You’ve heard it many times already. There is a deluge of competitors in all solar markets, and customer acquisition costs are still high —instead of coming down, they’re still going up.
So how do you stand out from the competition? Which solar marketing strategies should you use to acquire solar customers at a decent cost?
In April 2017, we co-hosted a webinar that went in-depth on how small and regional solar companies can compete with the big guys. These solar marketing strategies go through how you can figure out where your brand is unique from your competitors, then use digital marketing to leverage that knowledge to get customers in the door at a lower cost than usual.
The Full Solar Marketing Strategies Video for Free
Here is the full video of the “How to Energize Your Digital Solar Marketing Strategy” webinar:
In this webinar, you will hear Maciej Godlewski, the owner of Fired Up Digital, and Nancy Edwards, Principal of Clean Power Marketing Group. (For more about their individual bios you can see the write-ups here and here, respectively.) We distilled the lessons you can hear in the webinar down to usable chunks that will help your solar company attract more solar installations.
The problems solar companies face when it comes to their marketing
There are several main problems with solar marketing strategies that we brought up during the presentation:
- Competition is fierce: Solar power is no longer just in California, and the competition is rising. There were only 6,799 installers in the U.S. in 2006 and by 2016 there were approximately 15,100.
Data from IBISWorld Industry Report OD4494 Solar Panel Installation in the US – October 2015
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- Customer acquisition costs are not coming down in solar, and that’s true for both the big players and 100 percent of our respondents in an online poll during the webinar.
- The problem for the solar industry is how to stand out, how to build a strong brand and differentiate from the competition.
- Allocation of time and money is a challenge when it comes to online marketing budgets.
- Solar lead generation scheme involving digital marketing burned many installers, many of whom felt they threw money out the door on solar advertising that did not bring any results.
- Measuring what works is a huge issue. It’s hard to know which data to track to calculate if your marketing is truly working. The quote we often repeat rings true
“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”
— John Wanamaker Marketing Pioneer
This is the quick poll question we had our solar installer attendees answer on the webinar: Have your customer acquisition costs increased or decreased over the last few years?
100 percent of them responded that costs have increased!
The national installers are also dealing seeing this same scenario. According to data from Solar Leaderboard (which still includes Solar City as a separate entity at the start of 2016), sales and marketing costs have—in some cases—climbed up to over $0.90 per Watt.
The solutions for your solar marketing problems
Even though there are numerous obstacles when leveraging digital marketing in your solar business, there’s no reason to despair. The webinar covered several solutions:
- You should first spend time thinking about your brand. One of the exercise questions that Nancy mentioned was, “What is the ‘Why’ behind your business? Why do you exist?”
- Understanding the customer journey is important. Take look at the following picture of the different solar customer journey steps, something Nancy discussed in depth in the webinar.
Because your customers can’t try out solar panels and easily return them if they don’t like them, they end up doing a lot of research and browsing online for stories of people just like them to figure out if solar panels are a sound investment.
As you see in the picture below, Yelp, LinkedIn, Facebook, are all mentioned because that’s how comparison shopping is done these days—even for large, important purchases. Consumers want to see what their network, or people like them, think about solar panels or specific solar installers.
THE BIG QUESTION: Where to allocate your time and money
Ok, let’s say you got your branding sorted and you have your marketing materials. Which solar marketing strategies bring the best results? The answer is that you can lower your customer acquisition costs by focusing on digital channels. Here is why:
Google processes more than 3.5 billion searches every single day.
At the end of 2016, 162 million users accessed Yelp on mobile and desktop in one month. “Home and Local Services” was the third most often reviewed business category on Yelp at 13 percent after Shopping and Restaurants 22 percent and 18 percent, respectively.
Let’s assume you know you should set aside some of your marketing budget for online marketing. The question becomes, how do you know how much to allocate? We ran a poll in the webinar asking the solar installers this question: “What percentage of your marketing budget do you spend on digital marketing?”
63 percent of solar installers said that they spend between one and 25 percent of their marketing budget on digital marketing. 25 percent of solar installers said they spend between 25-50 percent. Even 13 percent said they spend 50-75 percent of their marketing budget on digital marketing tactics.
How does that compare with how much average marketers are spending? Thankfully, Forrester Research did the leg work and found that the digital marketing spend is going up from around 30 percent of total marketing budgets in 2014 to a projected 35 percent in 2019.
So where do you start with your solar digital marketing?
A survey by Econsultancy of Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs)—which represents a variety of industry sectors and firm sizes—asked this question: “How do you rate the following channels in terms of return on investment?”
The results focused on various digital marketing channels and the ones that had the best results are email marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), content marketing and pay-per-click paid search (PPC).
The key question still remains: Where do I start? Which solar marketing strategies will work for me? If we were you, we’d use these methods to generate business for your solar company.
Make your website the hub of your solar marketing strategies
You can’t control Google, Facebook, or Yelp’s ever-changing rules and algorithms. Your website is the platform you have the most control over, and you should use it as such.
First develop a clear brand and valuable content to share with your readers. Then use your website to attract customers and build their trust. Follow these steps when building a strategic digital plan:
- Define your goals and your measurement strategy.
- Benchmark where you are today.
- Take care of the basics: SEO, site performance, user experience.
- Develop a three-month plan: test, refine, retest.
- Consider digital advertising to jump-start your efforts, but only when your site is conversion-ready.
- Create a long-term content strategy to build organic SEO.
Let’s dive deeper into two specific solar marketing strategies that work and revolve around Google’s search results. Paid advertising and search engine optimization will help you dominate the front page of Google.
Here’s a common search that your potential homeowners or commercial owners might do when looking for a solar installer.
Strategy 1: Solar advertising is how you can get on top of Google search results
The top results in the picture are reserved for ads through Google AdWords or the map with local companies. There are ways you can win the AdWords auction while lowering your costs to advertise. That is a lengthy discussion for another time. Interested in learning how to do this? You can learn how to get your phone to ring with the solar advertising solutions we can design for you.
Contact Maciej at maciej (at] firedupdigital.com and we’ll set up a time for a quick chat on how to set up your AdWords campaigns that get you the clients you’re looking for.
Digital solar advertising can prove very profitable in your business, you just need to know how to implement it the right way. It usually takes one to two months to see if it is a good use of your marketing budget.
Here is a solar advertising case study about a solar company on the Solar Power World Top 500 list that was spending $16,000+ on ads before we came in and increased their number of leads by 500 percent using AdWords while cutting their costs by 35 percent.
You need a plan. Do you need help with solar lead generation? The marketing system we put in place helps to attract both residential and commercial prospects, and we don’t just use solar advertising to generate leads. We use other direct response strategies to create demand for your services. During our quick chat we will help to design your marketing plan. Sign up here to speak with Maciej.
Strategy 2: SEO still takes up most of the search results
The map in search results uses your physical location to get traffic from people who are in the area and searching for solar companies. There are local SEO best practices that allow you to influence these search results. This helps your business come up when people do a search in your location for your services.
After a few organic results, this search squeezes in a few more ads.
The important takeaway is that you can affect the organic search results. You do that by optimizing what you can control. This makes your site more likely to come up in a prospect’s search.
As noted in the pictures above, you have control over the blue text that is clickable in Google Search results. That line is called a “title tag” and can be changed on the backend dashboard of your website. The gray lines of text under each organic search result are “meta descriptions”. These should be expertly written. This helps the prospect understand how your page differs from competitors.
Quick tips on how to boost your SEO for solar search terms
There are more than 30 ranking signals that Google considers when determining if your page should rank higher than another. Whole books have been written on this topic. What works is constantly changing. The main thing to know is that SEO breaks down to two factors. What is “on page,” meaning what you control on your own website. And “off page,” meaning what other sites think about your website. This is exemplified by other sites linking to yours, sharing your content on social media, etc.
In Maciej’s SEO workshops, he shares the infographic below. It shows what is working or not in search engine marketing and applies for all websites, including solar ones.
The Periodic Table of SEO, Search Engine Land
There are plenty of questions when you’re trying to improve the SEO of your solar website. If you’re thinking if you should do SEO yourself or hire a third party, here are some things to consider.
Do you find SEO confusing or think you might not have the time to do it right? Our suite of solar marketing strategies includes working with solar companies on their SEO. (Learn more about our SEO services) We are always happy to have a quick call to discuss your particular situation and which solar marketing strategies are better suited to your situation.
The two best ways to stand out from your competition while lowering your costs
Solar marketing is tough—there are a growing number of companies out there fighting for the same customers. You must find ways to stand out. We just showed you these main takeaways from the webinar:
- Tips for branding and positioning your solar offerings the right way.
- Leveraging digital strategies to spread your message to prospects, lowering your solar customer acquisition costs at your company.
These two things are very powerful lead generators for solar installers. But don’t just go away and not implement them. You need a plan to implement them and we can customize one for you during our 30 minute strategy session.
Get more sales when you implement these strategies
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Maciej Godlewski is the President of digital marketing agency Fired Up Digital, Inc. Maciej writes on digital marketing strategies for the renewable energy, solar power, and the clean tech industries.