We all understand how tight margins are in the intensely competitive solar installation market, and reaching consumers is not easy. But just because you don’t have the budget for a canvassing team, ad campaign, or big sponsorships doesn’t mean that there aren’t effective and affordable marketing campaigns you can launch. Here are five ways to market effectively to your community — and they won’t cost you a dime.
1. Social Media
Your customers and local media members are on Twitter and Facebook, so you should be, too. Use these channels to show off past and current projects, update your audience on developments at your company and engage with your elected officials. By maintaining an active presence on Twitter and Facebook, you can engage in broader community discussions and present your message conversationally. But always remember this cardinal rule: Social media is supposed to be social. If you just talk about yourself or post infrequently, you are wasting your time.
2. Letters To The Editors
As a professional solar installer, you have the ability to comment on a host of stories that appear in your local papers/websites — energy, utilities, government involvement in the private sector, local businesses, new industries in the area — or even extreme weather. You should have someone in your office who dedicates an hour or so a day scanning local newspapers and websites. When you see stories on any of those issues, it’s time to spring into action.
Write a few sentences about what you and your company have to offer on the subject and then send it in to your local paper as a letter to the editor. Just make sure it is not too sales-y or they won’t print it. Letters to the editor are typically around 150-300 words and the guidelines usually appear on the page itself. If they aren’t listed- call and ask). Be sure to include your name, company name and, most importantly, your phone number. Most reputable news outlets won’t print a letter-to-the-editor without confirming who wrote it, so the phone number may be the most important part of what you send them.
This kind of involvement will raise your company’s visibility in the local press, but it will also help your rankings in online search results if it’s posted online.
3. Open Houses
Just as going out into the community can help raise the profile of your company, inviting them to a project site, or the home of a satisfied customer is an excellent way to educate potential customers in a low-pressure environment. This is also a great photo op for a local politician so make sure you invite them. And if the local press know a politician will be making an appearance, there is a good chance they’ll send a reporter. So now your event is educating attendees and is in the papers.
4. Turn Referrals Into A Competition
People love competing and getting rewarded for completing an objective. Many solar installers already have a referral program set up which is a good way to speed up the word of mouth about your company. Kick it into high gear by allowing people to opt in to a gamified referral program. Come up with non-monetary prizes to give to referrers and rank the top ones publicly. The more fun you make your referral program, the more likely people are to use it — and the more business it will bring your way.
“Local Installer Explains Solar Science At School” is a pretty good headline for your community paper. Figure out an easy but visible way you and your team can volunteer for a day during your slow season. This will take more time, but it could have a much bigger impact. Getting a group together to help your local food pantry or clean up a popular park is a great way to give back, while getting a great photo opportunity and write up in your weekly paper or community blog.
Carter Lavin is The Solar Marketing Group’s Business Development Manager and helps renewable energy companies analyze the market, articulate their message, and connect with their targeted audience to achieve their marketing/communications goals.