The solar thermal industry is notoriously treated as “the other solar” in the United States, despite it being widely used and appreciated in other parts of the world. The ASES National Solar Tour is not only an opportunity to educate home owners and businesses, it’s also an opportunity to create business relationships and leads for solar thermal companies, but there’s a catch: You must participate.
If you’re not convinced this is up your alley, then let me entice you with a free solar thermal marketing action plan to get attention for your hosted solar thermal tour and for your business, generating leads and sales.
ASES Solar Thermal Tour Marketing Plan
Step 1. Find a host or several hosts. If you’re in the solar pool heating business or the residential sector or commercial solar thermal side, contact your best customers and ask them if they’d like to be a part of a national solar thermal tour.
Obviously, these should be very satisfied customers who appreciate your work and their solar hot water savings. And why would they participate? From a residential customer, it may be purely for solar advocacy and the environment, helping to educate kids and the neighborhood about solar. Additionally, you can offer them a referral fee for any leads from the tour that gets turned into a sale. (More about this later.)
Similarly, if you’ve installed a solar thermal system for an apartment building, hotel, Laundromat, nursing home, hospital, restaurant, etc, these are all businesses that appreciate publicity and the PR that goes with being a green/sustainable business. Tell them about ASES and your plan for conducting and publicizing the tour. You also can offer them a referral fee for any confirmed sales.
Step 2. Now that you have a host or several hosts, sign up for the tour. You can join an existing tour that includes solar PV. As long as you’re on the map and included in a tour, that’s what counts. If there are certain per-aranged hours with hosts, of course mention these to existing tour organizers and put those hours into their info packs.
Step 3. This is optional, but make it fun, as well as educational. Create a theme around your tour. If the residential host is up for it, make it a solar pool party. Or perhaps do a solar herbal tea party with tea or coffee and baked pastries/cookies (provided by you) served. The point is to attract the community. On the commercial side, perhaps the apartment building, condo, school, restaurant, Laundromat, or hotel can host a similar theme. Of course, businesses on the tour could also provide some kind of unique discount for solar tour goers.
Step 4. Time for publicity. Write a press release, put it out into PR Web or other press release service. In addition, spread the word on Twitter, your blog, Facebook page, newsletter, or any other social network. Make sure the language is local and relates to introducing your town or city to the cost-effective and environmental benefits of solar hot water for homes and/or businesses. Include the tour schedule, addresses, contact info, and any perks/themes that you’ve created. Materials should also mention ASES, that it’s a 50+ year old solar advocacy organization, that this is a national tour, and that it’s a once-a-year event.
Also, send the press release to local media, including print, radio, T.V. and community bloggers. Follow up with a phone call to the reporters or editors. The worst they can say is no. Again, highlight that this it’s a national once-a-year event.
Certainly give flyers and/or email PDF versions to your hosts with the tour info, especially businesses. Encourage them to share it on their social and business networks. Also, see if you can leave pamphlets at farmers markets and coffee houses and school even boards.
Step 5. Hopefully, word-of-mouth has spread and you’ll have a decent turnout on the day of the tour. Be ready with business cards and brochures. Also, create a one-sheet of solar hot water FAQs. Be informative and transparent about prices and local utility incentives. Don’t just provide a sales pitch. If you’ve done your job right, people are attending this tour for more information, not to be pressured into a sale that day.
Have an optional sign-up sheet. Only ask for their name and email, so it’s quick and painless. This is crucial. If people don’t want to sign up, let it go. Later, use the sign up info to send each person a follow-up email or e-newsletter to offer them a free quote and/or more information or to answer questions. You might also ask them to “like” you on Facebook or follow you on Twitter or LinkedIn.
If you’ve arranged for a referral fee for hosts, include a unique discount code, like “ASES,” in your tour marketing materials. When they mention this code via email or phone, ask where/from whom they received the flyer or code so that you can properly credit your host for the referral fee if a sale is completed.
Step 6. Do the tour every year. Consistency is everything in marketing. So is patience. It often takes many touch points of useful information until a buyer is ready to move forward. In fact, the people on the tour may never actually even buy a solar system from you, but months later, they may later refer you to several friends who do.
Good luck, and let us know how it turns out!