4 steps to level up your referral marketing strategy
We often tell the story of a solar customer that we spoke with who got solar on two of her homes. On the first home, she went with Tesla and had a terrible experience, so for her second home, she decided to opt for a local installer. She said it was a night and day difference — the local solar business provided a better experience, produced better work, and overall made her excited about going solar.
The catch? When we asked her what the local installer’s name was, she couldn’t remember.
What this anecdote proves is that having a lot of satisfied customers doesn't automatically lead to a wealth of referrals. It, unfortunately, doesn’t even mean the satisfied customers will remember your company’s name. While positive experiences are the building blocks of future business, it’s your company's solar referral marketing that actually turns positive feedback into new customers.
It’s common knowledge that referrals are more essential in solar than in many other industries. A major survey showed that referrals not only initiate the most quality leads, but they also lead to lower cancellation rates. With the right incentives and automation-infused software, solar companies can capitalize on happy customers and generate a consistent stream of high-quality referrals — all without expanding the payroll. The goal is to create a referral marketing program that cuts out the inefficiencies of outdated referral approaches.
By utilizing customization and the benefits of new softwares, you can create a program that fits your company's specific needs while enjoying enhanced all-around efficiency. Below, we outline some things to keep in mind as you look to refresh your solar referral strategy.
1. Leverage automation in your solar referral marketing program
Nearly 3% of electricity generation in the U.S. last year was from solar, a percentage that has steadily been on the rise for years. By 2035, experts believe that number is going to be as high as 14%. With that kind of built-in slate of incoming customers, solar companies are looking for ways to beat out the competition in order to grow alongside the industry. As sales teams turn to referrals to make this goal a reality, there are many ways automation can help.
Automation instantly addresses scale issues
One of the biggest problems that many solar companies have is dealing with the sheer scale of needed referrals. For companies that have hundreds or even thousands of current installations at any one time, asking a sales team to stay on top of all customers in order to generate referrals may not even be feasible.
Even if sales team members were able to keep pace with the referral program and send manual reminders, the enormous amount of work hours required to manage this is prohibitive and inefficient. Instead, platforms using automation can effortlessly send out referral requests on a schedule without taxing sales personnel.
Monthly reminders can be very beneficial
Satisfied customers probably don't have a solar referral at the top of their to-do list. In fact, it’s an unfortunate reality that unhappy customers are more motivated to take action than happy ones. With a brief monthly reminder, however, your best customers can reconnect with your referral incentives and be reminded of why they wanted to participate in the first place. Automated monthly reminders that come with clear, actionable steps can significantly increase the chances of a customer following through on a referral.
Outdated systems can lead to increases in staff turnover
Sales reps who spend extra time on current or past customers will spend less time targeting new ones. Ultimately, having to generate manual referrals lowers efficiency and limits a rep's earnings potential, which is a surefire way to encourage team members to look elsewhere. Outdated tech even ranks as one of the top reasons good employees head for the door.
With the high cost of turnover in a tight post-Covid labor market, holding onto talent and quality employees has never been more important. Companies using today's best tech can compete for the best sales representatives while generating consistent leads through referrals.
Manual referrals can seem dated to your customers
Not only does a manual referral program waste critical time, but it’s also a sign that a company isn't as forward-looking as it may have originally appeared. Whether for monetary reasons or philosophical ones, solar adopters tend to appreciate technology’s role in lowering energy costs and shifting the trajectory of climate change. A solar company that has a low level of tech sophistication can seem dated in its approach, hurting your reputation and the likelihood of a referral.
2. Be creative with how you promote your referral program
Ensuring your referral program stands out is an essential part of generating excitement and ultimately increasing the chance of its success. Whenever possible, make sure to highlight any new developments or time-sensitive incentives that can motivate a customer to take action. Some methods to consider include:
- Offer new incentives during the slow parts of the sales calendar. A sales team can significantly improve their close rate during a slow period by changing up the solar referral offerings. By sending out a new round of timely incentives, you can give your sales team a boost when they need it the most.
- Regularly evaluate your incentives and adjust as needed. Every plan needs to evolve, which is why it's a good idea to continuously look for ways to improve your referral program. If your referrals begin to slow down, it might only take a new incentive to reenergize your customer base.
- Use deadlines and time-sensitive referrals to motivate customers. Putting an expiration date on an incentive can be a simple and effective way to generate a quality referral. Busy customers can quickly find a new sense of urgency once they see that a referral window is set to close.
- Remind customers of unique or exclusive offers. Your referral program is also a way to separate your solar business from the competition. If your company is offering something that competitors are not, make sure to get the word out with automated reminders that highlight the advantages of your referral program.
3. Measure your referrals
Once upon a time, it was difficult and time-consuming to get a concrete idea of how well a solar referral marketing program was working. Stacks of papers, file folders, and sticky notes were a solar company’s only way of figuring out which leads came from referrals and which could be attributed to other marketing or sales efforts. Fortunately for today's solar companies, by leveraging software to streamline your solar referral program, its success can now be broken down into discrete and actionable data. By leveraging this data, you can make regular updates that fit your company’s goals and customer base.
With the right software, you should be able to easily pull out insights that answer the following questions:
- When in your solar customer journey do the most referrals occur?
- Which salespeople have the highest number of referrals linked to their customers? What about project managers and their accounts?
- Is there a time of year where referrals seem to flow more readily?
- How long is it taking you to distribute referral incentives?
By leveraging these insights, you should be able to get into a rhythm of continuously improving your solar referral program. You can time automated referral requests for high-conversion moments in a customer’s solar journey, have your top salespeople and project managers train the rest of the team, and tighten up referral distribution to improve your customer experience.
4. Simplify your referral process
It's always helpful to imagine the perspective of the customer, but that's especially the case when it comes to referrals and rewards benefits. Although customers are always interested in incentives, there is a limit to the effort they're willing to put in to understand or participate in the program — particularly if it appears disorganized or complicated. Once again, manual referral programs will have the hardest time keeping up.
To understand the critical importance of a simple process, the Fogg Behavior Model illuminates three essential behavioral science principles that can lay the foundation. While motivation (typically monetary incentives) and external triggers (referral reminders) are essential, customers need to have a clear and easy path ahead of them. Only mastering two of the three legs of the Fogg model can keep your program from maximizing its potential.
Purpose-built software solutions can help you nail all three pieces of the Fogg model, as well as provide a much more familiar terrain for today's customers. Instead of email or text threads that can easily get lost, customers accessing an easy-to-use portal can feel confident submitting their referrals.
A clear and straightforward process helps companies quickly convert automated reminders into actionable steps for customers, especially if all critical information is accessible via a customer portal for your homeowners to reference whenever they need. By providing a clean and easy process, mostly with the gifts of automation, solar companies will have a far easier time generating consistent leads.
Improving your solar referral marketing process with an eye on the future
Steadily improving efficiency has been one of the core principles of the solar industry since the very beginning. As that trend continues, solar installation companies themselves have to adopt more efficient models to handle the increases in solar demand. Automation doesn't just help companies seize the power of referrals, but it can also give any company a crucial modern update in communication. With more and more tech-savvy customers making the move to go solar, a referral process built for the digital age will generate more leads, boast higher conversion rates, and lead to less time following up with customers.
To see how you can improve your solar referral program with customized portals and automation, contact Bodhi Solar's experienced team to schedule a demo.