Creating a company brand that resonates with clients is an ever evolving process. Direct Connect Chief Executive Officer David Holman explains how the utility connection provider approaches its marketing material so that it meets company values and consumer needs.
The new financial year is upon us once again, and we are working towards setting our goals, ready for a successful year.
Whether it is retention, growth or adapting to changing conditions, for many businesses, the marketing budget is one of the biggest investments set aside in the annual budget.
Marketing continues to evolve, but the fundamentals of building a strong brand remain the same.
Direct Connect Chief Executive Officer David Holman looks at marketing in a complete way to maximise each investment and decision to align with an overall strategy.
David leads the Direct Connect team with a people-first, collaborative approach.
With the team bringing in new and innovative ideas, David’s decision-making process is driven by delivering value to stakeholders and keeping integrity at the heart of the Direct Connect brand.
Not only is David the CEO of a leading utility connection provider, he’s also uniquely positioned as the general manager of business development at Red Energy and Lumo Energy, overseeing marketing, digital and product teams.
When it comes to regulated and highly competitive industries involving real estate and energy, David’s invaluable experience provides the agility to evolve with customers, technology and unpredictable changes that continue to arise.
CUSTOMER FOCUS AND PURPOSE
What a customer wants will continuously change.
Marketing is about reaching and connecting with the desired audience who will become or remain a customer.
With that in mind, each dollar invested needs to be designed for purpose.
Understanding the customer will always be an essential part, no matter how much the methods evolve.
David emphasises the importance of research and adapting.
“What a customer wants will continue to change over time,” he says.
“The purpose of researching and surveying customers is to ensure that the core of what your brand, service or product can continue to hold up with delivering good service and value.
“Where there is an opportunity to improve service or grow customers, research can provide information on how to market to their wants and needs.”
Communicating when a customer is using your service is also an important marketing tool.
Whether it is a simple informative update or send up-sell or cross-sell opportunities, there are always touchpoints in the customer journey to consider.
David believes communication is key.
“We are always reviewing how well our customers respond to communications,” he explains.
“There are phone calls, SMS, emails and more to consider.
“From the timing to the right wording in order to assist the customer, to informing and enticing – we review our communications on a regular basis to ensure it still works effectively for us, whether it is an automation or a manual send, there is always room for improvement.”
ALIGNING WITH VALUES
The Snowy Hydro-owned Direct Connect has always been led by company values, driven by safety, courage, decency, ownership, teamwork and agility.
Direct Connect helps make moving easy by taking the stress out of the move for renters and buyers, while taking an otherwise complex process for real estate partners and making it a streamlined one.
“Keeping integrity at the core of the Direct Connect brand is important,” David says.
“Each decision needs to be guided by what aligns with our values, and be true to the brand belief.
“Integrity involves anything from ensuring there is data that can back up our decisions, whilst carefully following any compliance requirements, to messaging that is representing the brand in the right light.
“Our brand and its integrity is also a reflection of who we are, which includes our people and our culture.
“This is our point of difference and can be celebrated through our messaging.
“Your investments must align with your values; find your point of difference.”
David’s decision-making process involves two-way communication and collaboration where team members bring forward proposed spend with their ideas, rather than dictating the spend.
“Along with aligning with our core values and beliefs, the team will be the ones directly executing any plans made.
“Encouraging the team to bring forward the ideas and planned investment helps them believe in the overall strategy and understand the need to get that return.
“We have an obligation to our stakeholders to be able to justify these investments.”
Decisions and plans made at the beginning of a new financial year have the potential to change, with different circumstances arising throughout the space of a year.
“Agility is one of our values for a reason; we continue to stay on top of any new information, especially when operating in regulated industries,” David notes.
“Making adjustments is no different to the initial plan, which can involve necessary risks to consider, but we still need to prove the ‘why’ in order to build and execute a successful plan.”
A business achieves its results as a team, by working internally and with other parties outside the company.
Marketing often involves the input and collaboration from media agencies, creative agencies and sponsorships for effective promotions to come to life.
Direct Connect, like many businesses, works with multiple partners to cover different platforms.
As trends continue to shift, it is imperative to keep the communication with partners and agencies open to gather insight and remain efficient.
“We have many strategic partners that we are loyal to, and with those relationships, we can help each other think differently,” David says.
“An example of this is our longstanding partnership with SEN. When our sport-based sponsorships were heavily affected by restrictions, we didn’t immediately cancel our commitment.
“The loyalty and belief that our strong partnership meant they quickly changed to create new assets for us.
This includes our fortnightly Under the Hammer podcast for Direct Connect and another couple for Red Energy.
“The trust we have in each other means that the creativity and diversity of assets continues to grow and reach different audiences.”
Sponsorship and partnership opportunities are a way of supporting, leveraging and marketing mutually, whether it is grassroots clubs, professional sports, or community support.
With businesses taking a step back from sponsorships as part of the marketing strategy in 2020, some continue their search for a sponsor in 2021.
Direct Connect, like many businesses, gets approached for sponsorship opportunities.
“The key is understanding the purpose of what the sponsorship will do for us,” David says.
“Therefore, we go through a set of selection criteria internally. We are not looking for a long list of the traditional schedule of benefits, like checking a box.
“Instead, we look for opportunities to add value, whether that be a voice of an ambassador or ways to reach a market that we haven’t tapped into.
“Ultimately, these sponsorships can take up a huge part of a marketing budget, taking an objective approach and welcoming an open internal discussion will help determine the right fit.
“As a business, we absolutely have an obligation to give back to the community, but it must align with our brand beliefs and be well thought out in order to make sense and tie in a great marketing message along with a successful partnership.”