When your little angel tears open the box of mostly edible treats known as “The Happy Meal,” what she’ll find is a package: You get the cheeseburger, the fries, the chocolate milk, the apple slices, plus that toy. It’s a successful package, and it works. So too is solar marketing, but like the Happy Meal, it’s not often a balanced package.
As much as I love and practice solar social media, people somehow think I believe it’s the panacea for all solar marketing ills. It’s not. Social medial is an interactive portion of a holistic and nutritious marketing plan that includes traditional advertising, public relations, and other communications.
So, to have a truly balanced and nutritious solar marketing meal, you have to spend both time and money. Spending just money on advertising and PR — or just time on social media — inevitably makes you vulnerable to a solar marketing tummy ache of high expectations and poor results.
To help you avoid that kind of tummy ache or CEO-yelling ear infection, here’s a brief, balanced Solar Fred solar-marketing Happy Meal. Enjoy.
The Solar Marketing Plan Happy Box: I’ve seen so many solar marketers just winging it with their marketing. Even if you’re a small company, sit down and start with a plan, even if it changes (and it will). Not having a plan is like carrying the burger, fries, and apple slices, chocolate milk, and a toy in one hand while holding your kid’s hand in the other. Something’s going to drop, and you’re going to make a mess — then tears and a trip back to the McRegister. So, at least frame a plan.
The Advertising Cheeseburger: Inside your solar marketing plan box, expect to pay for and eat an advertising cheeseburger. Those marketing ad dollar calories are necessary for brand awareness and brand leadership. Social media can do some of that brand work (and more), but it can’t do it alone. The problem with this cheeseburger is that it’s a one-way street. You advertise in print, billboard, web, radio, or whatever, and people passively see it/hear it…or they don’t. Repetition is necessary until your target customer finally notices and responds to your solar message….one day, when they’re ready to buy. Doesn’t matter. Eat at least a bite of the advertising cheeseburger. You don’t have to swallow it in a huge ad budget bite, but at least little monthly bites.
The Social Media Fries: I’d like to think that we could all live on salty, delicious social media fries with a bit of ketchup as vegetable, but again, it’s only part of the balanced solar marketing Happy Meal. Plus, it’s work and it’s time, and it can cost money for certain campaigns, too — though not as much as advertising alone. The benefit is that you’re actually engaging with customers who can ask questions, get to know your brand, build trust, and finally buy your solar widget or service, or at least recommend you. To do all of that effectively, you need to spend time on creating useful content through a blog, then disseminating and engaging through Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, an e-newsletter, and video. It’s not easy to create passionate and loyal fans, but when you do it right, it’s customer referral heaven. Oh, and when something goes wrong with your service or product? Then social media monitoring and response can also help with damage control too.
The PR Chocolate Milk: You know how chocolate milk has all of those added vitamins and minerals that are supposed to make your kid grow healthy bones? It’s the same with PR. Along with advertising, it helps your brand awareness grow. I just wrote about writing effective press releases, but that’s only a sip of the carton. Getting your brand and accomplishments into the media is the biggest gulp. If you can’t afford a PR agency with proven relationships, then get media attention through your own creative solar guerrilla marketing. The good news is that you’ve got social media fans to help spread the video of that stunt, right? Right. Another reason why PR is part of a larger box.
The other stuff. As for the apple slices and toy, let’s call the apple slices customer education (white papers, case studies, website information), and we’ll call the toy face-to-face client meals, entertainment, and trade shows. Traditional marketing, but they’re in the box for a reason.
Now, I know this is all a silly analogy and that there’s a lot to effective solar marketing and PR. My point here is that I see a lot of companies relying heavily on only one or two of the above, but not everything in the box. To compete today, you really need to include all of the above, balancing your time, as well as paid ads and services.
And now it’s time for lunch. Guess where I’m going. UnThink Solar.
Tor Valenza a.k.a. “Solar Fred” develops social media strategies and advises solar companies on marketing, communications, and branding. Contact him through UnThink Solar or follow him on Twitter @SolarFred.
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