Please Note: The Curren Group offers the following review as a service to our readers. On the one hand, we have no relationship with the company mentioned and they haven’t paid us to write this review. On the other hand, we don’t guarantee the quality of their services or that they will be a good fit for your company in particular. We thought this company was pretty good when we published this article, but things do change over time. As with any business service, you should do your own homework before signing on the dotted line.
The solar lead generation vendor gets a bad rap.
With all the stories in the news about bad solar telemarketers and other “solar scams” it’s clear that some lead generation firms need a lesson in business ethics.
Not to mention a stern lecture from their attorney about regulations on telemarketing.
But the fact remains that residential solar installers have an insatiable appetite for sales leads. And a few recent developments will make solar even hotter and mean that companies will need even more leads:
- The Solar ITC extension
- President Obama’s new push for clean energy
- Shift in public opinion towards clean energy after the Paris climate conference at the end of 2015
As today’s already hot solar boom market turns into tomorrow’s crazy solar stampede, expect more companies to start installing solar on homes across America. And those companies will be hungry for solar sales leads.
There are a lot of low-quality solar telemarketers ready to take the money of solar installers who just want lots of leads, right now. How can solar marketers avoid the scam artists and their worthless leads, and find a way to get high quality leads on homeowners who really want solar?
A Solar Lead Generation Vendor Can Help in the Short Term
The best way to generate residential solar leads is for companies to do it themselves on their own websites through solar inbound marketing. Those leads don’t have to be shared with other solar installers. And the buyers have already expressed an interest in one company. This gives that company an awesome opportunity to build a relationship with that buyer so that when she’s ready to buy, it’ll be natural for her to think of that company first.
But an inbound marketing campaign takes time to build website traffic. And it takes more time to convert website visitors to qualified solar leads.
In the meantime, installers may still want to work with a solar lead generation vendor.
I’ve already written about solar lead generation vendors that you should avoid.
Here, I’ll recommend a vendor that you should work with, EnergySage. Below, you can see screenshots to show what makes them so good.
Eye-Catching First Contact
I first encountered EnergySage through an ad they were running on Facebook.
I’m not always a big fan of Facebook ads for solar installers. Unless they’re done right, it’s easy for ads to get lost in the clutter or just burn through a solar company’s ad budget by racking up paid clicks for a lot of unqualified leads.
But EnergySage’s ad caught my eye because of its attractive graphic and clear message. That is, going through their marketplace with many installers competing for my business could save a homeowner money over going directly to a solar installer.
I also liked their ad copy, which offers a clear benefit backed up by documented money savings:
Don’t Overpay For Solar
Register your property today to receive multiple quotes from different solar installers, then compare prices and make the right decision. You can save 20% or more as a result!
No Telemarketing Required
One thing that makes EnergySage stand apart: The site doesn’t actually require a homeowner to give them a phone number.
What? No phone number? That sounds crazy.
Without a way to call the prospect, how the heck are the solar companies who participate in EnergySage’s marketplace supposed to close the leads that come through the site?
You’ll see how it works. But it may require a different mindset than you’re used to.
Fast-talking closers who’ve gotten into solar sales fresh from the used car lot (sorry — “preowned vehicle showroom”) or straight out of the movie Glengarry Glen Ross (“ABC — Always Be Closing”) will find it wimpy that EnergySage doesn’t actually require a phone number.
Because everybody knows that real salesmen are all about hitting the phones, and hitting them hard, right?
After all, how are you going to sell any solar if you can’t get the chump — er, customer — on the phone and pressure them — I mean, persuade them — again, with apologies to Glengarry, “to sign on the line which is dotted”?
Well, all I can say is that any solar installer with this approach to sales will find plenty of telemarketers from Calcutta to Manilla eager to take their money in exchange for weak leads.
Yes, leads from offshore telemarketers are so cheap that you can afford to buy a ton of them. And you need lots of leads, right? Hmmm… Well, maybe you wouldn’t need so many leads if they closed at a higher rate.
Solar companies that actually want to make sales will see how EnergySage’s approach is superior.
Right from the start, EnergySage shows respect for the buyer by making it clear that the site won’t pressure him to provide a phone number.
This stands in stark contrast to many solar lead generation vendors who not only demand a phone number but also require the visitor to negate any listing he’s already made on the Do Not Call Registry and consent to human calls, robocalls and texts from a variety of companies.
Ouch, that hurts! Talk about cruddy solar telemarketing.
Compare EnergySage’s approach, which is so awesome because it’s the exact opposite:
100% online, no phone calls unless you want them
Nice. Just for this alone, EnergySage deserves some kind of Solar Marketing Nobel Prize for showing so much respect to its visitors.
This approach also makes good business sense in the age of permission marketing, when buyers have less patience to be interrupted by marketers but instead want to choose the way and when they deal with companies.
Residential solar installers working with EnergySage can be more sure that their leads are truly hot, because the site has started from the very beginning by building trust with their solar buyers.
Keeping the Promise, Building Trust
As the visitor goes through the process, creating her profile, EnergySage proves to be as good as their word. The homeowner can enter a phone number, but it’s not required. Instead, the visitor can choose to enter just her email address and then communicate with EnergySage online only.
Just because they don’t require a phone number, doesn’t mean EnergySage is weak on marketing.
Actually, it’s the opposite.
Because they let me complete my profile offering email only, I now have given them my complete trust.
And as they guide the visitor through their process, EnergySage only increases that trust with their attractive user interface and non-hype sales copy.
When they talk about solar savings, which is substantial compared to doing nothing, they have something to base it on — the electric bill that I’ve uploaded to their site.
Finally, at the bottom of this same page, EnergySage helps move me along the solar buyer’s journey without pressure. They help me go at my own pace by offering educational links that help empower me to make a better decision on solar.
I love how these questions are phrased in ordinary English without solar industry jargon. Again, another sign of respect by EnergySage for the buyer.
Email Follow-up for A Happy Ending
For an old-school cold-call closer, following up with leads might mean calling back the buyer every few days to try to wear down their resistance to booking an appointment for a solar home assessment. And if Closer Guy can put down his phone long enough to send an email, you know it’ll be written in all caps. DO YOU WANT THIS DEAL OR NOT?
But for EnergySage, follow-up is more civilized — and more effective.
As it turned out, because I live in an area without many solar installers nearby, EnergySage wasn’t able to send me any quotes to get solar on my home.
But they didn’t just ignore me.
Instead, they sent a nice email with the subject line “Solar for Your Home with EnergySage – Plan B” to explain the situation and offer me the option to get some help from them to explore other options:
We hope you’re excited about going solar!
It looks that there isn’t much activity from solar installers on your EnergySage account for [XX Street Address]. We wanted to touch base by phone and brainstorm ideas for finding some options for your solar installation.
We could chat via phone or email, whatever works for you! Let us know when you’re free and how we can help.
I still haven’t gotten around to going to their site to do an online chat with an EnergySage rep, but I’m confident it would be a positive experience.
I probably won’t be buying solar through EnergySage now. But in the future, they’ll probably be high on my list, especially if they do a good job keeping in touch by email.
Meanwhile, I’ll take every chance I can to recommend them to my friends when the topic of where to get home solar comes up in conversation.
Since residential PPAs aren’t available in my area, I don’t know if EnergySage offers them in places where they are available, or if they only help homeowners purchase solar systems outright. So if you offer PPAs, solar leases or other financing arrangements for homeowners besides selling solar panels, then the site may not be for you.
But for installers seeking better leads to sell equipment, EnergySage is worth checking out. Their website offers other videos and more information on their offering for solar companies. The video below introduces EnergySage’s marketplace for residential solar installers.
One Downside for Solar Installers
As long as they can find installers in a homeowner’s local area, then EnergySage or another marketplace offering homeowners bids from multiple solar companies such as Pick My Solar might be a good option for homeowners to cut their cost on buying a solar system.
- EnergySage says they can save a buyer 20% on solar through comparison shopping among their stable of installers.
- Pick My Solar claims that “on average, a solar system purchased through Pick My Solar is $4,800 below market.”
But for the installers, any kind of marketplace hosting multiple solar companies is always a mixed bag.
On the one hand, a service like EnergySage can get you more leads. On the other, since they’re essentially pitting installers against each other to compete on price, the process is set up to favor the lowest-price bid.
And that’s a recipe for driving solar prices down. Again, that will benefit the homeowner, as long as the lowest priced bid still offers a high quality solar installation.
But it’s never a great business model for companies to race to the bottom on price.
This applies to solar too. No solar company will last long if the only way it can make sales is by getting a reputation as the lowest-cost solar provider.
The only place that can end is by making solar into a commodity where the cheapest provider wins and everybody else eventually goes broke.
Don’t seek to become known just for offering the lowest price. It’s much better is to distinguish yourself on quality or service, so that you can charge more and have a long-term relationship with your customer that may allow you to do more business in the future.
My bottom line: solar installers that need better leads in the short term would be well advised to check out EnergySage or similar solar lead generation vendors that understand permission marketing and deal respectfully with the potential customer. Their leads are likely to be high quality.
But in the long term, solar companies will be in a stronger position if they can develop relationships with homeowners directly.
- Skipping the marketplace will save money on the commission for EnergySage or any other solar lead generation vendor.
- More importantly, connecting directly with a homeowner allows a solar installer to talk to a buyer without other solar companies trying to butt in. It allows an installer to sell more on quality and service instead of just on price.
Why not use a combination of a solar lead generation vendor and your own website to get better leads now and the best leads in the future?
Get leads quickly from a vendor like EnergySage. Then, set yourself up for long-term success by starting to generate leads on your own website with inbound marketing.
— Erik Curren, Curren Media Group