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Community Solar Sales: What are the Challenges?

Community Solar Marketing Faces Four Obstacles

 

Is it possible that community solar is too wonderful to be true? Marketers' perspectives on community solar messaging strategies are featured in our most recent posts.


 

The popularity of community solar is on the rise. According to a survey published by Green Tech Media Research (available here), the community solar market has grown at a rate of 53 percent per year for the past five years, more than double the rate of the rest of the solar sector (26 percent ). Given the solar industry's recent expansion, this is quite impressive: 2.1GW of solar PV capacity was added to the grid in Q2 alone, enough to power 13.1 million US homes.

 

Given the stringent climate targets set by many state legislators, corporations, and utilities in their efforts to decrease carbon emissions, the surge in community solar makes logical. Community solar has become an enormously interesting renewable energy potential as a result of these pledges, as well as solar incentives and the fact that only 57 percent of U.S. houses are eligible for rooftop solar.

 

Despite the buzz, community solar can be a challenging commodity to sell. What is the reason for this? One reason is that community solar programs provide numerous messaging issues. Despite widespread enthusiasm in solar (89 percent of respondents favor expanding its use), many in the business have long struggled to turn that interest into actual purchasing choices.

 

Despite this, community solar continues to develop, thanks in part to the tireless efforts of legislators and community solar providers around the country who are committed to doing everything they can to make renewable energy more accessible. We regularly talk about the obstacles of community solar marketing and identify some approaches to handle those challenges in my interactions with utility managers, developers, asset owners, and lawyers. The same four themes have come up again in our discussions, and I'd like to offer some of our opinions on them.

 

1. Communicating effectively with a variety of audiences

 

It all starts with your audience, as it does with most marketing techniques. One of the issues with community solar, though, is that there are so many different target groups. Community solar policies and initiatives, for example, fluctuate from state to state, as do customer personas, necessitating distinct messaging for diverse markets and programs.

 

We need to conduct comprehensive research to ensure that we are reaching our target market. What are the motives and interests of our customers? What criteria do they use to make decisions? What (and who) has an impact on them? You must understand the decision-makers' psychological drivers, which might vary widely based on the person, firm, industry, and location. It's easier to build messaging and marketing approaches that will resonate with each group with detailed research and granular consumer segmentation.

 

However, one thing stays consistent throughout our audiences: citizens, small business owners, and C&I executives all want to save money. Saving money is always appealing, regardless of whether it is motivated by cultural, philanthropic, or corporate factors.

 

2. Building trust through the appropriate channels and messaging

 

Influencing behavior isn't easy, and you'll need to employ the right channels to get your message over to your customers. Others will be bewildered and even angered by the intrusion, while some will prefer texts from a service provider. Some people will just want to hear about saving money, while others will only want to hear about the environment. You might dissuade a decision-maker if you send the wrong message or use the wrong channel. Taking on this task once more necessitates research. It is worthwhile to invest the time and money necessary to gain a thorough understanding of your market. Because each touchpoint with your potential customers will be more targeted, effective, and likely to convert if the research is thorough, messaging can be more efficient and fewer interactions will be required during client acquisition. Taking the time to get to know your consumers will help them trust you as their community solar provider. Because community solar is still a new and perplexing product, client trust is an important element of the sales equation. At the end of the day, the client wants to feel safe and secure in the knowledge that their supplier will accurately educate them, support them when needed, and attend to their needs. One method to earn this trust is to put in the effort to communicate in a true, transparent, and straightforward manner.

 

3. Finding a way to balance the legal limits and complexities of community solar with a pleasant purchase experience.

 

Consumer goods companies go to great lengths to provide a spectacular consumer experience. A straightforward, consumer-oriented design is what, in many situations, drives mass-market adoption of a product, whether it's the dazzling packaging and brand profile of a new phone or the smooth, tailored experience of Amazon or Lyft.

 

So, how can we have community solar clients go through the same experience? How do we make it easier for customers to engage by creating a simple, seamless process? Well, it turns out to be a tough nut to crack because state rules limit much of the innovation needed to simplify billing and contract terms. That's where trade groups like the Coalition for Community Solar Access come in, advocating for the frameworks that will allow more individuals to participate in community solar initiatives.

 

“Community solar is inherently complicated, but we must do everything we can to make the client experience as simple as possible."

 

Although community solar is inherently complex, we must do everything we can to make the client experience as simple as possible. This entails simplifying billing, creating contracts with simple and straightforward wording, and guaranteeing that there are no cancellation fees. Simultaneously, compliance with all consumer protection rules is critical and necessitates ongoing vigilance, which can, ironically, make communications more difficult. We must continue to improve the instructional resources we make available to consumers as we work toward a simpler community solar solution, in order to improve education and adoption of a more sophisticated product.

 

4. What about clients who are on a tight budget?

 

Community solar for low and moderate-income (LMI) clients appears to be a no-brainer on the surface. Customers at LMI spend a significant portion of their earnings on power bills, therefore community solar provides a significant savings opportunity for them with no upfront financial investment. At the same time, it's an opportunity for community solar suppliers to reach a hitherto untapped section of potential clients. Isn't it a win-win situation? It isn't always simple, but progress is being made, and Destiny Marketing Solutions and others are beginning to close the gap between LMI clients and financers by developing better products and terms that appeal to this target population.

 

One thing is certain: bringing on additional community solar customers benefits us all because it is these subscribers who make our projects viable. Furthermore, more solar equals less fossil fuel, which is why we started this company in the first place.

 

In Conclusion

 

Destiny Marketing Solutions has seen its fair share of difficulties as a long-time producer of community solar projects. However, we acquired valuable lessons from each hurdle we faced. The way we now provide client acquisition and management services to other developers and asset owners is informed by our hard-won experience. From the beginning, we segment carefully and engage prospects (and subsequently customers) with regular touchpoints. We aim to make their experience as simple as possible, and we're always looking for innovative ways to expand solar access to as many people as possible, bringing us closer to our goal of safeguarding the planet by revolutionizing renewable energy access.