There are now over 2.7 million homes with solar in the United States, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and that number is just going to keep growing. Especially with the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, the solar industry is expecting record sales and installs. But with the market heating up, competition for customers is growing as well.
That’s why it’s important to find a sales strategy that will allow you to cut through the noise and bring down your customer acquisition costs. One of the best ways to do that is through a solid referral system. However, without the right software tools to help manage them, customer referrals can quickly become an administrative nightmare. That's why it's equally important to find the best referral marketing software for your solar business.
In this post, we'll briefly review why you'd want to use a referral program or referral marketing software and then get into the specifics of what to look for. We'll then cover some of the important aspects of a referral program that referral software alone often doesn't handle, such as providing a great customer experience.
The importance of referrals
Although the business world has changed a lot in the past few decades thanks to an explosion of technology, one thing hasn't changed; word-of-mouth advertising is the best advertising you can get. This has been true for as long as businesses have been around, and referral programs help to capitalize on that fact. Referrals are important for a few key reasons:
- Referrals increase word-of-mouth recognition of your business. Referral programs are able to capitalize on the power of word-of-mouth advertising because they incentivize your current customers to talk about your brand. By providing them with a reward for bringing you new customers, you're giving them one more reason to share how great their experience with you is.
- Referrals improve customer retention. When a customer is rewarded for bringing you business, or when a friend has recommended you to them, they feel a closer relationship to you and are more likely to stay loyal to your business than they would if your connection stopped at merely providing them a service.
- Referrals decrease marketing costs. With a referral program, not only are you spending less to get a customer, but you are in complete control of the referral incentive. As you grow your understanding of your customer base, you can better understand how to toggle this number up or down depending on the returns you’re seeing.
What referral software does
Before we talk about what the best referral marketing software for solar businesses looks like, let's talk about what referral marketing software looks like in general. Below are the features that nearly every marketing referral software on the market offers. Before you can determine what software might be best for your business specifically, it’s important to understand these features and functions at a high level.
Make it easier for customers to send referrals
Without software to track referrals, companies are reliant on manually keeping track of who has recommended a customer to them. While manual tracking may be cheaper, it doesn’t scale well. As you add more customers and increase your volume of referrals, manual tracking will become more prone to human error, add unnecessary administrative burdens to your program, and increase the friction your customers face when they want to make a recommendation.
While different referral softwares will vary in exactly how easy they make it for customers, all softwares bring features and capabilities that cut down on the challenges of manual referral tracking.
Streamline lead processing
By consolidating leads into one easy-to-use interface, referral softwares give you a unified view of the leads your customers have provided for you. The best referral marketing software will present this in a way that makes it easily actionable as well, but at the very least, all of them will reduce the number of steps your staff needs to gather new leads and track the progress that's being made on them.
Automatically track and disperse rewards
Once a referral becomes a new customer, it’s time for the person who referred to be given their reward. As any solar sales professional will tell you, prompt payment at this time is key. By getting the referral money back into your original customer’s hands quickly, you encourage that customer to go out and make more referrals. However, without software to handle this, the process can become needlessly slow as customers wait for their eligibility to be manually confirmed and sent out.
Features to look for in referral software
We've already talked briefly about how the best referral marketing software handles the core functions of customer referrals compared to the average referral software. Now let's take a closer look at the types of features you should be looking for when you're evaluating your solar referral software options.
Integration with your technology stack
As your solar software stack grows, it’s important to make sure that all of your softwares are able to integrate with one another. This means that any customer contact information that’s stored in your CRM, your route planning software, and your referral technology can all talk to each other and easily flow information from one tool to another.
Without the ability to integrate with your tech stack, solar referral marketing software simply becomes another data silo — aka a data dead-end. The ability to integrate components of your tech stack allow you to see your data all in one place and allow disparate software programs to become more powerful by sharing information with each other.
Support for multiple reward structures
Most referral marketing software will present you with several options for structuring your referral rewards. However, some of the cheaper options might not have a lot of flexibility with these reward options. When evaluating your options, make sure that the type of reward structure you want to offer customers is available in the software that you choose. Some options include:
- Single-sided — Only the person making the referral gets a reward.
- Double-sided — The person making the referral and the person they referred get a reward.
- Non-monetary — The referral rewards are company swag or other non-monetary items.
Customizable branding or white-labeling
Referral software almost always has some public-facing page that your customers will interact with. The best solar referral marketing software will allow you to customize its appearance so the customer always maintains the impression that they're interacting with your brand. Don’t settle for softwares that don’t allow you to white-label this portal. If you’re going to go through the work of fostering a referral network, you want to make sure you own the customer relationship and that your solar brand is being reiterated throughout.
Data allows you to evaluate how well a strategy is working and track changes to that strategy in order to find the most effective method. This is just as true in referral marketing as it is in any other form of marketing. A good referral software product will present you with the analytics you need to fully judge the performance of your program.
What referral software alone doesn't do
So far we've only talked about the ways that referral software can help your referral program. But no software is going to make your referral program a success if you don't take additional steps to cultivate the type of customers who are willing to make referrals. That's why providing a superb customer experience is a vital step in the creation of your referral program.
Here are some things above and beyond what your referral software should do that your company should keep in mind.
Keep the customer informed
When a customer orders pizza delivery, they can monitor every step of the process on their phone. Many package delivery services now have GPS and tracking that lets customers know down to the minute when their package arrives. Yet, despite being vastly more expensive, the solar installation process is often a black box.
Solar referral software goes hand and hand with good project tracking tools, so your customer never has to call in and take up time staff could be doing other things just to find out how far along their installation is.
At Bodhi, we understand the solar industry. That's why we created a customer experience platform software specifically for the industry. With our software, you'll get a comprehensive customer experience platform that streamlines every aspect of the installation for both you and the customer. Bodhi provides a single location for managing the entire installation, including accepting referrals from customers. Sign up for a demo now to learn more about how Bodhi can help your solar business grow.