

For an industry like Energy, seasonality often refers to two key areas: temperature changes, and when the majority of plans expire.

These are often linked, as many people change their plan towards the end of the year as temperatures start to drop. However, you’ll often find customers are on switching cycles linked to historical price changes.

In 2017 British Gas lost over 800,000 customers following its price increase and competition from other suppliers. With most energy plans lasting about twelve months you’ll no doubt find lots of customers looking for new plans a year after an event like this. Use this logic throughout the year and be sure to use your internal data, as well as any public data to know when to really push your switching campaigns.

For Advertisers, this is when you really want to invest in exposure and potentially increasing your CPA, whilst ensuring you have competitive offers for customers. Also think about providing strong content to affiliates which focuses on seasonality. Content could discuss, temperature changes and educate consumers on the expected impact on their bills. This, coupled with a strong call to action can be one of the most effective ways to acquire new customers.

3: Take advantage of the media

We’ve all heard the term “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” but as shown with the recent price increases and data breaches, it can be very costly.

Instances like this are times of huge crisis, however for competitors this is great as you can expect swathes of customers to leave their providers. Whilst it’s hard to predict when events like this are going to happen it’s important to be agile and make sure you react quickly. Advertisers and affiliates should collaborate to find the best ways to reach potential customers. Homepage exposure and solus emails are big winners here!

Changes in regulation or parliamentary debates are also a great time to consider increased exposure. These stories often pick up traction in the news and will generally get comments from industry leaders and commentators such as politicians, Martin Lewis and uSwitch. Using these sources as a spark in interest can really be capitalised on!

Whilst speaking about Martin Lewis, when his show is being broadcast you should look to find out what topics he is talking about that week. As an industry expert he is well trusted and if he is suggesting customers should switch their broadband or energy provider, you will see huge spikes in people looking for the best deals. Advertisers should ensure that as well as having the best deals available that they have also booked in exposure with key affiliates as well as competitive commission rates.

Allow the mainstream media to generate interest and captialise on this by ensuring you have a strategy in place to attract as many customers to your sites or services as possible.

4: Competitor analysis

In all businesses knowing who your competitors are and what that they are doing well may seem obvious but it’s important to know how you compare.

In the affiliate industry for Utilities you’re largely looking at two key affiliate types: Price Comparison Sites (PCWs) and cashback/loyalty.

With comparison sites it is essential that you have competitive plans, as rankings are generally listed in terms of price. In the energy industry this is strictly adhered to by PCWs who follow the Ofgem Confidence Code, so the best way to appear high in the rankings is to have the best price. Monitoring other supplier prices is essential, ensuring you have competitive prices in peak times of the year. Think about how you can use your seasonal data to help with this strategy.

When working with cashback and loyalty sites Advertisers are generally listed in terms of popularity. It’s likely that anyone appearing above you is generating more switches or service changes. To rank well, you’ll have to look at booking in exposure, which could place you at the top of your chosen category or even on the home page of a website. This will greatly increase the number of potential customers seeing your brand. Coupled with increased cashback rates or points you’ll gradually move up the rankings.

When looking at cashback rates it’s important to know who you’re competing against, are you competing against other suppliers/providers or other PCW’s? You’ll often find suppler and providers offering up to four times the cashback rates of PCWs so there is little point for these distinct groups to be directly comparing themselves. You can also compare payment times, and use a quick cashback payment time to convert that customer.

To summarise any Utilities brand wanting to make the most out of the affiliate channel should ensure they do the following:

  • Build trust with your customers by educating them
  • Use seasonal data to inform exposure decisions
  • Take advantage of the media driven interest
  • Always monitor competitors

To learn more about what the affiliate model can do for your business, reach out to our global, industry-leading programme management team.

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