On the Curren Group website we track the terms that people enter into a Google search that bring traffic to our website. Are you doing this too? It’s a good way to know if your site has good SEO (search engine optimization).
Recently, a surprising search phrase came up as bringing traffic to our site:
can inbound marketing be used to recruit sales people to sell door to door?
I’m always glad when our website gets traffic. Each visitor is a potential client, after all. And if you run a website, you know that you need a certain number of visitors at the top of your marketing funnel to get leads and customers further down the funnel.
But this particular search probably won’t turn into business for us.
Why? Because the person doing this search is interested in inbound marketing for the wrong reason.
Don’t Use A 3D Printer to Do Finger Painting
Inbound marketing online is one of the newest approaches to reaching customers online, using the relatively new technology of the internet. Of course, the internet is not new to us, but online marketing is new to most solar companies, which are still largely reliant on the late 1800s technology of the telephone.
“Hello Central? Will you connect me with Glenworth 435? Hello? Can you hear me?”
If you think Alexander Graham Bell’s venerable telephone is a well worn technology, selling door to door is an even older technology, if you can call it that. As I say in my book The Solar Sales Leap,
If cavemen had photovoltaics back in the Ice Age, their only choice to sell solar to each other would have been to walk from cave to cave, making their pitch. By grunting, of course, “Solar. Big money. Save. Ugh!”
So, using the advanced technique of inbound marketing to recruit salesmen to do the caveman activity of selling door to door is like, well…using PV to power a coal mine.
Yes, you can do it. But why would you want to?
A Solar Scepter for King Coal
If you work in solar, you don’t need me to tell you that the world doesn’t need coal anymore.
Coal is the dirtiest major energy source. Today, scientists understand that coal emits more CO2 per unit of energy than oil or natural gas, making climate change much worse. And people have always known that coal fouls water supplies, darkens the skies and rains down toxic coal — giving generations of miners black lung disease and afflicting cities full of kids with asthma.
What the world needs today more than ever is clean solar power. The more solar we use, the better we can fight against climate change and protect the health of coal miners, kids and everybody else.
So, think about it. Using PV panels to run the lights in an underground mine or electrify a fence around a surface strip mine would defeat the purpose of solar.
In the same way, using inbound marketing to recruit guys to sell solar door to door defeats the purpose of inbound marketing.
(Using clean solar to mine dirty coal would be dumb. But this cool coal mining museum in Kentucky that just installed PV panels is very smart.)
A Smart Way to Do Something Dumb
Just as solar PV is an energy source that’s both newer and better than coal, so inbound marketing is a way to reach solar customers that’s both newer and better than canvassing.
Inbound marketing is marketing that people love. The key is to create content online like blog posts and videos that people interested in solar want to see. If you attract those solar-curious folks with your helpful and entertaining content, then they’ll come to you of their own choice. Then they’ll gladly become your sales leads and ultimately, your customers. That’s why it’s called “inbound” marketing — it gets people to come to you.
Inbound marketing sets, the bait, and then reels the fish in. And the best part is that the fish want to be reeled in!
But most solar installers are still doing old-timey “outbound” marketing. That means they’re trying to interrupt people while watching TV, eating dinner or surfing Facebook through intrusive ads, annoying cold calls, direct mail that goes straight in the trash and, yes, sending out armies of salesmen to walk the cul-de-sacs of suburbia. Even when things things work, more often than not, everybody’s pretty reluctant about the process. Today, nobody likes to be “sold” on solar.
Sales managers who swear by cold walking say that new isn’t necessarily better. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?
If door knocking has worked to sell products from vacuum cleaners to alarm systems since the 1950s, and to sell solar since the clever guys at Vivint helped make cold walking a staple of solar sales in the last decade, then canvassing is good enough for solar companies today.
My answer is that it would be fine to stick with the tried-and-true, if door knocking was really “true” and not just “tried.”
The Risks of Door Knocking
Door knocking may be old, but that doesn’t make it safe. If anything, given the changes in American society over the last two decades in the Age of the Internet, door knocking may now have become a very risky strategy.
- It risks alienating potential customers, who hate when your salesmen knock on their door.
- It risks churning through salesmen, who hate having to knock on hundreds of doors just to make a single sale, costing your company more in recruiting and training.
- And it risks getting your company in trouble with the law. More and more state consumer protection agencies are treating solar door knockers as scam artists and prosecuting the companies who employ them to the fullest extent of the law.
If you’re a salesman, you know that door knocking doesn’t work to sell solar. It’s too bad your CEO and your sales manager don’t know that yet.
You can help convince them by showing them this article from Forbes, where door knocking is listed as one of the “Top Ten Dead or Dying Career Paths” in America over the next few years.
And to the person who did the web search about using inbound marketing to recruit solar door knockers, please check out my book The Solar Sales Leap whose subtitle gets right to the point of your Google search: Stop Knocking on Doors, Cold Calling and Buying Leads and Start Using the Internet to Grow Your Solar Business for the Long Term.
— Erik Curren, Curren Media Group