By Maria Church
April 25, 2019 - Canadian Biomass doesn’t often venture into the consumer world. As a trade magazine, our audience is industry insiders, like you, looking to improve their businesses or processes by understanding shared challenges and solutions. Consumer magazines (fashion, home decor, auto, and so on) are an entirely different ball game.
Anyone with a Facebook account can tell you the consumer world is a fickle one. If Joe Blow had an unhappy experience at his local restaurant, his next step could be logging on to write a nasty review warning others to stay away. His opinion, irrespective of the facts of the matter, can inform the decisions of future customers.
And that’s not a customer base anyone can ignore. According to a 2017 report from Ryerson University’s Social Media Lab, 84 per cent of Canadian adults are on Facebook. For young adults aged 18 to 24 that number jumps to 95 per cent.
This unprecedented access to the consumer can also be a tool. There is a lot to glean from knowing what customers are saying about your product.
In the fall of 2017 the Wood Pellet Association of Canada (WPAC) launched a new website – woodpelletheat.ca – designed to meet heating customers online. The website promotes the use of wood pellets for residential heat by educating consumers about the benefits of switching to pellet fuel. Canadian Biomass’ parent company, Annex Business Media, designed and built the website for WPAC. The site frequently references studies or stories published in Canadian Biomass that give testament to the efficiency, sustainability and affordability of pellet heat.
In 2018, WPAC ran a social media campaign tied to the website to promote its content. The campaign generated nearly half a million views. More importantly, campaign organizers learned a great deal about what consumers think about wood pellet fuel and stoves.
“Nice heat comfortable but way too expensive,” one commenter wrote.
“No electricity the stove doesn’t work,” another noted.
“Wood pellets add three times as much CO2 to the air as natural gas and the emissions are a threat,” another wrote.
There are hundreds of comments to read through, many with strong negative or positive opinions about our industry. The takeaway from all this is to understand common consumer misconceptions in order to directly address them. That’s the goal of woodpelletheat.ca. It’s an important voice for the industry to counter misinformation and to market the entire concept of heating with pellets from a customer perspective, right down to which wood pellet stove or furnace to purchase.
Knowing what Canadian consumers are saying about wood pellets allows us to respond effectively with our facts.
I commend WPAC for taking on the challenge of marketing directly to Canadian consumers, and I encourage pellet producers who aren’t already meeting their customers on social media to consider adding their voices to the conversation.