The emergence of inbound marketing is good news for solar firms. These companies operate in an industry that requires consistent and methodical customer education — something that classic "outbound marketing" is ill-equipped to effectively address. In fact, the benefits of inbound marketing are so compelling that we encourage all of our solar clients to transition towards a more inbound-oriented strategy.
However, it can be a difficult sell. Many marketing managers have been trained on "outbound" concepts since their business school days; transitioning towards solar inbound marketing approach — that nonetheless retains outbound-elements — can be disruptive and intimidating.
We'd like to make the argument that not only is inbound marketing the "future" of the marketing function, but that it's also uniquely attuned to the demands of the solar industry.
Outbound vs. Inbound Marketing
First we'd like to briefly distinguish between outbound and inbound marketing. The former is the marketing of your youth, characterized by salespeople approaching customers via cold calls, advertisements, and commercials. The latter is predicated on bringing customers to you by consistently publishing compelling and unique content, embracing social media and keyword management, and converting prospects with forms, calls-to-action and effective landing pages.
Why Solar Inbound Marketing Makes Sense
To understand how the solar industry is uniquely attuned to inbound marketing techniques, let's first look at an example from the "outbound" world. Say it's 2 a.m. and you're watching "Friends" reruns. Suddenly a commercial for the George Foreman Grill or an amazing new juicer comes on. You immediate see the product, you understand it, you know how to operate it. Furthermore, all you have to do is call within 15 minutes and get a 40 percent discount. This is classic outbound marketing in action: grabbing a customer's attention and making the hard sell.
Yet we can't apply these lessons to the typical solar customer purchasing funnel. Customers very rarely buy residential solar panels impulsively. They don't randomly walk onto a sales floor and whip out their checkbooks. This is because — as you, more than anyone — solar customers need to be educated about all facets of the product: costs, installation requirements, tax implications, operational know-how, etc. To summarize: inbound marketing requires marketers to educate prospects, and solar firms need to do the same.
Solar Inbound Marketing in Practice
The good news for solar marketers is that the primary mechanism to educate prospects — compelling content — is bountiful. There's no shortage of articles nowadays that talk about the benefits and increasing popularity of solar. Nor is there a shortage of internal expertise gleaned from your years in the industry. Therefore, marketers need to leverage this content to educate prospects, build trust, and create high-quality leads. The trick is to effectively guide prospects down the purchasing funnel with appropriate content along the way.
For example, at the top of the funnel, you need to educate and attract visitors. Therefore, we recommend you provide eBook, White Papers, and How-To Videos to communicate your firm's expertise and build trust. At the middle of the funnel, you need to compel visitors to reach out to you. To accomplish this, paint them a picture illustrating how their lives would benefit from working with your firm. Provide demo videos, FAQs, and data sheets showing how, for example, they'll save money with residential solar. Prospects at the bottom of the funnel need to be converted, so offer things like free trials, consultations, and estimates.
In closing, we believe that inbound marketing is a technique that is tailor-made for the challenges facing the solar industry. But then again, that's just our opinion. What do you think? Has your solar film embraced inbound marketing? Why? Why not?