Becoming Solar Famous

A few months back, Seth Godin, a best selling marketing guru, wrote a blog post about defining what it means for brands to be famous, and I thought his insights were extremely relevant to our solar marketing community.

Of course, all solar companies, whether installers, manufacturers, or software solutions would love to be household names, but should every solar company strive for that goal?

Clearly, a regional solar installer in Massachusetts does not need to be famous in California or any other state outside New England. There would be little local benefit, and doing so would require a huge marketing budget that could never be justified.

Similarly, a solar racking or BOS manufacturer may want to be famous to the entire U.S., but it would be difficult to make the case that solar consumers research and choose every piece of equipment in a solar installation. As most of us know, they mainly leave these decisions to their experienced solar installer.

So here’s where Godin’s insights can really strike home for solar marketers in every sector: Instead of trying to be famous to everyone, strive to be famous to a particular solar family—a niche audience—whether that’s installers, your town, a particular demographic, or a particular sector of businesses or like-minded consumers.

For example, I know of a solar installer who is “famous” in his California region for not just being a good solar installer, but for fixing bad solar installations with faulty panels. He’s the “go-to” solar guy for removing and replacing defective solar panels that were at one time distributed by the local utility for a rebate.

That fame for being known for something unique gives him plenty of business and it spreads the word among his regional family that he’s not only an expert solar installer, but a fixer.

As a solar manufacturer, you might only choose to be famous to the solar trade press or to a particular type of installer that does a certain number of installs or a certain type of installs, such as schools or parking structures.

Of course, becoming solar-famous to a even a small niche family of customers is easier said than done.

To do that, you have to figure out what you want to be famous for and to whom. It could be for a particular time saving feature, a money saving feature, a technology, or your community or charity work. Or it could just be an added-value service that makes you famous for personal, extra-mile customer care that no one else can match.

Third, it’s important to know why you want to be famous, and really it should be because you want to help the most people possible with your solar product or service.

If you just want to be famous for the sake of profits and notoriety, then you’ll probably be on your way to becoming “infamous” when customers realize that you care more about profits than them or their business or home. Spammers and high pressure sales people have this goal, and it rarely inspires people to speak positively about their good experience with these brands. Especially on the solar consumer side, the Internet reveals the solar infamous via Yelp and the BBB.

Once you know the three things above, then the real work begins, because let’s face it: There’s really no such thing as an overnight famous success in the solar business or any business. When any brand becomes famous, we’re all just noticing the results of many years of great planning, hard work, experimenting, and creativity.

So start getting famous in 2015 by focusing on making your solar company famous to just one customer. Then, when that single customer is so genuinely impressed that they talk about your solar service or product with their friends and colleagues, then you’re on your way to being famous. All you have to do is repeat those same actions and care for every customer, and your solar brand will soon become famous in micro-families, eventually spreading throughout your town, city, state, a media circle…and then even farther.

Happy New Year, and as always… UnThink Solar.

Tor Valenza a.k.a. “Solar Fred” is the founder and CMO of UnThink Solar, and the author of Solar Fred’s Guide to Solar Guerrilla Marketing. For more solar marketing info, sign up for the UnThink Solar newsletter or follow @SolarFred on Twitter.