Materiality is a Matter of Perspective

After years of offering customers energy forecasts for the home, I have concluded that we are now prone to consider small numbers immaterial … they simply do not matter.  Why do I say this?  Our online analysis now forecasts your home’s daily energy use and costs into the future and you can see how the weather impacts it.  Customers now see that some days cost $3 or $4 while others cost $6 or even $10 or more.

“Well, Joel, $8 barely gets you a meal at McDonalds!”  OK, then why would you complain about an energy bill of $240 at the end of the month … it translates to just one meal at McDonalds every day!  So … the challenge here is to show how small differences a customer can make each day become materially important by the time the bill shows up.

Income challenged customers complain that they can’t pay $100 at the end of the month, but they could and would pay $25 a week.  Is this simply a matter of discipline?  No, it is a matter of perspective.  Pennies a day add up to dollars per week and several dollars per month.

Sales professionals have long used this principle to make differences in cost seem less important.  Perhaps it is time to turn this around and emphasize how small differences each day make a difference.  Just be sure to pick the right small differences: like closing the blinds on hot summer days, or to opening the windows at the right times of the day to take advantage of free cooling.

PS: That is precisely what we do in our energy forecasting tool:  We offer a virtual thermostat that people can adjust to see how much just a degree or two can save them each week!


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