The solar industry is one of the fastest-growing among all other renewable energy industries. A recent data shows that the estimated growth of the global solar energy industry is expected to be 24% (at CAGR) by 2022, which is $422 billion by monetary terms. Despite the high growth potential of the solar industry, there is a major challenge that solar installation companies are facing, which is generating offline solar leads.
The common questions that solar installers are asking, “Where are the customers?” or “Why I am not getting any leads?”
Why it is getting harder to generate solar leads using an offline method?
To know the answers to these questions, we need to delve into the marketing challenges of solar companies.
Current challenges of solar lead generation
- Cost: High out-of-pocket and up-front costs and long payment duration are discouraging many customers from installing solar panels.
- Lack of Confidence: A large part of the target audience still does not know about the benefits of solar technology, and they have confusion about its performance.
- Complicated Buying Process: The complicated and time-consuming buying and installing process of solar panels is making potential customers shun it altogether.
- Customer Inertia: The slow decision-making and the transactional complexity of the solar sale often result in consumer inertia.
Also, the efforts of solar installers to buy solar leads result in frustration.
Well, it is because many solar installers initially buy the wrong leads for their business. Due to this experience, they completely stop buying leads.
In this way, they are shutting the door on the opportunities that could have grown their business. Exercising a little more discretion when buying leads would have made the difference.
It is true that lead quality has been an issue in this industry. However, it is equally important that the companies should be able to identify which leads are right and which ones are not.
Another challenge of the lead buying process is common leads. Almost all the solar installers get the same leads. Then their call centers are contacting the same customers nearly back to back.
After customers receive the first call and get a brief from one solar installer, they receive similar calls from other installers.
The process of calling customers happens multiple times, and eventually, customers stop receiving calls. It is likely to happen Company A may get the lead, and Company B and C do not even get a chance to talk to customers.
The best way to make sure that an installer gets a hot lead is to buy leads wisely and not blindly. Unfortunately, solar companies are repeating their mistakes, and the leads are not converting.
Why is digital marketing better for solar lead generation?
In the current scenario, when offline lead generation is getting harder, there is a silver lining because of digital marketing.
Before making a significant purchase, most customers these days do some online research. The same goes for prospective solar customers, as they also turn to the Internet to understand the solar purchase and installation process along with the cost. This is an opportunity for solar companies to highlight their products and get customers’ attention.
Digital marketing is a useful tool for solar companies, and they can apply various strategies to generate solar leads.
Some of these strategies are organic Google search, email campaigns, live social media events, paid search ads, content marketing, and promotional offers.
Solar companies may also go for opt-in leads or lead magnets to generate quality leads. For example, a company can get such leads by offering an incentive in exchange for a prospect’s subscription via email address.
The incentives could be a free download of e-book, free tips, or a video. Such incentives increase the chances of a brand recall by the prospects.
Related article: Solar Buyer Personas: How to Profile Your Ideal PV Customers?
What effective options are available?
1. Google Ads for solar lead generation
What is Google Ads and why?
Google AdWords is an online advertising program by Google. Marketers use this program to create online ads to reach their target customers and persuade them to take action on buying a product or service.
The AdWords platform works on pay-per-click or PPC advertising. It means you have to pay every time visitors click an advertisement.
Why Google Ads? Here are the reasons:
- Vast reach: Google search engine receives more than 2 trillion searches per year. So, roughly, it is nearly over 5 billion searches every day.
- Marketers can control their ad campaigns: With a bit of training, companies can start their ad campaigns. Also, they can stop the campaigns at any time when they feel right. In this way, marketers can allocate their money, time, and efforts to more important initiatives.
- Getting quicker results: Getting started with Google AdWords increases the chances of a company to go ahead of all the organic results on a search engine page. So, marketers get faster results using AdWords.
- Increased conversions: The way to measure the effectiveness of AdWords is to gauge the post-click landing page experience of the prospects.
In simple words, how well a website provides experience to people who click your ads. Keep in mind that you will need a highly persuasive post-click landing page to get the best result.
Google AdWords has something for businesses of all sizes by offering a range of budgets, different target audiences, and various advertising objectives.
How much budget do you need?
It is ideal that before deciding on the budget for Google ads, try a test budget. You can get a rough test budget by multiplying the number of keywords to test by the cost-per-click (CPC) and by a minimum of 100 clicks.
You need a minimum of 100-200 clicks on a keyword to find out whether it converts or not.
For example, if you want to test 10 keywords with $1 cost-per-click, it is better to have a test budget between $1,000 and $2,000.
Usually, businesses earn $3 for every $1.60 they spend on Google Ads. It means, if you are getting positive results, there is no reason to put a cap on your budget.
Also, when it comes to spending, you need to select a monthly budget that you can change based on the results you see over a period.
Before making a decision on your budget, it is best to carry out keyword research first, rather than set a CPC cap. Compile a list of the keywords you want to target and identify the high and low CPCs.
In this way, you can get an idea about the trend of your competitors’ bids, and how much you have to spend to compete with them.
Should you DIY or hire a pro/agency to do it?
Well, this is a practical question.
The answer would be if you have a small budget, it might be difficult to hire a PPC professional for managing your ad campaigns.
If you want to take the DIY route, however, to get positive results, you should have some grasp and experience in PPC advertising.
Keep in mind that doing DIY without relevant experience may lead to some common mistakes.
Some of these mistakes are running ads targeting the wrong audience and using phrases that show wrong search intent. By the time you realize your mistake, you have blown your budget.
Hiring a PPC professional is likely to drive positive results due to their expertise that comes with years of experience. A pro has the analytical ability, strategic advertising skill, and experience to create campaigns for success.
A pro will further help you grow your business and suggest ways to roll out future campaigns.
2. Local SEO for solar lead generation
What is Local SEO & why?
Local search engine optimization (SEO) helps local customers find products or services they are looking for on a search engine. Businesses use local SEO to reach those potential customers and persuade them to make a buying decision.
According to Google, nearly 46% of search queries have local intent. Any marketer with sound SEO knowledge can rank a search query like “how to repair solar panels” as the question has more buying intent, which is “solar repair companies near me” or “best solar repair service provider in [my area].”
Hiring an SEO expert can ensure that the local SEO is applied strategically to identify and convert the local search. It is a kind of niche within the SEO work.
These days, solar products are a hot search topic. An SEO expert can align your natural keywords and content with the most frequent searches.
The expert can also suggest you to use your website’s content and video to explain the benefits of solar energy and take the prospects into confidence.
How much budget do you need?
What should be your budget for SEO services? Business owners ask this question all the time.
It is a little tough to give an exact figure because the requirements for a successful campaign can vary a lot.
A recent survey conducted by the market research firm ‘Clutch’ shows that just over 36% of small businesses have an SEO strategy and budget.
Of those small businesses’ budgets, 17% spent less than $100 per month. It means 71% of small businesses have a budget between $0 and $99 per month for SEO.
These days, hiring a top-notch SEO company to do a local campaign is likely to cost $500+ per month.
Also, if a business aims to launch a national or international campaign, it needs a minimum budget between $2,500 and $5,000 per month.
Should you DIY or hire a pro/agency to do it?
If you are a solar installation company and want to save money on SEO by doing DIY, you need to keep in mind the pros and cons here.
DIY for SEO may seem attractive because it is inexpensive, and you can have complete control over the process. Also, there is more flexibility, and you can learn the SEO nuances to become an expert over time.
The other side of this approach, however, is spending a lot of time to understand SEO that you could have used in other business areas. It may take years to master the SEO. Limited expertise and lack of experience are more often than not results in failed campaigns.
Hiring someone for local SEO will cost you, but at the same time, you do not have to go through the hassles. An SEO expert with experience will make sure the local reach of your solar business is visible on your website and in all the campaigns.
There are many solar websites, which do not even specify their locations, and it confuses prospective customers. An expert can suggest you mention the areas clearly that your business covers on the home page. It will make sure that local customers reach you.
Related article: How a Solar Company Can Rank at 1st Page of Google using SEO?
3. Facebook Ads for solar lead generation
What are Facebook Ads & why?
Facebook is the largest social platform in the world, with more than 2.2 billion active users.
On the Facebook platform, users can post comments, share pictures, and post news links or other interesting content. Also, they can do live chat and watch short videos.
During the next decade, the number of active users is likely to reach nearly 10 billion. Considering the large volume of users, Facebook is an effective marketing platform to increase web traffic.
Let us see why Facebook Ads are crucial for marketing.
Facebook Ads is an effective and targeted advertising platform. It means you can create a targeted audience based on a product.
Considering Facebook’s vast database, it is easy to identify your potential customers based on demographics, location, lifestyle, work, and interests. Facebook ads offer the benefits of precise positioning of advertising.
Other reasons for using Facebook ads are its low cost, the feasibility of effective remarketing, and easily qualified leads.
How much budget do you need?
You can spend a minimum of $1 per day on Facebook ads. If you are a solar installer and your business size is small, you can quickly start testing with this minimum amount.
There are two types of budgets available on Facebook:
- Daily Budget: It is the average amount you intend to spend daily on advertisements.
- Lifetime Budget: Amount that you are willing to spend throughout the entire duration of your ad campaign.
The bidding options on Facebook will affect ad costs. If you want to get the most out of your budget, go for the lowest cost bid strategy.
Facebook Pixel to track conversions and Remarketing
The purpose of using the Facebook pixel is to track the actions of website visitors, which is another name of ‘Conversion Tracking.’
You can see the tracked conversions in the dashboards of Facebook Ads Manager and Facebook Analytics. Now, you can further use those conversions to analyze how effective your conversion funnel is and to calculate the return on investment.
The tracked conversions will be handy to target custom audiences for future ad campaigns and optimization.
The following are the ways to track conversions using pixel:
- Standard Events: Actions by visitors that you report by calling a pixel function.
- Custom Events: Pre-defined actions by visitors that you report by calling a pixel function.
- Custom Conversions: Actions by visitors that get tracked automatically by analyzing your website’s referrer URLs.
It is essential to keep in mind that to track conversions, the installation of the pixel’s base code on every page is a must.
What about Facebook remarketing?
Remarketing or retargeting work by showing your custom ads to users who bounced during their last online visit.
Through remarketing, you can run targeted ads to trigger brand recall in potential customers’ minds. It happens when users visit your website or social media page; a cookie or pixel is added to their browser. Subsequently, your ads follow them to other digital platforms.
Here are some important data about remarketing:
- 70% of users are more likely to convert after seeing remarketing ads on a website than the users who do not.
- A joint study by comScore and ValueClick Media shows that remarketing increased the trademark score by 1,046%.
Remarketing is a proven tactic, and you can use it for tempting customers who bounced out of your sales funnel to come back and purchase.
4. Solar Lead Generation Platforms
Here are the biggest lead generation platforms:
EnergySage is the largest lead generation platform that consistently provides high-quality leads that convert and close quicker.
- SolarQuotes (Australia)
According to the SolarQuotes website, the company has provided 415,076 high-quality solar leads across Australia since 2009.
- Pick my Solar
This is another prominent lead generation platform for residential solar installers. It allows the partner solar installers to bid on installation projects remotely. The highest bidder wins the contract of the customer.
5. YouTube Marketing to generate solar leads
If you already know that YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world (after Google), then you should not miss out on taking advantage of this dynamic platform.
YouTube has more than 50 million users who post videos regularly. Therefore, your videos need to stand out from the clutter to make an impact.
Let us check out how you can use YouTube for the marketing purpose:
1. Create a Business YouTube Channel
First, open a ‘Brand Account’ on Google. It is because if you create a YouTube channel using a regular Google account, only the account holder can log in there.
On the other hand, opening a YouTube channel through a Brand Account will authorize multiple persons to log in.
2. Identify Your Audience
A business YouTube channel provides access to the ‘Analytics’ tab, which has plenty of data related to your channel. There check out your audience’s behaviour, including view counts, average watch time, revenues generated, and interaction rate. This data will give you confidence about reaching out to the right audience.
3. Research about Your Competitors
Analyzing your competitors is a crucial step to stay ahead in your YouTube niche. Check your competitors’ YouTube channels and notice which videos got the maximum and minimum views. It will give you an idea as to which types of videos users like to watch; accordingly, you can change your strategy.
4. Optimize Your Videos for SEO
You need to optimize your YouTube videos for SEO to get more traction. In the process of optimization, do the followings:
- Give catchy titles to your videos with the right keywords. YouTube titles can have up to 100 characters. You can keep it within 70 characters or fewer so that the titles do not get cut off on the search engine pages.
- Write an impactful video description, including a brief about the video topic. The maximum length for a video description can be 5,000 characters; though try to keep the first line of description within 157 characters because only that many characters will show up as a snippet.
- Make an interesting custom thumbnail rather than choosing a freeze-frame. In this way, your video will stand out.
- Add hashtags to your video description, but do not overdo it. Keep the number within 15 as more than that number Google will ignore the tags.
Lastly, you can upload and schedule your YouTube videos from the Creator Studio, or using a tool like Hootsuite. This way, you can cross-promote your videos with posts on other social media channels.
6. Pay-per-Click (PPC)—Google Ads alternatives
PPC stands for “pay-per-click.” PPC advertising allows you to create targeted ad content, and charge you when users take specific actions on the ad.
According to ‘Clutch’ (a market research firm), 60% of small businesses that have SEO strategies also invest in PPC advertising.
Your digital marketing strategy cannot solely depend on organic search. No matter how good your business’ baseline is, and how much your customers love your product, your website is probably going to find it difficult to show up at the top of the search engine results.
So, what a paid search result looks like when users look for something.
For example, if a user searches for “solar cooker” on Google, the search engine results page (SERP) will show the following:
The screen that will come up; you will see the paid search results at the top, marked as “Sponsored.” These are “Product Listing Ads” (PLAs) or “Google Shopping Ads,” which are a type of PPC ad appear when a user searches for a product on Google.
Other popular PPC platforms are Facebook Ads, Twitter Ads, Promoted Pins, LinkedIn Ads, Quora Ads, and YouTube Ads.
7. Email Marketing for solar lead generation
Email marketing is about sending carefully crafted commercial messages as part of the digital marketing strategy.
The purpose of email marketing is to connect with potential customers, share useful information, establish a business relationship, and drive sales.
According to data from 2018, marketers rate email marketing as one of the most effective digital channels ahead of SEO, social media, and affiliate marketing.
In addition, email marketing delivers far higher volumes than PPC advertising – 9% or display ads – 8%.
In simple words, the objectives of email marketing are about:
- Direct Sales
Businesses turn to email marketing because most of the time, it results in profit and growth.
8. Webinars to generate solar leads
A webinar is a video conferencing and video marketing tool, which delivers real-time content in an engaging manner.
The term implies “seminar run on the web.” However, there is much more to it. Webinars have many multimedia and interactive features such as:
- Multidirectional conference
- Downloadable presentations and videos
- Polls and surveys
- Text chat
- Desktop sharing and
- Recording broadcasts to watch later.
All these mentioned features in webinars make business communications more effective.
Webinars are an advanced level of content marketing and can serve as an excellent tool to establish your position in your niche market.
9. Quora Promotions
Quora is a community of professionals who are willing to help others by asking and answering questions on their specialized subjects.
Industry leaders from practically all the segments are present on Quora. However, like other social media platforms, selling or getting ROI is not the top priority on this platform.
Why Marketers Should Consider Quora?
Unlike other social media platforms like Facebook, where friends connect for social engagement, Quora is purely for demand-driven questions and answers.
For example, if you are a solar installer, your potential customers may ask questions on Quora about solar panels, their benefits, cost, best companies, etc. Through your answers, you need to educate them and create brand awareness over a period without any direct selling approach.
Quora is accessible via a website and a mobile application. The questions on Quora index well with Google and Bing and that is why users find Quora through organic search.
Can your company website generate solar leads?
Quality of your website design can push you ahead of your competitors or else will pull you down.
A professionally designed web site can be a decisive factor as to how many visitors will stay on your website.
Why it is important to have a nicely designed website?
It all starts with web designing that creates a nice and clean user interface. When visitors arrive on the landing pages, they can quickly find the information they look for without aimless navigation.
Particularly, user experience depends on the presentation of text and visual content.
A quality home page or landing page should have these five basic features:
- A branding element – the logo
- A title and a description
- A menu for navigation
- A visual appeal through screenshots, videos or images
- A call-to-action – a button for users to take action.
You can re-evaluate your website based on the features listed above.
Check if your website makes it easy for users to get relevant information about your product and its benefits. Only then, the site will serve its purpose.
Highlighting success stories and having the right CTAs.
No other marketing content is more powerful and persuasive than customer success stories.
If you present success stories with examples of how other customers are happy with your company’s problem-solving ability, the prospects are more likely to convert into real sales.
The most effective ways to tell customer success stories are below:
- Creating a testimonial section: Your website is likely to be the first place where prospective clients will look for examples of your work. If they like what they see, they will show interest in your product.
- Create case studies: Case studies can provide a more personalized and in-depth customer story that may catch clients’ attention, and generate interest to have a business liaison with you.
- Shoot video testimonials: Videos are highly engaging tools to share client testimonials. If you have a tight budget, record a short testimonial video on your smartphone, and request clients to share their experience working with you. Share the videos on your website, social media, blog, or email newsletter.
Call-to-Actions on your website are crucial for conversions.
The statistics show compelling data that nearly 90% of visitors to your website will read your CTAs.
If the CTAs are embedded in your text, then your conversion rate is likely to be more than 120%.
Placing a CTA button on your website with visible positioning will lead prospective customers to a different page where they can sign-up to something or buy something. A CTA will make sure that visitors take some action, and not just click and bounce out.
Here are some key data about having effective CTAs:
- CTAs on the landing page make conversion rates go up by 80%.
- Revenue increased by 83% when CTAs are relevant and well placed.
- Due to the right CTAs, the website and product sign-up increase by 34%.
Some of the common CTAs are:
- Add to cart
- Sign up
- Learn more
Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
This is basically “same website traffic, but converting more solar leads”.
It is important to keep in mind that high traffic to your website does not give the true picture of your revenue. You need to look at your earnings per visitor.
For example, if you can increase your earnings per visitor by $1.00, it will have a much higher impact on your revenue than merely increasing web traffic by 3,000 page views per month.
Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is a marketing process that applies certain techniques to increase the percentage of visitors who convert by taking specific actions.
Use this CRO Checklist
This is a useful CRO checklist by Hubspot.
Get the complete checklist clicking here.
Use CRO to do the following activities:
- Landing page optimization
- Funnel optimization
- Reducing the exit rate
- Reducing the bounce rate.
When increasing the conversion rates, also work on increasing the page loading speed. Even a one-second page loading delay may cause 10 to 11% lesser page views and a significant loss of conversion.
The Way Forward
Remember that digital marketing is a dynamic process. After getting the desired results, you need to keep working on it using all the marketing channels mentioned in this post.
Also, keep on highlighting the success stories in prominent ways to attract more prospects and increase conversions.
In addition, optimizing your conversion rate as an ongoing process will help you cut down on the cost of acquiring new users significantly. It will have a positive impact on the bottom line of your solar business and improve the ROI on your marketing investments.
Related article: Content Marketing Influencers That Solar Companies Should Follow
In the fight against the climate crisis, Willie Jiang believes that content marketing can push the energy revolution along at a faster pace. Having helped countless brands grow their organic traffic by 10X and became the CMO of SolarFeeds.com, he is sharing his insights with the solar energy industry. Read his story here