Your comprehensive guide to solar marketing in 2024

From growing your solar leads to building your brand, here’s everything you need to know
Author : 
March 6, 2024

There is a ton of information online about how to market your solar business “effectively,” but few get it right.  When we asked our own network what they were doing, they gave responses we haven’t seen anywhere else.  One company in Austin partnered with their equipment distributor to do a direct mail campaign in which the distributor paid for all of the costs.  After all, if the installer gets more business, the distributor will too.  Another company in Utah spent its marketing budget on high-quality videos that showcased its team around the office, doing couch interviews and making each other laugh.

With so many online guides, it can be difficult to get past the SEO-noise and get to the blogs that contain real, business-relevant solar marketing tips.  Many guides are too generic, offering industry-agnostic advice that is sure to fall flat for solar.  Others are only written for bots.  And of course, many are a mix of the two. 

That’s why we wanted to create something that was written with solar in mind.  And not just solar, but specifically solar in 2024. 

Below, we’ve compiled a list of tips and tricks for our network of solar installers, showing how they move customers from the very top of the funnel down through the marketing-to-sales handoff of the proposal.  In this comprehensive guide to solar marketing in 2024, we will look at how you can best grow your solar leads organically and differentiate your business, even through tough markets. 

Key ingredient 1:   A human-first brand that tells your company’s unique story

In today's fast-paced and competitive world of solar, branding is more important than ever.  This is especially true for local businesses.  67% of customers trust local brands more than online-only or out-of-town companies, which begs the question:  Does your solar company take advantage of this brand lift?  

Too many solar businesses focus on their solar offerings at the expense of having any kind of unique company culture or brand.  There are plenty of national players that present the same undifferentiated branding to all of their local markets — are you falling prey to their playbook and leaving your own personality at the door?  It’s costing you customers, as homeowners in your market assume you’re just another big solar vendor looking to make a buck in their community.

That’s why, when crafting your brand's message, it’s important to focus on the following:

  • Your team:  Are you local?  Do you come from interesting backgrounds?  Do you share personal reasons for why you got into solar?
  • What makes your brand unique:  Do you have great Google reviews?  Do you deliver an awesome customer experience?  Do you take a unique approach to proposals?
  • How you engage with your community:  Do you sponsor local groups?  Did you install for a locally famous brand or individual?
  • Company values/brand promises:  What do you all commit to with every job?  What words define your company culture? 

For each of these items, build a solar energy marketing plan that provides ample social proof.  This could be pictures (not stock photos) of your team out on jobs or tabling at local farmers markets.  It could be testimonials from customers.  Heck, it could even be photos of a local little league team sporting your logo on the back of their jerseys.  It’s about backing up the messaging with some visual, social proof.

Solar Source, a California solar installer, sponsors their Long Beach Little League team, as well as pays $100 to any little leaguers who have an over-the-fance homerun.

Developing a human-focused brand can also help combat consumer mistrust and misinformation.  A clear message, transparent resources, and an easily-accessible FAQ can prove that your company is a trustworthy source of information.  Being seen as an expert not only improves your chances of being chosen as a vendor, it also supports higher prices, positioning you as a premium vendor. 

So what does human-first solar marketing actually look like?  To start, having team photos in email signatures is a great way to show off your people.  Including social media accounts of both individuals and the brand is another effective way to showcase your brand away from your website.  Additionally, make sure to post about your clients' successes and share your team's stories.  Finally, on your About page, include photos of your team and make sure your HERO image features staff members, not just stock images.

Bodhi’s story

Not to toot our own horn, but we often get asked about our marketing strategy by other solar companies.  When we were first building the brand, we did the same exercise that we outlined above, and it led us to the following brand pillars:

  • We value storytelling.  From our funny stories in solar initiative to how we build demos for our customers, we know storytelling is at the heart of successful marketing.
  • We prioritize the needs of our users.  Of course, we think about this in the context of our product, but it’s also reflected in our marketing.  As just one example, we offer resources in multiple formats, from blogs to videos, because we know not everyone consumes information the same way. 
  • We don’t let our teammates down.  We deliver what we say we’re going to deliver, and if someone on the Bodhi team is struggling, we help them out.  This value also extends beyond our own employees — if we hear about a challenge facing our community, we create resources to address it, like when we created informational resources around the IRA or the Texas ice storm blackout.

And in addition to these pillars, you’ve probably noticed we have fun.  The solarcoaster is serious enough — we like to inject a little humor into everything we do.  It makes it easier to adhere to a consistent voice and your brand pillars when you also like your own marketing, and that’s how we feel at Bodhi because it’s a true reflection of the team.

Key ingredient 2:  A website that can be found by Google and that converts

But enough about us, let’s get back to some practical tips.  A few years ago, we shared tips for designing a website for your solar business.  The post covered two design principles and ten practical tips.  While all of these tips are still relevant, for your 2024 solar energy marketing plan, there’s two tips in particular to keep in mind:

  • Limit the amount of text on your website.  People have shorter attention spans than ever.  Too much information, and they’ll get bored and go back to Google.  Instead, imagine that you’re crafting messages for a billboard — clear, concise value props on a well-designed background. 
  • Use CTAs sparingly.   Less is more when it comes to CTAs, otherwise your website visitors will feel overwhelmed and confused about what to click — meaning, they won’t click on anything at all.  If you need more than one CTA on a page, make sure to differentiate between primary and secondary actions.
  • Make it easy for the customer to contact you when they’re ready.  Everybody has different ways they would like to gather more information.  For example, some like to talk to a real person and some like chat windows.  Therefore, make sure to have the right lead capture forms and chatbots added to your website.  And special pro tip, have them integrated into your CRM so you're tracking all the information and can automate follow up tasks.   

Beyond these tips, we also have a few new tips, drafted with the latest SEO hacks in mind so that you can be easily found whenever a potential customer searches for “solar near me”:

  • Assign alt text to images.  Without assigned alt text, search crawlers cannot understand images.  Accurately describing the image will improve your page's visibility in search results pages when someone is looking for information
  • Include embedded videos on your website.  This can increase the time users spend on your site, which is important for SEO ranking.  Videos also do a better job of highlighting the human behind the business. 
  • Make sure your website is mobile-friendly.  With over half of all searches occurring on mobile devices, not building your site to be easily usable on mobile can leave your company behind.

Key ingredient 3:  A digital lead gen strategy that doesn’t break the bank

When it comes to digital marketing for solar companies, there are a lot of different ways to slice and dice your channels.  However, at the highest level there’s a simple breakdown: paid or organic?

Remember that both paid and organic leads are essential to the success of a solar business, but as your organic traffic grows, you may be able to reduce your reliance on paid advertising.  The best way to figure out if you can (or should) scale down your paid?  Conduct an audit and update your strategy. 

Paid leads

Google Ads are the go-to platform for solar marketing.  And allocating some of your paid budget to targeted search terms like "solar near me" or "solar company [your city or area]" is basically a non-negotiable.  These terms can increase visibility in these relevant searches until you’re able to get there with organic SEO. 

However, you should also be looking beyond these basic terms.  A successful digital solar marketing campaign should start with broad match search terms and gradually narrow down over time.  There are many cheap keywords that are relevant to your target audience and waiting to be discovered.

You can see that this optimization score is not very high (you want it around 80% at least), as well as Google's recommendations for improving it.

Once you create ads for these keywords, make sure you follow Google's recommendations and check your ad scores.  Google will provide you with insights on how your ad is likely to perform and suggest ways to improve it.  For example, Google will give your ad a higher performance score if your ad copy includes other high-performing keywords within headlines and descriptions.  For your solar business, this could mean including phrases like “best solar company,” “highly rated solar company” or “solar cost” within your ads.

Google's Performance Max ads can be shown on all of Google's platforms, including Youtube.

Additionally, it's essential to allocate some of your budget towards Google Performance Max.   Performance Max is a goal-based campaign that complements your keyword-based search campaigns.  The shift towards this campaign aims to help you find more converting customers, drive more value, and gain better insights into your solar marketing campaigns.  With this approach, Google places your ad in multiple channels, which increases the number of leads and potentially lowers the cost of customer acquisitions.

Of course, Google Ads aren't the only place to advertise.  TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn are other channels where you can experiment with ads to see if you can reach your customers.  By analyzing each platform and researching your competitors' ads, you can make sure your message stands out.  Remember, the most important thing to highlight in your ads is the end benefit to the customer. 

Organic leads

There are two ways to think about organic digital marketing for solar companies:  SEO and organic social.

Let’s start with the SEO audit.  To understand how people are finding your website, what keywords you’re ranking for, and how to improve your organic rankings online, your first two priorities should be to set up Google Analytics and Search Console.  

Once you set these up, the true audit can begin.  Check the following:

  • Are your paid keywords present in your website copy?  Not only will this increase the efficacy of your ads, you may be able to help your organic ranking for these terms if you include them sparingly in your website copy, particularly if used in H1 and H2 headlines. 
  • Who shows up for “solar near me?”  Whoever shows up are your digital marketing competitors.  Is there anything you should seek to emulate?  Don't just look at the copy on their website, but also check what they use for H1 tags, meta descriptions, image alt text, and more. These elements are crucial to ranking organically for a search phrase.

After this initial audit, it's time to build out your content marketing strategy within your solar energy marketing plan.  Writing FAQs or blogs around long tail keywords, like “How many solar panels do I need in central Texas” or “solar tax rebate Springfield Illinois” is an excellent way to get more organic traffic to your website, as well as build trust with your audience.  You can use some of the phrases that your broad-match ads uncovered to develop a content calendar.  Aim for at least 2 blogs a month and ideally 50-100 articles total (yes that is a lot but blame Google).   

Once your blog posts are complete, it’s time to get into your organic social strategy.  Prioritze the social platforms where you’re buying ads and switch up your content.  One blog post can be repurposed into multiple different forms of content, from infographics to pull-quotes to videos.  In fact, we’d recommend prioritizing a complimentary short-form video for each blog post since the algorithms weight them so heavily.

Remember that consistency is key.  Create a content schedule and stick to it.  Posting at least once every two weeks on your site and daily on social media will keep your brand in front of your customers (and the Google bots).  Setting aside 30 minutes a day to interact with others on social platforms and comment on posts related to your industry, like environmental pages, and other big local brands like your local parks department, can also help you gain brand visibility, especially when you don't have many followers.

In-person leads

Beyond paid and organic, it’s also important to consider your in-person strategy when building your solar marketing plan.  Participating in industry trade shows, attending local events, such as home and garden shows and farmer's markets, and even sponsoring events like a local 5K or school sports teams can be an excellent way to promote your brand and reach out to your customers.  The key criteria in evaluating which events to participate in by way of whether the event is a congregation point for your ideal customer profile.  For example, if you’re selling mostly PPAs to middle income households as a billswap, sporting events can be a great idea but antique shows may not be.

Key ingredient 4:  A proposal design that uses behavioral science to increase close rates

Today's consumers are savvy and want to feel in control of their purchasing decisions.  Salespeople can no longer rely on having more information than their customers, which is why incorporating behavioral science into your solar energy marketing plan can help you close more deals.  

Like our website tips and tricks, we have a whole blog post on how to provide better solar proposals.  Below are some techniques pulled from that blog, along with some updated strategies for the unique 2024 solar market:

  • Good, Better, Best Technique:  Offer your customers three proposal options. This gives the customer more options for going solar, increasing the likelihood that they’ll see an option that speaks to their needs.
  • Decoy Offering:  A “decoy offering” is one or more options that are clearly worse and in which the customer can easily rule out, leaving them with the options that you really want them to buy.  
  • Social Proof:  Especially with all the anti-solar headlines, social proof is more important than ever.  Use testimonials, case studies, and statistics to show how solar has benefited others in the same situation as the customer.
  • Hyperbolic Discounting:  Hyperbolic discounting is the behavioral phenomenon of prioritizing immediate rewards over long-term benefits.  Applied to your proposals, that means you shouldn’t rely on a 10-year payback to seal the deal.  Instead, offer a discount with a deadline to make customers feel like they’re getting a deal right now.
  • Backfire Effect:  You’ve probably seen the backfire effect play out, even if you didn’t know what to call it.  This is the phenomenon where, when confronted with evidence that contradicts their world view, this evidence actually strengthens your customers’ support for their original stance.  Humans aren’t logical!  And your solar stats aren’t going to magically make your customers logical or get them to see the light.  Instead of looking to contradict their opinions in a proposal or sales pitch, use shared values, such as the positive impact on their family or community, to reframe the conversation and build brand loyalty.

Key ingredient 5:  A solar referral strategy that lowers your cost of customer acquisition

Behavioral psychology isn’t just for proposals — you can also use it to improve your solar referral program.  

The Fogg Behavior Model is a behavioral science framework that describes how and why people take action.  In the context of your solar marketing plan, it explains why a person submits (or fails to submit) a referral.

In the Fogg Behavior Model, any particular behavior is due to the convergence of 3 elements: how motivated they are, how easy it is for them to take that action, and what triggers them to take action. 

The Fogg Behavior Model applied to solar

There’s an interesting interplay between motivation and ability.  The easier it is to take action, the less motivated the person has to be.  If it’s really hard to do, it likely won’t happen even if the person is highly motivated.  If your solar referral numbers are lower than you’d like them to be, we recommend auditing how motivated your customers seem, as well as how easy it is for them to submit a referral. 

From there, building a high-performing solar referral program boils down to 4 steps:

  1. Set a referral incentive that aligns with your audience.  Creating a referral incentive should involve more than just picking a dollar amount out of thin air.  To create an incentive that actually resonates with your customers, you should think through whether the incentive is going to be single- or double-sided, as well as whether you’re going to bank solely on extrinsic motivation
  2. Provide a tool to submit and collect referrals.  No, hoping the customer saved their salesperson or PM’s phone number is not good enough.  Neither is having a form on your website.  Instead, we recommend that you enable your customers to submit referrals inside a customer portal that they’ve already been using to receive project updates or monitor their solar production. 
  3. Ask for them multiple times and at the right moments.  If you’re only asking for referrals at the end of the project, you’re missing out on at least a half dozen other opportunities to generate referrals.  We recommend automating referral requests at high points during the solar journey, like design approval, as well as significant post-install moments, like solar anniversaries or high production days.
  4. Make sure they’ve had a good experience with your company all along the way.  Even the most perfectly engineered solar referral program is destined to fail if your customers aren’t actually having a good experience.  That’s why above all else you need to ensure your company is meeting the high expectations of solar customers today.  That means consistent (aka at least weekly) communication, as well as providing a digital interface where they can self-servce and check in on their project status 24/7, just like they would do with any Amazon or Uber order.

Key ingredient 6:  A follow-on sales & marketing strategy that focuses on lifetime customer value

Your past customers are the key to future sales, no paid advertising budget required.  Studies have found that sales to existing customers are 70% more profitable than sales to new customers.  With this in mind, think of the number of customers who will eventually want to add on a battery or add-on to their system.  Our CEO Scott Nguyen first expanded his system, then installed an EV charger, and is now considering a 2nd expansion to cover the load of his new EV.

Now all these follow-in sales should go to your company, since you fought to win this homeowner over to solar in the first place.  However, the unfortunate reality is that many people forget their solar company.  In fact, many solar homeowners we speak to claim that Enphase installed their system.

To keep your brand top of mind (and ensure you get credit where credit is due), it's essential to stay in touch with customers post-install.  At a minimum, we recommend equipping your service or marketing teams to automate or deliver the following key touch points:

  • Solar anniversary:  You should be keeping track of the date of PTO for all of your homeowners within your CRM and then using this date to schedule anniversary marketing pushes.  
  • Solar holidays:  Solistices are a bi-annual excuse to reach out to your customer base and remind them of your company’s name and offerings.  You may just hit them when they’ve been thinking about an upgrade to their system!
  • Solar production highs:  Most solar homeowners stop closely monitoring their production data just a few months after their system is installed.  By reaching out to them when they’ve had a production high, you get them to remind them of the value of their investment.
  • New product campaigns:  Whether your business has upgraded their panel offerings, or you’ve recently added on something like smart panels or heat pumps to your business, your previous customers are just as applicable for these new products as any new prospects.

Beyond these general solar marketing campaigns, you should also segment your customers.  Segmenting ensures the right message reaches the right people.  You can do this across counties, cities, even customer characteristics.  For instance, if a customer has an electric vehicle, you can market to them with a specific promo around expanding their systems or any new V2G services or products. 

It's also important to remember your brand champions — those customers who were great to work with from start to finish.  By leveraging monitoring data, you can keep in touch with your customers for the 25+ year lifespan of their system, providing added value in the form of services like annual cleaning of panels or upgrades to their system.

Need a partner for your solar company marketing?

Whether you read this whole post top-to-bottom, or you just needed a slice of our marketing advice, we hope these steps have helped you create a stronger solar energy marketing plan.  As we said at the beginning, the internet can offer up a lot of “guides” that actually don’t align to the solar industry or installer’s real business goals.  However, by looking at marketing as a step-by-step process, your team should be able to dial in on some tactics that work and will deliver real ROI.

If you’re looking for a partner to help you automate communications and marketing campaigns, we can help. Bodhi helps you grow organically without expensive leads or ads by helping you deliver an amazing customer experience. We turn happy customers into more 5-star reviews and referrals.Book a demo today or start for Free to see how we can help make your solar company stand out.

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