Lost in Translation: Speaking Your Solar Customer’s Language

It’s often said that you can make only one first impression. Whether that’s meeting your in-laws for the first time, sending an email to a potential solar client, or designing a solar tradeshow booth, you must represent yourself authentically, yet consider your client’s values and expectations as well.

I bring this up because I constantly receive emails from foreign and domestic solar companies that are trying to sell me something.  When these companies email me, they’re actually making several common marketing mistakes, regardless of whether they’re foreign or U.S. based. Let’s go through some of them.

They don’t know who I am. When communicating with customers for the first time, as marketers we must make our best efforts to show that we understand who we’re emailing and what the customers’ needs are. When foreign or domestic solar suppliers email me solar product offers, they’ve clearly never checked to see that I actually might buy their products. I’m not an installer, I’m a solar marketing company, and that would be very clear to anyone who visited my website and took a minute to read about my services. This is like trying to sell donuts to a shoe store. It doesn’t make sense.

They’re not speaking my language — literally and figuratively. If you’re a foreign manufacturer, pay a native speaker to write emails in the colloquial language of the receiver. Even if your company is British, be sure to change “colour” to “color” and correct other common UK/USA spelling differences and phrases.lostinsolartranslation_opt

Often, it appears that these solicitations are written with language translation programs or by language students who mix up grammar and syntax. Yes, I get the gist of what you’re selling, but especially since you’re emailing me for the first time, you’re not helping me to trust you as a supplier. Even if I love your prices and specs, perhaps you’ll misunderstand my order or send it to the wrong address. The simple solution is to hire a part time native-speaking editor who can correct the syntax and phrasing mistakes of emails, brochures, etc.

Another type of lost-in-translation problem goes for U.S.-based installers soliciting residential and commercial customers. You often use solar jargon and industry lingo that can also seem foreign, even when it’s grammatically correct. As much as I’d love for the American public to be throwing around “solar PPA” and “net metering,” they’re not. So, nix the jargon or at least explain it when you use it.

They’re using paid lists. Big money saving hint: NEVER buy a generic home improvement email list. It’s a waste of time and money. Just because someone bought a set of CFL light bulbs from a website, it doesn’t mean they’re interested in solar. The same with roofing, windows, etc.

What’s worse than losing the money that you paid for that list is when people who didn’t sign up for your email mark your domain as a spammer. When that happens, Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, and many other common email programs will flag your legitimate marketing and sales emails as spam. Not good.

If you’re going to buy contact emails, at least buy them from sites that have vetted solar leads. You’ll know when they’re not vetted when most of the contacts never return your emails or calls. Instead of buying these types of leads, take the time to build your own leads through tradeshows, blogs, social media, ads, whitepaper downloads, and genuine customer referrals.

The bottom line is to know who your solar customers are and to serve them with communications that speak to their needs, not yours.  That’s a very basic way… to UnThink Solar.

Want more solar marketing info? Sign up for the Solar Fred Marketing Newsletter, or contact Solar Fred through UnThink Solar. You can also follow @SolarFred on Twitter.

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