21 November 2012
If you are in the solar installation business, I'd like to shake your hand for adding to the growing green movement. I know some may see us green entrepreneurs as profiteers whose sole motivation is to make a buck, but like you, I've chosen the solar industry for my entrepreneurial endeavor. A wise man once said “to do good, you must do well.”
Let's get to the point.
So how exactly do you promote your business online? Solar may be a great industry, but the fact remains: competition will always exist. Did you know that there are over 300 authorized dealers for SunPower alone? That's just one dealership base for one solar manufacturer. Now, multiply that by 20 to 30 solar manufacturers alone (yes, some do overlap, i.e., one solar company can distribute multiple brands), and that's the upper limit of where your solar company's competition lies.
So imagine over 5k+ companies screaming at the customers. To whom will they listen?
Online marketing is no different than offline marketing. And despite what the online marketing “gurus” will tell you, you can cut through the noise and you can get their attention. But here's the thing: There is no such thing as a free lunch. You have got to do the work.
Step 1: Develop a website.
Your initial gut reaction to this that it is obvious, right? Wrong. You'd surprised at how many solar companies do not have a website, let alone a functional website.
Nowadays, you can get a website made for couple of hundred dollar, then get it hosted for $20-30 a month. It doesn't have to be fancy, but you do need a website. Your website is your online “business” card. Without it, your customer will have no idea of who you are, what you sell, or why they should contact you.
Step 2: Don't make your website fancy
Your website … it's not Facebook. It's not Google. It's not a game portal. You don't need whistles and bells, you don't need a stock ticker symbol, and no, you do not need a local weather thing on your website. I kid you not: I've seen some solar companies' websites that include STOCK ticker symbol and weather widget on their website. Ask yourself... why?
There's only one thing and one thing alone that your website needs to do: convey your solar company's unique selling proposition and get them to act, which is either by calling your or entering their information on your website so that you can contact them.
I'm sure whoever is in charge of your company's “brand” or marketing will tell you that the website needs to be professional and that it must be professional looking. OK, I do not disagree there. I don't think you want to make your website cheap looking.
Step 3: Tell people
"If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"
If a website is started and no one is there to look at it, should the website owner even pay for it? Business marketing 101: if people don't know that you have stuff to sell, no one is going to buy it from you.
Now there are two basic ways to “tell others”:
- Talk to other people (i.e., get other websites to link to you)
When business owners hear the word “advertise”, they cringe as if I’d told them that they owe me rent money or something. Let’s just stay that advertising is important and now talk about how to get others to link to you.
Why do we even care that others will link to us? Awareness.
The way Google and Bing work is that their search engine figures out who you are and what you do by figuring out who is linking to you. In another words, if I have a website about solar business, and other solar related websites (such as newspapers, blogs, trade organization websites, etc.) link to you, most likely you're a solar business.
Written by TaeWoo Kim, President and Founder of Solar One Media