Every good story needs tension.
Think about it. When you’re reading a good book or watching a great movie, what pulls you in and gives you a stake in the outcome is how the hero is going to overcome the bad guys and save the day. Or how a negative situation of any kind is confronted, bringing urgency, depth, and meaning to the situation.
The problem with solar storytelling is that there’s a tendency to over rely on the happy stories of satisfied solar homeowners.
Now don’t get me wrong, a solar marketer needs good case studies in her bag of tricks for sure, and I’ve offered plenty of positive angles in my solar marketing blogs. So get out there and blog on those happy, sunny solar success stories!
But your competitors are all doing the exact same thing. So, one way to up your game is to set yourself apart from the crowd by adding tension to your solar marketing campaign, too. Talk about obstacles and challenges. And then do the first rule of any marketing campaign: turn those negatives into a positive for your solar company.
Here’s three ways to let the underdog wage your solar marketing campaign.
1. The underdog vs Big Energy
It was reported earlier this week that three years ago top utilities executives held a pow wow in response to perceived threats by the growing solar and clean energy industry. Their aim: to block the expansion of solar any way they could. Their weapons: Using state legislatures to outlaw things like net metering and getting large utilities to add high standby charges that would put solar out of reach for lots of customers.
However you feel about electric utilities, there’s almost nothing an American hates more than fat cats who call the shots and throw evil-genius obstacles in the path of the little guy.
Since solar panels are increasingly a non-partisan issue, Big Energy starts looking like Goliath and Joe Sixpack starts looking like David. This is the perfect storm for a short and sweet solar blog on how national organizations like ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) worm their way into your state and mess with local choice on clean energy and greater energy independence.
So you add in what your solar firm is doing with rooftop solar to support freedom, justice and the American Way, and you’ve got a nice blog on how the tide is turning and how you can’t hold the little guy down.
He shoots, he scores, the crowd goes wild!
2. The underdog vs Big Politics
Oh, the sad reality of Washington today. Your state capital might start to seem kinda slimy too.
Everyone knows that at both the state and national levels the old saying, “He who pays the piper calls the tune,” is as relevant as ever. That means most politicians still kowtow to Big Energy with its big money, even when it was the lowly voter that got those politicians elected.
Now if you’ve got a state or federal legislator who’s pro-solar, definitely write a locally-focused solar marketing blog about what he or she is doing for clean energy. The crazy thing about mentioning a public official in a blog is that it’s also a great way to get his or her attention.
But if, like the vast majority of the country, your representatives are still playing by the old energy policy rules set by Big Oil, then you may consider calling them out on your solar blog. If you do it the right way, you might get your representative to start to give solar more cred. If not, at least you can show your solar blog audience that you’re fighting for clean energy, which will make potential solar customers trust you more.
Consider doing some corporate advocacy. Perhaps write a blog post that calls out a policy or legal obstacle to solar in your state and offers a solution, new approach, or organized campaign for change. Urge officials with the power to make change to consider or pass your solution.
Some businesses say, “I don’t want to be political.” But unfortunately, the dirty energy industry has already made energy into a political issue by trying to use the power of government to kill competition from clean energy. If you’re in solar power and you don’t want to be political, you’re in the wrong business.
That doesn’t mean you have to declare yourself a liberal, pro-environmental Democrat. Indeed, since solar is being embraced by so many conservatives (like the Green Tea Party in Georgia and the Christian Coalition) you should try to avoid getting slotted into one side or the other of the partisan divide. Instead, appeal to both the liberal green values that usually resonate with solar supporters but also appeal to traditionally conservative values like property rights, personal freedom, and self-reliance.
3. The underdog vs Climate Change
Some solar marketers don’t like to talk about climate change or energy depletion. “We like to be positive,” they say, believing that monthly budget savings alone is the key to moving $30k worth of solar panels — even when well financed — onto a family’s roof .
While research has shown that saving money is perhaps the biggest motivation for buying residential solar, it’s not always enough. Most homeowners also care about looking good in front of their neighbors, being on the cutting edge, and helping the environment. If you can help your solar prospects feel like heroes up against a truly frightening adversary, that may be the emotional charge needed to convert a wavering prospect into a solar customer.
Any homeowner interested in solar probably already worries about both melting icecaps and the next energy crisis. Yet, it’s easy for the average person to give up hope in the face of such massive global conundrums.
But the underdog has always got some fight in him. Your solar marketing campaign should, too.
The underdog goes up against crazy big threats and does what he can. And one thing he can do is put some solar on his roof to feel more secure, more resilient, and even a bit more virtuous.
So don’t be afraid to trot out the evil twins of peak oil and climate change to make the solar sale perhaps more urgent but certainly more, well, heroic. Most homeowners considering solar already think of themselves as underdogs fighting the energy power structure. Empower your solar prospect to be the underdog with a good chance to prevail in a truly noble fight.
Yes, there’s a selfish reason to buy solar — to save money on future electric bills. But now there’s also a selfless reason to get solar too — to save the world, or at least to do your part. And being a small part of a big solution makes anyone proud, especially when your solar customer has kids.
We love you, underdog
In all the above examples you’re trying to show how solar is at somewhat of a disadvantage — up against tremendous odds. At the same time, the tottering Goliath of the dirty energy paradigm isn’t so solid anymore either. That’s both the tension and the cause for hope.
It’s understandable that many solar marketers won’t want to risk controversy if they can avoid it, and will continue to rely on glowing testimonials, case studies of satisfied customers, stock photos of glossy PV panels, and blue skies and fields of sunflowers. Sweet — but predictable.
If you have the courage to insert some tension into your solar marketing campaign, it’ll help you stand out from the competition.
— Lindsay Curren, Creative Director, Curren Media Group