Solar Installers: Some Tips to Grow Your Business, Part 1 of 3

Solar Installers: Some Tips to Grow Your Business, Part 1 of 3

For an outsider, today seems like solar power’s heyday.  It’s all over the news, the technology is advancing, and the government has plenty of incentives out there.  But many solar insiders and installers are doing their best Jerry Maguire impression and saying ‘Show me the money!’  They’re wondering where all the customers are hiding.  I’ve heard dozens of contractors say that they have tons of ‘want to’ prospects that they just cannot turn into ‘will do’ customers even with all the incentives out there.

The fact is most people are holding onto those purse strings tight.  Energy conservation is pretty low on the list for your potential customers when their worried about their jobs, health care, and home values.  But there are some ways you can stimulate your business until the economy recovers.  Here’s a few ideas for growing your business by making it ‘smaller’. ::continue::

Solar for RV’s
You know who still has disposable income?  Upper middle class retirees.  You know what they do with most of their time?  They chase the sunshine in a truck big enough to live in.  You know what those machines need?  You guessed it, RV solar panelsBy some estimates there are 30,000,000 RV enthusiasts and even in last year’s down economy they bought 70,000 recreational vehicles.  Chances are there is a hungry market near you.  There are complete kits that make installation a cinch.  Start at the RV storage lots with signs and fliers.   Try the local dealerships too, even if they already have the ability to install them they may need mounting systems, panels, and charge controllers.  Try an ad in your local RV trader magazine too.

Solar RV setup, courtesy of Ameresco.

Are you marketing to this hungry crowd?  Courtesy of Ameresco.

Solar for Boats
Talk about disposable income, boat owner’s fit the bill.  Even more so than RV’s, boats need a reliable power source for longer cruises.  Thanks to the DC systems already in place on boats and the ample sunshine they get, PV is ideal for boating applications.  Often times a panel in conjunction with a small wind turbine can provide 90% of a boats power needs.  Try marketing at local marinas, and make sure all the boat storage and repair shops in your area know your name.

Solar Golf Carts
There are simple, affordable kits that attach right to the roof and will turn that little machine green.  They will also qualify for the 30% federal tax credit for solar power.  With volatile gas prices and more towns accepting them on regular roads, golf carts aren’t just for golf anymore.  Try a direct mail flier to golf-cart friendly communities.  And of course you have the golf course market; start with the country clubs.  They can reduce their power bills and show their members their eco-consciousness.  Plus businesses can depreciate 100% of the of the cost of the systems in year one.  Offer to outfit a cart with a panel and your logo at cost to get started.  Also consider sponsoring golf tournaments in your area.

Remote Power Solutions
One forgotten area for many installers is the light industrial market.  Oil service companies, communication companies, security companies, and government entities need small affordable power systems to power their ‘way out’ electronics.  These systems are usually small, easy to install, and many times a company will need a couple dozen of them.  Face to face meetings are best with these types of customers.  Set up meetings with engineers and purchasing managers and educate them about what solar can do.  Contact city managers about traffic and street lights too, there are solar solutions for nearly every application these days but most people don’t know they exist.

Outdoor Advertising & Sign Companies
Ask anybody in the sign or billboard business and they’ll tell you one of the biggest headaches is lighting their signs.  Thanks to advancements in LED technology, PV is a great solution for powering lights.  Show them that they can save money and flash their green cred to their customers and they’ll be hooked.  Call all the sign manufacturers and billboard companies in your area and see if they’ve heard about the free energy you can provide them.

You can grow your solar business quickly thanks to the affordability and ease of installation of these small systems.  Next week we’ll discuss new marketing techniques to home builders and homeowners.

Kriss Bergethon lives off-grid with his wife in Colorado, for more information visit his site at Solar Power Kits.

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Hello, I am an engineer and now design and sell solar power kits and systems. I actually got my start working for large mining companies and worked in coal mines for a time. After seeing the enormous environmental costs of carbon-based fuels firsthand, I decided to take a different path. I got involved with green construction and eventually found myself building my own green home. I now live off the grid with my wife in the mountains of Colorado.

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