Even as the price of PV modules has dropped over the last few years, one cost has remained stubbornly high for solar installers: customer acquisition.
Maybe that’s because, while solar panels have evolved over the years to use better technology, solar selling has not evolved at all. Old-and-cold sales tactics like knocking on doors and buying leads from telemarketers are only the latest thing if you live in 1975. If your customer acquisition is stuck in the past, don’t expect the best results.
Today, leading solar companies use leading technology on the internet. They support their sales teams with robust marketing online.
The article below covers one of the most successful techniques from other industries, but one that’s new to solar installers, a form of online outreach known as inbound marketing. As opposed to outbound marketing, where you try to interrupt your potential customer with a home visit or cold call, inbound marketing is where you attract customers to come to you. It’s a kind of marketing that everyone — the customer, the salesman, the company — likes better. So it works better. This article will help you get started.
With the inbound marketing methodology, you need to know who you’re trying to reach and how you can best reach them. In a vertical market, products and services are focused on a single, specialized niche such as the solar energy market. When mapping out the inbound journey of a vertical market, marketers need to be very specific.
Buyers and prospective clients don’t want to be sold to. They want information about your product that can help them make the right decision when they’re ready. By understanding your buyer’s journey, you can guide and lead them into making that decision that is buying your product.
Hubspot divides the buyer’s journey into three distinct steps: awareness stage, consideration stage, and decision stage. In the awareness stage, the buyer realizes that they have a problem, which leads them to the next stage, where they clearly identify these challenges and find solutions to it. The third and last stage is the decision stage, which is where the buyer is ready to choose a solution to their problem.
ReputationX provides a more specific and linear buyer’s journey through what they call the Branded Search Funnel. This illustrates how people find brands online.
Selling Solar on the Farm
For example, let’s take a solar energy company targeting agricultural customers, an increasingly lucrative market for both rooftop and ground-mounted PV. This can give you a clearer picture of how you can map out your content strategy through the inbound journey of a vertical market.
Ed is a 56-year-old farmer in California. He grows crops and has a small barn for livestock animals. Every month, he complains about the high utility bills. Using ReputationX’s Branded Search Funnel, Ed will go through six stages before making the first contact with a solar energy company.
First, Ed will perform a broad search, most likely about ways to save money on utilities. Based on his broad search, he realizes that there are alternative sources of energy, so he refines his search and discovers that he can save on his energy bills by using solar energy.
Ed will, then, look at various information on solar energy, and will eventually look at the top brands offering the service he needs. He will then sort, compare, and shortlist the top solar companies that he finds to narrow down his choices. Once he picks the company of his choice, he will perform further research to support his decision. If he’s satisfied, he proceeds to contact that solar energy company.
Given this model of how Ed went through extensive research through various stages of buying, marketers can map out the content and information they put out there to specifically target their potential clients at particular stages of the funnel.
Because the vertical market has a highly focused target, businesses can use that as leverage. Since there is less competition and less noise, there’s a better chance of reaching the right people with the right content at the right time.
On the other hand, since the journey is much longer for vertical market as compared to horizontal market, marketers have to make sure that they are present at every stage.
Start by listing down all the possible questions of your target audience from each stage. You can refer to forums and Question & Answer sites to have an idea of their usual questions. Organize these questions based on the stages of the online search. From there, you can create informative content that answers these questions. Of course, you have to make sure that your audience will be able to see these content through social promotions, paid advertising, or SEO.
4 Steps to Evolve Your Marketing
Vertical Measures illustrated the 4 steps to content marketing enlightenment. In this illustration, business owners go through 4 stages before they realize that they need to add buyer-centered value in their messages.
In the first step, companies can be very ego-centric in their marketing efforts. They want users to know that they have a product that is awesome. Yes, we get that. But when you publish product-centered information without taking the buyer’s journey into consideration, buyers can get turned off. Instead of them seeing and realizing that they need your product or service, they see a company who is eager to sell their product and make money off of them.
In the second step, marketing efforts are still egocentric, but marketers have now seen that the buyers’ interest need to be earned. Content is created according to the buyers’ needs. This brings them closer to gaining the trust of their potential clients.
So, companies employ the “market-in” strategy, where they create content with perspectives of competitors and industry leaders outside of their organization to provide more information to the buyers.
In the last stage of their content marketing efforts, marketers realize that they need to publish valuable content that will help and educate their audience to achieve high engagement and trust.
Last Words of Advice
When mapping out your content strategy, ensure that you understand your buyer’s journey. Where are they in the journey? If you know the answer to this, you can curate information and publish content that is relevant to their current needs.
For instance, Ed can use information about how solar energy can remarkably lower his utility bill. You can also interview energy experts who can provide explicit information about the benefits of solar energy. As Ed goes further down the journey, make sure that you have content that is suitable to his specific stage.
— Johanna Rivard, Guest Blogger, Curren Media Group
About Johanna Rivard
Johanna is a two-decade veteran of the online publishing, B2B demand generation, and technology media markets. She drives the product and data strategies at PureB2B.