Despite solar water heating being a 100 year, plus, solar technology, it still plays second fiddle to PV, which is more expensive and less efficient on a per watt basis.
Better, more aggressive marketing, of course, is the solution to getting more attention for residential solar hot water. As a distributor, your success is our success, so Free Hot Water would like to offer a few tips to generate more residential solar hot water leads.
1. Have a great looking web site. A good web designer costs money, and yet, the investment is worth it. You can only make one first impression, and if your website looks rinky-dink and home made, then that makes you and your service look rinky-dink and home made. So, spend the money for a professional web designer. Make sure there are attractive photos of your installs, brief descriptions of how solar water heating works, FAQs, a blog (see below), and an “about us” page with the smiling faces of your team. Residential customers want to trust and connect with people more than a brand, so highlight who you are and why you care about solar hot water.
2. Start a blog. The internet is America’s default source for solar hot water information. The yellow pages are essentially kaput. Whether you’re marketing solar hot water for pools or homes, become an authority by writing an informative blog post at least once a week. Sprinkle in “solar hot water” and other key words, like your city and state, and Google and other search engines will reward your website with more web traffic. Keep in mind that when people search for those key words, they’re researching solar hot water for their home. Become your town’s local authority through a well-written and informative blog.
3. Use Google Adwords and/or banner ads. Google Adwords is paid, targeted advertising. Once again, when people click on those little ads next to their web searches, Google (and you) know there’s a great chance they’re looking for “solar hot water” or whatever search term you’ve purchased. Hopefully, you have an informative and attractive website that captures those Google visitors and encourages them to contact you for more information. Here’s the link to Google Adwords. Google has great people who will guide you through all the steps and costs.
4. Run a local solar hot water give-away contest. Sometimes, you have to yell “Free!” to get people’s attention. I recommend a Utility Independence Day contest for July 4th. Put this announcement on your home page with a link to a form. Have people fill out that form with contact info, and follow up with a phone call to verify the information and start a conversation about if solar hot water is right for this customer and the benefits. On July 4th week, do the drawing and give away that system, as promised. Make sure you tell the local press about it. In fact, in June, a month before the contest ends, tell the local press the contest is almost over. Include the potential savings over 20 years and emphasize the utility independence. There will of course be a cost, but all advertising costs something, and this is an interactive way to educate the public and generate leads. If you want to be cheap about it, don’t include the installation, but I don’t recommend this.
5. Contribute articles to local newspapers and web sites. More than the green benefits and technology, residents want to know first, “How much?” Don’t hide it. Write a case study article based on a recent client and be honest about the costs. If you have a local rebate program, explain that program, as well as the Federal 30% tax credit for homes (not pools.) People want to do the right thing by going solar, but they want to be assured about its costs. As a professional, you can be an honest guide and show them solar’s long-term financial benefits, as well as the costs. If no one publishes your article, you can always use the material for your blog or as a White Paper.
6. Co-Market with local businesses. Roofers, hardware stores, pool designers, architects, general contractors, plumbers, electricians, landscape architects, HVAC. All of these businesses are related to solar hot water. Call them up, cater a lunch or coffee and donuts with the owner and sales staff. Give them a solar hot water demonstration and explain the financial benefits. In addition, be sure to ask them for a presentation so that you can be a referral source for them, as well. Exchange brochures, pamphlets, and where appropriate, co-advertise on the radio or in magazines and home shows. Of course, you can offer a referral fee, as well. Don’t be shy. If you believe in your services and product, these relationships will see that and you both will prosper.
7. Reach out and delight to your existing customers. I can’t tell you how powerful referrals are from your existing, happy customers. If you can connect with these people and leave them completely satisfied, they can almost eliminate advertising all together. They will tell their friends about you, brag about you, and brag about their free solar hot water. Of course, first you have impress and delight these people with your craftsmanship and customer service. Do something unexpectedly wonderful for every customer. Treat them to a selection of teas or gourmet coffee for them to enjoy their new sun powered hot water. Or make a donation on their behalf to the environmental cause of their choice. Be creative. Assuming you’ve won them over, ask them if they’d like some brochures for them to give to friends. Even more powerful, ask them to “like” your Facebook page and recommend that page to their friends. (Then provide great, useful solar tips/info on the page for them.) Of course, you can also offer them some kind of referral fee for any closed sale. The point here, however, is for them to want to refer you for free, to be your solar hot water evangelist, telling the world about you. If you’ve executed this tip correctly, I sincerely believe you won’t ever lack for leads, and your residential solar hot water business will grow.
Hope that helped. Now, go sell some solar.