So, your company has been buying solar leads from third-party vendors who promise you that their lists are full of homeowners just itching to get PV on their roof by next Tuesday.
How’s that working out for you?
The idea is that buying a list of leads is the quickest way to generate solar sales. But the problem is that outside lists of solar leads just don’t work as well as they used to.
You always had to worry about names on a list of solar leads being so old that by the time you get to him, the homeowner has retired, sold his house and moved into a small condo.
But these days you have to worry about something else too. In the past, that homeowner might have tolerated your salespeople cold calling and interrupting his dinner on the hope that a sales rep might actually tell him something new that might interest him.
Today, with the Internet enabling consumers to find so much product information online, your prospect has already made nearly 60% of his buying decision before he ever talks to your sales rep. And now the only time a prospect wants to talk to your company at all is if he’s already expressed an interest in your solar offering and has already given your his permission for you to contact him about it.
As marketing guru Seth Godin explains,
Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them. It recognizes the new power of the best consumers to ignore marketing. It realizes that treating people with respect is the best way to earn their attention.
Consumers for all big purchases, including residential solar, now expect you to have their permission before you contact them. Without that permission, solar leads are nearly worthless.
The case of the unwilling solar leads
Imagine this scenario: you buy a list of solar leads from a vendor.
That vendor compiled the list by calling around to homeowners and asking them to do a phone survey — “Do you drive a Prius? Do you own your own home?”
Little did those homeowners know that by agreeing to do the survey, they were also unintentionally agreeing to be on a cold-call list that the vendor would then sell to you and 20 other solar companies. Tricky — but unfortunately, all too common.
So, you can be pretty sure that any homeowner on the list will be pretty annoyed the first time he gets a cold call from a solar sales rep. After 18 more calls from other solar companies that purchased the same solar leads list, the homeowner’s patience will be running thin.
By the time your sales rep makes that 20th call, you’ll be lucky if that irate homeowner doesn’t ask for your office address just do he can drive over and throw a flaming bag of dog doo on your doorstep.
And then smear some extra on the showcase PV array ground-mounted on your office lawn.
People hate cold calls.
People hate being on prospect lists they didn’t want to join.
And people will hate your sales rep when she calls.
And that’s why cold calling to lists of purchased solar leads can be a waste of money or even worse. An annoyed homeowner might actually be less likely to buy solar from your company than if you had just left him alone.
The better alternative: Inbound lead generation
OK, so you see the problem in buying solar leads.
But what else can you do?
If just passively waiting for prospects to come to you was the only alternative to cold calling solar leads that you bought, then there would be very little you could do to effectively increase sales.
Fortunately, there’s a third option that will give you better leads while saving you money on buying solar leads. It’s called inbound marketing.
Some of your solar competitors are already using it to generate their own high quality solar leads.
With inbound marketing, you no longer need to buy lists of solar leads. Instead, you use your website to generate solar leads yourself. By now, inbound marketing has been boiled down to a process that any solar marketer can apply and then repeat, as long as he or she has a website:
- Build 1-3 buyer personas, or fictional profiles of ideal customers for your solar offering
- Find out what keywords or search terms those personas enter in Google when they want info on solar
- Write blog posts on your website using those solar keywords and offering content about solar power that those buyer personas would want to read and share (hint: it needs to be interesting, so no corporate news releases please)
- Attract traffic to those solar blog posts through social media, email and other online outreach
- Put a call to action in each blog post offering an e-book or some other content that your potential customer would want to download (eg, “The Homeowner’s Guide to Rooftop Solar with No Money Down.”)
- When your web visitor wants to download the offer, ask them to fill out a form with their contact info
Once you have a web visitor’s contact info, you’ve now got a truly qualified lead — someone who’s interested in solar now and who gave you their contact info by choice.
You can now follow up with her according to the principles of permission marketing, with an email perhaps offering another e-book or even a free phone consultation. You can even nurture your new lead with an automated sequence of 8-10 emails set to go out over a period of a few weeks or months.
Solar leads you get yourself are better than leads you buy
It’s obvious to see how a solar lead that you generate yourself is much better qualified than one you buy from a list. Even better, the prospect has indicated an interest in your company specifically and not just in solar in general.
Does generating your own solar leads take longer than buying a solar lead list from a vendor?
So, if you still do cold calling and you want to keep your sales team busy, you may still want to buy leads for a while yet.
Just make sure to check out your lead generation vendor first. Find out how they get leads — whether through telemarketing or some other way — and be sure that you’re comfortable with what they do.
But in the meantime, why not get started on generating your own, much more qualified, solar leads?
If you do it right, the day may come when you can start to cut back on buying lists and eventually generate all your solar leads in-house.
With better leads, your conversion rate will rise and you’ll sell more solar.
You say you’ve never generated solar leads from your website before?
First, read this article on how to generate leads from HubSpot. They pretty much wrote the book on inbound marketing in general.
Then, for help tailored to the solar industry, download our free quick start guide to start generating your own solar leads through inbound marketing.
— Erik Curren, Curren Media Group