The customer journey has become one of the most popular buzz phrases in the marketing lexicon today. Understanding how a customer gets from point A (awareness) to point Z (zeal for your product) is one of the most powerful ways to influence the purchase decision.
In the world of sustainability and renewable energy marketing, the customer journey encompasses the entire lifecycle of a customer’s relationship with your brand – from first awareness through purchase, installation/use, and a final phase few appreciate and even fewer understand: advocacy.
For sustainably minded people, advocacy is a deep concept. If the customer experience goes well, advocacy for your brand is practically assured. A marketer’s job becomes one best described as defending the brand relationship.
But in today’s more sophisticated renewable energy marketplace, the path to advocacy is not so well-defined. Now that solar is cost competitive in so many markets, the universe of potential customers is much more diverse. Once a potential customer becomes interested in going solar, there are now a plethora of products and providers from which to choose. And they’re all saying virtually the same thing. Differentiating your message in a way that’s compelling to the broadest audience can be a challenge.
But let’s assume you’ve effectively differentiated your company, you’ve won that customer, you’ve installed their product, and they’re happy. Now what?
‘It costs more to gain a new customer than to keep an existing one’ has never been truer than in solar.
With such a long-term product, the question nobody wants to admit they ask is this: Why should we care about the customer after installation? An entire spinoff industry called O&M has emerged to productize the post-installation experience. So why should a solar installation company, EPC or even a developer care about the customer post-installation, especially if they sell off the assets?
One of our clients, CalCom Solar, is making a name for itself in the agriculture industry because they truly understand the Ag business. They know solar delivers real value to their customers’ bottom line. So when they install a solar project for a dairy farm or produce processor, the real work has only begun. They keep a constant eye on performance to make sure their customers’ systems are doing their job – and that they’re getting the right value from the utility for the energy they produce. For some customers this translates to thousands of dollars in savings every month.
There’s a treasure trove of value in the customer relationship for solar companies – and it’s not just about making sure you get the referral.
You know that relationship you worked so hard to develop? Over weeks and months and maybe even years of educating that prospect? Are you going to just leave it for the next guy to capitalize on? No. You are going to maintain that relationship – yes, so that you get the sale AND the referral. But more importantly so that you own that customer relationship far into the future.
Four Questions to Ask Your Customers
The customer journey in solar is often represented like any other customer journey — with well-orchestrated touch points along the way, But in solar, the journey is usually more complicated than that, with many detours and course corrections along the way. Take time to understand your customer’s journey to solar.
Ask your customers four key questions after the sale:
- What made you decide to go solar?
- What do you like best about having solar?
- How does your solar system make you feel?
- What are you going to do next?
This last question is the most important one, because it strikes at the heart of why we want to continue the customer relationship. In solar, as in life, it’s all about the relationship. You want to build an authentic connection with your customer so that your company will be top of mind when the Next Big Thing in Energy comes along.
What Might the Next Big Thing in Energy Be?
If the current Facebook controversy has taught us anything, it’s that the world is run by those who “own” the customer.
Just a few years ago we could never have predicted that batteries would be something average people would talk about beyond cursing their flashlights or cameras. But as a certain red sports car now orbits the planet, batteries have captured the imaginations of millions.
Because of that car, and the personality of its creator, I have well-informed elevator conversations with people who understand that it doesn’t make any sense to buy an EV if your home is still powered by dirty energy.
And batteries are only the beginning.
The World is Changing. Fast. Are you helping your customers change with it?
I’m not suggesting you only care about your customers so you can sell them more stuff. I am suggesting that you nurture that relationship so that the customer is consistently happy with their solar experience, which in itself is a good and noble thing to do. And when the time is right, you want to be in the right place, ready with the products your customer is ready for, too.
This incremental, logical approach to marketing is, in the clean energy industry, literally how we change the world.
Understanding the customer journey isn’t just a buzz phrase. It’s a sustainability strategy – for your business and the earth.
Want to learn more about mapping your customer’s journey? Contact us.