We all know that person who fashionably expresses concern for the destruction of our environment – and then they drive off in their gas-guzzling SUV to their home that’s lit up like a Christmas tree, all while drinking from a coffee cup made from non-recycled paper. Are they lying about caring? I’d like to believe most people would prefer to be environmentally responsible; however, the fear of the associated costs paired with the confusion as to how to actually go green is enough for many to hopelessly throw their hands up in the polluted air.
This is why it can be a challenge for renewable energy companies to convey the value of their services. In addition to the presupposed higher price tags, perplexing industry jargon serves as another roadblock, as it only further bewilders potential customers trying to navigate an already ambiguous industry.
In short, renewable energy companies are often communicating too much data and not enough useful information, which is scaring away potential customers. And if a renewable energy company can’t convince the consumer of the financial, environmental and personal value of their investment, there simply is no sale.
That being said, many renewable energy companies have proactively created an online presence to better communicate to potential customers, but they are still lost in how to best deliver their message. Because of the distinct challenges these companies face in the sales process, the bar is constantly being raised in terms of creative Internet solutions designed to attract and capture valuable customers. It’s really no longer enough to just have a presence online.
Here are four specialized strategies that renewable energy companies should consider in their online marketing efforts:
Create a Local Presence
Renewable energy companies, such as solar providers, should have not only a corporate web site, but also unique web sites for each location where the company provides installations. This makes the company more visible to search engines like Google, thus increasing their ranking when potential local customers search for them. ElementsGreen, for example, can create brand-compliant web sites, domain names and content management solutions for each city or region where installations are made, and the sites can be updated with attractive local content for local customers seeking services.
Engage Your Customers
Because many potential renewable energy customers fear encountering intimidating jargon, they often don’t want to speak with company representatives on the phone and would rather seek information online. Successful online engagement occurs when information is presented in a way that is user-friendly, digestible and relevant to the customer. Some effective web site tools to consider include online calculators that offer a clear breakdown of associated costs and the resulting return on investment (How will money spent translate into money saved?); photo galleries of the installation process (How will this affect the appearance of my home?); breaking industry news (What is the current buzz?); and online/live chat opportunities and social forums, which allow potential customers to ask questions and solicit feedback on concerns in an anonymous, casual setting.
Implement Customer Portal Software & Solutions
Leveraging social networking opportunities and fostering online relationships within the current client base should be a high priority for renewable energy companies. Existing customers — typically passionate about the product — can be a valuable resource in engaging new clients. Creating a “members only” area on the website provides a forum where existing clients can pose questions to each other and the company, access timely educational information and learn about current company incentives for referrals.
Allow Customers to Monitor for Success
A key component to understanding the value of renewable energy is being able to monitor personal usage. When solar, for example, is installed on a home, a monitoring device is also put in place. By integrating this information into usable software, customers can easily access their usage on the company website or on their Smartphone. This allows customers to always have ‘hands-on” access to the performance and functionality of their purchase, and the information can easily be shared, which helps to further share the company message to other potential customers.
Interest in renewable energy is high and will only increase. Through effective online communication, renewable energy companies can help demystify the process of “going green” and gain informed customers in the process.
Jeremy LaDuque is president and CEO of Elements Inc., creator of ElementsGreen, a software platform developed specifically for renewable energy companies and the unique challenges and opportunities they encounter in the sales process. Current ElementsGreen clients include REC Solar, Akeena Solar, Andalay, Underground Energy, Absolute Solar and Solar Technologies. For more information on the company, visit www.elementsinc.net.