Winning New Solar Customers: Solar PV Marketing for the Skeptics
Focus On the Customer
A potential owner of solar panels will want to know things like, “How will this benefit me?” and “Why is this a smart investment?” as they weigh their options and make a decision.
Address consumer needs head-on with marketing that’s pinpoints the pain points of your potential customers. For solar, the primary pain points are:
• Monthly utility bills
• Rising costs of fuel that often affect energy prices for traditional sources of energy used to power homes or businesses
• Widespread frustration with local utility companies who keep raising rates.
• Jealousy when other homes/businesses in the same area go solar
Waiting too long to adopt
• Guilt about global warming and emissions
Solar growth is booming in the United States, but it’s not a source of energy that’s as widely embraced as it could be.
Part of the reason for this is because a lot of consumers still have some common misconceptions about solar energy, such as assuming there won’t be any power when the sun goes down!
In reality, solar homes will still be connected to the main utility grid, so there won’t any restrictions on when power is available.
It’s common solar misconceptions like these that present a challenge for marketers and contractors looking to tap into this lucrative market.
Even when customers hear stats about potential long-term energy savings, there’s some inherent skepticism, particularly when it comes to costs and the efficiency of solar power as a reliable energy source.
But, selling to pragmatists and skeptics is possible with an approach to marketing that includes:
• Isolating customer objections. Develop formulas to address common objections in a clear and succinct manner.
• Being confident about your product without seeming desperate or pushy
• If possible, include incentives (e.g., some type of guarantee or discount)
Know Your Product
Marketing solar PV doesn’t require expert knowledge of the product (though closing the sale often does).
What is important is to understand both the real or perceived positive and negative aspects associated with the product.
Also (somewhat obviously) understand what influences the demand for solar power for home or business use.
Customers, especially those already skeptical, will definitely have questions that will need to be answered, which can be done in several ways, including:
• A (FAQ) frequently asked questions page on your company’s solar website
• Live chats and video explainers where real-time questions are answered
• Carefully written descriptions explaining how solar energy works. Keep it simple by outlining potential benefits.
The work you put in here can be recycled into your other marketing and advertising content
Know Your Target Solar Consumer
It’s just as crucial to have a good understanding of who will likely be interesting in purchasing solar panels at their home or business.
Once you define your target consumer and get an idea of what motivates them, you can craft a custom-tailored message to let them know how solar products can fit into their lifestyle and meet their needs.
This will not only allow you to target customers more specifically but will also save you money on advertising every time you create a campaign.
Put yourself in their position and think about what it would take for you to say “yes” if asked to make the same purchase decision.
Though a tough nut to crack, pragmatists and skeptics from Gen X to BabyBoomers represent a massive market. Their motives are often dollars and cents, with an aim to save money for retirement by reducing utility bills.
Shift Your Focus to the Next Wave of Solar Owners
You can absolutely target anyone who may be interested in taking advantage of solar power with your marketing efforts.
But it’s really the next wave of solar owners that represent one of the biggest opportunities in the solar market.
That being said, millennials, while less skeptical and more open to the principles and logic of renewable energy, also lack buying power.
Statistically, this demographic typically includes younger homeowners, usually within their late 20s or early 30s, who have a steady income but not a lot of other financial burdens.
Status seekers or “joiners” who don’t want to be left out of trends could fall into this category as well.
The millennial age group (18-to-34-year-olds) is also more likely to be motivated by the potential environmental benefits of solar ownership.
Show Your Enthusiasm for Solar Energy
You won’t be effective at convincing someone to invest in a solar source of power if you don’t show an honest passion for your product.
When you project passion across all your marketing channels, you show confidence in your product, and this makes your intended consumer more likely to be attracted to your offer.
Demonstrate Your Authority
If you happen to be a general electrician or contractor offering solar as one of your services, consumers may not see you as being an authority on the subject.
Overcome this barrier by demonstrating your authority on solar panels and systems.
This can be done with web content, blog posts or video posts where you discuss specific topics related to the industry such as net metering, eligibility for tax credits, and newer panels that are designed to be less visually distracting when placed on roofs.
Increase and further prove your knowledge of the industry by:
• Contributing to reputable blogs
• Reaching out to “social influencers” with active social pages related to the solar industry
• Subscribing to solar news feeds to stay current with industry news
• Reading up on solar facts to make sure you can quickly answer questions you may get on your social media pages or during in-person engagements with potential customers
• Knowing specific federal, state, and local incentives available to new solar owners in the state(s) where you are targeting customers
Be Transparent and Up-front
Sales pitches with a lot of hype and too little information won’t cut it when marketing for the solar PV industry.
Transparency builds trust, so be prepared to discuss initial costs, although you can soften such details with solid facts about potential long-term savings, and provide an honest estimate.
For the skeptic, in particular, relationships based on transparency and honesty build trust.
Sell the relationship even more by emphasizing things like customer service benefits, and providing ongoing support and engagement that goes beyond the initial installation.
Establish Clear Differentiation with Products
Many consumers view solar panels as being basically the same thing no matter who happens to be selling them.
Still, there are clear differences with the different solar panels available in terms of quality, the performance of the panels, and overall durability.
Here it is important from a marketing perspective to clearly identify your UVP.
Your unique value proposition is anything that clearly shows how your solar panels or services offer more value than other panels available from competitors.
Defining this is key and should be included among your main marketing selling points.
Offer Choices and Go for the Upsell When Appropriate
Realistically, not all of your potential solar customers are going to be able to afford top-of-the-line panels.
If possible, office choices that include options in a lower price range; but still offer the option to purchase the top-of-the-line panels for customers who can afford to make that choice.
You could also soften concerns about price by pointing out any convenient payment options that may be available, including available financing.
No money up front offers are available through financing partners and offer a massive appeal to timid would be customers.
If your competitors are offering only the cheaper panels and not including more choices, it should become clear to customers which company truly has their best interests in mind.
Of course, you can always make it even clearer by emphasizing the fact that you offer more choices in your marketing content.
Get Emotional with Your Marketing
Sure, you want to demonstrate knowledge of your product and offer a lot of facts when selling solar products.
This doesn’t mean you can’t also tap into consumers’ emotions.
One under-utilized way to do this is to incorporate storytelling into your solar marketing efforts where it makes sense to do so.
Emotional aspects of solar-related marketing might be demonstrated in the following ways:
• Using stories of real customers who have solar panels
• Tapping into the environmental benefits with related stories
• Incorporating attention-getting facts into your marketing that trigger certain emotions (e.g., do something good for the planet and reduce your home’s carbon footprint as much as 3,000 pounds of CO2 per year by going solar)
Don’t Be Afraid to Entertain
Marketing to solar consumers doesn’t have to be entirely straightforward and informative – and it certainly doesn’t have to be boring.
Entertainment, even with humor when appropriate, can be part of your marketing efforts.
When used correctly in marketing, entertainment can result in captivating and engaging content that grabs the attention of the intended audience.
Harness the Power of Word-of-Mouth
Further ease skepticism by encouraging existing customers to post reviews online, and to comment on your social channels.
It’s often an effective marketing strategy because most people are more likely to trust what’s said in a review over carefully worded marketing content. The company’s agenda is obvious, customer reviews and endorsements seem to be more “from the heart”.
This is just one example of how getting people to spread the word can be effective.
Some companies routinely use referral programs to get satisfied customers to convince their friends and neighbors to go solar, while others include live social feeds on their website so customers can see what’s being said about a solar business in real time.
Develop Strategic Marketing Partnerships
Leverage your solar marketing efforts by seeking mutually beneficial strategic partners.
Such arrangements work by reaching out other companies in the same market (but not direct competitors) who offer complementary services; think local construction companies using green building methods, organic growers, and energy auditors.
Referrals from such companies, even if it’s just a brief mention on a website and a link back to your site, can go a long way with helping you to seal the deal with customers.
Potential benefits of marketing partnerships include:
• Reaching potential customers already interested in environmentally friendly options
• Instantly tapping into a larger customer base within your preferred market
• Establishing added trust by partnering with a company or companies already respected within the industry or community
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