From a Marketing Perspective, Solar’s Growth Has Never Been Due to Lower Prices

At first glance, solar pros and policy advocates are going to totally disagree with the title of this post, but before you submit your comments below, let me fully explain what I mean. You’re probably thinking that lower pricing and subsidies have everything to do with the last 10 years of solar industry growth. Without a deep drop in solar manufacturing and installation prices and low upfront solar PPAs, leases and generous FiTs, and net metering, the global solar industry would not be where we are today, right? Right. I agree. Thank you for all those efforts. But here’s the nuance that I want to drive home—especially if your solar business is feeling like a commodity these days: From a marketing perspective, lower costs, subsidies, financing, and technology innovations are all really marketing tactics for making it easier for people to install or buy a solar product or service. This concept may seem obvious, but I think many solar CEOs and their marketers miss or downplay its significance for shaping their solar products, services, and messaging. Whether the goal is to help someone to switch from utility power to solar or to switch solar racking brands, getting people to change a long-held belief or product choice is challenging. On the other hand, staying with a familiar product—or utility service—requires no effort at all. Since that’s the case, the most important goal for solar marketing, solar product development, and solar advocacy can be summed up in three words: “Make solar easier.”   In this context, everything the solar industry has collectively accomplished in the last 10 years can be seen...

5 Solar Fred Tips for Solar Industry Email Marketing, Regardless of Sector

Whatever solar sector you’re in, email marketing with relevant content marketing should be a key instrument in your marketing toolbox, and it’s not just me saying that, but other marketers in other industries surveyed by Sales Force. Before I give some specific tips for solar email marketing, let me share a few of these results from Sales Force’s 2015 State of the Marketing Report: 73% of marketers agree that email marketing is core to their business. That’s huge, and yet I still know a lot of solar companies in all sectors that do very little email marketing. Why? Perhaps it’s due to staff concerns, because: 43% of businesses have email teams of 2-3 people. That’s not a majority, but it is nearly half of the survey, so email marketing can be labor intensive, even with today’s automated email programs. Solar companies are lean so, devoting two people, let alone one, to email marketing is tough. Nevertheless…. 74% of marketers believe email produces or will produce ROI in the future. So, even if you have two email staffers, most marketers seem to think that it’s worth the time and effort. Besides, it is what the customer wants: For 69.7% of US internet users, email is the preferred method of communicating with businesses. (eMarketer) I recently wrote about a similar stat from Marketing Sherpa, which found that regardless of demographic, the overwhelming majority customers prefer being contacted through email. So, let’s agree that email is a great solar marketing platform and that solar companies should be taking more advantage of it. With that in mind, here are five tips to enhance your email...

A Baseball Cap, the #ElonEffect, and the Power of a Personal Solar Brand

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Elon Effect in relation to Tesla’s successful battery launch. What I was really referring to was Elon Musk’s very successful personal brand. He may be the CEO of Tesla and other companies, but Elon is in many ways his own media product—and a very powerful one. Whether you’re the CEO or a solar intern, having a unique personal brand can be a very powerful asset to your solar career and to your company. We all need to stand out in some way, not only to make a positive impression on our bosses, co-workers and customers, but also to make a positive impression on those who don’t think or care about solar. (If you’re shy and don’t want a personal brand, think again. Your shyness automatically becomes your undefined personal brand.) Having a successful personal brand means that people easily recognize you, know who you are, and know what you stand for. It leads to stronger connections and trust, building long term relationships that follow you wherever you go in the solar community and with social connections, as well. A Personal Example of Creating a Personal Solar Brand It’s impossible for me to tell you how to create your own personal brand in a blogpost, but I can share my own experience choosing “Solar Fred” for my blogger name and Twitter handle, and why I always where an unbranded baseball in photos and at conferences. My process involved a combination of reflecting about my customers, as well as a personal reflection of myself. When I started in the solar industry in 2008, I...

Make Mom Care: A Solar Industry Commencement Speech for the Class of 2015

Friends, faculty, parents, and graduates of 2015. I’m honored not to be standing in front of you today, ’cause let’s face it. I’m no Elon Musk, and you’re online and anxious to get on with finding a job that pays enough to cover your outrageous student loans and a modest crash pad with four roommates or less. But before you launch into your career search, I wanted to offer you some tips on getting your first solar job and keeping it through the ups and downs of our growing industry. I think it will be useful advice, but I also have a selfish hidden agenda. I’ll tell you about that later, but for now, take these tips for what they’re worth (free!) Do Your Solar Industry Homework Lord knows you’ve pulled enough all-nighters over the past 4 to 6 years, but before applying to any solar job, I’d recommend studying up on some key terminology and the issues facing the solar industry today. Yes, you’ll learn about these things first hand on the job, but if you really want to impress a solar hiring manager, tell them you know what net metering is, what solar PPA’s stand for, and why you think the ITC should or shouldn’t be extended. You don’t have to be an expert on these topics—yet—but it just shows that you care about what we care about, and that’s a plus. To get up to speed, I’d recommend reading the latest posts on Renewable Energy World, as well as Greentech Media, Solar Industry Magazine, Solar Power World, The Rocky Mountain Institute, Solar Novus Today, PV-Tech, Utility...

Nearly 60% of Renewable Energy Conversations on Twitter Are About Solar

If you’ve followed this solar marketing blog, you know I’m a huge fan of solar social media, particularly on Twitter. Now, a new market research report confirms that nearly 60% of renewable energy conversations on Twitter are about solar energy.     Moreover, of all of the online media channels, 55.7% of solar conversations are happening on Twitter, followed by online news (19.1%) and blogs (9.8%). As a contrast, the majority (40%) of online biomass conversations take place on online news, and only 19% on Twitter.     Well, that’s wonderful, but are these positive conversations about solar? That is, are people mostly complaining about solar or are they Tweeting nice things. According to this talkwalker report, solar’s online conversations are mostly neutral, but do have the highest positive sentiment of all renewables.     Okay, so what can solar marketers and communicators do with this information to promote their products and services and decrease their acquisition costs? Here are my takeaways and advice: 1) Get into the solar Twitter conversations. Despite my frequent Twitter harangue here on this blog, I realize that many solar companies are still social media wall flowers, and that’s a shame. As this report shows, people are discussing solar topics every day. The value here is not just that solar is a hot topic, but about who’s having these discussions. There are bloggers, celebrities, and politicians, as well as solar, environmental, and mainstream media reporters. Plus, don’t forget that those prospective customers who are seeking information and opinions about solar. Don’t you want to be a resource for them and have them see you...