AMI is a powerful technology that mines data from the depths of buried water infrastructure and empowers utility leadership with the knowledge they need to increase efficiency drastically. Most importantly, AMI detects water losses that detract from the revenue paramount to maintaining and preserving the integrity of our water system while also ensuring the sustainability of our most precious natural resource—water.
We get passionate about our jobs, don’t we?
Have you ever inadvertently launched into this pitch at the neighborhood picnic? Maybe it was at a church gathering or sporting event? Have you ever timed how quickly space frees up at your table or bleachers when this happens? Ever wondered why? We, the people, are bombarded by 5000 messages a day. Our brains are hardwired to process all of this incoming information and run it through the “what does this have to do with me?” filter. If the message doesn’t make the cut, it won’t even make it to the conscious mind for consideration.
AMI is a powerful tool for utilities and customers alike. But how can we communicate that message in a way that resonates with customers whose eyes would glaze over by the opening paragraph of this blog? The fallacy is to think you begin with the message. Success lies in beginning with your target audience in mind.
Define Your Audience
Messaging water is a challenge, but more so for the people crafting the message. It’s difficult because when we ask ourselves—“who is our audience?”—our immediate thought is usually— “everyone.” Everyone uses water so; therefore, the message needs to reach everyone, right? However, when you try to communicate with everyone you wind up reaching no one.
Who are you really trying to reach? High water users? New homeowners? Is there a particular neighborhood that is more vocal that you can turn into ambassadors for your AMI program? Technology has made it possible to reach any of these targets, but technology doesn’t replace the power of human-centric strategy and intent.
Study Your Audience
Having a deep understanding of your customer or ratepayer is the most valuable tool you can have in your toolbox. It’s time to move beyond standard demographics. Psychographics help you know more about your customers’ spending habits, hobbies, lifestyle, and behavioral trends, including communication behaviors. There are many free or low-cost resources available to help you gain more insight into your customer base. Sites like the American Time Use Survey demonstrate behavioral aspects such as the average time Americans spend eating, working, sleeping, etc. each day. There are also sites like Tapestry, a product of GIS company Esri, where you can enter in a zip code and find out both the demographic and psychographic segments of the community you serve.
This information helps you meet your customers where they are and can help take the guesswork out of what messaging will resonate most. Don’t make assumptions about what your customers want (or don’t want) based on the voices of a few. Get the facts so you can get your story straight.
Don’t Set it and Forget It
Don’t take the time to do the homework and then not turn it in. This is what happens when we “set and forget” our strategy. Effective communication is like planting a seed—it needs nurturing. Use techniques like the built-in A/B testing option in your email platform to see what messaging gets more engagement.
Don’t just measure the goal metrics, meaning don’t just measure the number of sign-ups at the end of every week. Ultimately, despite your best efforts, you have no control over those numbers. You do, however, control your input, which increases your odds of achieving your goal metrics. You don’t lose weight because you step on the scale every week. You lose weight because you watch your track your food intake and exercise regularly—your input and effort. What are the measures you control that impact your desired outcome?
Don’t let the FOMO (fear of missing out) lead you to believe that by targeting your approach, you’re leaving others out as a result. The goal isn’t to reach everyone all at once. The goal is to reach the people you want to reach most in a manner and place that resonates with them and inspires them to take action. You only achieve this through laser focus. Stay the course, measure your inputs, and tweak the strategy when necessary.