Don’t Give Up on Your Solar Leads or Referrals; Nurture Them
Solar Sales and Its Importance
Over the last decade or so, the solar industry has seen quite a few companies entering the market. The current state is such that solar companies today face a lot of competition and have to really work at being relevant and successful. Now, more than ever, it has become imperative for businesses to amp-up their marketing and sales efforts so as to gain a competitive advantage. This should ideally not be a problem as there is no dearth of potential customers in the market; However, successfully identifying them as ‘leads’ and ensuring that the leads are converted into customers, is the tricky bit. To be honest, most people are vaguely aware of the merits of embracing solar energy and chances are that they have also shown a modicum of interest in adopting it – Solar is great for the environment, helps save money in the long run and when done right, requires a moderate investment. But in spite of knowing this and also showing some interest, most people require to be pursued, their doubts cleared and their interest in solar reaffirmed, before an investment is made. Even for well established solar businesses with a good reputation in the market, sales are still their Achilles heel. In order to counter this, having a well-designed sales strategy that factors in lead generation and nurturing tactics, is key.
Some of the markers of an efficient sales strategy include:
- Educating customers
- Leveraging the value of the solar product
- Establishing brand differentiation
- Making the solar solution customer-specific
- Using an automated solution to support the sales process
- Constantly feeding the sales funnel
- Ensuring that all leads and referrals are nurtured and led to customer conversion
Lead Generation and Referrals
So, what are ‘leads’? Leads are essentially potential customers that a marketing or sales team attracts from various avenues, with the hope of nurturing them throughout the buying process by constantly convincing them about the merits of the offerings, eventually convert them into paying customers. We have to understand that at a primary level, sales is predominantly a numbers game. In order to procure new customers, sales personnel should start with as many leads as possible.
One of the channels through which potential customers are also identified is through Referrals. A referral is when an existing customer attests a certain product to their acquaintances, in turn enabling the respective sales team to procure new customers. Most companies today tend to have a referral policy in which customers are encouraged and rewarded when they recommend the company’s products and services. This is also known as ‘Referral Marketing’ and is a process to significantly increase referrals from word of mouth.
Apart from referrals, the common channels through which leads are usually generated by inbound marketing, investing in popular lead-generation websites specializing in solar, co-marketing with complementary businesses, as well as sponsorship of community events, sports teams, schools, etc. But while generating leads is a pretty straightforward process, it is also important to not take them for granted. Only when these leads are constantly paid attention and ‘nurtured’ do they turn into customers.
Lead Nurturing – Why is it Important?
Lead nurturing, as the name suggests is the process of nurturing a relationship with potential customers at every stage of the buyer’s journey, in order to convert the lead into a revenue generating account for the company. Lead nurturing is a multi-pronged concept that involves listening to the needs of prospective clients, providing the information and answers they need, timely follow-ups and personalization. In order to nurture leads, sales personnel must focus on a defined target group and effectively nudge them towards conversion.
Just like in any other business, solar companies too often see consumers who are ‘interested’ in solar adoption but are not willing to make an immediate purchase. Although sales teams tend to follow-up with such leads a couple of times, they often lose hope and abandon the efforts over a short period of time. In fact, according to a study by MarketingSherpa only about 36 percent of marketers actively pursue and nurture their sales leads. What does this mean for solar business? According to research conducted by Forrester, marketers see an average 20 percent increase in sales opportunities between nurtured versus non-nurtured leads. The research also shows that companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales at a 33% lower cost.
With competition so tight, solar companies just cannot afford to lose out on new customers. This is the reason why every solar company SHOULD have an effective lead nurturing strategy in place.
Effective Tactics a Lead Nurturing Strategy MUST Have
In order to ensure that a lead nurturing strategy will result in considerable ROI, here are effective tactics for any solar company.
- Multi-channel lead nurturing
When it comes to following up on potential leads, most companies rely on a simple email drip campaign where a bunch of generic emails about the company’s offerings are sent to a list of prospects. While this has certain lead nurturing benefits, it is not sufficient on its own. According to an article published by Oracle on the state of lead nurturing, almost four out of five marketers say their email open rates don’t exceed 20%. On top of that, 79% of marketing leads never convert into sales. The primary problem is that these emails are not specific in nature and hence are perceived as spam. For example, if a solar company wants to attract a potential customer in New York by talking about how solar adoption can cut down on their utility bills, a generic email with the subject “The Benefits of Solar Adoption” will just not do the job. Instead, companies must focus on specificity; Consider the email subject “New Yorkers can now cut down on 40 percent of their utility bills with solar”, not only is this heading attractive to a potential customer, but it is also actionable in nature.
But apart from sending specific, targeted emails, lead nurturing also benefits from multi-channel communication. This multi-channel lead nurturing tactic most commonly involves a combination of email marketing campaigns, marketing automation, social media, paid retargeting, dynamic website content and direct sales outreach.
- Educate your leads
Most solar leads refrain from making an immediate commitment due to underlying doubts about the technology and its use. Especially in the solar domain, education is a much-desired proponent for successful business. Most potential customers seek to embrace solar as a solution to deal with high utility bills, fluctuating fuel costs, and in a bid to be more eco-friendly. So when a sales team approaches them, it is crucial that they answer as many of the customer’s queries as required. An education-based strategy helps establish trust between the consumer and the solar company, in turn resulting in business conversion. Apart from clearing a potential customer’s doubts, providing them with well-fleshed and useful content that supports the sales pitch, such as an eBook, will help customers commit faster. Additionally, showing them testimonials and reviews from existing customers and statistics on the benefits of solar helps.
- Leverage the referral policy
When it comes to getting existing customers to refer a solar product, timing is key. Customers will only recommend a product when they are happy and satisfied with its performance. And customer referrals, also known as referral marketing, has been one of the oldest tactics in the marketing book. Most companies today have robust referral programs in place, that promise to reward the referring party as well. In order to ensure that existing customers are aware of this policy, solar companies must reference to it, at multiple points in their relationship with the customer. Some ways to do this is by educating the customer on the policy during the proposal signing, reminding them of the referral policy at the time of installation, and sending follow-up emails that reiterate the benefits of the referral program and politely request for a reference.
To ensure that the marketing teams do not end up irritating the customers with their persistence, it is advisable to only ask for a reference after a suitable period of time. It is only logical that customers who have had sufficient time to use the solar product and assess its benefits will be more willing to make referrals. It is also advisable to make periodic checks with long-term customers on how satisfied they are with solar adoption; In case of a positive response, politely asking them for a reference will be beneficial to aggregating more leads. Also, companies must provide multiple options in which an existing customer can refer their product. Some options include posting a testimonial on social media, speaking to their friends and neighbors about the product and placing a small sign on their lawn.
- Give ALL leads the required attention
It can often be observed that sales teams are constantly focusing on garnering new leads, while neglecting the existing or “warm” leads. It is just human psychology to focus on the new while taking what is already present for granted. But when it comes to following sales leads, this attitude can pose a problem. In line with trying to get new leads, sales personnel must not forget to keep a tab on the warm leads, never allowing to go cold.
- Weed out ‘wasteful’ leads
With the help of data analytics, companies today can gain knowledge on potential customers with an existing interest in solar. This insight gives sales teams a considerable lead to make highly focused and targeted sales pitches. Additionally, machine learning helps predict the likelihood that someone will purchase solar. These tools help companies filter and cut down on ‘wasteful’ leads, in turn providing more time for sales teams to focus on more viable options.
In a nutshell, lead nurturing comprise of education that provides valuable information, communication through a variety of channels such as phone calls, emails, and social media and balancing sales efforts between aggregating new leads and trying to convert existing ones. Even adopting a software sales solution such as SunPro+ that helps encapsulate all aspects of solar marketing such as knowledge disbursement, pricing, loan assistance, and much more, can help sales and marketing teams streamline their lead nurturing efforts. Remember, when it comes to keeping your leads interested, out of sight is definitely out of mind.