As I mentioned in a post from a few weeks ago, 64% of non-solar marketers said they’re increasing their budgets for content marketing in 2014. Wow. That’s a significant trend, so let’s focus on what “Content Marketing” means in relation to the solar industry.

What is Content Marketing?

Content marketing has many definitions, but I like this simple one from Wikipedia:

“Content marketing is any marketing format that involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire customers.”

Bottom line, you are now a publisher. Many people think that just means magazines and White Papers, but it’s much more than that. Take a look at examples from content marketing history:

Clearly from that video, we’ve all experienced content marketing in some form, but how do we use the same concept for solar products and services? There are some great ideas in that video, but for me, here are 10 must-have content marketing channels for solar company’s today:

1. Blog. No surprise here. If it’s useful content about your solar service or product, then prospective customers are going to appreciate that and trust you as a thought leader and source of information.

2. Monthly e-newsletter. Yes, we’re swamped with e-mails today, but people still open the ones that they’re interested in. It’s up to you to make your e-newsletter worth opening, and usually that ties back to your solar blog content and a great email subject line.

3. Webinars.  In the same survey of non-solar marketers, webinars were said to be the most effective content marketing tactic. If you’re not already doing webinars about your solar product or service, you’re probably missing a lot of ready-to-buy solar customers who just want a friendly, visual confirmation of how you’re the go-to-authority on what you do.

4. Facebook. For some companies, the only content they post on Facebook is a link to a press release or blog post. Yes, that’s content, but you’ve got to engage much more than that. Use your voice. Ask your followers questions. Share stories that are related to solar and not about your company.

5. Twitter. Same as Facebook. Twitter is a source of information for some people, and it’s also a way to ask questions and engage. Content is a two-way street—or it can be.

7. White Papers. I’ve seen a lot of White Papers in the solar industry, and that’s good. The mistake I often see is that they’re not always written for their target audiences, but for themselves. In a White Paper, you’re solving a customer’s problem. Have that attitude in mind, and you’ll have a great response to White Papers.

8. Videos. We’ve all stopped what we’re doing to watch videos, but they have to be interesting and relevant. I know they can be more expensive than any other content Cats Watching Solarmarketing tactic, but we’re in such a visual short-attention span world. One way or another, find a way to do more solar videos. It doesn’t have to be a broadcast quality commercial, but it does have to be useful info, and if possible, entertaining, or cool, or surprising in some way. Only then will people remember that video when they’re ready to buy. Plus, they might even share it with their friends who are also interested in your solar product or service.

9. Off-Website Articles. Content doesn’t always have to be on your website. Whoever your target audience is, you can write an article where they like to read useful information. Publishers love free articles, so long as they’re well written. And as with all content marketing, your contributed article has to beneficial to the publisher’s readers, not just a 500 word advertisement for your product or service.

10. LinkedIn. LinkedIn is another way to disseminate useful content on your company page or in a solar group. If you’re going to create your own LinkedIn group, you’d better have a compelling reason why people would want to be a part of that new community rather than an existing LinkedIn group. Otherwise, join another group or two and be an active and generous participant, commenting and posting your useful White Papers.

Is it easy creating all of this content? No. It takes time and effort to be a publisher with multiple channels. But it’s more trustworthy and useful than an ad, and when it’s really great content, customers will thank you for it with sales, sharing your information, and with brand loyalty. 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.