Sometimes it feels like solar installers have to make their own way in the world, but as SolarCity has just shown, that’s really not true at all.
In case you missed it, SolarCity and Honda recently announced that they would be partnering to offer SolarCity products to Honda car buyers in 15 states states. In addition, Honda — a profitable company — will be funding SolarCity leasing and PPA products and benefit from the solar tax credits, as well as enable dealers to put solar on dealerships and set up EV charging stations.
For solar marketing purposes, let’s put aside the investment side of this new partnership. Plain and simple, SolarCity is co-marketing with a respected and famous household brand: Honda. Sungevity has done this with Lowes home improvement chain, and SolarCity has a similar relationship with Home Depot. SunPower, a panel manufacturer and commercial integrator, has also partnered with Ford to generate leads for their EV's, but I think this goes a step farther, especially with the investment fund.
Marketing wise, solar and home improvement and EV's are very related. This SolarCity move is more akin to Batman Forever co-marketing with McDonald’s. Burgers and Batman really don’t go together, but they can if they’re marketed in the right way, allowing both companies to benefit through brand recognition, word of mouth, and referrals.
Why SolarCity and Honda are a Good Fit
In the case of SolarCity and Honda, both have similar sustainability goals and both have similar customer demographics: They’re environmentally conscious, homeowners, and have enough income to get a car loan, so will probably pass SolarCity’s solar leasing/PPA credit standards.
It remains to be seen how this relationship is executed, but it’s not difficult to imagine Honda dealerships proudly showing how green their dealership is with a SolarCity solar installation. The dealership is saving money, and, hey, Mr. and Mrs. Car Buyer, so can you with a SolarCity lease with little or no-upfront cost and guaranteed annual savings.
For SolarCity, it’s like having an extra national lead generation team. For Honda (aside from the investment and tax equity benefits), it’s a way to call attention to their line of hybrid cars and EV’s, which don’t (yet) have the green cache of Toyota’s Prius line. But being aligned with a solar company makes them seem even more green, doesn’t it?
How You Can Co-Market Like SolarCity
SolarCity isn’t the only installer that can co-market. No, it’s not going to be a national brand like Honda, but think local. I don’t care how Mom & Pop you are, there’s always a way to find an unrelated local business to co-market. It’s really an ideal relationship, when you think about it. Partner companies aren’t competitors, yet when structured creatively, both companies can have a vested interest in supporting the other to their customers.
And that’s the key this marketing strategy — similar customers. You have to choose a partner company that has similar customer demographics; i.e. homeowners with good credit ratings. If they don’t have an environmental interest, then perhaps they have an energy independence interest. Regardless, most homeowners have a money-saving interest.
With that in mind, let’s go through three examples that might work for any size installer in any city or town.
1) Offer an exclusive discount to large law firms, bank employees, or any large company in town. Contact the company's human resources department and ask if you can make a catered lunchtime presentation about solar and its financial benefits. Couch it as a company perq to employees, and offer a discount to any employee. Be sure to have a solar leasing or PPA option, or if you’re presenting at a local bank, co-market a home improvement loan through that bank.
2) Co-market with a popular family restaurant. Is there an independently owned restaurant in your area that everyone loves? Would they like to be more green and perhaps make some green? First, see if they’re interested going solar. Ya never know. Second, I love, love, LOVE giving customers free solar parties after every install. They invite their friends, learn about solar, and who knows how many referrals you get. Cater these parties with this local popular restaurant. In exchange, ask if the restaurant can create a dish or a desert or cocktail, and tag it with a name that relates to your solar company. You can also offer a special discount code to the restaurants’ customers and special drink coasters set up at the bar or have brochures at the hostess station.
3) Sponsor a little league team or other youth league. Families own homes and families go to little league and other kid sports events. First, offer every player’s family special discounts for going solar. Second, contribute to purchasing new equipment or uniforms, and be sure to advertise that fact in any team program or calendar. You can also offer a referral fee to be donated to the team for each sale generated by the team’s discount code. Or why not donate a certain amount of money for every home run, goal, or touchdown? You get the idea.
Got more co-marketing ideas that have worked for you? Please share them in the comments section below.
Those are just three simple examples, but really, the sky's the limit for co-marketing your solar installation company. It’s really just up to you to be creative… 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.