Brand Building Secrets for the Ultimate Solar Company Profile

Day by day, renewable energy and especially PV solar are gaining momentum and popularity.  

In its early days though, solar was an insider’s movement much like the computer industry.  It was a world of,  for lack of a more tactful term, tech geeks.  It was even hard to wrangle your garden variety hippie or environmentalist into the game as they were scared away by the giant battery banks and cumbersome systems.

Nowadays, the solar industry is booming,  gathering energy and finally starting to come into the mainstream. And with competitive countries around the world seeking a greater global presence in the industry, the race is on for which nation has the vision to come out on top.

So it’s surprising that residential and commercial installers still find such resistance in the market

to expand their businesses and win new clients. This is especially odd considering that the awareness of green and renewable energy products is on the rise. Not only that, but the return on investment for going solar is better than ever before.
This indicates that solar installers have a lot of opportunities to improve. That’s not to say that solar businesses are not making an effort. Solar companies are well represented online. A healthy minority are putting time and energy into their websites and social media properties. In the online world, there are winners and losers, and it’s fair to say most efforts fall into the void.

Take me for example.  I was born and raised in North Carolina, but I’m sitting here in Yokohama Japan as I write this post.  I am so passionate about helping the solar industry grow that I am willing to work throughout the night if necessary to make a call and help a new business out with their marketing plans.  This is a sacrifice I love to make because I see that even now, when things are looking better than ever for the solar industry, companies are still having trouble breaking into new markets and closing the sales they know are possible.

Solar is booming here in Japan too.  Here’s a solar farm we saw on our weekend camping trip out to the mountains of Yatsugatake in the southern Alps of Japan this weekend.

solar farm near the southern alps of japan

But there’s a unique asset that every solar business has: and that’s a story.

As a solar business, you want to have a story that wins hearts, connects with the community and draws people in. You want to have an authentic story. Getting this right will help you target and woo the right customers for the long term.

How to Switch up Your Marketing Strategy

If you are in the solar installation industry and want to connect to a larger audience, you’ll want your leads remembering you. If you want to build a wide customer base, it is important to establish your brand identity. For this, you can use these tips listed below.
● Before you even begin to develop your brand identity, ask your target market what their needs are. Keep this most crucial piece of information in mind when building your brand identity. It would be a grave mistake to focus on telling them why your brand is the top one from the very beginning. Instead, the priority should be on analyzing and understanding the need of the customers- you have to know what they want. Then, in the flow of telling your story, you will want to convey the message about how your company can fulfill their needs. Make sure to include this insight in your company’s marketing efforts, including advertising.
Your branding strategy should be personal because personal stories are the ones we as humans connect with the easiest. When a person relates to your company on a very personal level, feeling that they know your brand as they know a friend or acquaintance, you have won.  (Check out Seth Godin’s piece on storytelling.) 
An amazing tale with twists and turns, thrills and tragic disappointments are the best stories to tell. But your story doesn’t need to be one of a superhero because we’re all regular people, and people can relate to that. What it needs is real people, real faces, going through relatable stages of development. At the end of your story, you will have arrived at the amazing company you have today.

Now, some paths for getting your story out there.

  • Use social media to get your message out there.  Gone are the simple days when websites could exist autonomously and get traffic.  Nowadays, if you are looking to grow your brand, you want to invest time, efforts and funds into social media.  Developing a social media strategy and consistent presence is an essential piece for any business seeking growth in 2017.

  • Use pictures and video. The video is the vanguard of social advertising in 2017 and there is a laundry list of psychological reasons why it works so well.  The Savanna Principle aside, Facebook is prioritizing video on its platform this year, which means cheaper costs for advertisers who take advantage of the powerful medium by producing appealing video ad content.  You’ll be helping yourself out too.  Video is top shelf advertising when it comes to engagement and branding. Email is still the king of sales conversions, but video is a close second.

  • Make your website a habitable destination.  A mistake I see across the board in the solar industry is that the development of many a website suffers from a form and function imbalance. Drone footage abounds, but effective, conversion focused UX is lacking.

    Site visitors, especially potential customers, do not want to make a lot of effort to gather the information on your site. The easier and silkier you can make it for a visitor to take an action, the more memorable you will become. Your new leads will think of your site and will be enthusiastic to return when they’re ready to take the next step.

  • Making yourself and your company visible online will help people who are interested in solar to find you, wherever they look. This includes listing your company on relevant citation sites and developing a realistic and focused social media strategy.

  • How are you branding your company from a socio-economic perspective?  Do you want to focus on how having solar panels elevate social status or do you want to reach out to people interested in community solar and make your company a champion of getting the benefits of solar out to the most people?   Status and emotion- Every person has some emotions and based on income level, a sense of status. As a seller of solar energy products, you will need to tap into that aspect of the mind of consumers! You have to convey the message through your brand’s marketing, social media and online promotions that going solar is the way to gain an elevated status in society. Include the message in campaigns, how embracing solar energy means enhancement in lifestyle.

    Either way, or something in between, status and the way you position your company around that emotional trigger can make a profound difference in your marketing approach and should be well-considered.  As a seller of solar energy products, you will miss an opportunity if you fail to realize the need to tap into that aspect of the mind of consumers!  You ought to convey the message through your brand’s marketing, social media and online promotions that going solar is the way to accessing the image of self that your customer desires.  Identify a customer profile and include the message you have chosen in your campaigns and allow it to permeate your content marketing and social media efforts.

  • Anyone interested in solar power is well aware of the environment factor- compared to the last decade, people have become way more aware of the accelerating realities of climate change.  This is no longer limited only to the NGOs and environmental watchdogs alone.  The increased focus on global warming by media, including TV and internet have made the masses enlightened about the need to adopt measures to reduce pollution and sustain human life on earth.  All you need is a push from the seller’s side to strengthen the impetus in the buyer’s mind, but a word of warning:  fear-based tactics to close the sale are probably not the best hand you can play and negativity generally is not a good look for your brand.  Personally, I feel that focusing on what can be made better by harnessing the energy of the sun is much more appealing than all that doom and gloom.

The nuts and bolts of crafting your brand identity.

One of the spiciest of these ingredients has to do with sales psychology and tapping your customer’s primal emotions.

Illustration of the Brain - Brand Building Secrets for the Ultimate Solar Company Profile

Your brand story includes your origin story, but your brand is much broader than that.

You want to think of your customer’s hopes and fears and build a message that plays these notes in an honest and ethical way.

Speak to your customer’s concerns. It’s best to ask your customers directly, but especially in the first few years after forming your company, it can still feel like a challenge to isolate what causes a consumer to make the decision to buy.  

In that case, you can also speak to some obvious points such as:

Cost savings.  Savings are an obvious benefit of solar, but it is amazing how many solar installation companies fail to convey this powerful message.  Everyone needs to use electricity to run appliances: to light up homes, study, cook and do many household chores, right?

So as a solar products and installation provider, you should emphasize the energy costs that switching to solar can provide. You also need to stress the fact that the installation cost of solar panels and products have come down a lot compared to previous years. In your advertising, don’t miss the chance to use graphs and comparison charts showing cost saving statistics for your state

Present the various rebates and subsidies available to customers on both the state and federal level.  These incentives are great news for both solar product manufacturers and buyers, but the reality is a lot of buyers are still not aware. As a seller of solar energy products, you should highlight these extra savings opportunities. Simplify your message, reduce buyer anxiety and encourage your customers by being the company in your space that makes this all look easy.

The long-term cost factor-  When you promote your company’s solar products, it is also wise to stress the long-term cost benefits. The conventional energy services that most people still rely on are based on fossil fuels.  But the global supply of fossil fuels is becoming more difficult to access (not to mention destroying the planet) and with time this bottleneck will only get worse. It only follows that the price of fossil fuel-based energy will continue to go up with time. As a result, the consumers using them will have to put up with rising energy bills in the near future. As you know, since solar energy is not diminishing, its usage cost will not skyrocket.  Since solar is technology-based, it should get even cheaper with time, even as state and federal incentives expire.

Know your industry trends –  You know what you want to do with your company, but marketing is a different animal. Every year, the solar product manufacturing and installation sectors are changing. So, it is important that you explore the nuances and trends of the industry and update your branding whenever starting an aggressive marketing campaign. Keep track of changes in your industry by following. Sites like SEIA, greentech media, solarpowerworld online, pvmagazine and others.

And if you haven’t updated your product line, it might be a good idea to revisit your contracts. Besides, you need to enhance your knowledge on various nuances of new and improved solar energy based products. This will come in handy in responding to many queries of prospective buyers.
SEIA map of solar installers in new jerseyOffer unique advantages/ USP –  It’s clear that many players are already battling it out in the solar product sector. 
You cannot woo away the customers from the rivals by offering lower priced products alone. It is neither practical nor advisable for long-term revenue growth. So, you have to define your USP by presenting your formula of the select products and services you offer. There is no fixed approach for this and you need to analyze the offerings of your competitors and figure out what may work for your brand. The more innovative you can be in coming up with something special like an extended warranty or free maintenance for the solar products sold by your brand, the more appealing you will become. Offer an early bird scheme or free installation of products for a limited number of buyers. Freebies and extra services may help to attract more customers.
Define your company as the innovator in your region who is willing to go the extra mile to earn new customers.
Get out to community events –  Along with typical marketing, you can also resort to community demonstrations and promotions to further cultivate brand appeal of your solar product company, and more authentically connect with your community. By choosing communities and showcasing your brand’s offering on the local level, you can send out a strong message to target buyers that you are involved where they are and are invested in the place you live. You can also aim at regional fairs and events to ensure your demonstrations get a large number of viewers. Using leaflets, brochures and demo videos at such events are definitely possible.
Use technology to your brand’s advantage –  You can use emerging technologies to the advantage of your brand and sell more products without the hassles. Want to get fancy? Consider using Smartphone apps and social media promotions to market your brand’s solar products.  Two of the more under-utilized and hot marketing distribution channels are SMS and the new Facebook messenger ads.
These will help you reach out to the technology savvy segment of buyers across various age groups. Integrating top social media sites like Instagram and Facebook to promote your brand, products, and services is a smart idea, but depends on your brand’s personality as to which one of these platforms will be the best fit for you.  Without the technology quotient involved in your brand’s campaigns and promotions, connecting with the technologically inclined buyers will be difficult. One idea: offer social media referral programs for first-time buyers so the digital word of mouth works in favor of your brand.
Find strategic partners and make use of co–marketing  Solar product marketing is still a niche segment despite the developments and the emergence of more players. If your brand is a new entrant in this segment, it needs the support of an existing big entity to reach the top of the game. To ensure your brand gets more visibility and popularity faster, you can try forming alliances with big players in related segments. If you carry the new SolarCity shingles or if you prefer Sunpower, promote their brands on social media. Help potential customers make a connection between your company and these authority brands. This will look logical from the perspective of buyers and give your brand some credibility.
Fun factor: use humor and keep it simple –  Nowadays, people are being bombarded with so much tech jargon at work and home- that profusion of tech content often takes a toll on their mind! If your brand’s campaigns and marketing endeavors are laden with technology terms and jargons, that could actually drive a section of potential buyers away. So, you may come up with a touch of humor in the marketing campaigns. Important facts about solar energy usage advantages and environmental impact can be presented in a light manner. It has a better impact on the viewers than facts and figures stated in a prosaic manner. Using a healthy dose of humor in promotional videos and leaflets is a possibility in this regard.
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Where it all leads to…

There is no hard and fast rule regarding the ways to develop a strong brand image for a company selling solar energy products. You can actually use any of these techniques to boost sales and grow your customer base without too much extra effort.  Keep in mind that it is ok to be bold and take some chances to stand out for the sake of your promotions and for marketing your brand products.  Observing strategies of rival brands in your own and adjacent segments will help you with ideas.  The bottom line is that “tried and true” works great to a point, but unique means to woo target buyers and consolidate brand image give you form and definition.  Analysis of customer mindset and keeping an eye on trends in the industry will also be helpful in this regard.  

Most importantly, take stock of who your client avatar is and who you are and where you came from.  Implement your story responsibly across all online media and watch your kpi to measure the results.  Always keep growing!