How to facilitate and generate more solar referrals

5 key moments and 8 tips to ensure you’re not missing out on your hard earned referrals

In our previous post on referrals, we recounted the story of a North Carolina solar installer who despite having great reviews and high NPS, wasn’t generating very many referrals.  It turned out that part of the problem was that they didn’t have an easy way for customers to submit them.  


As we learned in the previous post, the Fogg Behavior Model (FBM) states that if you really want people to do what you want, you have to make it as easy as possible. Therefore in this post, we dive into the various tools and tactics that will help you facilitate and capture more referrals for your solar business, working the ability axis of the FBM.  And in a forthcoming post, we’ll address motivation, the other axis of the FBM.

Critical moments in solar referrals

When considering the tools that will help facilitate and capture solar referrals, it helps to understand the very different, but specific moments and events along the customer journey that prompt your customers to think, “Oh I should refer X solar company.”  These moments can be considered the triggers in the FBM.  When the motivation and ease of doing are above the action line, then these triggers will lead to those highly coveted referrals.  

Moment #1: When asked by the sales rep

This is the easiest moment for referrals because you have direct control over creating the moment.  Two of these moments could be at the signing of the contract or at the final walkthrough when the system has been turned on.  Both moments occur after you’ve worked hard to win your customers trust, first by convincing them that going solar with you is a great decision and second by delivering on that promise.  


As outlined in The solar customer journey, from the customer’s perspective post, these two moments in the customer journey are also when the customer is most excited.  In the parlance of the FBM, their motivation is high. Then by asking, “Have you spoken with any friends or neighbors about going solar?” you’ve simultaneously triggered the behavior and made it easy for the customer to provide a referral.  They simply have to pass along the contact information directly to you.  

However, sometimes, you’re unable to capture a referral right at that moment, either because no one comes to the customer’s mind or because they’re not yet ready to put their credibility on the line.  In these instances and right at that moment, follow tip #1:


Tip #1: Send your customer your contact card via text and remind them of your referral incentive plan.

This ensures that your customer has your contact information and more importantly your company’s contact information so that they can easily access and share when the right moment comes along (discussed below).  Don’t assume that they’ve already saved your number on their phone.  Don’t assume that they will even remember your name when the time comes.  

Moment #2: Asked by a curious friend

This is probably the most frequent moment for potential referrals and the moment that can occur regularly across the length of the solar system’s life.  Excited customers are always talking about their solar system, and people they’re talking with could be your next customers.


These conversations can be separated into two categories: conversations with those who are simply curious and conversations with those that are actively evaluating solar.  For the curious, these folks are at the beginning of their solar journey.  They are just learning how solar works and have tons of questions and tons of misconceptions.  In these instances, follow tip #2:


Tip #2: Provide your customers with general educational information about solar so that they can advocate effectively.

Illustrated educational resources provided within Bodhi

For example, a common question is what happens at night. You’d be surprised how many solar customers don’t know the correct answer to that question.  That’s why within Bodhi, we’ve embedded illustrated “Educational resources” that solar customers can quickly and easily consume with the direct intention of making them better solar advocates.  



Moment #3: Asked by a friend who is actively evaluating solar

For the conversations with those that are actively evaluating solar, these folks are in the middle of their sales process.  Many are trying to decide to go solar or do nothing.  Many are trying to decide on which solar company to go with.  The friend is looking for how your experience and specific choices relate to their own situation.


For example, I ended up referring a friend of mine to Lighthouse Solar after he received a proposal from a sales rep of a different company who knocked on his door.  In his case, he was actively evaluating his options and needed more information and better information.  In these instances, follow tip #3:


Tip #3: Provide your customers easy access to their system information and make it easy to share.  


The system information could include system specifications like module and inverter manufacturers, costs and estimated savings, and warranty details.  That’s why within Bodhi, we’ve created the System at a Glance page and Documents page.  With just 2 taps of the finger, photos and system specifications can be pulled up to enhance the conversation.  And with 1 additional tap, those details can be shared.  


Example of a System at a Glance page provided within Bodhi


For both Moments #2 and #3, this is when Tip #1 and the contact card you sent your customer comes in handy.  If the solar curious or the solar evaluator are interested, your customer can now easily share your contact information.  However, this doesn’t ensure a referral.  You’re still relying on the referral acting on that new information and contacting you.  For these instances, follow tip #4:


Tip #4: Provide your customers a referral tool within their own personal portal.



Example of how a referral tool provided within Bodhi


By giving your customers an easy to access referral tool, the person’s contact information is passed directly to you.  And once you have that contact information, follow tip #5:


Tip #5: Send them a warm email introduction that they’ve been referred by a friend.  


This extra touch will ensure that when you reach out to them via phone, they will be familiar with your company name and the call won’t be out of the blue.  That’s why when referrals are submitted within Bodhi, we’ve automated the warm email introduction and even included a solar calculator to help nurture the prospect.


Moment #4: Recommendation asked in an online discussion group

This moment occurs more than we might assume.  The key aspect to understand about this moment is that there isn't a strong relationship or any relationship between your customer and the person asking for the recommendation. Therefore the trust that would normally come with a referral isn’t strong.  In these instances, you’re shooting for brand awareness.  In addition to having an easy to remember name and website, follow tip #6:


Tip #6: Provide your customers a personalized referral page that can easily be shared.  


Example of a personalized referral page and solar calculator provided by Bodhi


This overcomes any hesitancy of either party to pass along contact information but ensures that your company information and the benefits that your customers are reaping are shared and known.  To overcome the lower level of trust inherent in this moment, follow tip #7:


Tip #7: Employ a double-sided referral incentive and advertise it on the referral page


Because the value of a referral from a stranger is lower than from a trusted friend, you can compensate with a monetary incentive.  A person would be more likely to act on the referral information if they’re offered a discount to go solar with you.  That’s one of the reasons we’re big proponents of double-sided referral incentives.  (More on double-sided referrals in our next post.)

Moment #5: Sitting on the couch late at night. (Not really)

Sorry as much as we would like it to be, none of your customers are sitting on their couch late at night thinking of who they want to refer to your company.  These quiet times for your customer, however, could become an opportunity to get excited by their choice to have gone solar.  They might have just gotten news about their system that they are excited to share.  It could be photos of the newly installed panels.  It could be a record day of production.  It could be how much they saved the past month or year.  In these instances:


Tip #8: Provide your customers an easy way to share on social media


Your customers will get excited at different moments along their solar journey, and you want to provide them with an outlet to share that excitement.  This also primes the pump for the generation of referrals down the road.  That’s why we’ve embedded social media links to all the major milestones within Bodhi and included pre-filled text to make it as easy as possible to share.


Conclusion

Building a robust and sustainable referral program takes time, consideration and an enduring focus on your customer’s experience.  We hope the 8 tips and tools outlined in this post will help you and your business build a robust and sustainable referral program.  It’s the best way to grow your solar business organically. 


If you’d like to dive deeper into how to implement a referral program, contact us!