Skip to Main Content

Eight Tips for Launching and Optimizing Your Utility's Trade Ally Network

  • Written by Tara Dennis
  • January 18, 2024
Trade Ally servicing HVAC unit

In the dynamic landscape of the energy industry, establishing and nurturing a robust trade ally network is crucial for the success of your utility. Trade allies play a pivotal role in driving energy efficiency and promoting sustainability. And in addition to ensuring customer satisfaction, trade allies greatly contribute to the success of programs. By methodically developing a trade ally network, a utility can increase its likelihood of success in engaging trade allies, maintaining the quality of their work, and leveraging them to help meet goals. Here are a few helpful ideas and best practices we’ve incorporated into programs over the years to ensure the development of strong trade ally networks: 

Define Your Objectives: Clearly outline your utility's goals and objectives for establishing a trade ally network. Are you focused on enhancing energy efficiency, promoting renewable energy, or improving customer service? Do you want to leverage the trade ally network to market new and/or existing programs that can use a boost in performance? Identifying your objectives will help shape the structure and priorities of your trade ally program. 

Conduct a Trade Ally Request for Qualification (RFQ): This process allows a utility to vet potential trade allies and accept the most qualified contractors into the program. Consider hosting informational sessions or workshops to engage with potential allies and gauge their interest in collaborating. 

Create a Comprehensive Program: Develop a well-defined trade ally program that outlines the benefits and expectations of collaboration. Clearly communicate the criteria for becoming a trade ally, the support and resources you will provide, and any certification or training requirements. Ensure that the program aligns with your utility's overarching goals and can be tailored to specific program goals if needed. Trade allies often welcome the opportunity to participate and can greatly enhance program design with their unique perspectives. 

Provide Training and Certification: Offer training programs to ensure that your trade allies are well-equipped with the latest industry knowledge and best practices. Certification programs can help establish a standard of quality and build trust among customers. Consider partnerships with relevant industry organizations for recognized certifications. Note that partnerships with key industry organizations often lead to the identification of trade allies that may not have initially been on your radar. 

Grow Network Diversity: Seek out opportunities to recruit and support the participation of trade allies who hold diverse business certifications. This effort will help utilities meet diverse spend goals while ensuring customers are served by businesses that reflect the diversity of their communities. Growing network diversity can also assist in ensuring programs are actively being offered to all populations. 

Gather Feedback and Iterate: Regularly solicit feedback from both trade allies and customers to identify areas for improvement. Use this information to iterate and regularly refine your trade ally program. An adaptive approach will ensure that your program remains effective and responsive to evolving industry trends.  

Monitor and Measure Performance: Implement performance monitoring tools to assess the effectiveness of your trade ally program. As a matter of best practice, we always inspect a trade ally’s first three projects along with a percentage of their projects throughout the year. Trade allies are scored and provided with regular reports to help identify areas for continuous improvement. 

Stay Agile, Adaptive and Present: The utility industry is constantly evolving. Stay informed about emerging technologies, regulations, and market trends. Being present calls forward trust, so regularly put forth the extra effort to attend ancillary events primarily designed to network. Be ready to adapt your trade ally program to align with the changing landscape and to capitalize on new opportunities. 

These are just a few baseline strategies for utilities to consider when developing and optimizing its trade ally network. Remember: This is a strategic investment that can lead to increased energy efficiency, customer satisfaction, and overall success for your utility. By defining clear objectives, fostering collaboration, staying adaptive and being present, you can build a resilient trade ally network that benefits both your utility and the communities you serve. Ready to revolutionize your utility's impact? Get in touch with our experts today to explore the full potential of RI’s Utility DSM Solutions.