Dispelling Common Solar Myths with Smarter Marketing

Solar Marketing - Myths and Misconceptions - Solar Energy WritersThe global transition to solar energy is inevitable.  I truly believe that.  With rising oil prices and falling solar costs:

  • Grid parity is ever closer
  • Payback periods are getting shorter
  • The economics of solar are becoming increasingly difficult to ignore

These, coupled with the environmental benefits, help to explain why 90% of Americans support solar technology.

And yet, this inevitable transition isn’t happening nearly fast enough.

Despite overwhelming support for solar (and renewables in general), we’ve barely made a dent.  Total, cumulative solar PV capacity in the US is just around 4,000 megawatts, one third of which is in the residential market.

If you’re the marketing manager for your own solar company, you probably know these and similar statistics as well as anyone else.  This is especially true if you work in the residential market.

I feel your frustration.  And it gets worse.

According to a survey by SunRun, 97% of Americans overestimate the upfront costs of installing solar PV technology on their homes.  Whereas the true cost can be as low as $0, the perceived cost is closer to $20,000.

What’s more, SunRun reports that 77% of those surveyed said they’d install the technology if cost were not a factor.  Click here for a zoomable infographic.

Even more exasperating – traditional standbys (e.g. oil, gas, coal) receive unbelievable subsidies and tax breaks – far more than the average American realizes.  This helps perpetuate the myth that renewables are expensive while fossil fuels are cheap.

And although I don’t have exact statistics, I often hear from friends and family members that “solar is a great idea but it’s just not very powerful, efficient, or reliable.”

Sigh.

There’s obviously a huge disconnect – one that is hampering growth and making your job as a solar marketer much harder.

So How Can Smarter Solar Marketing Help?

Better education and more aggressive engagement are really the best tools for combatting common solar myths about cost, efficiency, and reliability.

Some of this education needs to happen at the macro-level, where we as an industry pool our resources to launch national (if not international) campaigns alerting people to the very real and tangible benefits of solar.

This post focuses more on micro-solutions – i.e. what you (in your office) can do right now to better engage potential customers.

These tips are primarily geared towards solar companies in the residential and commercial markets since these are where the biggest perception gaps seem to emerge.

But better engagement is something that we all need to tackle – upstream, downstream – we all have a vested interest in educating the world about how amazing solar truly is.

Marketing Solution 1: Solar Calculator

This is one of the most important improvements – one that I’ll develop in a later post.  But the best way to dispel myths about the price of going solar is to actually show people what that price truly is.

Sure – you probably have a lead form through which homeowners and business owners can request free on-site estimates.  But if someone just wants to kick the tires, then arranging an in-person inspection is not terribly convenient.  In fact, it’s a downright hassle.

Imagine if you were shopping for a new car online.  And for every model and manufacturer, you had to block out a free afternoon to talk with a dealer BEFORE receiving a ballpark estimate of the true price.

Let visitors see, from the comfort of their home or office computers, what a solar installation actually costs.

Marketing Solution 2: Incentives, Guides, and Workflow

Walk your Web visitors through the process – from incentives to guidelines to payback periods to next steps.  Make sure that the savings and low costs are prominent.

  • If incentives and tax credits exist, make them visible on your site and explain how they work
  • If there are forms they need to apply for tax credits or incentives, make those forms available for download on your site

For you and me, the process might seem obvious.  But for the average user (or at least 97% of them) solar energy is a nebulous gray area.

Why not outline the exact process with a Step 1, Step 2, and so on?  In fact, you can use images and big clickable buttons to really make the flow more conceptual and inviting.

I assume that all this info is already available on your site.  But how prominent is it?  Does one have to read a lot of copy to discover that you charge $0 down?

If you have a truly great offer, make it known – not just on the homepage but on every page.  Remember that first-time visitors will enter your Web property through many different channels (e.g. homepage, about us, blogs, FAQs, etc.).

With a static banner, sidebar, or header, you’ll be able to alert everyone – no matter how they find your site.

Marketing Solution 3: Publishing a Solar 101

Provide a comprehensive tutorial about how solar technology works (in general) and how your technology works (specifically).

A Solar 101 Guide won’t necessarily combat cost misconceptions, but it will help with efficiency and reliability concerns.  You’d be surprised (or maybe not surprised at all) by how many people incorrectly believe that solar simply isn’t powerful enough.

Images like this will blow their minds.

There’s no shortage of equally jaw-dropping facts, stats, and graphs.  Use them abundantly.

Marketing Solution 4: Testimonials Front and Center

Want to demonstrate solar’s cost and efficiency even more clearly?  Promote your testimonials – make them super visible (on every page).

I don’t know what it is about testimonials.  They’re used so much, you’d think their power would diminish with time.  But they’re still incredibly effective – especially when coupled with pictures of “real” customers standing in front of “real” installations.

Marketing Solution 5: Blog, Blog, and Blog Some More

If you blog enough about solar installation costs (and their affordability), potential users will eventually find you when they Google related terms like “solar installation costs.”

In fact, I’d go as far as publishing an on-going series of posts, with titles like:

  • The Truth about Solar Panel Installation Costs
  • The Most Affordable Way to Install Solar
  • How Much Is a Solar Installation in [Name of Your State]?

For you (and for your most loyal blog followers), these posts might seem repetitive since they’d cover the same general details.  But the keywords and wording would change in anticipation of what actual users might search.

Solar Marketing – Together If You Can, Alone If You Must

If every solar energy firm adopted some or all of these marketing tips, the entire industry would benefit.  There’d be enough information out there to help dispel misguided notions about solar’s “unaffordability.”

But as a solar marketer for your own firm, you face a very different reality – one that is not dependent on what other solar stakeholders do.

Fortunately, these tips will help place your own solar firm exactly where it needs to be in the cost debate.  If other solar companies come on board and adopt similar measures – great.  The cumulative effects benefit both you and the entire industry.

And these improvements represent just the tip of the iceberg since they’re very site-focused.  When you factor in newsletters, social media, direct mail, etc. – the results become amplified.

Have you stumbled across different solar marketing tips?  If so, share them down below.

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