Q&A: E.ON’s sales and marketing director

E.ON’s sales and marketing director Anthony Ainsworth on long-term marketing plans, the challenges of restoring customer trust in the energy sector and the benefits of loyalty over sales.

EONCustomerLoyalty-Campaign-2013
E.ON is rolling out a multi-million campaign that puts existing bill payers at the center of its messaging.

Marketing Week (MW): What led you to adopting rewarding existing customers over customer-acquisition as the lead message in your multi-million-pound marketing campaign?

Anthony Ainsworth (AA): Last year we launched our ‘Reset Review’ in an attempt to lay the groundwork for an approach that would allow us to do things differently from everyone else in the energy sector. We know the industry has trust problems so wanted to build a platform around this idea of ‘nobody does more for their existing customers’ to give us something that would really resonate with people. We’re still interested in attracting new customers but are focused on rewarding customer loyalty for the foreseeable future.

MW: How will you be supporting the current TV campaign with digital activity?

AA: We’re going to increase the level of social media and digital activity we do each time we launch a new campaign. We know that customers are engaging with brands in other industries more dynamically now and we’re looking to reflect that through everything we do moving forward.

In April a Facebook and Twitter campaign will launch that gets our customers to suggest what they would like to reward themselves for. The best ideas win cinema tickets along with other prizes. We want to get conversations going around what consumers value and what they treat themselves to. The idea is to try and get more customers engaging with our rewards push and the idea that loyal customers will get added value.

MW: Will you be looking to bring mobile further into the mix?

AA: We’re looking at how we can get the most from the mobile because we see is at a key channel for driving our rewards push forward. At the moment, we’re focused on ensuring that everything our customers can do online they can do from a mobile device as well. Once we’ve got this in place we’ll start to look at other areas of mobile development where we can really start to engage people with interesting content an applications.

MW: How will you be supporting the digital shift internally?

AA: The budget for our digital marketing team is growing quarter-on-quarter to support the shift. I’m putting particular investment this year into the digital and insights teams. The headcounts for both teams are also being expanded so that we really base our actions on what is valuable to customers; from the things we talk about in our campaigns to the way we talk to customers day-to-day, it all needs to be built on real customer insight if the strategy is going to set us apart in the energy sector.

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MW: How has the decision to focus E.ON’s sponsorship activity around local communities rather than high-profile events been influenced by the wider marketing strategy?

AA: Even though we’re doing a lot more work in the digital space now, there are customers who will prefer to come and talk to us face-to-face. The decision to change our sponsorship focus was one of the things we took away from our ‘Reset Review’. If we’re going to be talking about loyalty and bringing real value to the energy sector we felt we needed to move away from the very high-profile events and engage more locally with people in towns and regions. It’s a blend of our sales guys and advisers getting out into those communities but also doing a lot more with our corporate responsibility teams. We’re working through some things at the moment for later in the year that will really crystallise this.

MW: Are there plans to launch similar initiatives to E.ON’s pop-up ‘Open House’ store in the future?

AA: We launched the ‘Open House’ last year in Nottingham. Its been going for around five months now and is still in a test and learn phase for us. It’s performed well for us so far and customers say they appreciate the service but its still too early to say whether we’ll expand it. We’ll continue to monitor its performance and see what the best way to go is when the time is right.

MW: Will the proposed regulation around simplified tariffs restrict your strategy?

AA: I don’t think so. If prices become more comparable then having a great brand across all touchpoints will become a key differentiator for people. We support the government’s initiatives to make things simple, fair and transparent and have tried to stay ahead of the game with the cultural shift we’ve made over the last 12 months.

By focusing on existing customers and removing the discounts part of our tariff offering which were effectively being subsidised by them and making sure our services are more accessible we think our approach is in line with the government’s plans for the sector.

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