A solar marketer needs to know about the sales cycle in order to generate high quality, qualified solar leads to send on to the sales force. But to generate those leads, a marketer will need to have more focus on the customer and her needs in the pre-buying process than the rest of the company does.
For example, CentroSolar America’s 26 steps to sell residential solar starts with lead generation but then goes far beyond into financing approval, scheduling and procurement of materials all the way out to the install execution and post-install follow up such as getting final payments from the customer and forwarding rebates to the customer.
Very helpful for operations. But way beyond what’s needed for marketing, which is focused on only the first step of this process, generating solar leads.
HubSpot, the inbound marketing software company, offers a view of the sales cycle more helpful to marketers because it shows what you can do to generate those leads in the first place.
Here, I’ll present three images from HubSpot that will empower marketers with a better understanding of the sales cycle and demystify what’s going in the minds of their potential customers as they get closer to a purchase.
1. Solar leads on the Buyer’s Journey
The buyer’s journey is the path that a potential customer takes from stranger to visitor to buyer. Today, much of this journey will happen online and, if your website is optimized for lead generation, a potential customer will want to interact with your site at each stage of her exploration.
This first image shows how the buyer travels from wondering through learning to deciding.
The example is one that anyone who’s had a cold can identify with. It’s easy to imagine how it might apply to residential solar, for example:
- Awareness Stage: I want to cut my electric bills while helping the environment.
- Consideration Stage: I need to use less energy and/or get it in some cheaper and cleaner way. But how can I do that?
- Decision Stage: I can insulate the attic, sign up for the power company’s “green energy” option or have PV panels installed on my roof. Insulation will help no matter what else I do. And the green energy program is easy but costs a bit more and I wonder if it’s really effective. If I can get PV panels with no money down, that could be both cheaper and greener.
2. Content for each step of the journey
Now that you know the three basic steps of the buyer’s journey, you need to know how to help the potential customer make it from awareness to consideration and finally to a favorable decision for your company’s solar offering. This is how you convert website visitors into solar leads and then ultimately into customers.
The best way to do that online is by offering the buyer helpful content, tailored to each stage of her journey. The next graphic shows what types of content you should offer to buyers as they move along.
As you can see, there’s no generic content that will work well for all potential buyers. Instead, buyers will want different kinds of content depending on how far along solar leads are in their process of discovery and consideration.
- As a solar marketer, imagine how your company can appeal to newbies in the Awareness Stage with a checklist (“Is Solar Right for Your Home?”) or a simple online calculator (“Do You Qualify for Solar at No Money Down?”)
- When buyers move into the Consideration Stage and are mulling solar PV versus their utility’s green power program, offer a quick comparison chart of benefits of each.
- Finally, when buyers reach the Decision Stage and are ready to buy, a free consultation that brings in demos with price quotes and the most attractive financing in a limited-time offer can close the deal.
3. Use keywords to solar leads to the right content for their stage
OK, so you agree that it’s most effective to get the right content to buyers at the right time. When somebody’s just learning about their options, you don’t want to scare them with too many pricing options and a $50,000 contract. On the other hand, when the buyer is ready to decide, make it easy to see how much your offer costs, financing options and how the buyer can sign up.
But you’re probably wondering how to match the right content with the buyer’s stage? You can certainly slap all your content up on your website and hope that your buyer can follow links to find what they need just when they need it. Of course, that’s pretty hit-or-miss.
Why leave it to chance when you can use keywords to help buyers find just what they’re looking for at each stage in their journey in a web search?
If you use keywords well in all your content then you can increase the chances that buyers will be able to find your stuff in a Google search. The graphic below gives ideas on just what keywords to use for each type of content.
As a solar marketer, adapt these keywords or substitute your own to help meet the needs of your buyer on her journey.
What terms do people search for in Google to get to different pages in your website? You can find this out from your Google Analytics reports. Then, you can go further: Get more keyword ideas and evaluate keyword choices in terms of popularity of searchers and competition with other websites by using a keyword tool like the one found in HubSpot or KWFinder.
Want to learn more about the Buyer’s Journey? Check out the SlideShare presentation “How to Map Content to the Buyer’s Journey: A 3 step process for creating the right content for the right person at the right time.”
Meanwhile, consider whether your marketing efforts are talking effectively to your buyers at each stage of their journey. Can you think of at least one piece of content that you can offer for each stage — Awareness, Consideration and Decision?
— Erik Curren, Curren Media Group