This is the year of change in US Residential Solar; big shifts among the big players, SunEdison and Sungevity are in bankruptcy, NRG is refocused on commercial and utility while SolarCity has been redone as Tesla.
Because all this trouble and strife in the big leagues happens while American demand continues to soar local installers are presented with better and better opportunities – if they can get a handle on growth costs.
Over the past decade we have seen dramatic cost reductions across all components; panels, inverters and racking. Simply put; for the homeowner today it costs less to produce more.
Spiraling Lead Costs
The one area that hasn’t seen a cost reduction is customer acquisition – sales and marketing now represent the biggest chunk of the total install cost, getting a customer can cost more than the panels which is ridiculous. It looks worse in comparison to the car industry; they spend about 4% of their gross sale on the sale, we spend about 17%. With equipment and labor costs being fairly hard, increased profits are going to come in only two ways; increasing the number of jobs you do, or decreasing customer acquisition costs with efficient marketing and moving those dollars into the profit column.
For US Residential Solar to fully become a mass market resource, there has to be some fundamental shifts in how we get customers. Local installers can deliver high quality solar system installations at better prices with far greater service, but that doesn’t mean they are natural marketers.
Local Residential Solar Installer Marketing Opportunities
Local, small or mid-sized installers don’t have the time or budget for big branding campaigns or cutting edge techniques and technology at the level of national players. A recent article in GreenTechMedia puts it quite succinctly;
Installers buy a lead for $60 on average (prices vary significantly by geography and level of exclusivity) and then go through a laborious qualification process to target the most promising customers. An installer can spend $6,000 for 100 leads, but only 10 will actually qualify and be interested in hearing the installer’s pitch. Moreover, three will sign contracts, and only two will actually follow through with the installation.
That means that on average, a solar installer is paying roughly $3,000 — or $0.40 to 0.50 per watt — on marketing for a single deal before factoring in sales commissions and the overhead required to manage that funnel.
Even the installers that have established robust sales and marketing teams face an uphill climb. With the advent of social media and content marketing, the way consumers absorb information has fundamentally changed. Programmatic advertising allows marketers to target consumers with laser precision, serving the perfect ad to the perfect prospect at the perfect time and in the perfect place to drive conversion.
Simply bidding on keywords, getting five-star Yelp reviews, canvassing, and sending generic direct mail isn’t enough to enable the drop in customer acquisition costs that will be required to scale.
Solar isn’t a must-have for consumers; they already have power, it’s an upgrade and in many cases it’s an upgrade in lifestyle, not just power production. There is no single, outstanding brand in residential solar, no monolithic company successfully dumping millions of investor dollars into ‘campaigns’ and this leaves the door wide open when it comes to owning the growth to small, local companies who are able to deliver great service BEFORE the sale, install the right system at a competitive price while wrapping themselves in the “Buy Local” movement as a trusted neighbor and member of the community.
Local Residential Solar Installers Have the Advantage
The ‘long tail’ solar installers are just that; thousands of locally owned businesses all over the country, people who have a greater sense of obligation to do a great job because they have a greater chance of running into you at the local park or Chamber of Commerce meeting. This system of trusted advisors is baked into most service industries; plumbers, electricians, realtors, contractors – they live by referrals and so can we.
As local installers gain control of their sales process and basic marketing strategies they will continue to grow their foundations. The referral lead generation process is something that can be simply streamlined and amplified, the concept of neighborhood domination, where your company becomes known as the go-to trusted solar company on the block or in the town is essential. It’s critical that small installers get away from the current state of “me-too” marketing and buying leads that seems to be always focused on “Want-A-Quote? / Want-A-Quote?” instead of “How can I help you learn enough about the benefits of solar to YOU?”.
Local companies are much more nimble than the big players, they can adapt easily and can effectively make the case “Hi, we are your neighbor, we can help you understand solar – and we can install exactly what you need so your life is better” when they enjoy the experience and results, they are much more likely to recommend that company to their friends and because people are wired to behave like that, all it takes is a little encouragement to turn one happy customer into 10 fresh leads that cost you nothing more than good behavior and good will.
Every dollar you save on your current marketing efforts turns right into profits which you can put in your pocket or reinvest into your business so you ride this years wave of new residential solar.
If you’d like to learn more about creating your own leads, become known as ‘The’ solar company in the most profitable neighborhoods and growing your business, let’s talk, we can help! Call Mike Wolpert @ 407.405.3500 or Sales @ SolarMarketingGuys .com