There is no getting away from it: energy prices are soaring. The surge is clear but there are more underlying reasons that make performance marketing complicated
2021 has been a remarkable year for energy consumers. In Europe, prices exploded, which opened doors for smaller players to make a move in a usually saturated market. Newcomers, like Bolt Energie, needed to play the game cleverly in order to beat their competitors on the edge of bankruptcy. During this journey we faced 3 major challenges.
The energy crisis caused a surge in energy prices across the Belgian market. The price is four times higher and the inflation in the energy sector is at a record high. It makes customers less loyal, a situation where you can either win or lose. It became very clear that the market players focussing on price could not keep their promises and an adaptation in communication strategy was required. Larger energy suppliers have been accused of greenwashing: covering up the black reality with a thin layer of green. That is where Bolt is making the difference. They are the very first energy platform that allows customers to buy their energy directly from local, green generators. So you know exactly where your energy comes from and where your money goes. A positioning that the market is craving for.
Secondly, with less advertising budgets compared to the traditional players, Bolt needs to be careful where and how much to invest their resources. Bolt does not have the margins to waste budget on driving ‘cold leads’. For every Performance Marketeer it is key to optimize your media investments towards a single North Star KPI. Given the main measurable action on the Bolt website is lead form submissions, the focus depended on this metric. However, lead-to-sales reports indicated that many of these submissions were not as qualitative. With Bolt we decided there was a need to shift focus towards the end goal: acquiring new contracts.
The third challenge we are facing is the slow death of cookies, which is not new. The recent privacy regulations (GDPR, CNIL) and technical implications (such as iOS14 and ITP), caused that measurability, the backbone of digital, is under fire. We’ll need to solve this for once and for all if we want to keep shedding light on our advertising efforts. Cookie usage has been on decline for 2 years now and the solutions within the MarTech industry are starting to get shape.
Building an automated first-party measurement strategy for sustainable growth
The question is simple: how can Bolt become more performant than their traditional competitors while lacking the same amount of resources? The answer is twofold:
- Defining our North Star KPI
- Deploying a first-party measurement strategy.
We’ve built a blueprint towards an automated first-party measurement strategy to overcome the challenges of generating sustainable business growth.
At the start of 2021 we only measured online lead form submissions. It is a good way to quantify our marketing efforts but it still leaves us in the dark. We were unable to answer the question ‘Do our ads bring new customer contracts?’ as we could end up with both a hot - or cold lead. Together with Bolt we decided to start looking at only 2 KPIs: the amount of contracts generated, and the cost per contract generated. This would give us a real view on their business results.
Knowing the amount of contracts generated by paid media is not easy. When a lead subscribes, the call center contacts that lead, and that leads status is only registered by the CRM system. We found an automated way of sharing CRM data with our advertising platforms. Let’s guide you through the steps with a fictive example of Paul who wants to change energy provider:
- Paul searches for ‘energy providers’. He clicks on a search ad and lands on Bolt’s website.
- From there, he can start a simulation to calculate his monthly price. This simulation is taking into account a big number of variables such as his location and house type.
- Once the simulation is done, Paul needs to leave his mail address and name to be able to discover his price simulation results. He can also ask to be recontacted by Bolt to directly discuss his needs and convert. At this step, Paul becomes a lead.
- If Paul decides to be recontacted, he becomes a hot lead and Bolt’s call center will get in touch with him to finalize the administration. The lead becomes a Contract.
As you understand, we can’t attribute the sales that were closed by the call center as this happens offline, rendering it useless for Google’s algorithm. This blind spot limits the amount of data to work with.
Building a pipeline between Salesforce and Google Marketing Platform
Together with Google, we introduced the concept of Offline Conversion Tracking (OCT) to answer this challenge. With OCT we inject offline data into our digital campaigns in order to optimize towards our north-star KPI: client acquisition. But how does this all work?
- When Paul clicks an advertisement, a clickID is stored
- If Paul fills out and submits our simulation form, that clickID is pushed along (only when consent is given obviously)
- This ID is stored and processed into our Salesforce CRM which makes Paul officially our lead!
- Now the magic happens: when the call centers successfully convert leads into contracts, they adapt the status within the CRM.
- The attached clickID is then automatically pushed back to our advertising platforms so we know exactly which ad pushed Paul to conversion without the usage of cookies.
This method created a strong synergy between Salesforce and Google Marketing Platform in order to further exploit both our Search and Display performances. We succeeded in leveraging machine learning technology to steer our investment towards users that create real value for our business. Since we have more qualitative data points, our bidding algorithm can discover new prospects more accurately, leading to a higher lead-to-contract rate and again more data. It’s a self-reinforcing cycle and the establishment of our very own first-party measurement strategy.
Optimizing operational efficiency for an improved bottom line
In order to obtain the best possible results Semetis made sure to closely monitor the performances. On a daily basis we optimized the account and shifted our budgets to the campaigns that provided Bolt the most contracts. In the first stage we still manually uploaded the offline contracts every week. As this was time consuming and caused a delay in fresh data, we took matters into our own hands and spotted the opportunity to automate the import process by closely collaborating with Google’s Tech team.
Lastly, we continued to optimize our search campaigns to the fullest with systematic adjustments of our target ROAS, securing sufficient liquidity for the algorithm to learn. Consistent keyword- and budget optimisations also helped us to take complete advantages of this additional data influx.
Resulting in more positive energy
The results were absolutely outstanding: subscriptions have soared since the implementation of OCT. We have seen an increase in contracts of 45% with a 17% lower investment. More importantly, our total cost per contract dropped by 43%! All of that during a challenging year for the energy industry.
We are ready to face the future. With the slow death of cookies, we can now count on our first-party measurement strategy in combination with machine learning to remain the sharpest in our industry.