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The UtilityXpert Series Part 1: A Sitdown with Jason Turner, ID Lab Global

Posted By Nishaant Sangaavi, Friday, March 15, 2019

In the UtilityXpert roundups, we typically find the industry’s best news and share it among our audience. This week ask industry experts and thought leaders a few questions and heard their answers on what should drive the utility industry forward.

We’re all busy and want quick reads that give us interesting and actionable things to think about so we’re keep it simple – two questions, two unique answers.

Our first instalment comes from a veteran marketer with over 25 years of experience marketing everything from fast cars, to rock n’ roll, to helping rebuild one of the largest online retailers in the world. His energy sector pedigree is equally impressive.

We invited Jason Turner, Co-Founder of ID Lab, one of the energy sector’s fastest growing marketing and strategy agencies, to kick off our UtilityXpert series.

He’ll be talking about the challenges of marketing for, and with utilities. Here’s what he had to say.

Question 1:

Often, utility marketing and communications is thought of as being far behind other sectors. They compare utilities to consumer products and services companies in the private sector and admonishing the utilities and citing their insufficient use of technology. Why do you think that is?


This perception of utilities is untrue and, in many cases, naive. Too often I hear ill-informed analysts labeling utilities as uncaring, unskilled or lacking innovation when it comes to marketing and communications. For the vast majority of the utilities ID Lab works with this is simply not the case.

Here’s the reality…utility marketers and communicators are trying to get by with what they have. It’s true most utilities lack the marketing technologies needed to effectively compete in what’s becoming a fast moving and competitive market (this market change is new for utilities) –  this is undeniable and for the utility marketing and communications departments it’s very frustrating. They know there are better technologies out there, like EnergyX, that could make a world of difference to their marketing efforts. They want to innovate, they want to better target their customers and they want to be more efficient with their marketing spends. They get it and know the path they need to take. However, they have some big obstacles. Some of the biggest obstacles we regularly see at ID are:

  • IT Support/Capacity: Utilities are notoriously understaffed in IT. Asking IT to implement a new integrated marketing tool takes 1 to 3 years (optimistically).

  • Budget: Regulators of all types across the country are squeezing and scrutinizing how utilities use ratepayer dollars. Regulators often don’t understand what it truly takes from marketing and communications to motivate customers to save energy and change their behavior help to improve the utilities’ overall cost effectiveness so they are making spending on marketing technologies excessively difficult. Because of this regulator limitation, and other budgetary issues, marketing and communications departments struggle to get the funding they need to engage the technologies that will enable them to the job they know they need to do.

  • Implementers: Most utilities give the bulk of their program/product/service marketing to implementers and hope that the implementers are using the latest tools and techniques to effectively market on their behalf. Because the utilities are getting their budgets squeezed they, in turn, squeeze implementers which limits the implementer’s budget to spend on the latest tools and technologies. It’s a tough circle that both of them have gotten locked into.  

Question 2:

Can these issues be overcome and, if so, how?


There’s no denying that everyone involved is currently in a, what seems to be, perpetual cycle that leaves everyone stuck with the dated status quo.

The good news is that there is a way out for most utilities: deploy SaaS-based tools. Specifically, SaaS marketing and targeting tools that are easily shared and managed across internal and external marketing teams.

I recognize the implications of what I’m saying, and I know that many of those reading this will immediately jump to obstacles like security, customer data privacy, legacy systems, IT department capacity, budget and a host of other obstacles. They are all, somewhat, legitimate but not insurmountable and quite frankly, inaction is not an option. We see the mounting competitive pressure on utilities and we also see that customers are becoming more disenchanted with utilities because most other companies are engaging them so much better than utilities can. Because we did s a lot of consumer products marketing in the private sector, we know what tools it takes to satisfy customers, so we share our utilities clients worry about the future of customer engagement. Also, marketing inefficiencies only get exponentially worse with inadequate tools/technologies because the resources required to compensate for those tools increases as market pressures mount making the TCO (total cost of ownership) untenable.

Look at businesses as straightforward as pizza companies. They have a fraction of the revenue and resources that utilities have yet their use of technologies (marketing automation, robots, self-driving deliver cars, apps, etc.) is lightyears ahead. Look at Domino’s – they’re so dedicated to using technology that they have an 800-person tech team for a company that is half the size of most utilities. Yes, they have simpler business models; so look at highly complex and data-sensitive companies like Blue Cross – same scenario – safely and securely exploiting advanced marketing technologies. Air travel, pizza, healthcare and a host of others are all successfully using modern SaaS-based marketing tools. Today’s reputable SaaS vendors have risen to the challenges utilities face when it comes to safety and security and have platforms that meet utility requirements.

When it comes to working with IT, that’s a tough one. Most utilities’ IT departments are understaffed so, and I don’t blame them, their immediate answer to new technology requests is “no” or “ok, we can put that on the schedule to look at next year”. One thing that’s worked for us are time studies. We work with the utility IT department, a vendor like EnergyX and marketing departments to look at what the TCO (total cost of ownership) is for the current technology compared to the proposed through examining how much time/resources is required to use/maintain the current technology versus the proposed. In the vast majority of cases the new technology ends up saving IT significant effort, time and money.

Surprisingly, cost often meets with the greatest initial resistance but is overcome the quickest. How, by proving out the MROI and/or ROI. If the utility has marketing program performance metrics (by channel), marketing-related costs, market potential, marketing technology support costs and a cursory understanding of consumer behaviour a MROI can be made between current and proposed technologies. If the marketing metrics are not readily available, a simple ROI can be calculated. In ID’s experience the new technology usually wins hands down.

Original article from EnergyX Solutions Inc.


Tags:  Energy Efficiency  marketing 

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Xcel Energy Garners AESP Award for Personalized Video Messaging Program

Posted By Karen Morris, Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Enhancing the Customer Experience and Improving Brand Perception

For Immediate Release:

Atlanta, GA - January 23, 2019 - Today during the Association of Energy Service Professionals’ (AESP) 29th National Conference in San Antonio, Texas, attended by more than 700 utility professionals, Xcel Energy was recognized for outstanding achievement in customer engagement. AESP is dedicated to bringing veteran and young energy industry professionals together to highlight the most forward-thinking energy companies and to help advance their careers. The AESP Energy Award is granted to select utilities annually to recognize the spirit of innovation. Xcel Energy’s outbound communications program, developed by Apogee Interactive, combines customer engagement, customer satisfaction, education, and program promotions.

Xcel Energy’s Personalized Video Messaging (PVM) program has achieved strong results in customer engagement using proactive, personalized videos to educate customers about how to lower their electric bills, prepare for heating and cooling seasons, delivers annual energy summaries as well as and an email message with information about online energy audits and other programs.

The pilot program, which has now gone to scale, showed that 89 percent of Xcel Energy customers found the videos were very or somewhat useful, with 93 percent giving encouraging feedback. Of the recipients responding, 58 percent reported an improved perception of the Xcel Energy brand.

Engagement, as measured by open and click-thru rates were equally impressive.  Open rates topped 50 percent with click-thru rates of 16 percent an increase of what the company typically experiences. Perhaps the most notable accomplishment of the pilot was the 15 percent reduction in calls to the contact center from the treatment group receiving the personalized videos vs. the control.

Apogee’s CEO, Susan Gilbert stated, “Today’s highly competitive marketplace has proven that regardless of industry, companies that deliver personal and relevant messaging find increased customer engagement.” She added, “Our clients are seeing astounding and lasting results with our outbound communications platform, Apogee is proud to serve Xcel Energy and support their innovative approach to customer engagement.”

About Apogee Interactive: Apogee Interactive is a woman-owned business and is the nation’s leading full-service provider of proactive customer engagement software services for utilities. As a partner with the utility industry since 1993, Apogee’s digital engagement platform delivers proactive and personalized communication to hundreds of North American utilities from coast to coast, including some of the largest and most progressive, such as Southern Company, Lakeland Electric, and Jackson EMC. For more information visit or on LinkedIn.

About Xcel Energy:

Xcel Energy (NASDAQ: XEL) provides the energy that powers millions of homes and businesses across eight Western and Midwestern states. Headquartered in Minneapolis, the company is an industry leader in responsibly reducing carbon emissions and producing and delivering clean energy solutions from a variety of renewable sources at competitive prices. For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter and Facebook.


Tags:  Apogee Interactive  award  customer engagement  digital engagement  marketing 

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Email Marketing: Move Beyond Segmentation to Insight Driven Personalization

Posted By Karen Morris, Thursday, August 23, 2018


Good marketers know the importance of delivering the personalized experience customer expect. Personalized email campaigns begin with segmentation but in our data rich digital world we can now move one step further to one on one marketing also known as the segment of one.

Now having access to more customer data utilities can easily create personal, and relevant email campaigns. How relevant and personal can you get? Here are a few ways, threshold bill alerts, video bill explanations only sent to households with higher bills, demand response notifications, weather notifications, and more all including useful relevant tips.

The beauty of email marketing lies in the fact that they open the doors to a wide array of customer data begging to be analyzed, categorized, optimized. Thanks to these tools, we have access to detailed insights about our audience and can carefully tailor messages to drive open rates and customer engagement!

Audience Demographics

Without much effort, you can easily start segmenting based on location, home profile, income, age, and energy use patterns. In addition, gathering home profile data through your preference center or your online Energy Advisor ensures that your messages are even more exact. For instance, sending HVAC upgrade tips to someone in a multifamily home is not helpful. Someone eligible for your low-income program would rather see low-cost or no-cost tips. Having granular knowledge of your service territory allows you to deliver messages that customers appreciate. It all goes back to fostering a trusting relationship.

Do you know, that young families are more conscious of how much they’re spending on their utility bill? Or you might gather, through household income demographics, that higher-income customers are more engaged in pricing programs, like San Diego Gas & Electric discovered. These are the kinds of insights that will allow you to start building trust with your audience that goes beyond efficient billing.

Email Engagement

Measure the success of your email campaigns by analyzing open rates, unsubscribes, and click through rates to determine how much your audience is interested and willing to engage with your brand.

Looking at email analytics is also an effective way to see which kind of content your audience wants to see. Apogee finds that our utility clients sending emails with video bills not only receive click through rates that are more than 3 times their average baseline but are sustained proving continued customer engagement.

Energy Use Data

Apogee has used customer energy use data to identify customers that have recently experienced a bill hike, we then send this group personalized energy tips and bill explanations messages on how to avoid it happening again. We are seeing as much as 98% of customers wanting to see more of these personalized messages and an increase in utility brand perception.

Are you moving towards the segment of one?

It’s important here to remember that if you’re new to segmentation, always start simple. Apogee can help move you closer to the segment of one.

Have you already started segmenting your audience? What’s worked for you? Let us know!


About the Author: Ann Fracas, VP of Business Development

Prior to joining Apogee Interactive, Ann was an enterprise sales executive in the technology and consulting industries. Her career started at Georgia Power in IT and then moved to sales at Adobe, Foxit, and DayNine Consulting Services.

Ann focuses on a consultative ‘customer first’ approach driven by business needs, and value. She is a Georgia Tech graduate, having received her Bachelor of Science in Industrial Management with a concentration in Information Systems. She has a passion for developing strong long-term business relationships, and finding the right solutions to maximize a client’s investment.

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Tags:  Apogee  email  marketing 

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Michaels Energy Receives Best Firm, Marketing Excellence, & Well Workplace Awards

Posted By Brittany Simonson, Tuesday, August 8, 2017
Michaels Energy is excited to announce three recent awards: Zweig Group Best Firms To Work For Award, Zweig Group Marketing Excellence Award, and Well Workplace Award for Small Business.

Michaels received an award in the Multi-Discipline category of the 2017 Zweig Group Best Firms To Work For Awards, a prestigious ranking honoring the creation of outstanding workplaces at architecture, landscape architecture, geotechnical, environmental, and civil, structural, and multi-discipline engineering firms. Grading was based on a combination of employee surveys and corporate evaluations, then ranked by category. For a complete list of winners, click here.

Zweig Group’s Marketing Excellence Awards recognize outstanding and effective marketing across the industry. Michaels Energy received awards in three categories in 2017 - Internal Marketing, Holiday, and External Newsletter. Entries were judged by a team at Zweig, and evaluated based on overall creativity, level of design, and demonstrated measurable results. You can learn more about the Zweig Group's Marketing Excellence Awards here.

To earn the Well Workplace Award, there are ten specific steps that WELCOA (Wellness Council of America) requires a small business to adopt:
1.   Capturing CEO Support
2.   Designating a Company Wellness Leader
3.   Conducting an Employee Health Interest Survey
4.   Providing an Opportunity for Health Screening
5.   Administering an Annual Physical Activity Campaign
6.   Holding a Healthy Eating In-service/Lunch 'n Learn
7.   Establishing an In-house Wellness Library
8.   Disseminating a Quarterly Health Newsletter
9.   Implementing Healthy Policies and Procedures
10.  Supporting Community Health Efforts

Michaels Energy was asked to participate in the Well County – La Crosse (WI) initiative. The goal is to have 20% of the workforce in La Crosse County work for employers that have won the Well Workplace Award. La Crosse County is now one employer closer to their goal.

Michaels is honored to be recognized with these awards and looks forward to maintaining or improving upon these initiatives in the future. To learn more about Michaels Energy, visit

Tags:  Best Firm to Work For  Engineering Firm  Marketing  Marketing Excellence  Michaels Energy  Well Workplace  Zweig Awards 

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First Launch of Apogee Interactive’s Technology in Canada

Posted By Karen Morris, Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Canadian Utility to Launch Apogee Interactive’s Energy Calculators for Residential and Commercial Customers

First Launch of Apogee Interactive’s Technology in Canada


ATLANTA (May 18, 2017) –  A Canadian utility will soon launch Apogee Interactive’s Energy Advisor for its residential customers and Apogee’s Commercial Energy Calculator for business customers, proven industry-leading technologies designed to help customers lower their energy bills and leverage the utility’s energy efficiency products and services.

The partnership marks a milestone for Apogee, as it is Apogee’s first partnership with a Canadian utility provider. The Canadian utility plans to use the online tools to engage customers, providing them with more information on their usage and helping them understand how energy efficiency practices and behaviors can lower their power bills.

The Energy Advisor and Commercial Energy Calculator will help customers learn what drives their electric consumption and the factors that impact costs and fluctuations in their bill. Business customers who use the Commercial Energy Calculator will also be directed to efficient products and services offered by the utility to help them lower energy costs and improve their business’ bottom line.   

Features of the Energy Advisor include:

·         A responsive user interface

·         Energy saving recommendations and links to programs

·         Utility branding

·         Usage analytics

·         Energy libraries designed to further educate consumers who are engaged online.

The Commercial Energy Calculator incorporates the Energy Advisor features and can also assist account managers and commercial auditors. It offers a wide array of tools designed to better serve business customers of varying sizes. 

“We are honored to be chosen by a Canadian utility to help them improve their customer experience,” said Susan Gilbert, President and CEO of Apogee Interactive. “Our Energy Advisor is a proven solution for utilities seeking to provide their customers with a hands-on, personalized experience.”

About Apogee Interactive

Apogee Interactive is the nation’s leading provider of customer engagement technology for utilities. Partnering with utilities since 1993, Apogee’s digital engagement platform delivers proactive, personalized communication to residential and commercial customers nationwide. Apogee’s proven SaaS platform enables more meaningful customer engagement, proven sustainable energy results, reduced operating costs, and improved program performance for utilities. For more information, please visit Follow us on Twitter at @apoweb and on Linkedin.

 Apogee Contact: Karen Morris – 678-684-6801 –

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Tags:  Apogee  customer engagement digital  energy  marketing 

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More like Ikea, Less like the IRS

Posted By Franklin Energy, Wednesday, July 13, 2016

I love a good catalog. I’m instantly transported to an idyllic place where my house is flawlessly decorated and organized. The throw pillows complement the loveseat (which matches the rug). Even the dog coordinates with his dog bed tucked neatly in the alcove. Sigh.

As you comb through each spread, there’s also a sense of familiarity. You know the brand. You identify with the look and feel. Recognize the products. You know the names, styles, cost, and ordering them is a cinch with those bolded product codes.

Why can’t everything be so satisfying and simple?

To read the full blog post click here.


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Tags:  application  catalog  energy  Energy Efficiency  energy efficiency programs  Franklin Energy  Franklin Energy Services  Franklin Energy Services LLC  incentive catalog  marketing 

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Posted By Jamie Delk, Thursday, May 5, 2016

PORT WASHINGTON, Wis.– Franklin Energy Services, LLC, a leading national energy efficiency program implementation firm, is honored to receive three awards from the 2016 BMA Milwaukee Bell Awards.

BMA Milwaukee recognizes B2B marketers and communicators in southeastern Wisconsin for their work over the past year, including categories such as print, campaigns, tradeshow presence, collateral, digital and more. BMA announced the Excellence and Bell Award winners Thursday, April 21.

A national judging panel reviewed 131 submissions, ultimately narrowing down to name one best of show, 23 Bell Award winners and 42 Excellence Award winners. Franklin Energy took home the top Bell Award in the ‘Digital Campaign’ category, along with Excellence Awards in ‘Self Promotion’ and ‘Printing.’ This is the third consecutive year Franklin Energy has submitted and been honored by the premier B2B Marketing Association.

“Our internal corporate communications, marketing and creative teams are behind the scenes; yet there’s no doubt their talents stand out in everything they produce,” said Kevin McDonough, Franklin Energy Services President. “Franklin Energy has a focus of being a leader in our industry by utilizing social media to reach and engage both our clients and their customers. To have that recognized alongside well-known agencies is a testament to our team’s caliber and expertise.”

 “Our creative, marketing and communication teams are experts at what they do and knowing our industry,” adds Tina Semotan, Franklin Energy Services Senior Vice President. “They work diligently to elevate not only our brand, but our client’s brands, through quality campaigns and collateral. They fully deserve these honors.”

The complete list of the 2016 Excellence and Bell Award recipients are available on the BMA Milwaukee chapter site.


Tags:  Bell Awards  BMA  Business Marketing Association  corpcomm  corporate communications  creative  digital  energy  Energy Efficiency  Excellence Awards  Franklin Energy  Franklin Energy Services  Franklin Energy Services LLC  marketing  printing  self promotion 

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