Sample NRECA market segmentation results.
Sample NRECA market segmentation results.

How many of your members are actively green or environmental skeptics? How many are somewhere in the middle?

These are important questions, particularly for electric cooperatives considering a community solar project or an efficiency push. But getting answers can be difficult and expensive.

To help, NRECA Market Research Services has released a new “market segmentation” tool designed to quickly determine co-op member attitudes toward energy efficiency and the environment. Using responses to eight simple statements, co-ops can place respondents into one of five categories: Actively Green, Conveniently Green, Indifferent Techies, Indifferent Analogs, and Environmental Skeptics.

“This is a powerful tool for co-ops wanting to take a more targeted approach when marketing their renewable energy and energy efficiency programs,” says Gina Ricci, market research manager at NRECA Market Research Services. “It’s a quick and effective way for them to find the members who are the most willing to participate.”

She says co-ops can use survey results to determine what types of programs are likely to be attractive to members, what messaging strategies may work for promoting green programs, and what media platforms would best hit their mark.

Duck River Electric Membership Corporation (EMC) turned to the market segmentation survey recently when it had difficulty selling shares of a 26-kilowatt community solar farm near its Shelbyville, Tenn., headquarters.

Despite broad promotional efforts, “it was still not fully subscribed” two years after the array came on-line, says Steve Oden, Duck River EMC’s director of member services. “We wanted to find a way to communicate to diverse segments instead of using a scatter-shot approach. When it comes to renewable energy, some listen and some don’t.”

With help from NRECA Market Research Services, the co-op used the survey tool to place more than 32 percent of its 72,000 members into the environmental segments.

With this intelligence in hand, the co-op was able to hone its marketing strategy, sending direct mail to a selection of their green-leaning members. Today, fewer than 42 solar units are unsold, and the co-op is considering breaking ground on another farm.

“Knowing who would likely respond to direct marketing—whose interest levels would be piqued— really helped,” Oden says.

At Owen Electric Cooperative in Owenton, Ky., the market segmentation study discovered that nearly 40 percent of members “were green to some degree, which was higher than we might have thought,” says Michael Cobb, senior vice president, customer service and marketing.

As a result, the co-op is looking at deploying a community solar project.

“Not only did the survey define distinct segments,” Cobb says, “it gave us information on what kind of messages would resonate with members and what kind of medium would work.”

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