Each year, we survey a few dozen clean tech companies across many sectors of the industry - including solar, wind, geothermal and energy efficiency - to collect valuable data on marketing practices within the industry.
2014 Solar Marketing Outlook
Contributed by | Eco Branding
The US solar industry enjoyed a period of booming growth and success on many fronts this year. It saw large increases in the numbers of solar panel installations, both commercial and residential, made possible by an abundance of federal, state and local incentives to go solar. These incentives motivated unprecedented commercial and residential solar usage with financial support through grants, loans and subsidies, and political support through modifications in rules, regulations and policies. While a majority of the many incentives have expired, the largest of these incentives is still in effect. The Federal Investment Tax Credit offers a 30% tax credit to homeowners who purchase renewable energy in the form of solar water heat, photovoltaic, wind, fuel cells, geothermal heat pumps or other solar-electric technologies. This policy, established by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, is largely responsible for the solar industry’s thriving successes since its institution. However, there is great concern that the growth of solar will slow down when this policy expires in 2016.
At Eco Branding, we believe that the potential absence of federal and state incentives will make effective marketing even more essential in the upcoming years. Powerful marketing tactics are crucial to assure potential customers that solar technologies remain worthwhile investments. We are witnessing a monumental but surprisingly quiet change, in which the White House is installing solar panels on its roof and installations in the US are on track to go online every minute-and-a-half. Times are changing and companies need to react accordingly to address the shift in focus from eco-friendly to cost-friendly.
As the marketing industry at large learns to leverage social media as a primary communication tactic, solar companies must also adjust to this major shift to continue to expand the industry at this unprecedented rate of growth.
Eco Branding conducted a survey of 39 clean tech companies throughout the United States. These companies span the entire clean tech industry including: solar, wind, geothermal and energy efficiency companies. We surveyed a sample of company executives, mid level management, and marketing support to help companies optimize their online and social marketing performances.
Our research revealed that most solar companies are hesitant to invest additional time and money into their marketing budget. All of the companies polled recognized that measuring their return on investment (ROI) was either the biggest or a major marketing challenge they faced this past year. After all, why spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on innovative and traditional marketing if there is little to no payoff? This logic has resulted in drastic cuts to marketing budgets across the solar industry. Even social media, which requires no more than human resources and limited time, has been put on the back burner due to this ROI challenge. Our case study section showcases three companies determined to prove the continued importance of marketing, by creating innovative marketing campaigns with mechanisms to properly measure a campaign’s success.
In conducting our research, we looked for successful strategies companies have in place to properly measure their ROI. We found that companies are increasingly using the services of online resources such as Visual IQ. Visual IQ is a software that helps companies better allocate their marketing budget across different channels, through the use of data collection, machine learning and analytics.
Sungevity is one of the many solar companies that attributes their improvements in measuring ROI to the Visual IQ software. With Visual IQ, Sungevity was able to consolidate performance data from multiple channels, build the appropriate models, and ultimately predict the optimal combination of tactics for future marketing efforts. The case studies and software such as Visual IQ is proof that there are many methods of measuring ROI.
According to SEIA, 72% of online adults in the US use social networking sites, presenting a huge potential market for solar businesses. Social media can help advertise products and grow leads as well as promote companies as experts in the solar community.
The research we conducted via this market-wide survey revealed that 43% of companies had trouble generating engaging content on social media. While 71% responded that they use social media to announce industry news, only 32% reported that their company posts daily on social media channels. There is so much daily news both internally and at the industry level that these two figures should really be much closer to one another. Companies should announce industry news more frequently, which would result in better solar education for consumers and enhanced success in the long run.
None of those surveyed believe that their social media strategy is excellent, illustrating there is much that can be done across the industry to improve the effectiveness of marketing tactics. A notable finding from the survey: Companies simply don’t know how to market effectively via social media. We have compiled a few short tips to addresses this challenge:
1) Marketing via social media should be cus tomer service–oriented, not sales-oriented.
2) Only post creative content; consumers need to be immediately hooked.
3) Resist the temptation to overload posts with too much data. Know when to use the data and when to hold onto it. In short, keep content simple.
4) Encourage potential consumers to actively participate in the content, through votes, competitions or games.
To obtain a copy of the complete report visit www.ecobrandit.com/research.php
ABOUT ECO BRANDING
Eco Branding is an integrated marketing communications firm focused on the clean technology sector. We offer public relations, marketing, branding, web development and event management services. We partner with clients to develop their messaging, engage targeted audiences and increase brand awareness. Eco Branding’s turnkey model allows us to provide highly responsive services that save clients time and money.
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