Expanding PV Markets without Government Support, Part 2

Many organizations are currently trying to develop a business and marketing strategy that will lead to an unsubsidized commercial market in which solar power achieves widespread acceptance. Fortunately, these organizations can immediately begin to use many of the techniques prescribed in proven models of market transformation.

Migrating Toward Economic Sustainability Such “commercial” practices and conventions include: – Put more emphasis on understanding where your product offering is within the technology adoption lifecycle. In order to apply the principles of commercial market adoption, the first step is to determine where you are on the technology adoption life cycle bell curve. Only then will you know what types of buyers are available to address, and which programs are appropriate for that group. – Rethink the target market as you progress. Just as the characteristics of a PV system changes over time, so too will the appropriate market. Readjust the description of your target market and pay close attention to the differences in the groups. For example, innovators and early adopters may be excited about a “new” product but the early and late majority will want reassurances that risk is minimal and the product will do what is promised. – Target marketing is a critical practice to embrace. History shows that clearly targeted products diffuse more rapidly than non-targeted products. Complicating this factor is overwhelming evidence that the customer base changes for each stage of the product life cycle as different segments of the market become interested in PV at different times. Consequently, it is important to recognize the need to clearly identify and profile a target market as well as take into account that the profile of the target market will change over time. – Begin to promote more of the intangible benefits of PV using communications techniques that are acceptable to the type of customer you are targeting. Each group in the Technology Adoption Lifecycle has strong preferences regarding how they like to receive information. So all promotional activities must be in step with the target market. – Keep an eye out for unconventional applications that exploit PV’s limitations. The Principle of Disruptive Innovation shows that historically, the very attributes that make certain technology products uncompetitive in mainstream markets actually count as positive attributes in new or emerging markets. This would indicate that companies might yet discover a group of buyers who view the inherent limitations of PV– dependence on sunshine, limited generation capacity, generation restricted to certain times of day, requires land or roof coverage, etc–as desirable characteristics that they are willing to pay for. – Determine what makes the product “complete” in the eyes of the target customer. Although innovators and early adopters easily tolerate missing pieces, the conservative buyers that make up the early and late majority will not accept an incomplete product. Frequently, the product is not seen as complete unless it contains several intangible attributes. Discovering what those intangibles are, and how to incorporate them, takes a great deal of time and attention focused on the target buyer. Summary Like all business or market development initiatives, the success of solar power in a free market environment will depend on how well the organization tailors its offering to deliver perceived value to a changing base of prospective users over time. When applied to Renewable Energy, there is substantial value in the Technology Adoption Life Cycle as a marketing model. By isolating the psychographics of customers based on when they tend to enter the market, it gives clear guidance on how to develop a market-based program for an innovative product, such as PV.
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