Daniel Mahoney, Marketing Director at Social Energy & Adam Walker, Brand Manager at GO!
It’s fantastic to see how many more people are taking how we treat our planet more seriously by individually doing the little things to reduce our carbon footprint. What’s even better to see, is innovative brands such as Social Energy, leading the way forward and giving us the chance to make a greater difference as a community. Adam and Daniel sat down to talk through all thing’s renewable energy, how Social Energy define themselves and what’s next for the brand.
AW: To kick off just give us a basic overview of Social Energy.
DM: Admittedly that is something we ask ourselves a lot, who are we? What are we? It’s something we’re still honing down and refining. To put it in a quite broad sense, we are an energy supplier.
Similar to your standard utilities but with a big difference, we have technology that goes into the home and connects to a battery which in turn connects to solar panels on the customer’s roof. We then use that to create savings for our customers.
So basically, we’re trying to help them go greener and save money. We focus on creating something green that will last. We make technology that will work and give the customer access to their energy.
What we do is not unlike a Nest Thermostat, but instead of a boiler we connect to a battery. We can then optimize the customer’s energy usage and work to create a bigger saving for them as well as helping them become greener.
AW: Instead of a regular battery you are actually partnered with Duracell. Talk me through how that happened.
DM: The Duracell license is great to have, as the biggest consumer brand for batteries in the world. It’s major to have on the front of our products. Our Co-Founders, who are pretty incredible when it comes to licensing, set it up and after ensuring we went through a thorough development process and branding authority with Duracell, it concluded with Social Energy having a Duracell battery that fitted into the home. What is important to us is that when you are competing with the likes of Tesla in the same space, you need to have a branded option that the customer knows and trusts.
We do work with other batteries as well and we want to get into a position where we are a bit like Microsoft, where their technology will go into so many different computers, we connect to so many different batteries. The objective is to eventually become universal and connect to any battery in the market whilst still performing at the highest level.
AW: Nice, Duracell is a good start! So, talk me through your role at Social Energy.
DM: That’s an interesting one because quite simply, my role at Social Energy is just continuously evolving every single day. Coming in as Marketing Director, it’s a lot different than what most people would expect. When I took the role there was a lot of stuff on sales and the wider business strategy, far beyond the marketing side of things.
I am involved in meetings about battery selections and different optimization strategy, which is super cool. Getting under the skin of the company and knowing it inside out, is so key to be able to market properly. I guess in a broad sense, my role is mainly focusing on nailing that proposition and getting the right message, in front of the right people at the right time. I know that’s a very high level statement, but a lot of it is consumer research and understanding new markets that we’re entering in to. Then getting to take things all the way through from initial concept to actual real strategies and real messaging. So… everything from you know, building a video campaign to building a whole proposition of how our financial payback for the customer works. It is a wide spread of things, but I think that’s the most exciting bit of being part of such a fast-growing company.
AW: You’re very busy! Marketing within the energy industry has been completely obsessed with the concept of switching quickly and trying to save money. Did you follow in that same approach or are you trying to do things differently?
DM: Yeah, I’d say we are doing things differently. Switching is such a big thing in the energy industry, every time you search anything to do with energy, there is always a switching site popping up. We’ve taken a different tactic, we have a tagline that is going to be used a lot more within our marketing very soon which is ‘don’t switch energy, change it.’
We’re not just another supplier trying to make a short-term difference or short-term financial savings by hopping from tariff to tariff, we’re really trying to change the way that energy works and give control back to the customer.
It’s not just about changing your supplier. It’s about changing the way your energy works, so it’s greener, meaning that as a collective we’re making a positive change to the world, not just your energy bill.
AW: Considering how regulated the energy industry is, do you experience limitations on how creative your marketing can be?
DM: I think coming into the energy sector and seeing how regulated it was, was quite a shock for me, as I come from a much less regulated space. On reflection, I think it has made me a better marketer. It forces me to be creative in different ways. It doesn’t limit what you can do but does mean that you must think a bit harder, try new things.
The team and I are constantly going back and forth to once again, ‘get under the skin’ of the industry to understand how things will work and what we can say. We can then build a creative strategy around that. It’s a challenge, but it’s one I’m coming to love more and more now. I think I am getting to the stage now where I’m a professional disclaimer writer, which is 100% one for the for the CV.
AW: It’s been just under two years since Social Energy opened its doors to customers in the UK. What are the benefits of working with such a young, fast growing energy business?
DM: I get to be a practitioner. I love being part of a business where my role doesn’t just consist of overseeing strategy and signing off work. I like to be in the trenches, really working on stuff, so being in a young business with quite a small marketing team, it means I get to do the work that I love and that for me is really exciting.
I also get the chance to build a really great team. Marketing is one of the smallest teams in the business, but my team are just awesome. We’ve got people here that are just so talented at what they do, they constantly impress me and being able to keep building around them is such an incredible position to be in. The pandemic has slowed that down a little bit in terms of hiring, but we’re getting back on track with the hiring plan and hopefully will continue to bring in great people.
AW: With that hands-on approach and having to work in such a reactive way. Is that how you like to work with your agencies and is that how you want them to work with you?
DM: 100% I think a good agency should be pretty much an extension of the team. I’m not a fan of agencies who take that very segregated approach.
I must be able to work with an agency, I want to be able to integrate with them and again, be in the trenches. I think one of the biggest pain points are ‘yes people’, I don’t want an agency with a ‘yes man’ approach. If an agency thinks I’m wrong I’d much rather them say ‘shut up Dan, you’re talking shit’ than blindly agree, it could lead to a wrong decision. I think a good agency can be an incredible asset, but one bad moment can hinder you and waste a lot of money. Collaboration and honesty are absolutely key.
AW: With agency relationships, do you prefer an account management style where you’re dealing directly with one person or do you like to communicate with the whole team that’s working with your brand?
DM: it has got to be the whole team for me, I don’t like it all filtered through one person. I think, you know, you get quite a skewed view. If we’re working with an agency building a website, I want to know what the developer thinks of it, I want their ideas first-hand and to be able to get feedback from them directly whether it’s positive or negative.
As I mentioned earlier, I want the whole agency to become part of Social Energy, I don’t feel like that happens through one point of contact. I want everyone in that agency to understand us and what we do, that way the relationship not only become less transactional, but you also get some really powerful results from it!
AW: We spoke earlier about the UK market switching phenomenon, but the UK is not your main focus at the moment. Would you like to give an overview of what the next 6-12 months looks like?
DM: We are launching into the Australian market and our first sales are due in a few weeks’ so it’s a super exciting time. I feel like a bit of a kid on Christmas Eve right now. I think that the Australian market is so powerful for solar with two and a half million homes that already have solar installed. In comparison, the UK has a million but a lot more people in the population, obviously.
Australia is a really strong market for us and the need for what we have is quite overwhelming. They’ve got higher energy prices and suffer from blackouts and power cuts that can go on for long periods of time, so having a solar battery in your home is so helpful. The economics of our product is just incredible out there to be honest. For me, this project started around 12 months ago when I first visited but it’s taken a lot of work since then to be ready to launch.
Now we are launching with a big push through a network of solar installers and battery installers. The bigger project off the back of that in Australia for me is taking our offering with Duracell and turning that into a direct consumer platform, so that customers can go online and within three or four clicks they can get the design for their house, a quote and a view of their bespoke savings, letting us give more business to our reseller and installer network.
This is a monumental project for us and a really exciting challenge that will hopefully help reshape the industry in many aspects. It’s going to be a pretty special day when we launch that.
AW: Have you given any thought to what success would look like for the Australia launch?
DM: World domination to start with is always a good one. In all seriousness though, with it being such a big market and a lot of people with solar out there already, it’s going to grow so quickly. I think establishing ourselves as the market leader is the goal. Being a market leader has got to be based on real hard numbers of customers and profit. So, really seeing ourselves as acquiring the most customers who have batteries and solar tied to our platform is going to be the big success metric for me as we go forward.
AW: Do you feel like in the next five years, you will look back and see Australia as more of a starting point?
DM: Yeah, I think we’ve got the technology to go global. The big picture is definitely worldwide, we’ve got different countries on our roadmap, Japan, the US and quite a few European countries as well. I think Australia will always be a key market for us, but the UK will always be our starting point and will always be so important because we’re based here, most of our offices are here. Australia will always be quite a centre pin to the operation because it is so big and it’s a pivotal step in going from a UK based company to a global brand.
AW: Do you think that from a renewable energy perspective, the UK is slightly behind the times in comparison to less populated countries?
DM: I think it can often seem that way, but the UK is pretty pioneering in renewables. It’s quite ahead of the times in terms of how the energy market works and we’ve got a really great grid. We’re quite fortunate that we don’t get all of these power cuts and instability on the same scale that other countries do. I think there is still a long way to go in terms of achieving net zero, which is something that’s really important for our society.
There is still a lack of support for real renewable energy like rooftop solar that can make a massive difference on an individual level. There used to be subsidies for that in the UK, and there’s a lot of subsidies worldwide, but ours stopped in 2019. That’s definitely had a bit of an impact on our industry and slowed it down a bit which seems so counterproductive whilst as a country we’re trying to achieve net zero. I think that it’s caused a lot of cutting-edge renewable companies to up the pace, to help counter that. I’m just really pleased to be working for one of those companies that are pushing the boundaries and helping the UK get there.
AW: There has been a lot of innovation within the UK energy market over the past five years. Where do you see it going next?
DM: I’d say that there’s a big buzz around energy as a service.
And there’s definitely a move in that direction, you can’t just be a stagnant energy supplier anymore. And when you look at it, you think like Netflix, sky and pretty much everything now gives you that predictability of what your monthly payments will look like. The energy market just doesn’t have that yet, whilst people might have the same direct debit each month for energy, they’re getting charged for a different amount each month and then having to reconcile it later in the year. I think having a flat subscription that’s really predictable and doesn’t give you these big shock bills that people get. I think that’s the next big thing in energy.
We’ve actually got something quite cool and interesting on that front, but it’s not quite released yet. I will have to tell you that one another time!
AW: Nice, look forward to that. Lastly, if you could what would you change about your industry?
DM: This might sound big-headed, but what I’d love to see is a bit more competition in what we’re doing. Don’t get me wrong we don’t want someone to come in and absolutely dominate but it’s always nice to have lots of people pushing in the same direction, I think that’s how real change is achieved.
It can make things more difficult when you have got the titans of the industry coming in pushing the market with propositions. When you look at the electric car market, and you’ve got Tesla, they were a real early mover and in the early stages, I don’t think that many people saw them as the big powerhouse that they would become. Now you’ve got the likes of Ford, VW and BMW all coming in with electric offerings but if you say to anyone about an electric car, they still think of the Tesla. That’s where I’d really love the industry to be, where there’s a lot more solutions like ours, and we are the sort of forefront brand that set the stage early on.
by Adam Walker
Published date: October 8 2020