Earlier this afternoon, I attended a highly informative webinar for solar installers on “Selling Quality in a Price-Sensitive Market” by Enphase Energy (Judy Ash) and UnThink Solar (Tor “Solar Fred” Valenza). I thought a few key points were worth passing along.
- There’s a tremendous amount of price competition in solar power right now, and while some of that reflects positive trends like falling soft costs, another part of it reflects eroding margins. In this environment, the question is how to market a premium-quality product and not just get into a destructive “race to the bottom” that’s all about price?
- With more than 60% of residential solar customers getting only 2 quotes or fewer, it’s crucial that you be the first company the customer calls. The most important thing in that regard is good “word of mouth,” particularly by your customers to their friends, neighbors, etc. One way to encourage this is of course to provide a great product and service. In addition, you can offer referral incentives.
- The bottom line is that, while you need to be in the ballpark on price, quality of installation experience and product is crucial.
- According to Tor Valenza, the goal should be to build a “mountain of trust” about your company and/or brand. Customers want solar panels that will last a long time and work right, but also pay attention to your appearance online and offline, communications and interactions with them, and a “certain je ne sais quoi” – something unique about your company that makes you who you are.
- Trust can’t be built in 10 minutes, it takes continual effort over time. You should be conveying that you’re all about quality solar that will last a long time in all your marketing, online and offline. For instance, you should stress how long you’ve been in business, how many installations you’ve done, the quality brands you install, community certifications, etc.
- Valenza strongly recommends putting up a video about the installation process, the warranty, and other important information, as it makes the whole process “less scary” to potential customers. Valenza also recommends using social media in an honest, transparent way to interact with actual and potential customers and to help build trust.
- Your company definitely needs a good-looking, and of course technically up-to-date website that makes a good first impression. Same thing with your marketing materials, installer/sales uniforms, case study images and videos.
- Possibly most important, in Valenza’s view, is to always keep in mind that “people relate to people.” This means doing things like putting a bio and photo of all your company’s employees, having everyone do at least one blog post, being involved in your community (e.g., sponsoring a Little League team), etc.
- Finally, on the “Je ne sais quoi” quality, Valenza stresses that every company has its own personality, something unique or different about it, something that sets it apart, and should work to convey that in an authentic manner.
A few key takeaway messages from all this include the following: 1) use consistent messaging; 2) have others say it for you (e.g., third-party validators); 3) add “proof points” (e.g., Better Business Bureau endorsements); 4) convey professionalism and excellence in everything you do; 5) use social media effectively; 6) be involved in your community; 7) work over the long haul to establish trust and maintain relationships; and promote your “Je ne sais quoi” in a way that “humanizes your company, gives you an identity that people can relate to.” Do all that, and you may not guarantee success, but you’ll certainly increase your chances of success by a significant amount. Good luck!