By now you’ve probably heard the news about the spectacular job numbers in The Solar Foundation’s 2013 job report. (142,00 industry jobs, plus solar jobs grew by 20%! Woot!) But did you actually read the report? I know, I know. So much to do, so little time, but if you had, you would have a few hidden gems of solar marketing data in there.
On page 11, the authors revealed that census respondents were asked to provide their feedback regarding:
- Their customers’ motivations to go solar
- How their customers learned about solar, and
- Who respondents feel are most knowledgeable about the benefits of solar
For customer motivations, the top answer is not so surprising if you’ve been around the residential and commercial solar block a few times. 51.4% of respondents said that their customers were going solar for the savings.
More interesting is that 22.9% said that their customers were motivated by solar being more competitive with utility energy. If that’s the case, then all things being equal (including price), consumers would rather save a little and have clean solar than have dirty utility energy. It also means that sales and marketing staff are doing a better job of educating their customers about solar leases and PPAs.
That being said, only 8.6% said that environmental concerns were their customers’ motivating factor, but isn’t that understandable? Today, all buyers get that installing solar is good for the planet, but that’s not enough for them to actually make the purchase. Costs ($0 down) and some relative savings will always be the main drivers.
How did customers hear about you?
In the age of high residential customer acquisition costs, the next set of data is once again valuable, but not so surprising: The Internet rules.
Like everything in our modern Info-Now world, people search for products and services on the Internet. In terms of solar, almost 40% of respondents said as much, so if you don’t have good Yelp! reviews and an attractive website with useful information and good search engine optimization practices, good luck.
Another confirmation of the Internet’s marketing power is that 25.6% of respondents said customers found them through word of mouth, and today’s word of mouth includes social networks.
When people go solar, they not only tell their friends in person, but also on Facebook, Twitter, and at other social network water coolers. Your job as a solar marketer is to find ways to inspire your customers’ virtual and real-life conversations. Through blogs, videos, gifts, and other engagement methods, stay in touch with your customers and prospects. This is a must to continue capturing word-of-mouth referrals, which is more effective than advertising, according to this data.
Which Stakeholders Understand the Benefits of Solar?
Finally, the survey asked respondents whether various stakeholders understand and appreciate the benefits of solar power.
Clearly, utilities understand the value of solar, and that’s why they’re fighting so hard to devalue net metering. And while I certainly agree that my personal friends and neighbors understand the benefits of solar, I think most Americans still believe that solar is too expensive and that the technology will get even better and cheaper if they wait long enough. Solar technology improvements aren’t like cell phones or computers and consumers have to realize that.
So despite this 56% positive response, solar marketers still have a long way to go to educate consumers and to convince them that the time for solar is now.
Thank you to the Solar Foundation for providing this data in their jobs report. If you haven’t already done so, it might be nice to thank them yourself with a donation. UnThink Solar.
Tor Valenza a.k.a. “Solar Fred” is a solar marketing and communications consultant and the author of Solar Fred’s Guide to Solar Guerrilla Marketing. Sign up for the Solar Fred Marketing Newsletter, or contact him through UnThink Solar. You can also follow @SolarFred on Twitter.