Blogs, Energy Efficiency, Solar

Solar Blog or Die, Part III: Lead, Follow or Get out of the Way

I realize this blog is just growing its audience, but I’m disappointed that as of the date of this post, not a single solar company or service has taken the opportunity to submit their blog URL in the comments section of my Blog or Die, Part II post. Don’t you want to promote your solar company? Did you not read about the value of blogging in Part I? Or is it that you don’t have a blog? I’m suspecting it’s the last answer, and this saddens me for solar’s future…and your solar businesses. 

Solar is quickly becoming a commodity. Just take a look at the SolarBuzz.com ticker to see the price of panels rising and falling like pork bellies. How do you combat the commoditization of solar? You must differentiate yourself, and not with empty slogans, but with your unique kind of service and leadership. Leadership? Absolutely. Allow me to explain, Lucy.  

The new paradigm in marketing any widget these days is connections. Links. Word of Mouth. “Consumer to Consumer” advertising. I’m not saying anything new for other industries, but from what I’ve been seeing of solar websites lately, we’re so 2003, people!

The truth is that there are only so many consumers looking for solar products right now. The rest are green looky-loos who aren’t really shopping today, but may be tomorrow. How do you get the looky-loos back when they are ready? How do you draw in the real gimme-now buyers? See title of this post, and read on. ::continue::

The old way to find customers was to advertise with a shot gun blast of ad dollars and hope you hit your target without bleeding too much in profits or cash flow. Today, especially in a growing solar market, you need more. You need to become a leader of the solar curious, to target the early adopters through various direct social media methods. One way to do that is, of course, a blog.

Think about it. You’re an installer, integrator, or a solar panel company. While you certainly should budget for some traditional advertising, buyers know you are selling. There’s no service, really. With a blog, you are not advertising. With a blog—that is, with a good blog—you are providing honest, accurate, useful information to those seeking a solar product or service. You’re also reinforcing the community of existing customers by continuing to provide useful information to them: How best to clean the panels. What to do about home insurance. What’s net metering. Yada, yada, useful, yada.    

In short, you’re presenting your company as a trusted knowledgebase. Even if blog visitors don’t buy from you right away, they will remember you when they are ready. Why? Because with a successful blog, the reader is thinking:

  • Gee, this company sure seems to know what they’re talking about.
  • Wow, they seem to care about me and speak to me and my needs. (How you create that type of thought is not mind reading, but another topic for another time.)
  • Good golly, Miss Molly, this information was so easy to read and interesting. I could easily sum it up to my friends and tell them about it. Or perhaps I’ll just post it to Facebook and share with my 4000 closest friends with the blog’s handy social networking toolbar.
  • Hmm, I have more questions, and I feel comfortable about commenting, emailing, or calling these people to ask my questions. I think I’ll do that now instead of working on that spreadsheet due last Tuesday.

Skeptics from Marketing 2.0 right now are probably thinking my blog empowering ideas are nice, but a waste of employee resources; and even if it’s true, show me an example.

I have to say that a search of the major solar companies and installers revealed why nobody took me up on my free PR offer from my last post: The reason: There really are very few solar company blogs out there. And you wonder why companies and homeowners still think that solar isn’t affordable in net metered solar subsidy states, and why they’re stuck in this 1980’s mentality that the technology still isn’t there yet. So many solar companies. So few blogs.

Let me point out one integrator stand out, and it’s really no surprise to me that this company is one of the fastest growing solar integrators in the United States. So, here’s an unsolicited shout-out to the re-launched groSolar.com blog, originally started in 2007. It went dormant for a while, but just started again in April of 2009 and going strong.

Look at it. There are several contributors, including groSolar’s founder, Jeff Wolfe, so company blogging can be a shared task by chosen company true believers. Posts don’t just write about discounts, but share info about the company’s mission of trying to do their part for combating global warming. Jeff also recently wrote a post about his vision for a Green Economy. In addition, there are a number of brief “green tips” that have nothing directly to do with solar. Some of these tips are actually Youtube videos—another great way to blog and build a community.  And keep in mind that these videos are done by regular groSolar employees with a camcorder. It’s not Hollywood, but that’s okay. The style is genuine to GroSolar. (My only improvement suggestion would be to add a social networking toolbar for each post, making posts easier to share.)

Consequently, groSolar’s blog is not just selling a per watt commodity. They’re clearly passionate about their solar product and presenting a unique experience—a “groSolar” experience—that shares their passion for green world and serves potential solar seeking customers. You can’t copy this experience, but you can create your own solar blog with your company’s personality, voice, and videos.

I have great confidence that their blog will be a valuable lead generating asset, if it isn’t already. As it is, it certainly attracted some decent PR here on REWorld, didn’t it? 

So, ready to start your blog now? Are you still unconvinced? Why? Educate me. Educate all of us. That’s what this solar communications think tank is all about. Comment below. If not, then I assume you agree with me, and if you agree with me, then please, please, please step up your solar blogging communications to the Street—including businesses on the Street. More about other ways to do that in future posts.

In the mean time, start a solar blog and remember the famous words of Lee Iacocca: “Either lead, follow, or get out of the way” …before your company becomes a pork belly ready for the solar commodity slaughter.

Thank you. And Think Solar.

Tor Valenza aka “Solar Fred” blogs about residential solar PV at www.solarfred.com and consults about ways to effectively reach solar customers through innovative messaging, branding, and social media communications. Follow him on Twitter @solarfred. See his REWorld profile for more contanct info.