Demand for solar is expanding and companies young and not-so-young are scrambling to carve a niche for themselves. With all the competition, it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd and get potential customers — aka leads — to consider your business.
The process of generating leads is, in fact, one of the most challenging aspects of getting started in solar sales and installation. And with the average cost of solar leads approaching $2,000 in some areas, it’s critical to get it right.
There are two basic ways to get leads: generating your own and buying them.
In this post, we’ll look at the benefits and drawbacks of each method, then we’ll investigate some solar marketing strategies to help you generate quality leads that turn into sales.
Solar Leads: Buying vs Generating
There’s no sugarcoating it: Generating your own leads is exceptionally difficult. Most prospective solar customers begin to wade through the oversaturated market with an internet search.
While it’s challenging to generate your own solar leads to land contracts and grow your business, it is possible, and can be a rewarding and invaluable tool to boost solar sales. While you might not have as large of an audience at your fingertips, generating your own leads helps ensure that the leads you get have a genuine interest in your product or service. So while the sheer audience may be smaller, generating your own leads has potential to provide a much better ROI.
The work involved in generating solar leads can make purchasing them a tempting option. What could be more tantalizing than snatching an interested client (for a modest fee) instantly? If purchased from a reputable company, buying solar leads can yield great results. You should test out several reputable solar lead generation companies to find the best fit. Measure your results and nix lead generators that don’t offer a good ROI.
Purchasing solar leads does come with potential pitfalls, though. A lot of solar leads you buy may now be cold, or people who weren’t really interested in solar when they signed up to be contacted. In fact, According to SolarReviews, the number of solar leads for 2021 is up 25% from 2018, which means you have to be even more diligent about making sure they are “hot” — new, and actually interested in solar.
Pros of Buying Solar Leads
- If a lead is good, you’ll get instant business. If you buy a “hot” lead, you can make near-instant, direct contact with customers interested in your services.
- Easy-to-calculate ROI. Purchasing solar leads eliminates the nebulousness of hard-to-track marketing efforts. With a purchased lead, you simply buy and track your return on investment month after month.
- Filtering “I’m ready to buy” from “Just looking around.” If you purchase quality leads, there’s a much higher chance you’ll be connecting with soon-to-be customers who have done their research and are ready to pull the trigger on solar.
Cons of Buying Solar Leads
- Competition can be fierce. Solar lead companies are in business to make money. The lead you get has probably been sold to several other local companies, meaning you’ll have to compete against other companies that may have purchased the same lead.
- Solar leads can be expensive. The average cost of solar leads in the U.S. ranges from $225 in North Dakota to $1,929 in California.
Pros of Generating Your Own Solar Leads
- Cheaper. Generating your own solar leads can come with a lower price tag. Paid and organic search as well as targeted social media ads are cheap, and if done right, offer a good return.
- Potential for authentic interaction. When you establish an organic lead, that lead is all yours. Plus, you’ll likely have had some prior interaction with your lead, establishing trust and rapport.
Cons of Generating Your Own Solar Leads
- It’ll take time. Whether you adopt an old fashioned letter box drop campaign, targeted social and search ads, or a hybrid approach, generating your own solar leads will be a labor of love and might not offer a high ROI in the short term.
- Potential for low quality leads. Most of your leads will probably be folks who are mildly interested, at best. You’ll spend a lot of time filtering out cold from hot leads.
- ROI is difficult to measure. Organic lead generation is by nature hard to quantify, especially if you utilize a hybrid approach of internet marketing, legacy marketing, and referrals. This makes it difficult to focus on which lead generation techniques you should emphasize.
Advanced Solar Marketing Strategies for Solar Lead Generation
If you’re going to try to generate your own leads, you’re going to need some strategies. Certain marketing tactics can be a great low-cost, high-impact way to generate solar leads and grow your business. In fact, using a combination of paid and organic strategies, you can position yourself for connecting with potential leads that are actively engaged and interested in what you’re offering.
Let’s walk through some of the more advanced steps and strategies for using marketing to help generate those invaluable leads.
Not quite ready to jump into advanced solar marketing strategies? Check out our Beginner’s Guide to Solar Marketing to get started.
Picture your ideal customer. What are their needs? What do they value? How do they communicate? How are they being served now, and how could they be served better? Developing a buyer persona profiles your typical or ideal customer so you can target lead efforts more efficiently.
You can craft buyer personas using your target demographic information such as income, age, gender, location, etc. The U.S. Census is a great resource for investigating detailed breakdowns on almost any community in the United States. Once your buyer personas are complete, you’ll be much better equipped to generate leads.
Quality Content = Quality Leads
Once you have your buyer personas, you can move towards targeting your content to them.
Your content’s first and foremost purpose is to offer a valuable service. This means providing thoughtful, useful information in the content, and can also include putting links to other quality content in your articles. If you’re going to the trouble of doing this linking, make sure to find high-quality articles, blog posts, videos, and other content that people actually want to consume.
Produce good content regularly — a good goal to start is one long blog post per month. Search engines and your followers pay attention to active pages. Content is also a good barometer of where you should be focusing attention: As you produce more content, you’ll begin to notice trends (i.e. which keywords or topics are performing best).
For example, if you know your ideal customer values energy independence or the environmental benefits of solar, you can develop content they’re eager to consume. Some ideas for persona-targeted content include:
- Educational blog posts. Figure out what your buyer wants to know — Google Trends and other keyword research tools are great places to start — and provide quality information to help answer their questions and get them excited about your product and services.
- Downloadable resources. Compile a list of your persona’s most pressing questions and provide answers in a downloadable resource like an eBook, fact sheet, or infographic.
- Videos. Solar can be confusing, especially for home and business owners who don’t know a lot about it. Videos can be a great way to help potential customers understand how the process works, alleviating their anxiety and making them more comfortable with the process. And because it’s your video they saw first, they’re more likely to hire you.
As you consider how to generate solar leads, case studies deserve special mention. Case studies provide a detailed account of how you exceeded a customer’s expectations. They’re an all-too-often ignored tool for building trust for your brand, but their benefits are enormous. With a case study, customers themselves tell your leads why you deserve their business, showing a real-life example of the benefits of switching to solar and, importantly, why you are the best bet for making that a reality.
Getting a case study isn’t as hard as it sounds. Tools like Case Study Buddy can help make it easier to write them, and you can attract case study subjects by offering discounts for clients who agree to be featured as your next case study. Put your case studies in easy-to-see places on your website, use them in paid search ads, and highlight them in blog posts to build organic traffic. Don’t be afraid to use case studies during sales visits, too. A potential lead may be more willing to hear your pitch if a happy customer is attached to it.
Stick With It
Creating buyer personas and engaging them with useful, free content all serves one end: Landing paying, happy customers. Downloadable resources can be a great way to turn persona engagement into leads. For example, you can allow the download of a valuable free eBook only after the viewer provides a name and email address. Or you can offer free consultations or quotes, where potential leads will provide you with valuable demographic information beyond names and emails.
Remember, for this content to help you out, you need to stick with it. A content strategy of blogs, case studies, video, and other resources can be a great strategy for generating high-quality leads, but keep in mind that it’s a long-term strategy.
Once you have some engaging, relevant, useful content, it’s time to get it seen by potential customers. This means search.
Advanced Paid Search Strategies
Paid search is a straightforward way to generate your own leads, but isn’t necessarily as efficient as other solar lead gen tactics. To get started in paid search, you’ll need to be familiar with Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising (if you’re just starting out, see our Beginner’s Guide to Solar Marketing).
Paid search isn’t about ranking high in every search: It’s about showing up in the right searches. Targeting blanket or generic search terms like “best solar installers” won’t get you far, but targeting local terms your personas are searching for will. Here are four ways to make your paid Google or Bing campaign poised for success:
- Regularly check keyword performance. If a keyword isn’t performing well within the last two to three months, get rid of it. Gain insight into how your competitors’ keywords are faring with Google Ad Auction Insights. If you don’t see one of your keywords listed, ask yourself this: Are your keywords a key differentiator driving meaningful traffic to your brand, or are they simply fluff? If you have a keyword that no one else is using but that is driving local traffic, keep it!
- Target your personas. Identify what your personas are searching for and incorporate those search terms into your keywords. Google Analytics and other tools can help give you a leg up here.
- Focus on ad campaigns that perform. This may seem obvious, but it’s often overlooked. If one campaign is hot and another isn’t, divert funds to the one that’s converting.
- Cross-pollinate ad content. Pay attention to ads that are getting the most traffic. Chances are, they’re incorporating elements that emphasize the benefits of solar and contain a clear call to action. Copy some of these elements in your underperforming ads.
- Keep a finger on trending searches. Be on the lookout for trending search queries producing clicks and conversions. Google Trends will be your best friend as you sniff out trending topics. If you see a certain search query emerge that looks promising to your business, incorporate it or its relevant keywords into your ads.
Advanced Organic Search Strategies
You can rank higher in organic search results by making your business more relevant to search engines. Organic search optimization relies heavily on excellent content and strategic link building.
Link building ties your web presence to other sources, telling search engines you’re a relevant and trustworthy entity worthy of searchers’ time. The more presence you have, the greater your chances of being discovered by hot leads.
If your target keywords are “best solar installer,” you’re going to likely need hundreds of links to get in the top 10 ranking. That’s a bite you don’t want to chew. Instead, narrow your keywords down, perhaps to “best solar installer in Baltimore.” Adding that extra defining word will drastically cut the competition, thereby reducing the number of links you’ll need to rank.
Ahrefs offers estimation tools for links, as well as a suite of tools to help you narrow your keywords.
But there is a limit to link building. You can’t just populate your content with excessive external links that are only vaguely related to what you’re talking about. Oversaturating content with links in this way, hoping to boost SEO rankings, won’t help boost your rankings or appeal to viewers — and can actually hurt your rankings.
Something to avoid are black hat SEO tactics. Black hat SEO involves techniques that violate search engine guidelines, a purposeful attempt at manipulating search engine algorithms to increase rankings. Violating clear rules set by Google and Bing can lead to penalization, resulting in decreased ranking and organic traffic.
If you would be embarrassed to explain your SEO strategy to Google, Microsoft, customers, or a competitor, your strategy is probably black hat and you should drop it. While meant to drive organic traffic, black hat SEO actually decreases rankings and long-term results. Do yourself and the Internet a favor and skip them altogether.
Here’s a quick recap on how to generate solar leads:
- Diversify your approach, trying multiple solar leads businesses and lead generation methods.
- Buying solar leads can work, but it’s not always effective due to competition, price, and quality of leads.
- If you’re just starting out, it’s a good idea to try your hand at generating your own leads while also experimenting with buying leads.
- Generating your own solar leads starts with crafting buyer personas.
- Do the best you can to measure ROI on each method and focus on the options that turn leads into pitches, and pitches into sales.
You have a great product and provide great service, but there’s more steps to making sure your solar business thrives. These marketing strategies can help introduce more people to your business. By producing the right content and promoting in a variety of ways, you can generate leads — and more importantly, relevant leads that your sales team can close.
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