Once you've established a solar marketing strategy and understand the customer purchasing process, it's important to take those concepts and apply them to real-life situations to see them at work--and to understand how effective they can actually be. We went to one of our top dealer partners, Granite State Solar, to learn their secrets to marketing success as a small, regional solar business.
Converting Knowledge to Practice
Granite State's daily challenges are similar to those experienced by many other small solar businesses: they need good quality leads, consistent referrals, and brand awareness, but when it comes to marketing, the excuses pile up quickly. It's all to easy to say, "I'm too busy," or "there's not enough time," or "I'll focus on it when things slow down, after I've handled today's problems." Although marketing is often put on the backburner, it should be a top priority, because it generates critically important business continuity and puts you in control of your sales success.
The First Step: Differentiation
Offer Higher-Quality Products Than Your Competition
And understand how to communicate the value of those products.
Offer Better-Looking Products
Bigger companies often provide a generic solar solution to all of their customers--build your business around some specialized (and attractive) options.
Establish a Reputation That Matches Your Self-Image
Actively pursue written referrals on digital platforms where they will be most visible (Solar Reviews, Google, Facebook, Yelp, etc). You should also compile a list of customer references and send them to every prospect with each proposal.
In your quest for differentiation, it's important to remember that "the winner of a price war is the first loser"--that is to say, be competitive, but don't let price be the battleground. While undercutting the competition's pricing might seem like a simple and tempting strategy, investing in other, more sustainable means of differentiation will pay off in the long-term.
Even the busiest, most time-crunched businesses can be successful marketers if they leverage every employee in the company to help deliver the company's brand and marketing messages. Grassroots marketing should be a key component of every solar business's strategy, and it should be a part of everyone's job. What this really boils down to is: create one logo, and brand everything. Some ideas:
- Have the office staff order pens, pocket folders, and yard signs.
- Hire a marketing firm or use skilled staff to design and print brochures (this creative can be repurposed into future direct mail pieces and other collateral).
- Have employees bring shirts, hats, jackets, etc. to a Shirtmasters or a similar shop to have logos stenciled on them. Buy quality clothes they want to wear!
- Apply vinyl lettering, magnets, or wraps to all vehicles.
- Have sales staff leave branded document folders, pens, and refrigerator magnets behind after site visits and walkthroughs.
- Leave yard signs in the ground after every job.
- Set up a Google AdWords campaign. Google yourself and see which of your competitors have you in their crosshairs.
- Don't forget to brand tractors and trailers! Showing that you own these assets helps to project establishment, long-term viability, and credibility.
Direct Response: Do Something!
Direct response marketing is an investment that costs real money and takes time to pay off. However, if you are willing to put in the resources and effort needed, this can become a viable, valuable marketing strategy for your business.
Postcards are inexpensive to print, can catch the customer's eye without having to be opened, and can be mailed at a very low cost if detailed demographic targeting isn't needed.
Radio can very effective locally or regionally. If you choose to pursue radio advertising, refresh the ad copy frequently. In-studio reads save money because talent doesn't need to be hired and production costs are zero. And remember: advertise on the stations your audience actually listens to!
Broadcast has a broad reach, but it's pricey. Look at targeted television advertising through cable companies to reduce costs and potentially hit a more interested audience (for example, people who watch HGTV).
Other Direct Response Tips
- Find opportunities to co-brand with other companies to share costs.
- Measure your results. Set up Google Analytics and look for web traffic spikes corresponding to tactics in your market.
- Stay positive with your messaging!
Sweat the Small Stuff
While strategy and tactics are important, you also need to remember to focus on the basics. Small things can make a big difference! Some of Granite State's top tips:
One forgotten lawn sign could result in multiple lost jobs.
Update Your Content
Keep your website and social media content fresh and current.
Determine What Makes You Special, and Embrace It!
Make sure all of your employees understand this and are able to "walk the walk."
Guard Your Brand
Mistakes happen inevitably, but spend time and money to keep customers happy. Bad word of mouth has a real cost.
Want to take your solar marketing strategy to the next level in 2017? Get expert insights in the recording of our webinar on Marketing Insights to Help You Thrive in the Competitive Solar Market.