Dan Haverty

Interest in renewable energy is booming, and that’s great news for anyone in the business of selling solar solutions. The technology is better than ever and environmental awareness is at an all-time high, creating a perfect storm of surging demand that seems to grow by the year.

Numerous solar energy providers have moved in to claim their piece of the pie, making it harder every year to market your solar solutions in a way that gets you to truly stand out from the crowd.

But it doesn’t have to be.

By understanding the basic characteristics of the solar target audience and deploying some of the most proven solar marketing techniques, you can build strategies that transform your solar company into a solar leader.

Marketing Needs of the Solar Industry

The solar industry has seen some serious growth since the turn of the millennium. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, solar has enjoyed a 33% annual growth rate since 2000, much faster than any other energy sector. This impressive pace of expansion has mostly been fuelled by the following factors:

  • Government subsidies.
  • Decreasing installation costs.
  • Increased demand for sustainable energy solutions.

By the end of 2020, almost 3 million homes (and counting) across the United States used solar panels to fulfill their energy needs, and according to Pew Research, almost half of all American homeowners have seriously considered adopting solar technology. With such a massive demand for solar power, solar companies can stand to make a handsome return with the right positioning.

Understanding The Solar Target Audience

There is no single, generic solar customer, and that becomes truer the more demand grows. Instead, there are 6 general buyer personas that populate the consumer market for solar. These are the climate change activist, the brick-and-mortar energy consumer, the prudent saver, the production specialist, the energy independent and the tech connoisseur.

The Climate Change Activist

These customers have one overarching priority: do what they can to save the environment. Many climate change activists are fed up with the slow pace of change in policy-making circles, and they’ve decided to take matters into their own hands. Installing solar panels can help drastically reduce a home’s carbon footprint, making both the property — and the people living there — more energy efficient.

Messaging around saving money doesn’t work as well with them — they want to do everything in their power to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make the Earth a safer, more sustainable place for future generations.

The Brick-and-Mortar Energy Consumer

We hear all the time that the future of business is digital, but many brick-and-mortar companies are shunning the naysayers by turning to solar to stay competitive.

Large corporations like Walmart, IKEA and Staples (who are among the largest business users of solar energy, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association) have hundreds of storefronts spread across the world, and installing solar panels is one of the best ways to reduce energy costs and increase the bottom line. Even small businesses stand to gain by turning to solar, as they can redirect their energy savings to other business priorities, like hiring more staff, investing in a marketing strategy, or purchasing more inventory.

Money matters to these customers. So does competitiveness. They want to know that your solar panels are going to be worth the financial investment while also ensuring they stay resilient in a hyper-competitive business environment.

The Prudent Saver

The technology behind solar panels has become sufficiently advanced in recent years that they are now the clear favorite for the prudent saver. While solar panels generally accrue large upfront costs (you can expect to pay $25,000 in installation costs, according to the Center for Sustainable Energy), the savings you earn on your monthly energy bills means they will eventually pay for themselves. According to the solar company Greenlancer, customers can expect to save $1,500 on energy every year.

Customers in this category know they have lots of bills to pay and possibly children to save for. They are always on the hunt for a good deal that will put more money in their pockets, and solar panels are a great way for them to cut down on routine utility costs.

The Production Specialist

At the end of the day, solar is about energy, and energy is the driving force behind all production in all industries. Companies in the business of producing tangible goods — including manufacturing plants and commercial farms — stand to make major gains by using solar panels to improve energy efficiency and increase production output.

Similar to the brick-and-mortar energy users, their B2B counterparts, this buyer persona is motivated by energy savings and competitiveness. But they place greater importance on productivity and output, and they want to know they are investing in a solar solution that’s going to help them achieve both.

The Energy Independent

Solar panels are a great solution for those that want to make the leap to complete (or near-complete) energy independence. Being attached to the grid has its advantages, but there are also downsides. Outages can be severe, and these customers don’t like the idea of being dependent on external utility companies for something as essential as energy.

Energy independents might appreciate environmentalism and a good savings strategy, but their top priority is self reliance. They want to be able to depend strictly on their own means to satisfy their energy consumption needs, and they see solar panels as an effective way to do so.

The Tech Connoisseur

The environment, energy independence and even energy savings are all secondary to this section of the solar customer base. They are fascinated by what science and technology have to offer, and more than anything else, they want to be at the rapidly advancing cutting edge of technology development.

They were likely among the pioneers of putting solar panels on their roofs, and they probably did it long before it was financially cost-effective to do so. They are also the ones staying most up to date on the evolution of solar technology and are far more likely to invest in more advanced, less popular options as the technology continues to develop.

5 Solar Marketing Strategies

Understanding the main solar buyer personas is step 1. Step 2 is shaping a marketing strategy that best engages each one.

These are some of the best ways to connect with solar customers and funnel them to your sales team:

1. Build a Content Marketing Strategy

Content marketing should be a central element of your solar marketing strategy. Creating compelling content and distributing that to your network (via social media, email and other digital channels) demonstrates to potential customers that you’re able to provide value long before they’re ready to make a purchase. That helps create trust and increase brand awareness, which puts your brand at the top of their mind when they are ready to buy.

Given the diversity of the solar target audience, it’s important you’re creating content that supplies the precise information each persona is looking for. That means you should create blog content that addresses the environmental concerns of the climate change activists, while also creating white papers heavy with industry analysis to satisfy your business customers.

2. Invest in Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization (SEO) is an important subset of your content marketing strategy. SEO refers to efforts you undertake to enhance your page elements that tell search engines like Google that your content is valuable and deserves to rank at or near the top of search results pages.

These elements include:

  • Page speed.
  • Title tags and meta description.
  • Readability.
  • Scannability.
  • Mobile compatibility.

Taking the time to optimize these helps ensure that the content you’re creating is actually reaching the people that are most likely to want to consume it. At the end of the day, that means more qualified leads and fewer marketing dollars spent.

3. Create Email Marketing Campaigns

Email gets a bad rap these days, but it’s still one of the most effective marketing channels out there. A good email marketing strategy puts you at the top of your potential customers’ inboxes every single week (or day, however often you choose to connect with them), helping to boost your brand awareness for more engagement and better leads.

The best way to build your email list is to gate your high-value content and request that readers exchange their personal information (including their email addresses) to gain access. Subscriber forms might also request they share some information about their solar and energy goals, which can help you place them into one of the above market segments.

Further boosting your email marketing operation, automation tools can do all the above tasks for you — and more. From personalization to segmentation to performance analytics, these tools up your email game without making you devote extra time to the task.

4. Establish Trust Through Social Proof

Solar energy is still a relatively new consumer technology, and some customers still look at the solar industry with somewhat of a leery eye. One study from Solar Simplified found that only 33.7% of consumers find the industry “very trustworthy.”

When you’re in an industry where trust is still lacking, the best thing you can do is, well, build trust. One of the easiest ways to do that is to display social proof prominently on your website. If you’re B2B, include images of some of the most reputable brands on your homepage, or, if you’re B2C, include positive testimonials from existing customers showcasing the value you created.

Don’t be afraid to dive deeper into the details. As part of your broader content marketing strategy, you should take the time to create case studies that detail the experience of select customer success stories. Highlight information like upfront costs, energy used and monthly savings to help potential customers better envision the benefits you offer.

5. Distribute a Newsletter

Newsletters keep potential customers up to date on the latest happenings in your company and the wider industry.

But don’t just write a generic newsletter that isn’t personalized to anyone’s tastes; consider creating segmented newsletters that address the specific interests of each buyer persona. Prudent savers, for example, might prefer a newsletter chock full of better ways to optimize their solar usage, while the production specialists will be more interested in helpful new tips from a trusted expert on how to optimize solar usage to further increase production output.

For the best results, build an active email marketing campaign around your newsletters that includes links to blog posts and other content for maximum engagement and exposure. Newsletters should be appropriate to your specific product offerings and value adds, so it should be clear how your solar solutions fit into the information you’re providing.

The solar industry has become oversaturated and it’s no longer enough to bring great solar solutions to market. Investing in a dynamic solar marketing strategy is the best way to stay ahead in a rapidly growing industry.

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