Let me guess – You’re booked out months. The phone rings steadily, and you’re turning people away because you can’t come out until the spring or summer.
One of my clients – a residential energy contractor in Oregon – turned away more than 100 potential customers last month. These are not normal times.
You can’t wave a wand to complete projects faster, so what do you do? How do you keep from missing this swell in demand? How do you stay connected to customers queuing up for months?
TWO OBVIOUS THINGS
First, you’re probably communicating openly and transparently about your timelines for both appointments and projects. If not, start here.
Second, there’s a good chance you already started charging or charging more for appointments. That’s the age-old strategy to manage demand and keep customers from canceling after waiting for months.
Here are three other marketing and communications strategies to consider.
RIDE THE WAVE … LATER
When a potential customer calls, ask for their contact information before getting into timelines, pricing, and all the rest.
If they seem like a good fit – except for the timelines – add them to your newsletter list. You’ll get a chance to stay in touch and build trust over time. Read more about how to send a killer newsletter.
Your newsletter shouldn’t badger customers into doing projects. Instead, do your best to speak to their goals and challenges, so that you’re top of mind when they’re ready to do a project.
The majority of homeowners who move forward with solar projects report spending a year or more on the decision. Even if they don’t get an estimate from you right away, a long-term nurturing campaign (i.e. an effective email newsletter) will position you for the project when they’re finally ready.
Imagine you’re a homeowner who contacts several companies for solar estimates. One company consistently follows up, not to close the sale, but to keep you updated about changing incentives and strategies to save energy at home. Which company would earn your trust and perhaps your business?
DON’T GO DARK
What about people who schedule appointments months out? If you wait until the week of their appointment to circle back, I’ll bet you see a pretty high cancellation rate. Life gets busy, and a certain number of your customers will forget that they scheduled.
To stay in touch with customers waiting for appointments, set up a simple email sequence in your CRM to check in at regular intervals (more on this in the next section). As an alternative, you could add waiting customers to your newsletter list so that they remember you and learn what you’re all about.
Set Up Email Sequences
Here are step-by-step instructions to set up automated email sequences based on your customers’ appointment dates in Salesforce, Hubspot, and Acuity.
- Salesforce: In Salesforce, it’s a two step process. First, create your Email Templates, then schedule Email Alerts for Leads with Workflow Rules.
- HubSpot: Create automated emails to use in workflows.
- Acuity Scheduling: Customize your email templates by appointment type.
The scheduling interval and email content will vary depending on the details of your company and market. You’ll find templates for a scheduling email sequence you can use at voltastrategies.com/downloads.
The email templates at a glance:
- Send Immediately: Confirmation Email. Keep it simple. Confirm the appointment time, and if possible, include a link for your customer to cancel or reschedule.
- Send 60-Days Out: Check-In Email. Remind the customer about their appointment. If there’s anything they can do to get the most value from the appointment, call it out here..
- Send 30-Days Out: Reminder Email. Set expectations for the appointment.
- Send One Week Out: Meet Your Consultant. Introduce the person who will visit their home.
IT’S ALL ABOUT TRUST
This is the time to lean into trust symbols. Prioritize reviews, certifications, awards – things that tell customers you’re worth the wait.
Selling solar is hard. One of the biggest barriers to solar is what’s known as “trialability.” Your customers face an all-or-nothing decision. Either you bolt the solar array to their house, or you don’t. There’s no way for them to try before they buy.
Because homeowners can’t try before they buy, they place a heavy emphasis on the experiences of others to help them make a decision. That’s why reviews, testimonials, and referrals are worth their weight in gold.
I recommend including at least one testimonial on each of the sales pages on your website. You can use what’s called a “carousel” to rotate through reviews so you don’t have to give up too much real estate. Like this:
Some solar installers group their testimonials together on a separate page. That’s OK, as long as you include a strong testimonial or carousel of testimonials on your sales page.
The goal is to inspire confidence and conversions on your sales page. If you make people go to a separate page to read testimonials, you risk missing out on the conversions (like phone calls and scheduled appointments) on your sales page.
Nonprofits and Utilities
In addition to testimonials, you can leverage endorsements from local nonprofit partners or utilities. In Oregon, the nonprofit Energy Trust of Oregon distributes cash incentives to homeowners, who work with contractors in their trade ally network.
The Energy Trust benefits from a huge amount of consumer confidence. I strongly encourage Oregon-based solar contractors to feature their partnership with the Energy Trust. For example:
“Over the last decade, we’ve helped homeowners save more than $100,000 with cash incentives from the Energy Trust of Oregon. We’re proud to have the Energy Trust’s highest rating – 5 out of 5 stars – as a trade ally contractor.”
Certifications can also add credibility. The key is to hone in on one or two certifications with broad recognition.
Each person who visits your website will typically give you only a few seconds before they decide whether or not they trust you enough to get in touch. A certification from an independent, authoritative organization will help.
I’ve seen compelling results from certification as a B Corporation or B Corp. You can learn more about earning B Corp certification from the nonprofit B Lab.
B Corp certification has a couple things going for it. In addition to broad recognition among consumers, the certification allows you to back up the claim that you’re in business for the right reasons.
“As a certified B Corp, we meet the highest standards of social and environmental accountability.”
There are lots of reasons to go for industry specific certifications, but from a marketing standpoint, I don’t see as much value as B Corp. Industry specific certifications don’t do as much work to inspire confidence because they don’t have the same recognition among most members of your audience.
That said, residential solar installers should of course consider NABCEP certification.
BE WORTH THE WAIT
You’re not the cheapest, and you won’t be the first one out there. Ideally, you want your customers to look forward to their appointment because you’re worth waiting for.