As 2009 comes to a close, first let me congratulate everyone in the solar field. You’ve made it through a tough year, and you can now look forward to a more profitable 2010.
With that in mind, let me offer my Top 10 Solar Marketing Wishes for 2010 that I hope will bring blockbuster sales to everyone. I’ve also included my “bottom line benefit” to keep it simple, but keep in mind that each strategy has many nuances for effective implementation.
#1. Start a solar blog and e-newsletter. I’ve talked about the benefits and techniques of solar blogging in previous posts. Sadly, few have taken my suggestions. Yes, it takes time and effort, but the benefits of a blog that is executed well will position you for 2010 and beyond. Social media marketing is here to stay and you're sticking your head in the sand if you don't think it applies to your B to B business. This includes solar companies targeting commercial and utility customers. Bottom line benefit: You become a solar authority.
#2. Start solar tweeting. Done correctly, Twitter can be used in conjunction with your blog and will help generate brand awareness, as well as build customer relations, and eventually drive leads and promote sales. For those who don’t get Twitter, see this old shampoo commercial video, below. ::continue::
That’s how and why Twitter is so powerful. Check out my SPI 2009 interview with solar tweeters for tips as well as a huge solar twitter success story. Bottom line benefit: Builds brand awareness and spreads word of mouth.
#3. Engage the Media. The good news is that I’m reading more and more positive stories about solar. The bad news is that there is still a wide-spread conception that solar is too expensive or complicated or that it’s not ready yet. Whether you’re an installer, inverter company, or module manufacturer, you must engage the media with “low cost” and “pay back” stories. The more every solar company does this, the more support there will be for solar policies such as SEIA’s Solar Bill of Rights. Have you signed it, by the way? Shame on you if you haven’t. Bottom line benefit: Engaging the media builds solar awareness, brand awareness, and solar misconceptions.
#4. Monitor and comment on solar news stories. I’ve recently written about the reasoning for doing this. It doesn’t take a lot of time, and it will certainly benefit your business and solar. Bottom line benefit: Promotes your company while preserving the reputation of solar as an affordable alternative to coal and nuclear.
#5. Redesign your solar websites. One way or another, whatever your business or target market, every customer comes to visit your website. If it’s confusing, looks poorly designed, has too much info, or not enough info, they will probably keep searching until they find the “right” look and info. I wrote about this for small installers, but I think module manufacturers have design problems as well for their target markets. Fix it and see how many more leads you draw and convert to your brand. Bottom line benefit: Lead generation and conversion and brand recognition.
#6. Engage local and national politicians. Despite solar’s growth, we’re still at the bottom of solar marketl. If you want your business and the entire industry to grow faster, you will need local and national governments to implement solar friendly policies. You don’t have to donate thousands of dollars to get their attention. The least you can do is support SEIA, SEPA, the Vote Solar Initiative, and take the time to participate in their email campaigns such as vote solar’s “action alerts.” Bottom line benefit: Brings industry solar costs down through incentives and a more level playing field with coal and gas industries that are killing solar with solar myths.
#7 Train your sales staff well and ethically. If there’s one thing I hate it’s when solar gets a bad reputation from sales people who intentionally or unintentionally promise more than they can deliver. You do not want solar getting the same questionable reputation as contractors and used car salesman. Solar already has an uphill battle to improve its reputation as an affordable and reliable technology. Don’t shoot yourself and the whole industry in the foot by throwing unethical and/or uneducated into the public eye. The internet reveals all and you will be damaged in the long run. Bottom line benefit: Protecting your reputation in an increasingly competitive field.
#8 Find more ways to offer solar financing. Solar leases and solar PPAs are a great way to offer solar, except for their 15 to 20 year commitments. PACE financing is even better. I would argue that in an increasingly commoditized market like solar PV, the manufacturer that can offer a new, long term financing model for the commercial and residential markets will lead this industry. There is a way. Get your accountants to figure it out. Talk to banks. Innovate and watch the world trample to your website. Bottom line benefit: Easy, low up-front financing makes solar a no-brainer for your brand….so long as you can get the word out about it.
#9 Start attacking the coal industry. Let’s face it. The coal industry is the main impediment to utilities and this nation adopting renewables. I would also add that this 19th century technology is unhealthy, period. I’m not even talking about global warming, although that’s probably the biggest silent threat of the entire world. In your blogs and advertisements, it’s important that you find ways to compare and contrast coal to solar. In your marketing, start making the coal industry look like the bad guys that they are. It's not like they're making solar look good and funding sham non-profits to advocate non-existent "clean" coal. Bottom line benefit: Political support, as well as breaking through the early adopter market.
#10 Engage everyone you know and meet about solar. I know you all have a life and you should be balanced about work and play. At the same time, there is a huge solar curiosity out there and many solar myths. If everyone in your company is educated about solar and just talk about it when people ask “What do you do for a living" at parties, that would be great. They might also post general solar news on their personal Face Book pages. Don’t “sell” it. Just give FAQ information. Keep up with local rebates and solar policies in your area, so when friends and strangers ask how much, you can give them an accurate ball park figure. Bottom line benefit: Builds future relationships and brand awareness.
If every company makes these solar marketing efforts in their own way this year, I know 2010 is going to be a great year for solar.
Thanks, and as always, Unthink Solar in 2010 and every day.
Tor Valenza aka “Solar Fred” advises solar companies on marketing and public relations and is a partner at solar referral service SolarPowerRocks.com. Contact him through REWorld or follow him on Twitter @SolarFred.
The information and views expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author and not necessarily those of RenewableEnergyWorld.com or the companies that advertise on this Web site and other publications. This blog was posted directly by the author and was not reviewed for accuracy, spelling or grammar.