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The Plumber’s Guide to Solar Water Heating Marketing

Photo: Flickr/srqpix

It’s no secret that many plumbing contractors are starting to look at expanding their business to include solar water heating sales and service. It’s a natural fit, since there are many similar water and space heating concepts, including pumps, tanks, pressure valves, etc.

Of course, you have to learn some new solar concepts too, such as shading and insolation, and ideal solar orientation and angles, not mention some roofing concepts.

But let’s say you learn all that through some program, such as, I don’t know, Free Hot Water’s 6-Day intensive training classes through Boots on the Roof.

Now that you’ve got the knowhow, where do you find prospects?

Plumbers have several advantages that non-plumber solar water heating contractors don’t have: Broken hot water tanks, clogged sinks, clogged tubs, leaking pipes, etc. If you’re a heating and cooling contractor, as well, even better.

The following solar water heating marketing guide is for plumbers and general contractors who visit homes and businesses for non-solar jobs.

Step One: Be ready with an elevator pitch.

The elevator pitch is an old marketing term. Essentially, it’s a 30-second pitch about your service, which you could tell to a prospect during the time of a short elevator ride.

Don’t take this literally, of course. The point here is to always have a brief, conversational opening about your solar water heating service.  For example:

“I noticed you have an electric/gas/propane water heater tank. Ever thought about going solar instead? There are some great rebates and tax credits now, which have brought down the cost a lot. If you’re interested, let me know, and I can give you a free estimate.”

Don’t force this, but if you find an opening in your conversation about your current work, go for it, and see where that new solar conversation leads.

Step Two: Have your solar site evaluation tools with you.

Keep your sun eye site evaluation tool, a ladder, and perhaps even your lapt0p or iPad in your truck or van. If the above elevator pitch generates a serious conversation about solar water heating, try to do an assessment immediately. If you don’t have another appointment, the customer is free, and it’s during the day, at least do a rough evaluation. Check the integrity and type of plumbing, the roof, or pool system. Note the size and placement of their current storage tank. Ask about their water heating bills, number of people in household, etc. The more useful, valuable info you gain, the easier it will be to make the case for solar.

Step Three: Use and demo Free Hot Water’s Online solar thermal calculators

Another reason to have your laptop or tablet computer with you is so that you can use our online calculators. These tools can give you a lot of resources on-the-go, which you can use for your site assessment and/or estimate.

Also, keep in mind that Free Hot Water’s solar calculator’s price estimates are programmed at full retail markups. That’s good, because then you can use our quote to beat the calculator’s price. Of course, as a Certified Free Hot Water installer, you receive a generous discount off the components, so you’ll know your margins and size needs, especially for our pre-engineered residential and small commercial systems.

Step Four: Have brochures, estimate forms, or even better… iPad examples.

You may have come to fix a clogged sink, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have gorgeous solar marketing materials on hand to show off .  Those materials could  also include a photo slide show on your iPad, showing your successful solar installations. Integrate these rich, color photos into your regular presentation and allow the prospect to flip through these photographs. You might even offer to email a PDF with the photos and your brochure.

Step Five: Do a great install with quality products and great customer service. Whether or not you select products from Free Hot Water’s catalog of products, the most important marketing tool is a satisfied customer who likes your work and you.

We’re assuming you are always helpful and polite during the sales and install process. But also remember that this is the beginning of the customer referral process. So, after the install, make sure you touch base with your new solar customer every once in a while to make sure everything is working right. I guarantee that high customer satisfaction, whether for plumbing or solar installs, will lead to more referrals and more business.

That’s the plan, solar-plumbing contractors. Now get to work on that elevator pitch.


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