Remember that old Seinfeld episode where Jerry receives an unsolicited call from a telemarketer? If not, here’s the clip:
The punch line, “Now you know how I feel,” resonates with me and perhaps the rest of America. Does anybody really want to be interrupted by a telemarketer or their robo-call lackeys? No, no one looks forward to a telemarketer’s call, not even from your clean-green solar company.
When you hire an outbound telemarketing service or have your own crew, not only are you hurting your own company’s brand, but you’re also helping to destroy the solar industry’s clean energy brand in general. Yelp! and BBB, and Google searches are increasingly getting filled with bad reviews and complaints from aggressive solar telemarketers.
Let’s be clear: I’m not talking about inbound telemarketing tactics. With inbound marketing, it’s not a call out of the blue. Here, someone has seen your ad or filled out a form at a trade show or Home Depot and specifically asked your solar company to call them. I’m also not talking about legitimate solar marketing lead generation companies that use blogs, web ads, and landing pages to educate consumers about solar and collect contact information from those who want a solar quote.
I’m only talking about solar telemarketers who buy lists of consumers who’ve never asked for solar info, yet still call them. With today’s user ID technology, the consumer often doesn’t even answer the phone, and even when she does, she often hangs up, or screams something offensive—or worse, she reports you to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for violating the Do Not Call Registry regulations.
I don’t care how effective outbound telemarketing firms claim to be for residential solar, it’s not worth it to your long-term reputation. (I’m more forgiving of B2B solar cold calling, as this is during business hours, and many companies are open to new solutions. More importantly, B2B cold calling doesn’t violate any FTC regulations.)
Buying third-party “home improvement” email lists is another solar marketing no-no. Because these consumers did not specifically ask to be on your list, your company may be subject to fines under the CAN-SPAM Act. Deploying these lists also threatens your ability to use legitimate email services, such as Mail Chimp and Constant Contact, which will ban your solar company if more than just 1% of recipients mark your emails as spam or a significant number bounce because they were fake in the first place.
So what are legitimate ways to get solar leads from people who are actually interested in your service? There are plenty of legal and ethical solar marketing alternatives that can be just as effective and not threaten your brand. Below are 25 of the top of my head:
- Local commercials
- Local and national publicity
- Radio/Internet radio/NPR sponsorship
- Clever, original YouTube videos
- Targeted YouTube ads on relevant videos
- Paid and non-paid customer referrals
- Targeted direct mail (Low conversions and a waste of paper, but at least not personally invasive)
- Trade shows and home improvement shows
- Local community sponsorships, such as Little League and School function
- Pay-per-click banner ads on websites where your customers are
- Google AdWords
- Targeted Facebook and LinkedIn advertising
- Social media, including blogging, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn
- Case Studies and White Papers with a contact form
- Guerilla Marketing
- Legitimate contests with opt-in lead forms
- Opt-in email drip campaigns and monthly blog email
- Co-marketing with a related company
- A great looking website with White Hat SEO
- Lawn signs, billboards, and other signage
- “Native content” advertising
- Giving great service—and therefore getting great reviews on Yelp!, Angie’s List, and the BBB.
- Guest article/blogging on popular/relevant news and info sites
- Webinars/Google Hangouts
Any and all of these residential solar marketing tactics are better than telemarketing and buying email lists of people who never asked for your information or calls.
So, please, for your own sake and the reputation of the rest of the solar industry, stop unsolicited outbound telemarketing and bogus email lists. Focus on legitimate tactics…and 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.