It’s near the end of 2012, and no matter what sector of the solar business you’re in, it’s time to honor and acknowledge your customers before the end of the year.
Perhaps this post is a wake-up call for some companies who don’t see the benefit of doing anything for one-time customers or failed prospects. Or perhaps some solar marketers have been procrastinating, unsure of just how to express their thanks in a relatively inexpensive way, given 2012's thinner profit margins.
Other solar marketing Grinches may not see the point at all. They anticipate that their emailed or snail-mailed holiday/New Years thanks will be deleted or dismissed as insincere, and hence a waste of time and money.
No matter what your reason for dragging your feet, forget it. Deck the halls and make a sincere and authentic effort at a creative holiday thank you to customers. Doing so will remind your customers — old, new, and potential — of your brand, your solar mission, and that your company cares about people and relationships, not just sales.
So, how do you creatively and cost effectively thank your customers? Here are five inexpensive suggestions:
1) Write a personal email to every client. The lazy, impersonal way to send a holiday greeting that is destined for the trash is to send a standard printed card or HTML email. If you really want to stand out for 2013, forget "standard." Have every sales person write a personal thank you note or email to clients. Acknowledge specifics of each business relationship, and if possible, mention the contact's personal interests. If you don’t know anything personal about the client, make it a resolution to fix that for 2013. Nothing pleases a human being more than realizing that people listen and remember their struggles. Show that you listened and still care.
2) Create a holiday video with all of your staff and your products or service. Anyone with a cellphone and a computer can now edit together a holiday video that can be uploaded to Youtube. This is a terrific way to put a human face on your company, since many transactions today are done over the phone and email. Unveil those human faces of your company with a simple video. Everyone can say “Thanks” or “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Hanukah,” etc. Whatever they say, put the speaker's name and title underneath. The idea is to show their work habitat, whether it’s the delivery truck or behind a desk. When you've put everyone in there — including the boss — load the edited video up to YouTube and send it out in an email to clients and on social networks. A holiday greeting video is a nice, visual way to connect people to who you are and what you do for solar.
3) Do something for the local community. Yes, solar is our business, but this really is the time of year to stress how we’re all human and care about the world beyond the solar business. Is there some cause in your local community that you and your staff could genuinely support? An animal shelter? A school program? Perhaps a free health clinic or homeless shelter? Can you build something for someone? Could you play Santa and elves for some underprivileged kids? Can you cook a company potluck meal for the homeless? Can you involve solar in some way? Whatever you do, get genuinely behind it, and videotape your efforts. You’re documenting it to inspire others to join you in the cause, not to promote your solar company. Send that video out to customers with the message that solar people can make a difference in many ways, and thank the recipients for supporting you so that you can support X.
4) Buy a $1 lottery ticket for every customer. Perhaps you feel lucky to have such great loyal customers. Return the favor by sending a card with an enclosed quick-pick or scratch-off raffle ticket. Nobody may win anything, but the recipients will be grateful for the thought and the chance to feel lucky. Per #1 above, include this ticket with a personal, hand written note.
If you want to go a step further for your employees, videotape buying the tickets for customers and buy enough for your entire staff. Video their fun as they scratch the ticket, and of course, celebrate any wins. (Note: This employee lottery ticket idea is NOT a substitution for any year-end bonus. It’s just a fun little holiday party favor.)
5) Make a holiday music video. This last idea is inspired by Solar Battle of the Bands. If you’ve got musical talent in your employee ranks, don’t wait for Solar Battle of the Bands to show them off. Use these talents now. Create a music video with your solar musicians doing one, two, or three holiday songs. To include everyone in the company, intercut shots of the rest of the staff saying thanks or happy holidays, and be sure to include subtitles of their names and positions. Then upload it to Youtube and create a fun holiday e-card.
It’s been a difficult year in the solar industry, especially for manufacturers. Some might think about cutting back, but I think it's all the more reason to make an extra creative effort to thank our customers…and to UnThink Solar.
Tor Valenza a.k.a. “Solar Fred” advises solar companies on marketing, communications, and branding. Want more solar marketing info? Sign up for the Solar Fred Marketing Newsletter, or contact Solar Fred through UnThink Solar. You can also follow @SolarFred on Twitter.
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.