U.S. Department of Energy Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy U.S. Department of Energy Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy

Proven Practices: Satisfied Customers/Word-of-Mouth Referrals

Posted on March 14, 2016

Some residential energy efficiency programs seek to raise credibility with their target audience, so they turn to “social modeling” techniques with satisfied customers. Social modeling is the process by which program participants demonstrate or indicate that they personally engage in a desired behavior. Using this approach, successful residential energy efficiency programs have found that encouraging word-of-mouth outreach by satisfied customers can help attract more homeowners to complete energy assessments and upgrades. Many programs have found that homeowners are more likely to participate and complete upgrades after hearing neighbors or peers describe their experience and how they have benefited.

Programs have had success promoting upgrades by giving customers yard signs to post during and after project completion. They have also asked participants who were happy with their results to appear in advertising, provide testimonials, and share the benefits through their social networks. Following are a few approaches that programs across the country have successfully implemented:

Start With Trusted Neighbors and Colleagues

Michigan Saves promoted home energy upgrades in 58 different communities across the state by working with trusted, high-profile early adopters during the program’s initial promotional efforts. In Grand Rapids, Michigan, through a partnership with Grand Valley State University (GVSU), the program provided free energy assessments to 10 to 15 recognizable, credible community members, then included photographs and quotes from them on postcards mailed to the community. Having the word-of-mouth referrals of these satisfied customers and several high-level contacts at GVSU to explain the program to colleagues helped spur nearly 10% of employees to sign-up and saw investments in deeper upgrades increase by one third, compared to similar communities in the state.

Turn Satisfied Customers Into Ambassadors

The Small Town Energy Program in University Park, Maryland, (STEP-UP) took advantage of the close-knit nature of the community by encouraging satisfied customers to serve as program ambassadors, and using local and inexpensive materials to spread awareness, such as postcards, lawn signs, local newsletters, and email listservs. Seeing the signs on their neighbors’ lawns and hearing about their good experiences helped gain more residents’ trust in the program. After deploying the signs in the neighborhood, new program sign-ups surged. By using social marketing, STEP-UP was able to spend only 3 percent of its budget on marketing and instead allocate resources to other program components.

Milwaukee Energy EfficiencyIncentivize Referrals

The Milwaukee Energy Efficiency program (Me2) in Wisconsin used social media networks such as Facebook to promote referral rewards to customers who recruited friends and family to sign up for the program. Homeowners who entered friends’ contact information on the Me2 website were eligible for a free LED light bulb, and both parties could receive $50 if the friend signed up for the program.

Tell Me More 

Discover more marketing and outreach lessons learned by visiting the Better Buildings Residential Program Solution Center Marketing & Outreach – Develop Implementation Plans handbook for step-by-step guidance and program examples.

Haven’t used the Residential Solution Center before? Get started here!

Posted Date: 
Monday, March 14, 2016