To sell more solar, you need to know about your customer. You probably already know the basics:
- Motivation to buy solar: To save money on electricity, gain energy self-sufficiency or help the environment.
- Barriers to buying solar: High upfront cost, worries about reliability.
- Incentive to buy solar now: Limited-time discounts (perhaps connected to tax credits), no-money down financing, demonstrated savings over utility power every month.
But this is just the start. Your competitors know all this stuff too. To beat the competition and get better solar leads that you generate yourself and that convert into customers at a higher rate, you really need to dig deeper into your most likely sales prospects.
It would be impractical to research hundreds or thousands of potential solar buyers individually. But you can approximate what your best customers are like by developing a solar buyer persona.
What’s a persona and why you need one
According to Kim Goodwin in Designing for the Digital Age, “personas are archetypes that describe the various goals and observed behavior patterns among your potential users and customers.” Personas help everybody in a solar company — Marketing, Sales, Product Development — internalize the ideal customer that you’re trying to attract, and relate to our customers as real humans.
And why is that necessary to sell solar? With the market getting more competitive, potential customers now have more choice about where to get a solar array. To stand out from the competition, you need to show that you’re a better fit — in fact, that you understand the prospect’s needs better, sympathize with their pain points and can offer better solutions. Once you understand a prospect’s style, general interests, where they get their solar information and how they like to receive it, then you can recruit solar leads through your website more likely to match your ideal customer.
“Understanding your buyer persona is critical to driving content creation, product development, sales follow up, and really anything that relates to customer acquisition and retention,” according to inbound marketing company HubSpot.
How to develop a solar persona
OK, so personas are key to your business. Great. But how to make one? Fortunately, it’s not that hard. And there are a few good resources to help you develop a persona. Here are the basic steps with a resource for each:
- Outline the information you want to know about your persona. For example, you certainly need demograhics — gender, age, income, and education. But it can also be helpful to know buzzwords and mannerisms. Why? If you can use the language they use in your blogs and other website content then when your prospect is searching for solar using that language as keywords in Google, they’ll find your website. MakeMyPersona.com offers a simple worksheet that you can fill out online.
- Develop interview questions. A useful buyer persona is a fictional portrait based on fact. It’s not built on guesswork but on real-life examples, and those come from research. The best way to find out about your ideal customer is to interview some of your real customers. Ask residential customers how decisions are made on big purchases in the family, what are long-term goals for the household and even how important is the value of household self-reliance. For a business or government customer, ask about size of the organization, and the person’s role there in decision-making. Check out “9 Questions You Need to Ask When Developing Buyer Personas.”
- Conduct interviews. You can interview prospects, referrals or people at trade shows, but the best information will come from your own customers who’ve actually bought solar from your company. Of course you don’t want to annoy your customer, so offer an incentive for them to participate in a 10-15 minute persona interview — maybe a discount on future services or a $20 gift card. Make clear that it’s not a sales call. Start with 3-5 interviews and stop when you begin to hear the same answers repeated. This extensive article on developing personas offers great tips for doing customer interviews.
- Write up the results. Here’s where you take everything you’ve gotten and put it together in a usable form for your web marketing team to get you solar leads. But this writeup will also be helpful to Sales, Product Development, Financing and even management as they plan strategy for the future, perhaps targeting new markets. See below for a sample solar persona profile.
What a solar persona looks like
Once developed, a solar persona should look like a profile of a real potential customer, complete with photo and memorable nickname. Here’s an brief example persona for a residential solar company:
A persona can contain more information, such as hobbies/interests, sources of information and much more. But to avoid delay, you can certainly start with the basics listed above and then expand your persona over time.
Use your persona to generate solar leads
Now that you’ve got one or more customer personas, your marketing department can use each persona as the starting-point solar lead generation campaign. Using the language of that persona, a solar marketer can create blogs, e-books and other helpful content online with keywords that will get your site found in a Google search. Once you’ve attracted interested visitors to your site, you can use calls to action, premium content offers and forms to convert as many of them as possible to solar leads.
— Erik Curren, Curren Media Group