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Marketing for companies in the energy sector,
this guide will get you started.

Challenges and opportunities for marketeers in the field of energy.

Marketing in the energy sector is a complex endeavor. With stakeholders that can range from government authorities all the way to environmental activists, your marketing programs need to connect and communicate with multiple audiences, and at the same time help you achieve your sales goals.

In this marketing guide, we cover the unique challenges and opportunities of marketing in the field of energy. Whether you want to strengthen your content marketing programs, incorporate agile marketing techniques, make sure you avoid greenwashing or learn how to navigate shifts in public opinion, the articles in this guide will help you overcome obstacles and plan a successful marketing path forward.

marketeers energy company

FREE ebook on marketing for companies in the energy sector

In this marketing guide, you’ll learn how to:

  • boost your content marketing programs
  • add value to your reference marketing
  • adopt a more agile marketing approach
  • navigate shifts in public opinion
  • and lots more

This free ebook shows you how to leverage your marketing communications and build an inbound lead generating machine.

cover ebook energy marketing

At Living Stone, we help marketers in the energy sector to make their mark. To share their company’s story, to present information in a way that makes a difference – to plant a flag that proclaims excellence and value. We are experts in conventional as well as digital marketing for companies in the energy sector.

Our tools are easy to implement and build on the existing corporate tradition, sales customs and market ambitions of our customers. We’ve been helping marketers make an impact for more than 25 years.

Read more about our ENGIE Laborelec case below and learn how we help them generating more leads by boosting their digital performance.

Content marketing energy sector

The return of content marketing: why content is still your most powerful marketing activity

For organizations in the field of energy, there’s a significant need to provide information to a variety of stakeholders. Your customers and prospects might be your “top” target groups, but you also have a wide assortment of other audiences that you need to communicate with, ranging from your local community to government regulators. As a result, your content strategy might need to cover everything from educating your audiences on your technologies and services to developing position papers that articulate your company’s position on government policy or regulations.

It sounds like a lot. But this hunger for information also represents a powerful opportunity for your organization: to use content marketing to position your company as a trusted expert and advisor.

Operating a business in the energy sector can be very complicated.

Even your most important customers might not understand everything relating to your industry or product. Technologies are complex, and they’re always changing. Government policies can drive or reduce demand. And consumers can react emotionally to pricing changes, or even to claims from activists about the nature of your business.

By taking the lead and developing a strategic content marketing program, you can counter these challenges, and build a strong position for your company. The right content marketing program will allow you to:

Educate your audiences on the technologies, markets, frameworks in which your services are delivered.
Energy services and products are often delivered through complicated networks involving different organizations, subsidies, etc. Make it easy for your stakeholders to understand the framework, and exactly where your organization fits in and what you supply.

Be the expert on trends and new developments.
You’re perfectly positioned to explain the development, and what it means for different groups (i.e. what will the impact be on your customers, society, government, the climate, etc.) You’ve got the expertise and experience to understand the implications, while some of your audiences may not – help them out by explaining in a way that everyone can understand.

Have an opinion and share your position on technologies, regulations, trends, etc.
Is a government policy making it tough for your technology to break through? Do you believe your government is supporting the wrong technology, or not paying enough attention to a certain type of technology? Outline your position in a position paper, with evidence to support it. This ensures your prospects and customers know exactly where you stand, and the reasons behind your commitment to a technology or program.

So how can you strengthen your approach to content marketing?

Try these steps to get a clear snapshot of the current scope of your program, and identify any areas you need to expand.

1. First, list all the content you already have.

Create a spreadsheet with the type of content, where it is kept, the audience it was created for, the additional audiences who use it, and how much it cost.

2. Then, make a list of all the stakeholders that you communicate with.

Your list might look something like this, with subcategories under some of these headings:

  • Customers
  • Prospects
  • Your local communities – near your office, plant, regional locations
  • Your customer sites, and the communities near them
  • Industry associations
  • Government
  • Regulatory bodies

3. Compare the content you have, against your list of stakeholders.

Do you see any gaps? Do you have a lot of content for one group of stakeholders, for example, and none for another group? Now that you have a clear overview of your current content, you can define how you want to expand and strengthen it.

4. Choose your key audiences, and define your key messaging.

Decide who your key stakeholders are, and what types of information they need. How do you want them to perceive your company? Do you want to be known as a “green” organization, or is cost-savings the most important criteria for your customers? Define your key messages, for each target group.

5. Choose the content types you need for each stakeholder group.

List all of the content you’d like to have for each stakeholder group. Don’t worry about budget yet. List everything, and you can prioritize once your lists are is complete.

Keep the focus on storytelling and people

And lastly, as you develop new content, remember to keep the focus on people, even if your solutions are highly technical. While your solar project might produce over 9,800 megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity per year, for example, make sure to highlight what it means for the people who use it – that this would be roughly equivalent to the amount of electricity 7,000 people would consume every year.

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reference marketing energy sector

The power of customer reference marketing

Customer references, case studies, success stories – whatever you call them, they’re often the best-performing of all B2B content types. According to US-based researcher DemandGen, in its B2B Content Preferences Survey, ” fully 32% of respondents viewed case studies as the most valuable form of online content when researching a potential purchase.

Why are they so successful? Well, for multiple reasons. First, and most important, is that people trust the opinions of other professionals like them. A customer reference highlights the strong partnership between your customers and your company. It represents an endorsement by a very credible third party, and offers a clear, unbiased perspective (say as compared to your marketing brochures, which are viewed as “biased” sales tools.)

Customer references also introduce a real-life perspective that makes the information they contain even more valuable. They can show, in specific detail, how a solution can be implemented and all of the benefits that it delivers, all from the point-of-view of a respected third-party.

The storytelling aspect also makes them more compelling. They’re stories about people, and they follow a familiar arc – situation, challenge, solution, results. Recognize it? It’s the tech version of the age-old Hero’s Journey, the narrative pattern that has shaped stories and myths since the beginning of time (and that familiarity is probably another reason for their popularity).

Educate new markets and introduce new technology

Customer references also represent one of the best ways to introduce a technology to a new market. If one of your marketing requirements is to educate your market on your technology, for example, customer cases can be a very effective way to show how your solutions work in action, and how they benefit actual customers. Engagement starts when prospects can identify with a challenge or problem and the solution. If the customers you profile are willing to respond to questions from prospects, that is especially powerful (as long as you take care not to inconvenience your customer).

Cost-effective marketing

Customer reference marketing offers one of the most cost-effective and flexible ways to augment your marketing programs. You can do as many or as few customer references as you like, adding photography and video as your budget allows. And you can maximize your marketing spend on a specific customer case by using the material in different ways and formats across social media, your website, brochures, ads, press releases, sales presentations and more, as well as spotlighting the complete version of the case on your website. You can also hold a joint event with a featured customer to present the reference case, highlighting the case and recognizing the customer at the same time.

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Agile marketing

How to shift to a more agile marketing approach

Have you considered an agile marketing approach? Based on the concept of agile product management, the agile approach is about testing and incorporating feedback all along the development process, refining the product as you proceed. The agile concept originated in IT and software development, where frequent testing as products are developed helps work out the bugs and finetune the user experience. The result is a better “final” product, because it incorporates everything that’s been learned on the way.

When applied to marketing, the idea is similar. But instead of testing and refining products, you test and refine your marketing initiatives as you proceed, using trial and error and lots of feedback to make them as strong and targeted as possible.

The agile approach has been embraced by many companies, and applied to a wide range of functions, from operations to supply chain management. But where it really offers an advantage is in marketing. The main reason is the digital world where most of our marketing takes place. Thanks to marketing automation and all of the metrics and analytics we now have access to, we can track how a single email or a single post on social media performs. And we can use that information to adjust our tactics and messaging quickly and easily.

How might an agile marketing department look in action?

Rather than rolling out a large-scale campaign where every element has been finalized, for example, an agile marketing approach focuses on much smaller elements of a campaign, with frequent opportunities to pause, assess and adjust. It involves keeping a close eye on the data, being open to experimenting and pivoting based on the numbers and the responses you achieve. This might mean launching marketing programs in small increments, monitoring activity, and making adjustments to really zero in on your goals. You can apply what you learn from launching an email campaign in one country, for example, to make the rollouts in other regions a lot stronger.

At some companies, like Google or Facebook, “agile” is in their DNA, so it’s a lot easier to apply the agile concept to marketing. These organizations are already accustomed to the frequent scrums and de-briefings that the agile approach is based on, because they use this style of management widely. For other companies, though, with more traditional structures and ways of operating, it’s harder to switch to an agile framework.

But there are lots of ways you can incorporate the speed and flexibility benefits of agile into a more traditional marketing approach. Consider these ideas to boost the agility and responsiveness of your marketing teams and programs:

  • Assign cross-functional teams to focus on specific marketing goals like customer retention, lead generation, and new product launches
  • Introduce daily or weekly “scrums,” to get updates on progress and plan for next steps
  • Ensure that you and your teams have the right technology tools and access to all the data
  • Experiment with A/B testing, different headlines, CTAs, etc., for all aspects of your programs
  • Use a feedback loop for all elements: plan, design, launch, feedback, adjust, launch …. and repeat
  • Work with legal, regulatory and compliance throughout the process, not just at the end. Ask them to assign someone to each of your project teams so they can assist with the approval processes
  • Considering creating a library of pre-approved content and messaging that you can draw from at the outset of a campaign, instead of having to put each adjusted message through the approval process as you finetune
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lead scoring energy sector

Why you should use lead scoring to evaluate your leads

How do you know when to hand a lead over from marketing to sales? Or when an MQL converts to an SQL? (A Marketing Qualified Lead converting to a Sales Qualified Lead.) With lead scoring, you assign a value to each lead (typically a points system), based on the behavior and profile of that particular lead. You can choose multiple attributes to include in your score, ranging from specifics on the size of a company or the title of an individual, to how they’ve interacted with your content online. Once you’ve set up your scoring system, your lead scoring will allow you to identify exactly where your leads are in your funnel, and when it’s time for marketing to pass a lead over to sales.

More valuable leads

Not only does a lead scoring system mean sales gets more valuable leads, it also means you can track the ROI on your marketing activities with a lot more precision. This provides your marketing and sales teams with a wider perspective on how all of the elements in your marketing programs are performing. It will also show how many of your qualified leads sales is successfully closing.

To set up your scoring system, you can refer to historical data on your sales, to see which types of companies evolved from prospects to customers, and which ones did not. You can weight more heavily for selected criteria – demographics, for prospects from a certain region or organization size; engagement, with your emails or social media; or online behavior, for example. (Make sure to consult with sales on your criteria and weighting.) And keep in mind that your scoring system will need to be adjusted on an ongoing basis, incorporating feedback from sales and your systems teams, to make sure it’s accurate and works smoothly.

As your company grows, or you want to do more with lead scoring, you can expand your scoring system to accommodate new products, up-selling and cross-selling opportunities, or expansion into new areas. And eventually, you’ll likely move to predictive lead scoring in the future. This version uses machine learning to really ramp up the power of lead scoring, analyzing reams of data to come up with precise formulas that pinpoint your best leads.

Lead scoring and Account-Based Marketing

If you sell large-scale solutions, you may be using Account-Based Marketing (ABM), and developing a customized marketing plan for each of the companies you have identified as your key targets. In this case, you need to score accounts, not just individual leads. By combining the lead scores from all individual contacts at a company, you’ll have a combined score to indicate the companies where you are showing a lot of engagement.

This also means you need to have a very clear view into what contacts are being made with an account across your company. You might have three different people from your company talking to three different people at an account (i.e. marketing, sales, customer service), and your lead scoring data needs to be able to capture all of the contacts. That way you can also monitor the level of interest as it rises or falls, and flag to sales when appropriate.

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How to avoid greenwashing while promoting your sustainability story

Environmentalist Jay Westerveld came up with the term “greenwashing” back in 1986 , using it to describe the practice of hotels urging guests to re-use towels to “save the environment,” while ignoring the environment completely in most of their other operational aspects. Since then, there have been plenty of high-profile examples of corporate greenwashing, ranging from questionable (SeaWorld’s claims about the treatment of the killer whales it keeps in captivity) to illegal (the Volkswagen emissions testing scandal).

In some of these cases, it’s very clear that the goal for the company in question is to deceive the public. Volkswagen is the classic example. In 2015, the company admitted to manipulating 11 million cars around the world to provide false results for emissions testing. So far, the attempt has cost the company €30bn in direct costs. It has also caused a drop in diesel sales across Europe , and the legal cases are ongoing.

In other cases, companies are seemingly trying to do the right thing, but their efforts fall short. The re-use of hotel towels falls into this category. Sure, re-using towels saves on water and reduces pollution, but does it count for much if the hotel is wasting resources in other ways?

If your company is truly green, though, it pays to promote it. Increasingly, people want to deal with companies that are sustainable. A survey from Nielsen found that 66% of global consumers will pay more for environmentally sustainable products; for millennials, the figure rises to 72% .

So how do you promote the genuine sustainability of your company, without veering into greenwashing by mistake?

Here are some suggestions:

  • Make only specific, substantiated claims. Don’t use the latest environmental buzzwords to describe what your company does, i.e. “eco-friendly,” “green,” etc. Instead use specific statements that are supported by proof. “We can help you reduce your heating costs by 50%,” or “Our [solution] reduces methane emissions by as much as 30%.”
  • Don’t exaggerate your claims, or the extent of your sustainability program.
  • Be very clear about what your product or solution does, and what it doesn’t. While your solar installations reduce reliance on fossil fuels and save money, for example, there might be negative impacts from the way they are manufactured, so avoid claiming that they are “100% sustainable.” The same goes for your company – don’t claim that you are “green” if that isn’t the case across your entire operation.
  • Tell your sustainability story with transparency .
  • Be honest about your efforts towards sustainability. If there’s an aspect of your solution that isn’t sustainable yet, be open about it, and describe the efforts you are making towards improving it.
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What to do if public opinion turns against you

When it comes to new types of energy, people can have strong opinions. Offshore floating solar farms, for example, like the “Zon op Zee” project in the Dutch North Sea, are helping the environment – aren’t they? They’re reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, and they’re more efficient than their onshore counterparts, because they receive more sunlight, and they use sea water to keep cool. But not everyone supports them. Nature organizations and some members of the fishing industry believe that they will have a negative impact on local populations of fish and birds. By covering the surface water with solar panels, they point out, it blocks sunlight from getting deeper, which will destroy the aquatic ecosystem beneath.

People can also feel very strongly about wind energy. Anti-wind farm activists across Europe have set wind turbines on fire, and placed chains and concrete chunks on the properties of farmers who allow wind turbines, in order to damage their farm equipment. Yet wind is a clean energy. So what are the protestors objecting to? They have a range of concerns – some believe that wind turbines cause health issues for the people living near them, others think they bring down property values, and some feel that they ruin the look of the landscape.

Of course, not everyone who holds a strong opinion will take part in a protest. But if people disagree with your technology, your approach or your company, they have lots of other ways to share their thoughts. Even if they never join an in-person protest, they can use the power of the internet and social media to organize groups and amplify their opinions.

So what can you do about it?

Well, you might just say, it’s the nature of business – some people will support us whole-heartedly, and others will disagree. So perhaps it’s best to just ignore the naysayers, and get on with business. And maybe your business or technology will never be targeted by protesters.

But as part of an effective risk-management strategy, it’s far better to be prepared. You can use the same playbook that you’d use for any type of crisis that hits your company. The same techniques apply, whether it’s a blockade of protesters outside your headquarters or a plant fire. Here are some suggestions to be prepared for if or when public opinion turns against you:

Plan ahead

Start by making a list of all possible flashpoints for your technology and company. Some of them you’ll already know about, for others try brainstorming to come up with other potential issues. Monitor social media to see what people are saying about your technology, sites, company, your competitors, etc.
Rank the issues that you come up with in order of prominence and potential impact (what kind of visibility does the issue have, what numbers of people are concerned with it, are there organized protester groups, etc.).

Some of the issues on your list may never arise. Others might be on your radar already. Choose the ones that might turn into a threat, and focus your efforts on those.

Be the best source of information

Whatever the issue is, don’t let misinformation take the lead. You need to lead with in-depth information on the issue, your company and product, and your position.
This could include anything from a FAQ page on your website to a full microsite dedicated to the issue, depending on the scope of concern. The microsite could include:

  • A name, phone number and email for the person who is “in charge” of this issue
  • In-depth information that explains how your technology works
  • In-depth information that acknowledges the concerns, and addresses them point-by-point, refuting them where possible
  • Explanation of why this has turned into an issue. (Don’t be afraid to be specific. I.e. “Some people believe, wrongly, that our [product] kills birds. This wrong idea got started when [Activist Group A] mixed us up with Company B, who sells a different product. We’ve asked [Activist Group A] to clarify that our technology does NOT kill birds, and we’re waiting to hear back from them. If you’d like to know more, please read our fact sheet on How we designed our [Product] to protect birds.”)

Choose your spokesperson

Don’t wait for an issue to blow up before deciding who will be the spokesperson for your company. Choose someone with enough seniority to speak for the company, who has the knowledge and background required to talk about the issue, and who will be able to stay calm under pressure. It’s not easy to do, so make sure you support them with media training. Make sure it’s someone who will be able to respond quickly to a call or an event. Ideally, your spokesperson will also cultivate relationships with any organized groups, i.e. protestors or activists, so they know who the key groups are, and who is involved with them. Same for the media – it’s best if your spokesperson develops a relationship with the journalists who cover the issue, and is available to provide background and speak for your company. While your spokesperson might not be able to dissuade any protesters, they should be seen as a trusted source of information and good contact point with your organization. No matter how confrontational it gets, they’ll need to be polite and helpful – never argumentative or defensive.

Communicate often and openly

Keep in mind that the worst thing you can do is close ranks behind your lawyers. Be open, share information and position your company as a concerned, engaged community member, not as an adversary.

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