In the phone consultations I do with solar marketers and company owners around the United States every week, it seems that more and more residential and commercial solar contractors are moving some of their marketing online.
That’s good news. Compared to other industries, solar is behind the times when it comes to marketing.
Solar power may be an advanced form of energy compared to electricity from coal or natural gas. But, today, with the Internet creating new opportunities for industries from financial services and real estate to consumer products to get leads and customers online, solar is still sold pretty much the same way it was in the 1970s:
- Knocking on doors
- Making cold calls (or buying leads from telemarketing vendors)
- Sending out direct mail
- Going to home shows and other events
Most solar contractors seem to believe that, when it comes to marketing, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But unfortunately, most solar companies’ marketing is broken. It’s just that a lot of them don’t seem to realize it yet.
Why Traditional Solar Marketing is Broken
As sales start to stall and customer acquisition costs keep rising, more people in the solar industry are starting to notice that they’re spending too much money to get new customers.
While the cost of equipment has plummeted over the last few years, soft costs have risen to 64% of the average price of a residential solar installation, according to the Department of Energy. And 9% of that installation is taken up by customer acquisition alone.
I’ve talked to solar companies that spend $3,000 or more to get a customer for an installation that may only cost $15,000 or so. It’s hard to make a profit on an installation when it’s so expensive to get new customers.
As competition heats up in competitive solar markets from California to New York State, potential customers, especially homeowners, are getting jaded about traditional solar marketing. They’re tired of brute force marketing tactics from solar companies that are trying to interrupt their dinner or their favorite show and pressure them into getting solar before they’re ready.
That’s why now, more and more homeowners slam the door on the canvassers. They hang up the phone on the telemarketers. They throw out the direct mail unread. And they don’t go to home shows or free-lunch seminars the way they used to.
Online Marketing More Effective if You Do It Right
The numbers speak for themselves. Traditional solar marketing tactics are becoming less and less effective.
That’s why I’m always glad to see more solar companies taking their marketing online. The Internet can allow a solar contractor to reach many more potential buyers at much lower cost. But only if online outreach is done right.
So, here I’ll offer five quick tips for solar installers to get started on Internet marketing and avoid the most common causes of failure online:
- Your Own Website. If you don’t have one already, get your own website. You need a place to share information with potential customers. A Facebook page is not enough. A solar installer without its own website lacks credibility and risks looking unprofessional
- Web Analytics. Get web statistics on your site so you know how many people are visiting, where they’re coming from and what pages they’re looking at. If Google Analytics intimidates you, then try a simpler web analytics tool. For example if your site is in WordPress, you can use Jetpack.
- Educational Content. Create content on your website that potential solar buyers would want to see. Of course, you should talk about your products and services. But also offer helpful advice and education to empower solar buyers with the knowledge they need to make the best decision about equipment and financing. The best content is a blog, and that’s easier to do than you might think. You can also offer e-books, guides, and checklists that are helpful rather than promotional. In this way, you’ll attract web traffic and build your authority. When people are ready to buy, they’ll think of you first.
- Facebook Page. Also have a Facebook page. Do regular unpaid status updates a few times a week. If you do a blog, put your new posts up on Facebook. Share infographics, videos, and stories about solar that your audience would want to see. As in your blog, don’t be too promotional. Instead, be educational.
- Pay-per-click Ads. Buy Google or Facebook ads only after you have posted good educational content on your website and your Facebook page that your audience would want to see. Not just product specs and pricing, but advice on making the best decision on solar.
Did you see that I put buying ads at the end of the list, and not at the beginning?
It’s great that solar contractors are getting online, but unfortunately, most of them start by buying ads. And buying ads without a great website for people to visit can be a big waste of money that won’t get you many sales leads.
The Most Common Cause of Failure Online
Let me finish by highlighting the importance of knowing basic numbers online.
Many solar companies I speak with don’t even know how many visitors they get to their website on average each day. That’s like driving a car without looking at the speedometer. If you think you’re going 65 MPH but you’re actually only going 10 MPH, then it’s no wonder it’s taking forever to reach your destination.
It’s the same with your website. If you’re only getting five or ten visitors a day, then you won’t reach the potential of online marketing. You might even think that the Internet doesn’t work to get solar customers and that might send you back to knocking on doors and telemarketing.
That would be a shame. Online marketing is one of the most powerful ways to get sales leads and customers at lower cost if you do it right. Follow the steps above to get started.
And to find out more, download my free e-book Stop Buying Solar Sales Leads and Start Making Your Own Better Ones.
— Erik Curren, Curren Media Group