With a lot of energy spent on technical issues in the solar industry, few analysts are discussing driving the industry’s adoption throughsales and marketing savvy. The road ahead for the growth of solar iscomplex. How can we make progress to advance adoption of residentialsolar?
Start With The Basics; Advance Methodically
So many solar companies are not even getting the really basic stuff right like using their logo in a consistent manner, having theirbusiness cards match their website, having a website that is easy tofind (or having a website at all), having effective local searchmarketing presence, or understanding how to engage customer with anappropriate value proposition. If companies start with getting thesimple things right, it makes it easier to move methodically throughthe planning and implementation processes of more sophisticated andcomplex marketing programs.
Choose Listening over Communicating
Too much of the social media discussion revolves around the tools;be they Twitter, Facebook, blogging, community portals, or some otherengagement strategy (online or offline). It’s important to realize that the key in social media is the “social” part, not the media part. The social part is about customer engagement and driving referrals thatreward your customers for being your ambassador. Referrals are stilloverwhelmingly driving business as we are still a niche market withless than 1% adoption (US).
Consider common psychology; good communication springs fromlistening. Marketing, especially for a niche product, is aboutlistening to the concerns of a key demographic your product is tryingto reach and crafting a service and value proposition that meets thatneed. How do you determine what those needs are? Market research, focus groups, and reading marketing studies already completed. Business owners should invest in these tactics to help develop theirsolar company’s business plan if they expect long term successfulgrowth.
While a fair number of more established solar installers understandwho their demographic is, a lot of bright-eyed upstarts are confusedabout who is actually buying solar and continue to market withineffectual guilt-based messaging (i.e. climate change, environmentalconcerns, etc). If you set up a negative situation that your producthas to overcome, you are artificially creating a roadblock to customerengagement.
How does a company determine its messaging and unique value proposition?
Planning, market research, focus groups, continued testing, and measuring results. Good marketing is consistent in its message across all media. Great marketing isnimble, responsive to customer needs, and relevant to the local andglobal world situation.
Business owners need to put good systems for measuring metrics alsoneed in place to make this possible. There are still so many solarcompanies operating out there who have haphazard systems for managingleads and keeping track of projects. Lack of tools to measure marketing effectiveness, sales pipelines, and other business goals will stimiebusiness growth.
Let Changing Buyer Personas Lead Your Efforts
Many of solar companies fall into the “we need to be on X” trapwithout considering a strategy. The major marketing problem I haveexperienced working with solar companies is the overwhelming obsessionwith the technology. Today’s solar buyer is less likely a solartech-geek than even a few years ago. Let your customer tell you who they are; don’t try to jam them into a buyer persona that they are not orthey will walk and look down upon the entire solar industry based onthat interaction.
Solar companies need to be responsive to this market change. It’sbecome more critical to express marketing and sales savvy thantechnical aptitude to customers. Let your technical aptitude shinewhere it is most relevant- in installing and designing quality systemsthat generate no callbacks and the least amount of customer-facinghassle possible (i.e. change orders, complex local or utilityagreements).
There is a lot of room for improvement. The best solar companies will rise to the challenge and open up new market demographics.