Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello! My name is Adam Cain and I’m the VP of Growth Marketing at Power Target LLC, a technology company that develops solutions that help people make the best energy choices for their homes and businesses.
In 2019, we were #340 on the INC 5000 list of the fastest-growing companies and have continued to average +20-25% growth every year averaging revenues of $350K+ per mo.
Power Target’s flagship product is our online energy comparison marketplace - ElectricityRates.com. It provides live energy pricing and allows users in states with deregulated energy, aka “Energy Choice” to compare competitive energy offers and enroll through our fast, simple and secure process.
Here’s a YouTube video explaining how our site works:
Power Target was founded in 2011 and currently drives over 30,000 enrollments per year through our platform with an average growth rate of 20% per year give or take since 2015.
I’m telling our story on behalf of the founder of the company, Rob Rex who sadly passed away in 2020.
ElectricityRates.com Energy Comparison Marketplace:
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Power Target’s founder, Rob Rex was a seasoned digital marketing professional with over 10 years of experience managing large budgets and teams across a wide range of industries by the time he founded the company.
Collectively, Rob and Power Target’s key employees have managed over $1B in marketing spending in addition to numerous large technology and development projects throughout our careers.
Over the years, Rob noticed a rising tide of various online aggregator businesses popping up to help consumers navigate purchasing decisions and simplify otherwise complex processes. Like Kayak.com for flights or Petersons.com for colleges.
Around the same time, several states had started passing energy deregulation laws that gave consumers the ability to choose their electricity provider rather than being stuck with monopolistic utilities that could set whatever price they wanted for energy.
After a little bit of research and networking, Rob determined that the energy industry, (specifically energy providers looking to acquire customers) could benefit hugely from applying the performance marketing framework that was successful across several other industries.
This idea was unique in that there wasn’t much competition yet, and the bigger players in the industry weren’t actively investing in building their marketing muscles and applying the correct formula to efficiently acquire customers.
So Power Target was born. Along with his co-founder who was a computer science classmate at the University of Virginia - Rob started Power Target and started working on its online energy comparison site - ElectricityRates.com
Much of what we learned working for those big companies earlier on in our careers applied directly to starting and continuing to grow Power Target.
- Constantly assessing and making data-driven decisions
- Monitoring industry trends and identifying where things are headed
- Creating well-formed hypotheses and testing them in a controlled environment
- Managing budgets and shifting towards areas with the highest ROI
Take us through the process of designing, and prototyping the original product.
Coming up with version 1.0 of ElectricityRates.com started by meticulously studying and reverse-engineering other comparison and aggregator platforms and identifying the best features of each one in addition to what could be improved upon. A few favorites that we monitor to this day are Kayak.com, Nerdwallet.com, and Progressive Insurance.
Rob established a few core principles that the platform needed to meet:
- It needed to be fast and mobile-friendly
- It needed to be simple to understand
- It needed to be trustworthy, and secure
- It needed to guide users without feeling too pushy or sales-focused
These are all things that consumers expect (usually at a bare minimum) but that many competitors and other comparison sites were falling short on.
When we launched, we updated rates that we would get from various energy providers manually and provided users with the option to “select” a plan and follow a link to the energy provider’s sites to complete their sign-up.
Through monitoring the data and effectiveness of this “link-off” style experience, we decided that it was necessary to design and deploy a process that allowed the entire enrollment experience to happen on our platform in a much more automated manner.
So we partnered with our energy provider clients to integrate with their systems to pass user information through without requiring the user to visit a different site.
This created more trust with the consumer and streamlined our funnel which resulted in 2-3x higher conversion rates after launch.
Original Version of ElectricityRates.com from Launch:
Describe the process of launching the business.
Power Target is 100% boot-strapped and has always deployed an incremental, steady, and calculated growth strategy. We haven’t had to take on any huge investors and we’re able to finance our growth with profits as we go.
You don’t need to start your own company to start thinking and acting like an entrepreneur. What made us successful was taking what we learned working for bigger companies and applying it to our own.
We started by launching the original version of ElectricityRates.com with a few pages of optimized content that would drive search traffic and boosting that with paid SEM campaigns starting at a budget around $5-$10K per month.
For a business like ours, understanding customer lifetime value (LTV) is critical so that you can allocate marketing resources effectively. If you don’t know how valuable a transaction is on your website, then you don’t know how much you can spend on marketing and that can get you into trouble, quickly.
Very early on, we built a sophisticated data model that predicts in real-time what the LTV of a customer is based on their location, the energy company that they chose, and the length of the plan that they signed up for (longer-term plans being more valuable).
This model has allowed us to continue growing at a modest pace throughout the years without over-extending ourselves or needing to take on huge outside investments since marketing is our primary cost.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
When we launched, we relied heavily on paid search to drive traffic to ElectricityRates.com which was our bread and butter for several years but started to get more expensive as the market got more crowded with competitors.
At least 20% of our effort is spent on testing new channels, campaigns, creatives, landing pages, or some other change to find the most optimal and effective experience for our audience.
Over time, layering in additional channels has been key to continuing to grow our revenue while keeping costs to a manageable level.
Optimizing Your Marketing Mix
Here is some of what we’ve learned by layering in and optimizing each channel:
Paid Search/SEM: Great for quick results, targets a very active audience but can also be expensive based on what market you’re in. Can also be the “faucet” that you turn on and off based on supply/demand and other seasonality factors like what we face in the energy industry.
Content & SEO: This is important on several levels. You can drive significant organic traffic if you publish quality content and it also establishes you as a credible authority in your industry. This is a long-term play and takes a while to see results, but not all competitors have the expertise, or patience to invest in SEO.
Email Marketing: Not all users are going to convert the first time they visit your site. (You wouldn’t ask someone to marry you on your first date, right?). How are you capturing emails and continuing to engage users to bring them along until they do transact?
Social: There is a lot of noise on social media. How are you adding value to your audience? What’s an interesting message that you can share that helps them with their daily lives?
Organic Traffic More than Doubled from 2019 to 2021 as a result of consistent investment in building and promoting quality content:
Graphic from SEMRush that depicts how each tactic fits into the bigger picture:
Hypothesize, Test, Learn & Repeat
One of the most important things that we’ve learned, and I would say is part of Power Target’s DNA is the need for constant testing and incrementality. At least 20% of our effort is spent on testing new channels, campaigns, creatives, landing pages, or some other change to find the most optimal and effective experience for our audience.
Not all tests will win if you get a 50% or higher win rate on things that you successfully test and roll into your core strategy - that’s pretty good! You need to be OK with failing and learning from what works and what doesn’t.
We also keep a library of tests including the baseline metric, what our hypothesis was, what was tested and what difference we saw.
Leverage Social Proof
We currently have an Excellent, 4.6-star rating on Trustpilot with over 1000 reviews that we’re able to leverage in our sales funnel and spread throughout marketing efforts to add social proof and credibility to our messaging.
Facebook Posts with Reviews:
Trustpilot ratings also showing up on SEM ads:
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Power Target continues to be profitable and we’re growing at a solid 20-25% per year. We hired 2 new employees in 2022 and have several big opportunities ahead of us.
Specifically, we’re working on developing solutions for business energy customers in addition to consumers looking into solar and renewable energy options. We also continue to expand our marketing efforts and grow our core markets through our energy comparison platform.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Make sure you have tight controls around invoicing & receivables, especially if you’re in an industry where you get paid in the future for transactions that are happening today.
Not all partners are created equal. Identify the partners that you’d like to work with and grow long-term and focus on building relationships with them. You may have 10 clients, but one or two are usually significantly more important than the others.
You work for your clients but at the end of the day, the people that you work with are most interested in what they can do to advance their careers and eventually make more money. Think about what you can do to make your clients look better to THEIR bosses and stakeholders.
Are there certain reports, industry insights, or any other information you can provide that will make your client look like a rockstar when they bring it to their boss?
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We use a lot of SAAS and productivity tools and leverage automation as much as possible to get a lot done with a small team. Here is what we leverage:
- Communication: Slack
- Project Management: ClickUp (very customizable to any business/need)
- Online Reviews: Trustpilot
- Data & Insights: Google Analytics, Big Query & Data Studio
- Email: Sendinblue
- Analytics: Supermetrics
- Heatmap/User Recording: Mouseflow
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Communities: Online Geniuses Slack Community
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
You don’t need to start your own company to start thinking and acting like an entrepreneur. What made us successful was taking what we learned working for bigger companies and applying it once we had the opportunity to start Power Target.
It’s also critical to build an environment that fosters consistent testing, learning, and adapting without being too averse to failure. Learn how to come up with solid hypotheses about what you think will work and test them without putting all of your eggs in one basket. Do more of what works, learn from what doesn’t, and continue moving forward!
Where can we go to learn more?
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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