(Spoiler Alert: It’s About the Customer)
With RE+ now in our rearview mirror (and our feet almost recovered!), let’s get ready for a big finish to 2023. This year is expected to be the biggest ever for solar installations. No doubt 2024 is sure to keep pace. Now is the time to double down on your clean energy marketing efforts — and get your plans in place for next year.
Never before has the industry seen so much forward momentum, especially with the Inflation Reduction Act providing a consistent guidepath for the future. Looking forward to 2024, more people, companies and communities than ever before will be evaluating solar, energy storage, and other climate solutions. How will you ensure your company is the one they choose?
It starts with having a plan.
Know your audience.
B2B and B2C clean energy marketing are different animals but share certain aspects in common. One of these is the importance of understanding your target audience(s). Dive deep to appreciate their needs. Know how they make buying decisions. Then you can build a marketing plan informed by customer personas based on exactly who you’re targeting, and why.
Who is your ideal customer?
To create your customer personas, go beyond a mere list of demographics like median income and education level (B2C) or job title and industry (B2B). What are your prospects’ buying motivations, pain points and content preferences? And most importantly, what do they need to know to make the purchase decision?
Here are some thoughts to get you started, by audience segments.
- What’s their relationship to energy? Why are they interested in solar or other renewable options?
- What are their questions? How much will solar cost upfront, what are the finance options? How long will it take to see a return on investment?
- Where do they spend their time – online and off?
- Whose advice do they trust? Neighbors, friends, relatives, business associates?
- B2C customer pain points may include financial pressures, grid issues, climate change worries, and neighborhood concerns about solar aesthetics.
- What industry are they in and what’s driving their interest in solar and/or energy storage?
- What are the commercial financing options for clean energy? Are they qualified?
- What’s their role in decision-making? Do they have adequate internal support for the decision?
- Where do they go to get their information? Media, industry sources?
- Whose advice do they trust? Thought leaders, colleagues, industry associations, other vendors?
- B2B pain points include investor pressure, meeting sustainability goals, rising utility costs, and their brand’s reputation.
Five ways to learn about your audience
- Talk to your salespeople. Often. No one knows better than your sales reps who your prospects are and what drives them to action. Ask your sales team about the conversations they’re having with prospects — the pain points and stumbling blocks they encounter will point to where you need to focus your content marketing efforts.
- Develop “voice of the customer” interviews and conduct these interviews regularly. As you’re developing case studies, use the opportunity to gain additional insight into your customers’ decision-making process and their wants and needs.
- Reviews. Check review sites for what’s important to customers (both yours and your competitors). Google Reviews is fast taking the lead on reviews of solar installation companies. Yelp, SolarReviews and EnergySage are also good sources.
- Don’t neglect secondary research. There can be gems of insight there. Here are a couple of examples of what you can find.
- The commercial market’s challenges in converting to solar. Who receives the tax credit? This is one of many questions pestering prospects as they explore the complexities of solar financing. While new solutions via the IRA are emerging, there is plenty of opportunity for education.
- About consumer attitudes on clean energy. Roughly 67 percent of Americans prefer clean energy over fossil fuels but aren’t ready to leave oil and gas completely behind. Although they want the US to prioritize spending on clean energy, they express concern (aka fear) about the financial cost of transitioning too quickly toward clean energy. This suggests that more education is needed to assuage their fears.
- Social media can provide rich insight into attitudes toward clean energy for B2B or B2C. Good news is you don’t have to wade through all the comments on social; there are tools to extract this information. One guerilla marketing approach is to use Linked In to research your audience and develop an account-based marketing approach to gain insight into your personas.
Know Your Competition
Fluency in the clean energy market will give you insight into your competitors.
Research your competitors directly
- Review their websites regularly with an eye on their services and market positioning. Read their blog posts, social media, job postings, and press releases.
- Subscribe to their newsletter if they have one.
- Attend industry events.
- Ask customers who else they are talking to or what other solutions they’re considering.
Components of an Effective Marketing Plan
Regardless of your industry segment or stage of business, every clean energy company needs a marketing plan that includes, at minimum, the following components:
- Goals: Tied to business objectives. While “raising awareness” and “increasing leads” are good high-level objectives, your goals should be expressed in numbers, always.*
- Target audiences: Include personas crafted from your research above.
- Positioning and Messaging: Who are you up against, competitively? How will you tell your unique story?
- Strategies: How will you get there? Content marketing, advertising, PR, SEO, digital marketing, events, referral programs — these are all often-used strategies in the clean energy market. How will you build an effective marketing mix?
- Tactics: What are the specific activities and deliverables that will drive your success?
- Measurement: How will you know when you’re successful? What tools do you need to have in place to measure the program?
*Key Point: Marketing objectives should be tied to business objectives. If the business wants to increase revenue by X%, your marketing team can work backwards from there to establish the number of qualified leads necessary (given known industry averages and your own sales conversion rates) to achieve those goals.
Marketing can also have a strong role in increasing your sales conversion rates. This is why content marketing is a cornerstone of most solar energy companies’ marketing plans. And that’s the focus for our next blog.
Clean Energy Agency Partnerships
Our industry is moving at warp speed. An effective clean energy marketing strategy requires a relentless focus on the customer, with specialized, proven marketing expertise.
Consider partnering with a marketing agency specializing in clean energy and climate solutions. A company adept at navigating the intricacies of this industry and the resources to develop a marketing strategy that delivers results.
Clean Power Marketing Group has helped leaders in the industry grow their businesses for more than a decade.
If you’d like help developing your 2024 marketing strategy, please get in touch.