I see it time and again — guys who are independently getting into the solar biz, or who are authorized representatives for larger solar firms, who really want a website to show off their solar brand. But then when they start working on the website they stop short of really letting it shine with a personalized solar brand.
Maybe they think some awesome photos of cool arrays are enough to sell would-be solar customers not only on going solar, but going solar with them.
Well, great pics are important. But they’re not enough.
So what does build your solar brand? In short, storytelling — your own story. What makes your solar firm unique? Or if you rep for a larger firm under your own solar brand name, what makes YOUR brand the one I want to go with. So here’s three ways to do that.
1. What’s in a Solar Brand Name?
In any branding you need to distinguish yourself from the crowd. So why is it that every solar company wants to call itself some version of Solar This or Solar That? It may seem obvious that if you’re a solar company of course you’d want to call your business some version of Solar or Sun. But what about Apple? They sell computers, not Granny Smiths. What the heck are Zippos? Or Nikes?
You see, you don’t have to limit yourself to the obvious inclusion of the words solar or sun. What about playing with related names or ideas, such as bright, rays, charge, daytripper, sky disc, lightspeed, shine, beam, flare, or sun bucket? Or maybe you want to call it “Bear Solar” and use a big bear with a solar halo as a logo? Or “Cardinal Solar” and you use an iconic bird. It’s cliche to say it, but think outside the solar box.
But with so many solar companies whose names sound so similar that even I forget them — and I’m in the solar marketing biz! — you’ll do yourself a world of good if you go beyond the old staples (like some version of “smart” in your solar name) and pick something that lets you build a truly unique solar brand.
Of course, always do a solar brand search and make sure your name isn’t already in use in the solar industry. But once you’ve done your due diligence with your inventive name, then you’re good to go.
Now, you could certainly append “solar” to any brand name or leave it off altogether knowing that the real issue isn’t the name, but the meaning you pour into the name to build your brand.
On that note, genius brand builder Michael Beirut says logos don’t matter much at all, it is that meaning I mentioned. I always advise that solar CEOs and solar marketing directors watch this short video about logos and branding to get a deeper idea about what is really happening when designing a brand logo, and to keep things in perspective when examining your company image:
2. Who’s Your Daddy?
The shortcoming of just thinking about web photos and a predictable solar name is made doubly problematic when the solar rep or independent salesman relies almost entirely on the supposed name recognition of a parent company, or whomever’s solar panels he sells.
Mistakenly he thinks that solar panels are like Coke and Pepsi, Ford and Chevy, or Apple and Microsoft.
Sorry guys. The insider baseball of solar panel manufacturing might make solar gearheads swoon but most homeowners wouldn’t know a Sunpower from a Suniva and kinda don’t really care. You know, we’re just not talking iPhones here.
You might have tons of compelling things to say about why this or that solar panel maker really is THE best. But in the end, the solar brand recognition is just not rising to the top yet.
So when you make your solar brand website, you need to talk less about features — whose panels, converters, and financing models you use — and more about the benefits of going solar generally, and why customers should go with YOU specifically.
In the end, your parent company or the panels you rep aren’t your daddy. You are your daddy. Tell your story!
Maybe you’ve loved solar since you were five and now are passionate about getting it on every rooftop you can. Perhaps you’re totally into energy independence, being free from the grid, and you think solar is another form of national — and personal — security. Tell that story on your About Us page.
Or let’s say you’re a world-class treehugger, motivated by building a cleaner world. Tell that story!
Your solar company is going to be most effective in the online world if it tells your story, sets you apart, makes your case in a way that reflects your mind, heart, and values. Every company is selling and installing solar panels. What makes you you is how YOU do it, why YOU do it.
So just ask yourself these questions, and turn them into a simple 150-300 word story on your About Us page and save the tech stuff for your products or services pages.
3. Crush the Competition
I hate to break it to you, but there’s a heckuva lot of “mee-tooism” among solar installers. Almost everyone is partnered with some quality manufacturing firm, hooked into the range of financing options available in your state, and hip to the various federal and state programs that can make getting solar easier for their customers.
You should definitely show your high quality products and services on various pages on your website. But more importantly, you should display customer testimonials with actual names and then also link to online review sites that show how awesome your customers regard what you do. THIS IS A MUST!
But you still totally need an added competitive differentiator that sets you apart even more. There’s a couple of ways to go about this.
First you could go for a niche. A niche is, for example, like positioning yourself in “Creation Care,” targeting churches and religiously-minded homeowners who care for our Earth. Focusing on a niche — any niche — allows you to build the bigger story of what you do differently and why that group should trust you to provide the quality, reliability, and services that speak to their values and motivations.
Secondly you could offer some sort of value-add that you don’t already find out there. Maybe you chart their bills and expenses for two years and provide a detailed monthly report on how they’re saving with solar. Or perhaps you throw a yearly Solar Families BBQ at a local park, honoring your customers even years after they’ve bought with you. Or maybe you have a Solar Heroes section on your website, with awesome photographs of your solar customers in a great gallery that gives them a social reward for going solar.
Get brainstorming to come out with something — from simple gestures to robust offerings — that can give you that edge in perception when potential customers are checking you out online. And then live up to it! Because in the end, reputation is the constant that will work the best for you once your brand is established.
— Lindsay Curren, Creative Director, Curren Media Group