As the New Year approaches, we're dedicating a little time to reflecting on the past year and looking forward to the next. Last week we published a post looking back at the top Energy Circle blog posts of 2013. We're following that up this week with a look forward at the major Home Performance marketing trends for 2013.
Here are 7 developments that we believe will have a significant impact on how home performance and home energy related businesses need to market themselves to drive the industry forward in 2014:
The Rise of Third Party Reviews
Reviews have been a big deal in the local business search landscape in the past year, and all signs suggest that they will continue to be in the coming year. Check out our posts about phony reviews making major media, how the new internet economy is based on trust, and Google's new review monitoring system for a deeper dive at why.
But the short story: they're an increasingly important search ranking factor, and consumers are expecting them more and more. Third party reviews are unavoidable, and the best approach to dealing with them is a repeatable system of asking all your customers for feedback, then turning to your promoters for online reviews.
More Advertising Opportunities
Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are all developing highly targetable, geo-focused advertising systems. These are important and significant not only because of the growing importance of social media for small business marketing, but simply because they offer an incredible level of customer segmentation that, combined with the affordability of the channel, make them a marketing opportunity that can be extremely powerful.
The Mandate of Pay-Per-Click Advertising
Our view of PPC has changed over 2013. While we used to think of it as a useful but not mandatory advertising opportunity, we've proven in 2013 that paid search advertising is working home performance. But it's not even that it just works: due to changes in Google's search results pages, which are giving less real estate to "organic" listings in favor of business directory and Maps results, it's tougher than ever to get your organic listing above the fold in results (on the screen that's visible before you begin to scroll down a page), and PPC advertising may be your only shot at doing so. For companies that want to grow, PPC is now a requirement in our view.
Sophisticated Segmentation is a Must
Successful Home Performance marketers will be deploying increasingly sophisticated segmentation strategies in the coming year. Not everyone is a good prospect for home performance and, with limited budgets, we need to aim our arrows at only the best prospects. For those targets, tailored messages maximize the chances that they'll convert. The meat axe advice that has permeated our industry--like "never talk about climate change"--needs to be thrown on its head. If 20% of the population cares deeply about climate change (which by the standards of our industry is a massive number of houses), serve them the message they want. Just don't talk climate change to the tea party member who only cares about sending less money to the utility.
Google+ Moves from Necessary Evil to Useful (it's always been critical)
We've long trumpeted the importance of Google+. And in 2014 it appears that Google may finally have its act together, which will make this all-important channel even more so. Merged pages will make content on G+ much more relevant, and the addition of the review dashboard is a sign that Google Local is moving towards something more real, useful and valuable. Google's emphasis on making sure Google+ is relevant will not lessen, so we're sure to continue to see major changes in the coming year.
What's Old is New
We've always been bullish on old school tactics like strong brands, great vehicle messaging, community outreach, and even door to door marketing. In 2014, we're sensing that online fatigue may make these mediums even more effective. Sadly, online advertisers don't understand the concept of restraint, and the invasiveness of interruption marketing will grow more and more tiresome. Some are even talking now about Peak Facebook as quarterly earnings force them to monetize every bit of that experience. Some good ole fashioned tactics in your mix, we think, is a good idea.
Agile Companies Will Win
Regardless of how good these predictions are, what's unassailable is that change will continue to rule. The Local marketing space is one in which there is constant change and a great deal of innovation going on. Companies that structure their marketing teams and plans to accommodate this inevitable state of churn will win. Agility is the new marketing watchword.
We'd love to hear what you think about all this, or if you think we missed anything. Feel free to chime in in the comments!