How do you know that the solar marketing experts you hire will provide you with high-quality solar leads and potential solar clients that you can turn into sales?
It’s no surprise that 68% of companies struggle with lead generation.
Finding new ways to generate solar leads can send you on a search for solar lead generation companies, and ultimately solar marketing experts. With just under 14,000 solar companies in the U.S. and growing, many marketing agencies cater solely to the solar industry.
So, how do you know which solar marketing company to go with, or rather, how do you find a solar marketing agency that will provide a steady stream of high-quality solar leads for your solar company?
In this article, I discuss things to look out for when searching for solar marketing experts, as well as five solar marketing ideas that will help you generate more solar leads.
Staying Ahead in a Booming Solar Industry
The residential solar market experienced its fifth consecutive record year in 2021, growing 30% over 2020 with a total of 4.2 GW installed across the U.S. Residential solar customers continue to be motivated by increasing household electricity bills brought on by increasing power outages and low financing costs.
Increasing residential electric bills, low financing costs, and a significant price drop for rooftop solar, tax incentives, and a few other key factors, have created the perfect storm for a massive boom in the solar industry. But while demand for rooftop solar is high, so is competition.
Ten years ago, rooftop solar was not only out of reach for most homeowners, but it was still a somewhat new idea. Most customers perceived solar as kind of risky or unknown, as well as expensive. Today that’s no longer the case. Over the past decade, solar has shifted from a nice-to-have, to a dominant source of energy that now powers over two million homes.
In the past decade, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many solar companies. From my experience, I can say that for many homeowners, it’s no longer a question of whether or not they’ll switch to solar but rather, which solar installer to choose. Afterall, switching to solar is pretty much a no-brainer!
Because competition is high, it’s normal for homeowners to do a lot of online research and gather several quotes prior to making a decision. So how do you stay ahead of the curve and on top of your solar game?
For potential solar customers, a competitive solar industry means they can choose a solar installer they are comfortable with, it means they can find competitive pricing, and it ensures new and existing solar companies hold high standards and maintain good customer service.
The challenge becomes how do you get them to choose you?
Nothing beats good workmanship, the use of high quality solar equipment and panels, and of course excellent follow up and customer service. Unfortunately, you could be the best solar company ever and still have problems with lead generation.
The U.S. Small Business Administration recommends small businesses (businesses with revenue less than 5 million) allocate between 7% and 8% of total revenue to marketing.
83% of homeowners are going to do an extensive online search for a solar company and will start their decision making process well before you’re given a chance to give them an estimate. New and existing solar companies are challenged with generating sufficient solar leads.
So here you are, searching for a way to generate more solar leads, and searching for the right solar marketing experts to bridge the gap between you and potential solar customers.
Can You Do Your Own Solar Marketing?
When it comes to solar marketing, companies generally have two major complaints:
- Marketing agencies can be expensive and
- Low volume or low quality leads that don’t turn into sales.
Unfortunately, thousands of dollars can be spent trying to figure this out, and by that time, it’s too late.
For that reason, many solar companies, newer or smaller companies, try to do their own marketing. To a degree it works.
But if you are not familiar with online marketing, which is to say how to grow your business’ social media, how to run online advertising for solar, solar content marketing, search engine optimization, e-mail automation, how to get google reviews, solar lead generation, and so on… well, the results are limited.
Radio ads, TV commercial, exhibiting at a local market or a convention, print ads in magazines and newspapers, fliers and handouts, and even billboards can be effective. But no matter what form of marketing you run in-hourse, current consumer trends clearly show that, even if a potential solar customer sees your ad in any one of these places, they will still go online to get more information before calling you or scheduling a solar estimate.
Over the years, door-to-door has also been used as an effective way to schedule solar consultations; however, it’s also expensive. It’s also becoming harder to hire people willing to do door-to-door knocking, and since 2020 many neigborhoods prohibit it.
It seems that all roads lead back to “online”. So, how do you find solar marketing experts that will get you good solar leads?
The Most Important Part of Your Solar Marketing Strategy
The world of digital marketing can seem confusing, so where do you start? What is the single most important piece of your solar marketing strategy?
Well… when people want to find a service or product where do they go?
They go online.
If someone needs a hammer they go to Home Depot. If someone needs a sweater, they’ll go to Target or the mall. For gorveries, they’ll go to their local supermarket. That’s because they are familiar with these stores. They know what they can find there and they have an idea of what the costs are.
When someone is not familiar with something, where to get it, or how much it costs, they hit the internet! That’s where most of your potential solar clients live.
You can perk interest through social media, advertising, and so on. But there’s one piece of your marketing strategy that without, well… customer may not even believe you’re a real company!
A good solar website helps create brand awareness and showcases your installations to prospective solar customers. It helps to establish trust and confidence by letting the audience know who you are and what you represent. A website provides reliable information to the consumer, which helps in setting your solar company apart from the many competitors. And most of all, your website should be producing solar leads!
Your website is more than just a flashy representation. It needs to be informative, it needs to answer questions, and it needs to be engaging. That’s why why the use of interactive solar estimate tools, blogs about solar, and videos can help convert visitors. Customer testimonials, a team page showing your team, and a gallery of solar installations also helps!
Your website also tells potential solar customers how to reach you. You can’t imagine how many times I’ve visited a website and had a hard time finding a phone number to call.
While a good website still has to be advertised and promoted, it’s the focal point of your entire online marketing strategy.
If you’re struggling to generate enough solar leads, you should immediately review your website and upgrade it before pouring money into lead generation, marketing, and advertising.
For hassle-free web design, send us a message.
What To Watch Out For When Hiring Solar Marketing Experts
It would be hard for me to describe the perfect solar marketing company, because there are many very good and effective solar marketing agencies that use different strategies.
I can however tell you what to look out for. I’ll do this by giving you actual examples of what I’ve run into while consulting several solar companies.
Flat-Rate Solar Lead Generation Companies
A Tampa solar installer was paying a lead generation company a flat fee of $50 for every solar lead generated. The lead generation company would run general online solar ads in Google and social media and would pass on potential solar customers and their information.
It was a simple system, but when the solar company would call these potential solar customers they were often already booked for an estimate with another solar company.
At first we thought that clients would call several companies at once, and we were getting to them too late. That wasn’t the case, so what happened?
The lead generation company would run general ads for solar, not marketing any specific solar installer or solar company. When people requested an estimate, they would dish the lead out to several solar companies at the same time.
Most flat-fee lead generation companies operate this way and running general ads instead of company-specific ads, they were able to do this.
The potential customers would then get bombarded with phone calls from solar companies which would make it harder to reach them… and you ge the idea.
That same agency would run online ads for other companies, such as roofers, and HVAC companies. They would then ask those customers if they were interested in a free solar consultation to complement their new roof or HVAC project.
From a branding aspect it’s better to run ads that specifically promote your solar company.
By paying a flat-rate fee for solar leads, lead generation company to run general ads. Yet branding and name recognition plays an important role in building trust with potential solar customers.
If the ads do not have your company’s name on them, and do not talk about your process or what sets you apart from other solar companies, that means you’re contacting leads that have never heard of you before and it’s harder to turn that into an appointment and a future solar customer.
Large Solar Marketing Management Fees
Another option is to pay a marketing agency to run a solar marketing campaign. This could be anything from growing your social media, to running online advertising and managing your website.
This is a very common way that businesses manage their marketing and, as I mentioned earlier, there are many very effective solar marketing companies that do an excellent job.
Here’s what to look out for.
Two years ago the owner of a large solar installer asked me to put together a good solar marketing strategy for him because the company he was working with was “ok”, but they couldn’t explain to him how his marketing budget was being used.
For some reason the marketing company was using his entire marketing budget every month, but they were unable to itemize the expense.
He was getting some leads but the cost per acquisition was high.
I dug in and found that he was paying large management fees.
Of course solar marketing companies need to charge a management fee, otherwise they’d be doing work for free. But the larger the management fee, the less of your budget goes into the actual advertising.
As a rule of thumb, a management fee should not exceed 10-15% of your total ad spend when running online ads.
When hiring solar marketing experts, it’s always good to get a breakdown of how your budget is used each month.
Outsouced Solar Marketing
My first few years in marketing, I worked for an agency that out-sourced most of their work overseas. I quickly saw that it wasn’t the best way to operate, which is why at Key Marketing Strategies we never out-source any of our work. Yet many marketing companies do.
Why do marketing companies out-source?
The reason marketing companies out-source their work overseas is to cut costs.
Unrotunately, as a customer you don’t usually know that work is out-sourced because there is a person between you and the out-source.
I’ve found that out-sourced work is usually less effective for two reasons:
- Being unfamiliar with the U.S. market and the English language, out-sourced work often contains errors, poor English, the overall end product and user-experience is usually quirky.
- Because there is an account manager, between the client and the out-sourced work, there is a lot of room for misinterpretation. Kind of like playing telephone.
When is it good to out-source marketing?
In my experience savings a solar marketing company can realize by out-sourcing work does not out-weigh the costs of doing a good job and retaining clients. However, when would it be alright to out-source marketing work?
- Out-sourcing repetative tasks. When there are daily or weekly tasks that need to get repeated, you can teach a virtual assistant and quality check their work.
- Amazing programmers can be found in countries like India, Pakistan, Russia, Asia, and even Northern Africa. In fact, many apps and program you use today are programmed by staff overseas. So where programming is necessary, such as a custom CRM or system, out-sourcing work can make a big difference in costs and you are likely to find better programmers overseas then in the U.S.
When Can You Start Expecting Results?
This is something I tell anyone I consult.
There is no big red lead-generation-button that you press for instant and on-demand solar leads.
Like any marketing, solar marketing is an investment. It may take 90 days to get your campaigns tested and working, but once they are it’s all downhill from there.
If you are expecting immediate and instant results, you may be disappointed and you may be hiring and firing your solar matkering experts every month.
So, once you find a solar marketing company you are confident in, work with them and be highly involved for the first 2-3 months to get things up and running. Let them tell you how they would run the marketing and be there to answer questions. As Steve Jobs put it:
“It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”
Five Solar Marketing Tactics That Will Help You Generate Solar Leads
1) Get Listed In Solar Company Directories
When a potential solar customer searches Google for a solar company they are likely to google something like “best solar companies”, or “solar companies near me”, or “solar installer in ____” etc.
Of course you want your solar website to show up in those searches, but showing up is not always easy. Google favors websites that get a lot of traffic and have a long history of posting solar related content – like solar company directories.
Solar company directories are more likely to show up in search results. Even when customers specifically search for a solar installer in their city, the competition is still strong.
To make sure potential solar clients find your company, you can get listed at the top of solar directories. Right now, the main ones you should register with are:
Clean Energy Experts
In addition to these directories, you should get listed in industry association directories to help build credibility and trust in potential solar customers. Some examples of such association directories include:
NABCEP – The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners has two directories on their website to help people find certified solar installers: The Company Accreditation Directory and the Certified Locator Directory.
SEIA – The Solar Energy Industry Association directory includes companies from the entire solar indsutry, from manufacturers and project developers to installers and financiers.
2) Work Hard to Gather Positive Google Reviews
Remember earlier in this blog I mentioned that you could be the best solar installer ever, but people may ever not find you?
Google reviews go a long way in helping you generate new solar leads.
- Positive reviews help potential solar customers know they can trust you, and that you will do a good job. Here, the key is to do a really good job and kindly ask for reviews. The more five-star reviews you have, the more leads you will generate. I should also take the opportunity to let you know that, Google penalizes the purchase or solicitation of reviews. Offering a gift card for a review or something similar is not encouraged.
- The more Google reviews you have the more your google listing will show up in local searches. A local search is when someone searches “solar installer near me” or “solar installer in ____”.
Because pretty much everyone knows how Google works, you can gather Google reviews by contacting your past customers through e-mail, SMS, or phone calls and simply asking them to leave a review.
If you don’t have a Google listing for your solar company, you can make one by starting a new Google My Business page. If you need assistance with your Google listing or would like to optimize it for better results, at Key Marketing Strategies we offer a service that can help you.
3) Run Ads Targeting Potential Solar Customers
Every day thousands of potential customers surf the web to find a solar installer to help them install solar on their home. These are the people you want to advertise to. Homeowners that are in the information gathering phase of the decision process.
So how do you reach them?
I’m sure that at some point you’ve searched for something in Google and then seen ads follow you around, appearing in Google, websites, and social media related to what you searched.
Just like that, Google’s algorithm gives you the potential to reach people who have been searching online for solar installers or solar companies.
The best way to generate more solar leads is to aim your online ads at people who have been actively shopping for a solar installer. You can do this by:
- Running ads to appear in front of users who have been searching for products and services like yours or similar to yours. For example roofing, or HVAC, or people who search for ways to reduce their electric bill.
- Run a remarketing ad campaign that targets people that have already interacted with your solar ads, your website, or your social media, so that they’ll see your ads more often. Reptition in advertising is important.
- Run ads that target keywords related to solar. This allows your ads to appear in front of people who are searching on Google for specific keywords or phrases, for example “solar installer near me” or “how does it cost to go solar”, etc.
- Running placement or network ads that will show on specific websites that potential customers are visiting, like directories, solar blogs, and high ranking websites.
- Running ads is also a good way to appear at the top of Goole’s first page. If you Google “solar installer near me” you will see these ads appearing at the top of your search results.
Running ads is also a good way to appear at the top of Google’s first page. If you Google “solar installer near me” you will see these ads appearing at the top of your search results.
Running ads requires a knowledge of Google Ad Words and Google Ads as well as some running ads on social media. If you do not have experience in running ads, we suggest hiring solar marketing experts to get the best results.
4) Solar Content Marketing to Appear in People’s Google Search
While running ads is a fast way to get to the top of Google’s results, it can get expensive. But what if your website was actually the Google’s first choice?
Websites that make it on Google’s first page experience a ton of traffic and as a result, a ton of solar leads!
This is called SEO or Search Engine Optimization.
SEO is generally a long-term strategy for attracting quality solar leads that will often become customers. Not only are potential solar clients seeing your website, but their trust is super high because you’re one of the top results.
Content marketing means using helpful and informative online content such as blogs, social media posts, videos, and more drive people to your website.
Let’s say a customer is searching for “how much does it cost to go solar”. The first results will probably be people advertisign for that position. But after the ads come all the website that rightfully earned their position. Here customers will find blogs and informative answers to their questions.
If a customer then clicks on the link to read your article, they’ll be taken to your site through the search process, not through an ad. This is how content marketing works. While it’s not easy getting to Google top page, there are simple ways to get in on some of the traffic and they are extremely effective.
Content marketing results in 54% more leads than traditional paid online ads and saves businesses about $20,000 per year.
5) Use Customer Incentives To Get Referrals
Probably the most effective way to market solar is by running a good incentives and referral program. Solar companies that run a good referral program experience a tidal wave of very good solar leads.
A great deal of research finds that word of mouth is more effective than other types of marketing. Whether compared to traditional advertising, media mentions, or promotional events, word of mouth is more useful in creating new users and customers.
Turning your customers into a source of referals is a powerful way to generate new solar leads. Most neighbors talk to each other and most people know other people in their neighborhood. Customers can also generate interest at work or within their family, specially when there is a good incentive involved.
Referred solar prospects tend to move forward with their solar project faster then other leads because they’ve been told about your company by someone they know and trust.
Existing customers have also invested in their own solar project and would be happy to get some of that investment back by referring you new people.
Encouraging incentives can include discounts or cash rewards. If a customer sends you more than one referral, increase the reward to encourage multiple referrals.
There are of course many ways to generate solar leads. The above are just some of the top suggestions I can give from my experience. As always, the purpose of my articles is to help you through providing information and any tips I can give. I hope that in reading this article you have found some help ways to improve your solar marketing approach!