More and more solar companies are discovering what big brand marketers have known for years — the power of email marketing to cultivate customers.
Email subscribers are better than either social media or search engine traffic, if you do your email marketing right.
Cut through the clutter
It’s nice to have fans on Facebook or followers on Twitter. But social media services are busy and followers won’t see much if anything of what you post unless they’ve already shown an interest in your company.
The biggest source of traffic for most solar websites is Google searches. To rank well in Google, it’s helpful to use keywords strategically in your content. But it can take months or years to start seeing much traffic this way. And if your keywords are competitive, such as “solar panels” or “solar lease” then the big guys are already coming up at the top of a Google search and your company may never appear higher than page two or three.
Escape the tyranny of keywords
Even worse, writing content around keywords means that you have to stick to topics that people are already searching for, phrased in language they’re already using. That’s a bit of a straitjacket if you’re trying to do or say something new.
If you’ve built up an email list, you escape these problems. Now, you’ve got an audience who’s ready for whatever you send.
Of course, your email subscribers won’t read everything they get from you — email open rates of about 29% are typical for home and building services, which would include residential solar. But you’ll probably get a higher percentage of readers on email than on social media. And email is much quicker than waiting for Google searches to roll in.
When sending to an email list, you don’t have to be handcuffed by keywords. You can write about stuff that people aren’t yet searching for — and many of your email subscribers will read it.
It’s no wonder that email is so appealing to solar power and many other industries. But the problem is that, in some cases, email is too appealing.
Avoid fines and jail time
Too many companies cross the ethical line and fall into sending spam, or unsolicited commercial email. As an email marketer, even if you try to do the right thing, it’s easy to make a mistake. Unfortunately, such mistakes can be costly.
The Federal Trade Commission, the agency charged with enforcing rules against spam passed in the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, can fine a company $16,000 per violation. And big spammers can even wind up in jail, as a couple of guys from Texas recently did — for 30 and 40 years, respectively.
So it pays for solar marketers to know the rules on spam. It’s not actually illegal to unsolicited commercial email. But it is illegal to be sneaky about it or to keep doing it after people have asked you to stop. Here are the top ruless to keep your email legal:
- Don’t use false or misleading header information. Instead, use a real personal name and email address (eg, “John Smith” rather than “Info”) as the sender and your company name in your “From,” “Reply-To,” and routing information.
- Don’t use deceptive subject lines. “The information you requested” is my favorite — especially when it’s coming out of the blue, and I know I never requested anything. If you’re sending an unsolicited email to sell home solar, then be clear about it.
- Be clear that you’re selling something. You probably don’t want to label your message “advertisement” but you can come up with more subtle ways to show that the email is promotional.
- List a Physical Mailing Address. Any commercial email message you send needs to list a current street address, a post office box or a private mailbox.
- Offer a clear opt-out link. It should be in the usual place, at the bottom of the email. It can be in small type, but don’t make it too hard to find.
- Process opt-out requests promptly. If someone opts out of your email, you need to stop sending any more emails to them within 10 days. Then, you can’t send emails to them anymore in the future unless they opt back in.
- Supervise your email contractor. Even if you didn’t do it, but it was your outsourced marketing freelancer who went rogue and started spamming your email list, you’ll still be the one responsible. Supervise anyone who sends email on behalf of your company and make sure they’re doing it right.
Solar marketers at smaller companies can avoid most of these situations by using one of the common small business email marketing systems such as MailChimp or Constant Contact. Bigger companies will be email-safe with marketing automation systems like HubSpot or InfusionSoft.
— Erik Curren, Curren Media Group