Cautious optimism for geothermal sector – Interview with Patrick Hanson of GeoEnergy Marketing Services
How the current crisis has affected the global geothermal sector and what the new interest of the oil and gas sector means for geothermal is part of this interview with Patrick Hanson, a marketing specialist focused on the geothermal sector.
Checking in with colleagues in the geothermal sector, we clearly had to check in with Patrick Hanson of GeoEnergy Marketing Services from the U.S. A strong advocate for geothermal and working for clients in the sector on marketing and social media, he has the finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the geothermal world. So here a brief interview we did with him.
These are challenging times for globally active companies like GeoEnergy Marketing Services to deliver services to clients. How have you been dealing with not being able to travel?
It has been challenging indeed. Thankfully, as an entrepreneur of sorts, I’ve been “working from home” for years now. So structurally, not much has changed. The biggest challenge has been the lack of travel and interpersonal relations. Zoom or Teams can only be so effective. The travel restrictions have made onboarding new clients, or closing larger deals more challenging – but most of the world have been dealing with the same or similar restrictions and we’ve all adjusted how we do business.
Not meeting your peers in the industry at events, such as the World Geothermal Congress, the Indonesian Geothermal Convention and others, how have you experienced the new virtual environment to engage and participate in industry events? What do you think are the positive elements and what do you see as challenging in this context?
There was definitely a large amount of planning, networking and business growth tied to the World Geothermal Congress and other events this year that we’ve had to table or adjust accordingly. I find virtual events to be as valuable as the time and effort you are willing to put into them. Some events like Pivot2020 were hugely successful – which was a week-long webinar series. Others, where traditional networking-heavy trade shows are turning virtual and selling the same experience have seen varied results at best.
Before the GRC Annual Meeting went 100% Virtual this year, I was the Exhibit Chairman. Now, I’m mostly helping the GRC sell and illustrate the value of a virtual exhibit hall and networking sessions to past-years’ exhibitors. That being said, I’ve been behind the scenes and have been working with a large, diverse team committed to making this event a huge success. I can honestly say, I’m excited about the prospects of the Virtual Annual Meeting, and the exposure this style of event can have.
Do you see any trends with regards to the geothermal sector as you are engaging with clients?
Not so much a trend, but cautious optimism. I represent a dozen or so, non-competitive, clients from a business development perspective and am on the front lines of the variety of RFQ’s, formal Tenders, and global action. There seems to be more steady growth and development plans across the board than in years pasts.
From a macro level, the optimism stemming from Pivot2020, and the undeniable attention the geothermal industry is getting from both major O&G companies (see BP or Schlumberger as two examples) and the immense transferable knowledge and experience from O&G professionals, the future is looking bright!
One thing to note is this interest, budding investment or “pivot” will not lead to overnight results. But we have to start somewhere and I think this attention is here to stay.
Too many of my O&G colleagues have reached out to me and said, “I’m tired of getting laid off every 5 to 8 years”… if that doesn’t say something about the future of the O&G industry, then I don’t know what does.
Has the crisis changed the demand or approach to the marketing services you offer to companies in the geothermal market?
Yes, it has. My niche market leans heavily towards the small, service company that is looking to grow or enter the geothermal market. When the O&G industry hit the brakes earlier this year, several clients paused our retainer marketing agreements.
That being said, several far more geothermal-centric clients have bumped up their work with us, so it has balanced out quite nicely. Specific services that have seen spikes are, Website Search Engine optimization, social media management and custom market research. With that said, the renewed focus on geothermal, and the number of calls I’m fielding from my O&G network has made me consider adding a Coaching element to my consulting business. Coaching them about geothermal, and or how to get into the market.
In an interview with ThinkGeoEnergy in March of this year you gave a few tips on how to deal with the current crisis. Now, we are several months into this new environment of working mostly from home or with limited interpersonal interaction. Do you see any trends emerging on what things have worked for companies to stay on top of their game and in the mind of their customers, despite a likely challenging market for service companies?
Yes, so we all have gotten better at this work-from-home thing, or at least our reflexes to quickly manage the turn-off-the-camera-and-mute Zoom buttons!
I believe more businesses are seeing productivity-levels remain the same or in many cases increase from having a work-from-home team. This has led to many companies here in the US to extend the work-from-home requirements, and/or enact policies for some types of jobs to stay working from home for the foreseeable future.
This will forever reshape the traditional board room or staff meeting. It also makes you wonder what companies will do with the overhead costs of unused office-space. Or in places like Seattle, WA where I’m located, the vast amount of new construction for big businesses.
The trends for success in this new normal will be revised company policies with how time it tracked. Success will be measured by output, not necessarily the normal hours clocked. For many of us balancing kids at home, distance learning etc., we may not be as available as we used to, but will adjust and work earlier or later. A successful company will embrace this need to be flexible, adjust goals, and manage expectations so to accommodate yet still maintain accountability.
With our survival and success contingent on Zoom, Teams, Hangouts, etc, and the massive uptick in virtual meetings, presentations, and messaging, having compelling presentations, graphics, branding and media capabilities will be more important than ever to maintain engagement, close new deals, and navigate the pandemic effectively. This also further justifies the value of a Marketing Team or ability to outsource these needs quickly to a trustworthy marketing firm.
There is increasing interest of oil and gas sector players in geothermal. Do you experience any impact for the sector or your business?
Absolutely. Many of our clients are O&G service companies with transferrable technology or expertise of value to geothermal. The increased attention has reconfirmed their existing agreements with our firm and have led to a series of new clients looking to better position themselves in the geothermal industry. Many companies come to us based on our unique experience, deep knowledge and strong geothermal network. Strategic sales and marketing deliverables are added benefits.
Lastly, we all have now been experiencing different ways of engagement in online events, such as webinars, virtual events etc, what of those things do you think have actually worked and what could work better for these new online/ virtual events? How should companies engage and prepare for these events’
Zoom, Teams etc. have made all our lives considerably easier with remote working and through virtual events and conferences.
As long as you have a solid Wifi connection, the systems allow you to be successful whether that be a on a one-on-one meeting or a webinar with 1,000+ attendees.
Much of the growing pains are user-error and/or our respective tech-savviness.
If we approach these tools with an open mind, and accept there will be some hiccups (or a learning curve) along the way, then everything will run smoother and the end-user experience will be optimized.
With that open-mind, and organizations’ proactive education and outreach – virtual events such as the GRC Annual Meeting and Expo will be a success. For example – Zoom is one thing, click the link, turn on video and you’re all set. But for a Virtual Exhibit, or Networking event on different platforms can be intimidating and overwhelming at times. I sit on the Annual Meeting Planning Committee and can assure you the GRC plans to create and distribute, “how-to’s”, “demo’s” and other instructional guides to ensure all attendees from around the world, with varying experience and tech savviness will be equipped for success in navigating the virtual experience.