Unleash the secret weapons of the solar industry

How to identify, segment, and appreciate your best source of solar referrals
Author : 
June 29, 2021

Earlier this year, one of the solar installers that we work with received a barrage of emails instantaneously.  However, these customer emails were of the type that he was happy to receive.  One of his recent solar customers used his solar referral program inside Bodhi to refer 62 of his friends and family.  And for good measure, the customer submitted his 63rd referral the following day.  

This story along with the anecdote in our previous post Intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation & setting a solar referral incentive structure are great examples of a little talked about secret in solar: 

“80% of referrals come from 20% of solar customers”

These are your Champions.  They are a sometimes under appreciated but remarkably valuable resource as your company faces the challenges of growth and stronger competition in the solar market.  In previous posts, we focused on the behavioral science underpinnings of referrals and the key moments that trigger their submission.  In this post, we focus on the Champions.  How to identify them, how to segment them, and how to appreciate them so you’ll have your own customers providing 63 referrals with a click of a button.  

Step 1: Identify your Champions

This sounds straightforward, and in practice it actually is.  However, the issue that most solar companies have is that only a few people in the organization know who the Champions are. Many companies do not have a central repository that identifies who is a Champion.  This leaves others in the organization unaware when they interact with them or be able to act on that information.  In other instances, the people who do know who the Champions are, may leave your company and take those relationships with them.  

Therefore, the first step is to make it easy for everyone in the company, especially those that have a customer facing role, to know who is a Champion.  One way to do this is to set up an extra field inside your CRM to label a contact or associated project as “Champion.”  Make sure that this field is easily visible when the customer or project gets pulled up.  The worst thing that can happen is a support staff realizing only after a customer phone call that he/she was a Champion.  

Next, develop a process to determine if a customer is a Champion. The sales team probably knows who these customers are because they may have already provided a referral. So as a first pass, ask each one in the team to identify them.  

This can be followed by a more sophisticated criteria.  For example:

  • Have they written a review?
  • Have they submitted a high score on a survey?
  • How engaged are they with updates you send them?
  • Have they shared an update via social media?
  • Were they themselves referred by someone else?

You can take it up another notch by creating a numerical “Champion score” that is based on all these different factors.  (This is something we’re working on.)

One very interesting insight we’ve gathered is that in many cases, your best Champions are actually the customers who experienced an issue somewhere along their customer journey, but through white glove service, you were able to go above and beyond to remedy the issue.  

Step 2: Segment your Champions

Your customers are not all the same. By segmenting your Champions you can use messaging that appeals to as many of your existing customers as possible - not just the ones motivated by money.

It’s important to remember that your customers are putting their credibility on the line which they most likely value a lot more than the prospect of a $500 reward. Instead, segment your customers by what motivates them and add that as a field in your CRM right next to the Champion field.  For example, use what motivated them to go solar in the first place. Maybe it was to take control over their energy production, maybe it was to save Mother Earth, or maybe it was for that monthly savings.  Alternatively, segment your customers based on their personality type.  Which one of the Bartle player types do they most fit: Achievers, Explorers, Socializers, or Killers?

By segmenting your customers, you and your staff will be able to act in a way that will resonate with them.  For example, if a Champion is a Socializer, they will likely appreciate their newly solar powered home being featured in a Facebook post.  Then they can share the post with their network and talk about it next time they’re hanging out with friends.  Below is an Instagram post by Lighthouse Solar of my new solar pergola.  

If your Champion is an Explorer, they will likely appreciate being notified of the latest technology and products that can further enhance their solar system or home.  It’s pretty easy these days to use email marketing tools or Bodhi to send messages that are personalized and targeted to these different customer segments.  That way, your company is always top of mind.

Step 3: Appreciate your Champions

Appreciation is critical.  Everyone likes to feel appreciated.  The referral incentive is just one way to say thank you.  Many are intrinsically motivated to share their experience and recommendations.  By segmenting your Champions in the previous step, you can tailor the way you show your appreciation.

The key is to provide different ways to show appreciation, each with increasing levels of engagement.  The easiest is to call an existing customer to say thank you and simply ask them for their feedback.  

Also consider inviting them to events that you are hosting or participating in.  For example, if you’re exhibiting at a home and garden show, invite your Champions who may have been installing solar on a new house or part of a home renovation project.  If you’re exhibiting at an event like Fully Charged, invite your Champions who love to geek out over the latest technology and innovations.  

And for the deepest level of engagement, consider asking your Champions to sit for a video testimonial.  Those that agree to this are putting their name and face to the cause.  They have truly bought into the story of solar and your company’s vision.  Here’s a great example of a customer testimonial for A.M. Sun.


Champions are invaluable resources for your company and for solar.  Identifying them and cultivating your relationship with them can turbocharge your company’s growth.  And within their tight network of friends and family, they will be the true influencers that will drive the exponential growth of solar that the planet we call home needs.  

If you’d like to talk more about cultivating your Champions or building great customer experiences, contact us.  We’d love to hear from you.

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