Thanks for this, Solar Fred :) There are always going to be people who hate marketing and think it's a bunch of fluff and want to cut to the chase to make a financial numbers decision and don't care who they're buying it from. Fine. But that is not the vast majority of the solar market.
USA is the land of Apple, market cap of 650B+ and NOT because they have the cheapest, least differentiated product that makes the most 'sense' when you look at the spec sheet. They have successfully created a 'story' and their legion of customers are fanatical about being part of that story.
What I think Solar Fred is getting at, is you have two choices when you're doing sales and marketing, 1) become undifferentiated and fight solely based on price, or 2) appeal to personality and have the experience of working with your company/joining a community be part of the sales experience.
Very, very few people make buying decisions based on financial rationale alone, especially the upcoming millennials who will be increasingly going solar as they get into their own homes or can access solar through things like community solar farms or leases.
Like it or not, going solar can be a 'statement' just like wearing a particular pair of pants or buying any other hip piece of tech. That it also saves them money and helps the planet - awesome. For those kinds of consumers, selling cold spec sheets and financial models is NOT going to work.
Hi Fred - Great stuff! Though, I would qualify your advice about Twitter... I think Twitter is very much dominated by the solar 'influencers' (as least in the relatively tech un-hip Northern New England) as opposed to Facebook which is where we engage with residential customers. If you are a manufacturer, you sort of MUST be on Twitter, but if you are a residential installer.... I don't think it's a *bad* thing to be on Twitter, but if social media kind of scares you and you can handle just doing one thing, choose Facebook. Better to do one or two things well, than be on all the social networks and not doing a great job anywhere.
I hope this deal helps grow Goal Zero, and not kill the brand! We love their gadgets - as solar pros we know that they're pretty expensive relatively to their 'guts,' but there is a lot to be said for putting things in a nice box and the little portable chargers which are nice and rugged, and good-looking, does a lot to rebrand off-grid batteries from science-projecty roots. We use their products, powered with a custom mod to charge their battery with a regular 75W crystalline panel, for events. Goal Zero powers this cool marketing thing we're doing this year: http://www.mpbn.net/Events/TheBooth.aspx
Guess with NRG owning them, Goal Zero probably won't feature a case study of another solar company though ;-)
Advertisers are crazy if they're abandoning Facebook because it's no longer "free" ... I mean, do any of us expect a free lunch?
We have had huge success with Facebook 'promoted' posts - yes, it is paying just to reach people who have already opted in to our messages, but you can target 'friends of fans' - even friends of fans within a particular zip code! - to really reach the next layer out of people who are likely to enjoy your service.
We find that people aren't looking for 'hard' content on Facebook... but 'feel good' photos of kick-butt solar installations that help brighten someone's day are enormously popular. We can take a good photo, fire it off with $20 of advertising, and reach close to 60,000 people. Can you do that with a newspaper ad?
ReVision Energy, Portland, ME
Thanks for the shout-out to Amicus! We are happy members of Amicus as well and the power of the co-op allows smaller companies access to some of the buying power that larger solar companies have in this era of vertical integration and consolidation. Being able to access the 'hive mind' of other similar-thinking (and sized) solar companies across the country also bolster's our ability to thrive in a maturing industry.
ReVision Energy, Portland & Liberty, ME, Exeter, NH
Freakin' good post, Tor! You know, I heard about the 'solar roadways' concept way back and before this Kickstarter, it didn't really seem to be getting much traction PR-wise, now, it's gone gangbusters, and yes, it's pretty much (as far as I can tell) solely the responsibility of this video.
The product is exactly the same as when it was not really that popular, what changed, is that the story was wrapped differently.
We really appreciate your shout-out to the "Solar Pro" video, we DEFINITELY do not take ourselves too seriously. That is just the general vibe of our crew, the video only attempts to try and capture that. We originally set out to make a generic 'corporate video' and after seeing others in the industry (I will not name names) our company owners were like, "That is NOT the kind of stuffy company we are, so our video shouldn't look like that. Why not let the personality of our crew shine through?" and the rest is as you see.
Sooooo I'm not sure how to say this, and, I'm not sure if it's different in California, but here in the East I keep going to Digital marketing/SEO/video marketing conferences expecting to meet up with people doing cool stuff in the Cleantech sector and that basically has not happened yet. Why is it that all the great digital video strategists seem to be working for lame B2B services companies (or for gross national brands)? With all the money going into solar, how can it possibly be that the best marketing minds are not being attracted to this space? Is it because it is just so easy to sell a lease that it's not considered necessary to have top-flight marketing talent cultivated in-house?
Most people I meet who do marketing for boring industries drool at the possibility of working in an area with as many possibilities as solar, while also feeling more fulfilled at what they do because the product actually makes the world a better place.
- The East Coast Solar Fred
Digital Marketing Manager, ReVision Energy
PS I don't suppose we could angle to a website link when you mention our brand name ReVision Energy in the post above http://www.revisionenergy.com/
Fred - well, one more thing on the 'expensive' front - we did a lot of work ourselves and while we did hire a professional crew to shoot some stuff, the whole thing cost (and I can't believe I'm going to put this on the internet) just over $2,000. Was it a risk? For sure, people worried that maybe people would take it the wrong way, it would come across as unprofessional, etc. etc. instead a 60 person company nestled in the very Northeast corner of the US is being talked about throughout the industry. Woot!
I admit, it's hard to attract top-flight digital marketing talent if your budget is tight, but what we (as the solar industry) have on our side is that the field does (or at least should be!) attracting the kind of people who are inspired to go to work in the morning, and for whom that paycheck is not the only motivator. As such, you can find talented web designers, content writers, video people, whatever who just see this as an awesome field to work in and with a lot of fringe benefits besides the grind (all solar companies keep a stocked beer fridge, right?).
I can say - having worked in agency web marketing for 4 yrs. prior to my current role, being in-house is a MUCH more satisfying role, especially for a company as awesome as ReVision. I am definitely a big proponent for companies hiring and cultivating their own in-house talent, I think it is ridiculously prohibitive to ever get an outside company to understand you as well as your own staff will. With print journalism in the dumps, there are plenty of people who in another world would be journalists or TV anchorpeople who would make great in-house media for your solar company.
My .02c :)
Marc - I have to disagree... Just because someone has 'the right' to contact someone, doesn't mean it's a good idea... I have a right to go stand in a median strip with a big PV panel and a day-glo orange kite that says "Save money with me folks!" but I want to spend my efforts towards things which get results and are not humiliating.
The only thing I could potentially conceive of doing with a list of random phone numbers is conducting completely un-company-tracked market research just to get a poll of what random people think of solar - what are the perceptions about the technology, have they heard of it, do they know of any brands that do it? - and then listen to them, hang up the phone, and go out and actually create digital content that answers those questions.
Honestly I am consistently shocked at how bad the marketing is for solar given the ludicrous money starting to get dumped into leasing... We are just one tiny company up in Maine but we have had incredible results making information that tells people what the stuff does and how to learn more, and our phone rings plenty without us having to take acts of desperation.
Hey thanks for trying to put money to Facebook fans - it's a hard business and I think without trying to come up with money values for interactions it's hard for marketing to get the attention it deserves from management. But what about in the era of 'hide stuff in newsfeeds'? A typical post reaches maybe 10-20% of your Fans, and then you need to "Boost" to reach the people who have already opted-in to your content. Does this makes fans more, or less, valuable?
Been following this with you since 2010 - wow! What an example of how long it takes anything to get done in Washington. Still, better late than never, though now we've lost at least 3 more years of PV production. Let's hope the administration takes the opportunity to show off how well the panels work - no gimmicks needed - and saves us taxpayers thousands of dollars over the duration of the systems' life
+1 to kfenske comment about SHW in the developing world - in a recent trip to South Africa you see these simple 'tank on the roof' systems EVERYWHERE but hardly any PV (except off grid) as the grid just can't handle it. One nation's 'expensive' is another places 'incredible value that can't be beat.'
I guess it depends on available local energy. Here in Northern New England, NG is fairly rare and there are some 500,000 oil boilers out there, many of them carrying the DHW load. In this situations you have a high-mass, inefficient boiler running all summer. Switching to a solar option saves hundreds of gallons of oil for these customers, for a ROI in 7 years or less (Maine and NH also have great state rebate programs, so that helps).
SHW is also great for customers who heat predominantly with wood, many will use wood for comfort heating in the winter, with oil as backup for heat and DHW, and in the summer that oil boiler goes dormant (in 'cold start' mode). The result is that the old boiler which was primary heating prior to wood/solar is now a seldom used backup appliance... quite a win!