Anything that is digital, anything that has a pixel attached to it—from social media, to email marketing, to paid search engine marketing—can be tracked. From a business perspective, this is one of the great benefits of our digital age. Using just a few tools, it’s possible to track which customers are interacting with your business, on what platforms and in what ways. With January just around the corner, we’ve compiled a few tips to make the most out of social media and digital marketing for your solar business in the year ahead.
All roads lead back to your website
Even as you post regularly to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, it is important to remember the bulk of your content should live on your website. For example, if you have a product launch or a new solar project to announce, the full version of that announcement lives on your website. A Facebook post about the launch includes a teaser and a link to the full announcement on your site. The same idea is true for email marketing or any other digital content; whenever possible, all roads should lead back to your website.
One of the goals of your website should be to capture email addresses so you can nurture and convert leads. When you direct your social and digital activity back to an up-to-date website, you can easily ask a visitor to sign up for your email list or fill out a request for a quote, thereby converting them to a viable lead. If your Facebook page is getting updated regularly while your website stays stagnant, and if your social media posts don’t direct people back to your website, then you are losing out on the ability to nurture those all-important leads.
Google Analytics help measure and refine digital marketing
It is also important to make sure you link your website to a Google Analytics account. This is a very cost-effective way to measure your digital and social marketing. In a nutshell, Google Analytics allows you to run reports that tell you who is visiting your website and from where. Your reports can also show you what pages people visit, how long they stay on those pages, where they drop off and whether they convert by taking a predetermined action.
You can customize these reports in a variety of ways. For example, run a report of the top referring URLs so you know if some of the partnerships you are formulating with solar industry partners and media are paying off. Likewise, a report of the most-visited content on your site gives you a sense of what is performing well so you can create more like it. Set up custom reports and analyze them on a daily, weekly or biweekly basis, depending on your capacity. At minimum, strive to look at the reports once a month. Use the insights you discover in these reports to measure the return on investment of your digital efforts, as well as target and refine future efforts.
As a word of caution, linking your website to a Google Analytics account does require making a change to your website code. If you don’t have someone in house who can do this, consider hiring a professional. This will be a fairly routine task and shouldn’t cost much. It is well worth the money spent, because adding the code incorrectly can result in inaccurate and misleading data.
Email marketing converts website visitors into sales leads
One of simplest ways to convert your website visitors into sales leads is to maintain an email list. There are several affordable, user-friendly email marketing platforms available. Some of the most popular programs, such as Constant Contact and Mail Chimp, also integrate with the most popular customer relationship management (CRM) tools, allowing for an easy transition from website visitor to sales lead.
Another valuable feature of these email marketing platforms is their ability to segment and analyze. When paired with your CRM, you can easily target an email to a certain segment of your list. Once you send out that email, you will be able to analyze its effectiveness by seeing who opens it and what links they click on. Taking this one step further, you can pair this with information from Google Analytics to see what those customers are doing on your website after they initially click on those links.
Streamline and expand social media efforts
By now, most solar industry businesses utilize some form of social media. But if you’ve been staying safe with Facebook, consider expanding your efforts in the coming year. A few social media platforms are especially worth considering.
- YouTube is the second largest search engine by volume. Video also has high engagement rates and high retention rates. When people experience a story through video, they are more likely to remember it—and share it. This makes YouTube a great place for awareness building and branding. Get in on the game of educating DIYers and other prospects on the do’s and don’ts of solar.
- LinkedIn is one of the most important B2B platforms. Solar businesses who are active, or hope to be active, in non-residential sectors, will find this a useful place for interacting with potential leads.
- Instagram is reported by many solar installers to be a great platform to connect with consumers. Make sure you have lots of installation photos you can post with permission and give detail to the posts so they are relevant to consumers you are trying to reach.
If posting to more than one social media platform sounds too time consuming, there are tools available to streamline your efforts. Applications such as Hootsuite and Sprout Social allow you to take content posted on your website and automatically distribute it to multiple social media platforms.
To round out your efforts, make sure to take advantage of the analytics tools built into each social media platform. These tools allow you to see things like where people are coming from to get to your social media page and what content they like and share the most.
Optimize your search engine ranking
Search engines are an important—and free! —way to drive traffic to your website. (Google is now a verb, after all.) Your goal in this realm, of course, is to position your solar website above your competitors in the search results. Although there is a lot that can be said about search engine optimization (SEO), there are three relatively simple things you can do to help improve your site’s ranking. If you followed best practices with SEO, organic search should be of your top five drivers of leads.
Three easy ways to improve your search engine ranking:
- Post relevant content often- Google loves fresh, meaty content. Strive to post new content to your site at least once a week.
- Build your website with clean, accessible code– A good website designer will help with this, but if you choose to go the DIY route, several user-friendly platforms, such as WordPress, will give you a clean website.
- Create social signals– One ways Google ranks websites is by the number of times content on a site has been shared on social media. Make sure your website has social sharing buttons that allow visitors to easily share content.
Although much search engine traffic is driven organically in the ways we just mentioned, paid search engine marketing (SEM) can also be a valuable tool. Essentially, it allows your ad to show up in key positions when people search for relevant keywords. Google and Bing both offer SEM options that are pay-per-click. That is, you only pay for the advertising when someone clicks on the ad. With this method, you can buy in at a relatively low level, say $50, and test it out to see if it works for your business.
Track search engine marketing closely. It’s easy to spend $1,000 and not drive any leads. #MarketingSolar [click to tweet]
It is important to pay attention, though. Just because people are clicking on your ad doesn’t mean that ad is doing its job. It’s easy to spend $1,0000 and still not drive any of the right people to your website. If you target the wrong customer base by selecting inaccurate keywords, you will drive people to your site, but they will soon leave when they see it isn’t what they are looking for. The same thing will happen if people are directed to a poorly designed or irrelevant landing page. Just as with email marketing and social media, analyze the built-in reports and your Google Analytics regularly.
A well thought out digital and social media marketing strategy has the potential for a great return on investment. Most of the tips we’ve mentioned cost relatively little to implement and, once you develop a system, they can fit into your everyday business routine. Use them to measure, refine and enhance your solar marketing efforts in the year to come.
The role of graphics in a strong solar brand
With a diverse background in design and marketing communications, including earning her marketing design chops in the building industry, Aimee got her start in the solar industry in 2000, working with Xantrex Technology, post merger with Trace Engineering. Bringing her technical expertise together with her design and marketing experience, Aimee has helped define visual and marketing strategies for B-to-B and B-to-C solar companies national and international in scope.
Aimee founded Corbae Creative in 2002 to provide effective design and marketing communications solutions to renewable and sustainable companies. She has had the opportunity to work with amazing solar companies over the years, helping drive design and marketing strategy in unique ways. Never forgetting “effective”, Aimee works closely with marketing, sales, and engineering teams to ensure on point messaging that tells a story in a visual way.
Aimee has spoken about design as a marketing strategy in the solar industry as well as published pieces offering practical advice to help design stand out.
Glenna Wiseman is a solar industry marketing veteran who brings the installer’s point of view to marketing communications. Her solar marketing expertise dates from 2007. For five of those years, she led the marketing initiatives for a California based solar installation firm. Glenna has built integration companies for more than 10 years, resulting in a holistic and enterprise-level perspective on marketing for solar installers.
As founder and principal of Identity3, she delivers vibrant marketing for firms at every stage of the solar supply chain, nationally and internationally. Through an Energy Trust of Oregon soft cost reduction initiative she created the “Build it Bright, Crafting Your Solar Marketing Program” series for installers now featured on HeatSpring, an educational platform serving 47,000 visitors monthly.
Glenna is a recognized writer and speaker within the industry, covering a wide range of topics, including marketing solar to women. She has been a moderator and speaker at Solar Power International and Intersolar North America.