This first-ever solar industry survey, which launched on October 9, 2013, gives women homeowners and moms the opportunity to voice their solar marketing preferences. It also provides the solar industry with valuable information about what women are seeking along the five buying stages of the solar sales process. The five buying stages as they relate to women are based on a construct originated by the nation’s leading authority on marketing to women and author of the book of the same name, Marti Barletta.
Next, our Solar Central presentation offered insight into highlights of the survey results as of October 17, 2013. Our information compiled responses from 175 women in 27 states. (Since that initial presentation, our response total has surpassed 200.)
Watch the taped presentation from SPI below:
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Answers in so far confirm that women are crucial to the solar market:
- Stage 1: Deciding when to enter the market. About 63 percent of women surveyed said that if they were involved in discussions about going solar, they were the ones who initiated it. About 27 percent of discussions were initiated by both partners, with only about 11 percent initiated by men alone. The numbers were similar for doing solar legwork and research.
- Stage 2: The short list. More than half (56 percent) of respondents who had pursued solar for their homes talked to 2 – 3 companies once they were serious about it. While this result is not specific to women, it shows that we need to start by selling consumers the idea of solar, not on a specific company.
- Stage 3: In-person meeting. Choosing a contractor was more of a joint effort, with 67 percent of respondents sharing that decision with a partner. When just one partner made the decision, however, it was far more likely to be the woman; women picked the contractor by themselves in 30 percent of cases, compared to 3 percent for men.
- Stage 4: Paying bills. As noted previously, in most households, women are the ones who pay the bills and track the budget; 83 percent of survey respondents said such financial tasks fall on their shoulders.
- Stage 5: Word of mouth. Women like to share information with their friends, family, and co-workers, but they don’t like to do it for money. When asked to rank the gifts they’d prefer as a thank-you for going solar, 76 percent of women said they’d like a check back, while only 26 percent preferred a check for each friend she referred. Numbers were even lower for non-monetary gifts (each woman could rank multiple options). Given that women are such an important part of the market, solar companies may want to rethink giving referral checks.
Solar Industry Perspectives
Russo and Wiseman didn’t stop at presenting their survey findings. To round out their session, they invited women from the solar industry to voice their thoughts:
- Jill Hansen of Talesun Solar urged the industry to put imagery of women on their websites. She also emphasized the importance of hiring women in solar – especially on the sales team — to sell specifically to women. In addition, she suggested the market be further segmented to better target different audiences.
- Joy Hughes of the Solar Gardens Institute described the model she advocates, which lets people who can’t put solar on their own roof — a big part of the population — subscribe to solar installed elsewhere. As far as commitment goes, this is more like being an aunt than being a mom. She imagined a woman subscribing to a solar garden telling her partner, “Oh honey, by the way, we have solar power now.”
- Jennifer Runyon of RenewableEnergyWorld.com suggested we look to their almost 200,000 registered users for marketing. Women love to talk to each other and get together in groups, so good places to market solar are book groups and neighborhood associations. The “Tupperware Party” model, she noted, is also effective for selling solar.
- Kathryn Schwartz of Solar Energy International emphasized the importance of actively involving women in the industry — salespeople, installers, designers, executives., etc. When we use photos of women, they should not be of “booth babes.” And she added that electricity is not easily understood, so women need to come to a full understanding about it in order to help demystify its workings.
This is just the beginning. The female-oriented marketing survey will be open to the public until a dedicated #SolarChat discussion on the topic scheduled for November 13, 2013. Russo and Wiseman plan to continue gathering information to build a solid data set on women solar consumers. Women are not all the same, so we need to work on segmenting the female market to identify the major demographics.
What is already abundantly clear is that when marketing solar, the industry is ignoring women — at its own peril. We would do well to heed these words of wisdom from Russo, Wiseman, and the panelists:
- Be present where women live, work, and play.
- Partner with brands that matter personally to women.
- Engage in straight talk, convey trust, and have women talk to women about solar.
- Engage women on issues important to them: a legacy, the environment, and future generations.
The current survey is available here.