The first thing most people think of when they talk about marketing is advertising. However, there are lots of other ways of getting your renewable energy technology into domestic and commercial buildings, many of which are more cost effective than traditional advertising.
But first, some basics:
1. Do you know what the benefits of your products are to each of your target markets (nb: they may be different for different markets)? If not, don’t waste money on marketing until you are absolutely clear about why people should do business with you, and not your competitors. You need to develop your USP, or unique selling point. (The more genuinely unique it is, the better!).
2. Do you know where your leads are coming from? If not set up a system to record where everyone who contacts your company heard of you, and whether or not they convert to a customer.
3. Do you know which bits of your marketing are working? More importantly, do you know which bits aren’t? If not, now is the time to start testing, and tracking all your marketing activities. Rather than doing one huge mailing, produce several versions, and mail each to a small number, and see which works best. Continue to test the best performing version against other versions, so you are continually improving your marketing material. If an ad or mailer still isn’t working, think again. If you aren’t monitoring your results, you may be throwing money down the drain.
4. Do you have a call to action in all your marketing materials? If not, you are wasting your money. Brand awareness advertising may work for big multinationals, but it doesn’t make sense for SMEs. Think about what you want people to do as a result of reading your advertising, and make sure you ask them clearly to do it. You may also want to include an offer if they respond before a deadline.
How many marketing methods do you use? If you are typical of SMEs, you probably only use one or two primary ways. the answer to this question is yes, then you probably need to expand your range. Some experts would There’s a reason people talk about the ‘marketing mix’. Read on to see the choice available to you. We recommend that you use at
Marketing techniques for the renewable energy sector:
1. A website that people can find
Your website is great way to tell people how they can benefit from what you have to offer, but it’s no good if no one can find it. Ways to get them there include: pay per click advertising, search engine optimisation (SEO), email marketing and inbound links from relevant websites (such as YouGen).
2. Direct marketing
This means sending out letters either by post, or unaddressed by door-drop. Success will depend on how good the list is, as well as the content of your mailer. As with advertising, your headline, and your call to action are crucially important.
3. Social media
There’s a lot of buzz about how you ‘must’ be on Twitter and Facebook, with plenty of people willing to train you up. They are unlikely to be a good way to deliver sales to most renewable energy installers and they can be a great way of wasting a lot of time. However, if you are clear about what you want to achieve, they can be useful for building relationships (Twitter), finding out about, and discussing, the latest developments in the market (Linked-in), keeping in touch with customers and showing off work you’ve done (Facebook), demonstrating your expertise by helping people (all of them).
Before you any advertising be clear what your target market is, and then select a publication or website that is read by those people. Always have a call to action, and an identifier code, so that you can track the response. Always have a headline, and use it to catch the reader’s attention – just putting your company name is not effective.
5. Email marketing
This can just be another (cheaper) way of direct marketing using email. It can be very effective, as you can get people to take action by clicking a link to a sign up or quote request form. Be careful not to spam people though. It also offers a great way of keeping in touch with leads, prospects and existing customers. By sending them regular newsletters you can demonstrate your expertise over time, so that when they are ready to buy you’re still at the front of their mind.
6. Strategic alliances
This is a matter of teaming up with people who are in a different market to you, for mutual benefit. For example, recent research found that when people move house is a trigger for thinking about installing renewable energy. Teaming up with estate agents and surveyors to find ways that you can help each other is a good example.
7. Referral systems
There are lots of local networks such as BNI, that formalise systems of businesses referring to each other. For those of you who don’t like breakfast meetings the good news is you can build your own networks of complementary companies, so that you refer business to each other. Good referral networks are built on trust, and it’s easy to get started – just refer people to companies that you trust. People who give, usually get rich returns from their how can I help attitude.
Public relations is about getting editorial coverage in local papers and magazines, and on radio and TV. Editorial coverage is much more effective at building your reputation than advertising – and much more trusted. Getting it is about building relationships with key journalists and providing them with interesting stories. By that I mean stories that will be of interest to their readers/listeners/viewer, so get to know the publications you want to contribute to, so you can tailor stories to their needs.
While not exactly a marketing technique in itself, asking for should be a key part of everyone’s marketing strategy. They are one of the most powerful tools you can use, and you can use them across all your marketing. To get the best out of them, ask your customers to be specific about why they liked your service. Put them on your website, and all your marketing material, and to amplify the effect make sure you’ve also got customers recommending you on an independent site like YouGen.
10. Upselling existing customers
This may be hard for some renewable energy businesses. It is much, much more expensive to find a new customer, than it is to sell another product or service to an existing customer. If you just sell solar PV, then you’re not going to have much opportunity to sell another installation to existing customers unless they move to a new house or business premises, although you may be able to sell them a maintenance or service contract. However, if you offer a wider range of renewable energy, and possibly also energy efficiency, products and services, then there are plenty of opportunities to help customers improve their property over time. If you do a great job first time, you will be the first point of call for the next job. This is also better for the customer as they get a whole building approach, rather than having to manage multiple contractors on a job, and worry about whether they know how to make two technologies work together.
More marketing information is available from: the Chartered Institute of Marketing; CIPR; econsultancy; Business Link; and Marketing Donut. Or try this book from the excellent beermat series: Marketing on a Beermat*.
*This is an affiliate link which means that we will get a commission from any sales to help with the costs of running YouGen.
Illustration by photosteve101