High Tech Strategies > Customer Alignment Lifecycle > Category Creation: energy management certification
new category, energy management certification

Category Creation: energy management certification

Energy efficiency is a mandatory practice in organizations of all sizes. Driven by increasing utility rates and shrinking budgets, energy manager education is often a requirement rather than just a good idea.

The Northwest Energy Education Institute (NWEEI) is a non-profit provider of energy manager education and certification. NWEEI’s unique “hands-on” certification program allows energy-management personnel to rapidly learn and implement energy-saving techniques. As a result, schools, government agencies, and commercial building owners realize substantial savings on energy costs.

The Energy Management Certification (EMC) program combines classroom instruction with on-the-job project implementation. To earn certification, students are required to implement a cost-saving project and demonstrate a real world reduction in energy use for their employer, before earning certification.

The dominant method of energy manager education has been a written test called certified energy manager (CEM). As currently structured, CEM fails to evaluate the student’s on-the-job skills. This leads to an oversupply of people with energy-manager certification, but no actual experience in implementing energy efficiency projects.

In addition to creating unqualified graduates, CEM does not provide incremental benefits to successful trainees. Program developers at NWEEI recognized that CEM fails to provide increased employment opportunities, advancement, or financial recognition. As a result, demand for advanced curriculum was uncertain.

NWEEI needed to align their program with mainstream energy managers AND out-maneuver a market leader.

Warren Schirtzinger’s market research confirmed the need for an alternative to CEM that was both accessible and affordable. And Warren’s market analysis uncovered an opportunity to create a new category in energy education. He recommended that NWEEI describe and position its new energy management education program as the equivalent of a “masters” degree, which relegated the conventional CEM program to the position of “bachelors” degree.

To ensure the success of this innovative new educational category, Warren also recommended that NWEEI target the middle level of facilities and maintenance managers/supervisors at businesses and institutions. In this way, NWEEI’s energy manager education program could serve as a critical link between upper management and personnel at the hands-on operations level. EMC participants would be in a position to affect long-term energy efficiency policies, procedures, and O&M practices, as well as short-term use of energy in their facilities.

In addition to market research and strategy development, High Tech Strategies also provided media relations, positioning and communications services. Ongoing analysis of commercial, industrial and government energy markets provided feedback for fine tuning and messaging.

This is a classic example of using mainstream customer alignment to out-maneuver a market leader.

Through an aligned category-creation strategy and competitive positioning, the Northwest Energy Education Institute and its Energy Management Certification program have become a national model for energy education. They have successfully developed a new-category approach to energy-manager education through a single, integrated program.

Management at NWEEI routinely receive requests to help others start similar programs. Examples include Delaware Technical Community College (DTCC), and University of West Virginia Parkersburg.