Solar PV Web Marketing Practices Needed to Beat SolarCity + the Big Guys

It’s clear that the bottlenecks to the solar PV industry are become less and less technical (though technical challenges still exist), and more about more about finance, sales and marketings. What does this mean? The companies that are the best at finance, sales, and marketing will have the best chance to survive in the future.

Here’s a few new marketing, sales, and finance resources.

Free Commercial Solar PV Finance Model
Website Optimization for Solar Companies Course
How to Make More Money in the Solar Industry
How Small Solar Companies Can Large Solar Installers with Deep Pockets
How to Position Electrical Distributors for Growth

The companies that have created sales and marketing machines will be able to maintain profitability against competition. The competition will be stiff and it will be David vs Goliath out there. The small solar companies vs the SolarCities of the world. I think the small guys have a chance, and I want you to win.

A huge part of creating a marketing machine is having a well optimized website. Today’s guest post is by Peter Troast from Energy Circle Pro. If you’re super interested in optimizing your website, take our 3 week “Website Optimization for Solar Companies Course” for only $59. If you’re about to redesign or build your website, this course is perfect for you. Learn from a website optimization expert and use YOUR SITE in the class.

Download the full article here.

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Enter Peter Troast –
Everybody knows that marketing is in the midst of massive upheaval. The rise of Online, the death of the Yellow Pages and most print advertising, the incredible growth in social media. Combine this with the fact that in the solar industry, large, national companies have piles of IPO cash and are spending money like drunken sailors to capture market share. All in all, it makes for a confusing soup. But, there is good news — in this fast changing environment, small, local solar companies that do it right are uniquely positioned to win.
Benchmarking the Big Players
At Energy Circle, we watch the tactics of these major players closely, and we see the following core tactics dominating the world of solar marketing. These are the programs that small, local competitors need to be aware of, and need to match if you’re going to win.

Lease Financing — The concept of solar leasing has revolutionized the solar market. (Chris’s note: Leasing is nice, but it isn’t a magic bullet, SunRun recently got sued because customers were paying MORE for solar power then from the grid)

Strong, Well Communicated Brands — Things like quality advertising, name recognition, and appearance of professionalism.

Aggressive Inside Sales & Telemarketing — The big solar corporations boast multitudes of telemarketers whose job it is to conduct evaluations over the phone.

Exceptional Websites with Tools and Calculators to Evaluate Solar Potential — All the national players have beautifully designed, highly functional websites that provide great user experiences.

Robust Customer Referral Programs — SolarCity, for example, offers its customers $400 for successful referrals and has publicly stated that this is very successful (and, not surprisingly, a major part of their marketing expense.)
Marketing is Changing. Duh.
You don’t need to be an expert to know that the way contracting businesses acquire customers is in the midst of massive upheaval. In the past, we could rely on one or two tactics to drive the bulk of our leads–like the Yellow Pages or Direct Mail–but in today’s world the marketing “quiver” needs more arrows, and we’re lucky if any one approach amounts to more than about 20% of our leads. The bottom line is that we have to be good at a lot of things to win in this environment. And while this may sound intimidating and overwhelming at first, there is good news. The approaches that work today are less costly, require less commitment and, as a result, do not put your precious marketing dollars at risk of failure.

The new world order is to try, test, measure and adjust.

Success in today’s marketing world means using a range of tactics. At Energy Circle, we’ve found that in a typical marketing program, no one tactic delivers more than about 15% of your required leads. So, if you follow this math, you’ll need 6 or 7 different programs in order to accomplish your goals. Yet, it doesn’t have to be intimidating—using the new approaches is less committal than the old approaches, less costly and less risky.We won’t touch on each of these tactics, but here a few of the critical ones that we believe every solar business needs to do well in order to succeed.

9 Tactics that Should be Part of Solar Marketing Plan                 
Your Company Website
Your website serves two core purposes:

It is the first place most prospective customers will go to check you out (so it better not suck.)
If setup well and maintained, it will be a permanent and ongoing source of leads by capturing people searching for solar in your community. (Chris’s Note: Your website should be optimized to turn visitors into 1) site visits and 2) subscribers that might become site visits in the future. That’s it!)

Usability: To maximize potential, ensure that your website boasts a professional appearance. Additionally, it’s important to make a personal connection with the customer—this is where having a good “About Us” page, an explanation of your company’s philosophy or approach, and landing pages become important. After all, a customer might assume that a company who does their website halfway does the job halfway.

The first rule of writing for the web is to keep in mind that people tend to scan content. Structure your pages with sections and headers to make the scanning process easy. Use the header settings on your content management system to highlight these sections and use your keywords in your headers. When a search engine robot scans a page, your headers are one way to signify that a particular term is more important than others.

Ask yourself if your site has a clear Call to Action, or CTA, an invitational, non-intimidating reason for prospects to get in touch with you. The key metric to be thinking about on your site is how many visitors to your site (traffic) convert to a call or signup. In solar, many companies now offer a Free Solar Audit and with satellite mapping technology this can be done at the desktop. To a homeowner curious about their solar potential, that’s compelling.

Great Content. The first step towards winning the battle for search traffic is to make sure your site is populated with content that matches those searches. Without a great page on “solar photovoltaics” you are unlikely to rank highly in search for that term. So it is critical to begin with a keyword strategy.

Thanks to Google, data about which terms get more search is open, at your fingertips and costs nothing. Good web strategy begins with a clear understanding of the keyword landscape, and targeted content aimed at the search terms most relevant to your particular business strategy. Depending on your niche within the solar energy market you’ll want to identify which keywords drive the highest volume of search traffic for your services, and focus on those.

Often, the data is surprising and not always intuitive. Check out the global search volume comparison between “solar pv” and “solar photovoltaics”. As you can see, “solar pv” is a much more searched-for term than “solar photovoltaics,” so as a general rule it would be a good idea to use “solar pv” in your on-page content more frequently than “solar photovoltaics.” Do a little research with the tools mentioned above to see how these terms compare with others. Because the concepts of the solar industry are not well understood by most homeowners, there is a mix of scientific and shorthand terms to consider. The term “solar photovoltaics” is the technical term but is outpaced in search by the phrase “solar pv” by a factor of almost 17. “Residential solar” might be the industry jargon but people are using “home solar” in their searches at a factor of 4 to 1. And you may think of yourself as a “solar installer” but if you use that term instead of “solar installation” you’d be missing out on almost double the search volume.

Resist the temptation to “stuff ” your pages with too many keywords. If you’re overusing a keyword to the point of a page being awkward to read, you’re probably guilty of stuffing.

While it is important to have a clear keyword focus, it’s equally critical that you have a clear strategy around the geographic service area you want to win. Whether by the user or the search engine, the search is likely to be “localized” to “solar pv, los angeles.” The challenge is that few of us concentrate our business in just one city or town––we have service areas––so we need to win in multiple places. There isn’t much to be done about the physical location of your company. That address is the primary one Google will use to “locate” you. List your address clearly on your Contact Us page and in your footer.

Driving Lead Traffic
While organic traffic—that which comes through winning search—is great, it is not going to fill your pipeline. It is very important that your marketing effort include active lead generation tactics. As the world of marketing continues to change at a stunning pace, your program needs to be diverse, flexible and highly measurable. Historically, contractors could rely on a couple of primary approaches—say a Yellow Pages program and some direct mail—to drive most leads. Today, unless you deploy door-to-door canvassers like SolarDirect, it’s very difficult to rely one particular approach to generate most of your leads.

Additionally, your website plays a crucial role. Even if a prospective customer chooses to get in touch with you by phone, there’s a very strong likelihood that they decided to make that call after thoroughly checking you out on your website.


How Small Solar Companies Can “Out-market” Large Solar Installers with Deep Pockets with @SolarFred

We need to make sure that small solar companies can compete, be profitable, and grow in the solar industry. This means effectively marketing and selling against large solar installers that have huge budgets. If you’re currently creating a solar sales strategy and business plan, I’d suggest reading Keith Cronin’s list of solar sales best practices. If […]