What strikes me most about renewable energy websites is how much companies tend to to talk about themselves and the technology and not about what the customer actually cares about. Actually, let me rephrase this, what “mainstream customers” care about. For this, we need a little review of the difference between “early adopters” and “mainstream” customers and how that is impacting the renewable energy industry.

The renewable energy industry is going through an interesting shift right now. The shift is from early adopters, seen on the left of the above diagram, to the mass market customer. In the early adopter market the customers are crazy about the technology and the unrealized potential that it has. They’ll research the technology, how it works and is sized, your company, and your specific actions down to the size of wire you’re using, the heat loss of a 20 foot run of 3/4 copper run with 2 GPM of 30% glycol going from the collectors to the storage tank, and many other crazy elements of a typical geothermal or solar thermal installation. To attract these customers you must speak their language. This language is extremely technical. Early adopters tend to care most about the technology and the credibility of the people doing the work. Many times the customer may actually feel like they’re more knowledgeable then the company doing the work. They just don’t have the needed permits to do it themselves, so they hire someone else, but watch them closely. If you’ve been in the solar pv business for more then 8 years you’ve probably experienced this.

What we need to keep in mind is that the mass market cares about an entirely different set of values than the early adopters. If you’re selling to the mass market, you need to begin to speak their language or you will not sell to them.

While each customer is a little different, here are the types of things mass market customers care about:

  • Financial Returns. Will the system pay for itself? Make sure to us Internal Rate of Return AND NOT Payback period. I repeat. DO NOT USE PAYBACK PERIOD.
  • Ease of Installation. Will it impact their day to day lives?  It may seem trivial but it’s important for a lot of homeowners. This is why many clients favor solar or geothermal over a more extensive energy efficiency upgrade to the shell of their home. Simply because a shell upgrade is very thorough, dirty, and time consuming process. It interrupts their life. While a solar pv system can be installed in 3 days.
  • Comfort. Will it increase the comfort of their home?
  • Hassle. If something goes wrong how easy is it to fix? Do they need to both with anything or will someone else do it?
  • Image. Does it make their home (or ego) look better?
  • Long Term Implications.  How long will the technology will work and how will it impact the resale value of the property?
  • Values. What does it represent about their own personal values? Similar to the image question.
  • Credibility. They care about a company’s credibility only in as much as it impacts a part of the above list. A better company will tend to have better customer service and thus an easier installation and less hassle. For example, residential customers will not have heard of NABCEP Certification.

Mass market customers care less about the technology specifics. Mass market customers tend to not care specifically how the technology works and how it’s sized.  If they “get it” conceptually, or think they get it, this will be enough.

If your company has engineers doing the marketing, I recommend updating your sales pitch to speak more directly to mass market consumers.  You’ll sell more projects if you’re speaking their language.