Intersolar, July 8, 2013

This week is Intersolar North America in San Francisco, and while I haven’t gotten a preview of any solar company booths, here’s what I hope I’ll see:

1) I hope I’ll even see a booth. Many solar manufacturers have decided to skip Intersolar (and SPI), the two most important solar conventions in the U.S. I strongly believe that’s a mistake. If you’re a solar manufacturer, you should be at these two shows, somehow, some way, even if it’s just for sponsoring events. Especially for well known brands, your absence is noticed and may be questioned in this age of consolidations and shake-outs. Conventions are expensive, I know, but you don’t have to be the biggest, baddest booth on the block. Show up, be creative, and make every square foot count.

2) I hope I’ll see people who know about your product and services. The potential solar customers who come to Intersolar not only want to know what’s new, they want your product or service to solve their solar problems. So why would you staff your booth with clueless models and temp workers who can’t speak intelligently about your products and what you do? If for some reason you can’t get a well educated sales staff there, at the very least, give these temp workers a mini-class about your products with pre-planned calls-to-actions that lead people to leave their contact info. Hire them for an extra day before the show and drill them and test them. If you don’t and they sound foolish, so will your brand.

3) I hope I’ll see some genuine engagement as I pass each booth. Not everyone who passes your booth is interested in your product, but you don’t know that. Train your booth staff to engage with everyone who passes by. Even if it’s a “Hi, how’s your show going?” Better yet, “Hey, would you like to learn how [your solar product] can [insert value proposition here]?” Many will say no, but it’s better than weakly smiling at them as they go by.

4) I hope I’ll see more education at each booth. You know what draws a crowd at a booth? Short, informative, entertaining education. A quality, auto-repeating video is nice, but a live presentation with a Q&A, chairs, and refreshments are even better. Once again, your goal is to educate conference attendees about how you can solve their solar problems. A dynamic presentation can draw crowds and perhaps illuminate challenges that prospects never knew they had.

5) I hope I’ll see more fun, unique, swag to give away. In many cultures, when you come to someone’s house, they give a gift to take home with you. With convention booths, it’s usually a pen, a thumb drive, a keychain, or a tee-shirt. Better than nothing, but I hope I see more original swag this year, something that’s not only useful but also memorable and creative.

6) I hope I see good beer. I love the new trend in giving away a glass of beer at booths. It brings people together at your booth for a casual solar conversation. Nevertheless, I’ve seen many companies go with the most basic beer provided by the convention center rather paying extra for “importing” more distinguished brews. I admit I’m not a Bud-Lite or PBR kind of guy, but I think that even those fans will appreciate a choice of stronger and more unique brands, especially in San Francisco where micro-brews are commonly served.

Whatever I see in terms of solar event and booth marketing, I’ll be blogging about it next week, or you can also follow my Intersolar Tweets and solar marketing photos and commentary at @SolarFred.

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.