By Tor “Solar Fred” Valenza
It’s the end of the year, and solar, storage and other clean energy marketers and communicators are building their 2018 plans. Many may feel like they need some kind of spark to differentiate themselves, boost sales or convert more leads. As a marketing and communications agency dedicated to serving solar and renewables clients, we wanted to give the community a holiday gift, so we’ve listed 21 ways that you can market your solar and storage product and services business in 2018.
Mind you, this list is not a plan, but merely offers some solar marketing trends and tactics that your company can use for plugging into your plans in the coming new year. We hope you find them useful.
1. Blog often, ideally once a week. Blogging may seem so 2005, but content is king. It’s great for organic search engine optimization (SEO), great for building authority, and great for repurposing on social networks.
2. Write a local, solar trade or national op-ed. If you ever thought energy didn’t involve politics, just think about the past year’s clean energy headlines. If you want to gain a reputation for leadership, locally or nationally, pick a clean energy topic and send it to an op-ed editor.
3. Make a viral solar video. I know, it’s easier said than done, but check out this inspirational video from a robotics company that teamed up with a musician. Energize something with solar and set it to music.
4. Create any video. If you’re not ambitious enough to make a viral video, then just make it a point to be more visual in 2018. Our attention spans are becoming increasingly challenged, and if a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth much more. Instructional, introductory, how to, animated—take your pick. Just use this tool in 2018.
5. Sponsor an environmental organization. I know you’re busy marketing your product, but once again, solar (and storage and wind) need more leaders than ever. Pick an advocacy organization that has affected your business in 2017 and help them with a donation and being a voice of a job creator. Many organizations did this for the Section 201 case, and January won’t be the end of solar’s policy battles, locally or nationally.
6. Sponsor a Little League team. If you’re a local residential installer, many parents are homeowners and your brand could be top of their mind during the spring season. Imagine that home run that hits your solar billboard sign. If your company is more national, pick several teams in towns where you want some brand recognition.
7. Participate in LinkedIn groups. If you’ve got that blog content, don’t forget to share it in some relevant solar LinkedIn groups, and try to participate and respond to the posts of other group members too.
8. Write a free e-book. Pick a topic. Make it relevant to the pain points of your customers, and include graphics. Once complete, you can use this e-book for lead generation, as a thank-you gift to customers, or to establish your company as an authoritative voice in the industry.
9. Co-market with an electric car dealer. As more electric vehicles are coming into the market, people buying those EVs are going to think about going solar too. Talk to the sales manager about a joint sales program and set up a solar referral program that also gives a discount to their customers.
10, Look into mass transit ads and billboard ads. For commercial/industrial and residential installers, your target demographic is often driving, taking mass transit to work or seeing mass transit on the street. This is your opportunity to get their attention, back and forth to work, over and over again.
11. Be like Tesla: Rent space in malls. Tesla’s eye candy may be its cars, but Elon’s company also has home solar and energy storage products on display in its retail storefronts. You can make solar and storage cool too, and educate and excite weary shoppers about photovoltaics and batteries.
12. Update your FAQs and share them. Regardless of solar B2B or B2C, you do have a frequently asked question (FAQ) tab on your website, right? If not, it’s time to write one; if you do have an FAQ section, nice. However, our industry continues to evolve. Review your Q’s and A’s, update them, and then share them on your social channels.
13. Remarket. Many B2B and B2C solar companies have databases of prospects that never converted, and we often forget about those lists. Take the time to email them again and check in to see if anything has changed.
14. Digitally remarket. Google, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter all can provide a code that tracks anyone who visits your website. When these people visit Google, LinkedIn, etc., you can serve ads to them, reminding them why they visited your website.
15. Use automated content marketing. Both B2B and B2C solar companies can increase leads through a Hubspot, MailChimp, Marketo, and other providers that allow you to nurture leads with useful email content and drip campaigns.
16. Redesign your website. I know it’s a lot of work and requires extra budget, but the website is your modern-day calling card. If it’s three or four years old with generic images and people say it’s difficult to find the info they’re looking for, it’s time to make the investment. Still don’t think it’s time? See Tactic 17….
17. Review your bounce rate and time spent. You probably have Google Analytics. Check your “bounce rate,” the percentage of time that people land on your homepage and “bounce” to a different website instead of clicking on another page. If it’s in the 40% range or lower, that’s good. Any higher and people are clicking quickly away from your website, and may indicate that you need to update the site or invest in a complete redesign. Also check the “time spent” metric. If visitors are consistently spending under 10 seconds on that page, they’re not finding what they’re looking for, and that could be a website design or content issue.
18. Monitor and use social media daily. This may seem self-explanatory, but solar marketers often make social media a low priority, and yet everyone uses it, including your B2B and B2C solar companies. Yes, you have to use it effectively, but learn how to do that and you’ll benefit for no other reason than improved SEO.
19. Audit your SEO every six months. If content is king, SEO is queen. When people search for your solar B2B and B2C product or service, you want to be on the first page, and not only do you want to be on the first page, you want to be the first result listed, if possible. You can improve those chances with an SEO audit that reveals why Google thinks you’re irrelevant or less relevant than your competition.
20. Start a podcast. With your laptop and a decent microphone, just about anyone with some knowledge and experience can start a podcast about many different solar B2B or B2C topics. You probably know about GTM’s Energy Gang, but you could start a regular B2B or B2C podcast about whatever your solar company does. You’ll have to use social, newsletters and word-of-mouth to get attention for it, but once you do, many people seem to enjoy listening to useful information on their iPhones and Galaxys these days.
21. Perform a random act of solar (or storage) kindness. You know what often gets covered in the news or is shared via social media? When some company sees a need and generously goes way out of its way to help the life or lives of people in need. This is a very serious, very personal tactic, but if you’re genuine about your commitment and not just trying to make news, you can receive some media attention and feel great in 2018 and beyond.
Of course, these aren’t all the tactics you can use, and not every one of them will be right for your solar marketing in 2018. Nevertheless, I hope they inspire you to be thinking about what you did in 2017 and give you some ideas to include in your 2018 plans.
Tor “Solar Fred” Valenza is Senior Strategy Advisor for Kiterocket’s renewable energy practice and a communications consultant for other #solar and renewable brands.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own, and do not necessarily reflect those held by pv magazine.