Lead generation for solar is not always easy. You can’t just rely on your website or a Craigslist ad. There are many different methods you can use in order to generate qualified solar leads and here I will look into all of them. This should be useful for you whether you are serious about generating your own high quality solar leads, or want to be better prepared when buying solar leads.
Then take a deeper dive into two of my favorites: YouTube ads and Google Adwords! These have been successful for me when trying to find new customers so I hope they work for you too!
I find that in the solar industry, people can be somewhat secrative about what’s working for them. Maybe they’re right and I should keep this stuff more under wraps. Either way, I’m not going to, so in this article are some detailed case studies of some campaigns I’ve worked on with the juicy bits still there, so you can learn how to generate leads for solar sales.
What is a solar lead?
What do I mean by a “lead”? For this article, I’m talking about people who have expressed some interest in solar installation, and are open to talking to someone about it. So here, solar lead generation means creating systems and processes to connect with more of these people.
Door Knocking & Cold Calling
Whilst door knocking can be an effective method of solar panel lead generation, I’m not going to cover it here as:
- It’s not an easily scaleable solar lead generation method (relies on skilled indivual salespeople spending a lot of time)
- It doesn’t connect you with people who are actively looking for a solution / to buy solar panels
- I don’t personally have experience in it to share
So this article is going to be all about inbound marketing to help you get more solar leads to fill your sales funnel, whether you’re generating your own leads, or working with solar lead generation companies.
What makes a good solar lead?
Pretty much 100% of sales people would prefer to spend their time speaking to fewer homeowners, if those new leads are “high quality”. But what exactly makes for a high quality solar lead?
They’re actually interested in going solar
First of all, they need to have a genuine interest in going solar that is based on an accurate picture of how solar energy works.
For example in the UK, there used to be a government Feed-in-Tarriff scheme, where people would get paid per kWh for all of the electricity they generate. There were also a number of “free solar panels” offers. The result of this is that unless you are careful to filter them out in your marketing funnel, a lot of leads come through expecting the government to pay for their solar panels, and then the poor sales reps are stuck breaking it to them that they actually have to buy their own solar panels!
It’s tempting to create advertising that generates leads for the cheapest possible price (I’m sure you’ve seen people bragging about this on various Facebook groups). However cheap leads often become the most expensive leads you can get, after you factor in the amount of extra time the sales team has to spend filtering them.
They are contactable
At Photonic Growth, we use “PIN verification” for solar sales leads. This means that anyone who fills out a lead form gets an SMS message with a four digit code, which they need to enter back into the form before their info is sent on to the solar company. If you buy solar PV leads from us, we’ll ensure this is set up for you.
You can use Twillio to set this up, which adds a cost of a few cents to each lead coming in. You’ll find that the cost per lead in terms of advertising spend also increases. That’s because you’re filtering out people who either put a fake number in (and were never truly a lead anyway) and people who can’t be bothered to go through the simple process.
That seriously helps with contact rates. But there’s more you can do to increase contact rates when doing solar lead gen.
Asking them when they want to talk
Whilst studies show that on average, contacting a lead within a minute is far more likely to result in a sale than waiting an hour or so, it’s important to take into account when they’re available.
If you’re running ads 24/7, or your leads are coming from an organic source, then people sometimes research things like solar late in the evening, and are then busy at work the following morning.
By offering the option to book a calendar appointment, as well as simply asking in your follow up SMS messages or email campaigns, you’re reducing the amount that sales reps need to “chase” – which is annoying for them and your potential customers.
Offering a clear reason why they should talk to you
On your results / thank you page once the lead has submitted their info, you can add a short video with one of the sales reps, or the company owner introducing themseleves and selling the value of the appointment. That way people know what to expect when they see your call coming in.
Sending an SMS reminder before the call
As part of your follow up sequence, it’s helpful to send an SMS reminding them about the call. It’s helpful to send this from the same number you’ll be calling from, or at least include that in the SMS. That way they don’t just see an unknown number calling them and think it could be a scammer etc.
How to generate solar sales leads organically
Buying leads or using paid advertising to generate solar power leads is fast and effective. If done right, it can be one of the highest ROI investments you can make in your solar business. However, if you for any reason turn off that spend, your lead volume and then your revenue will drop off too.
Organic lead generation is typically slower to get results, but once it’s going, it is very unlikely to suddenly stop. If you stop investing in it, whether that’s time or money or both, then eventually it will slowly die down as competitors get into the action. But overall it is a much more calm and steady method of lead generation.
Google Search: Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Update: we’ve created an in depth article on SEO for solar companies.
Every month in every US state, and in the UK (most other countries too), thousands of people search for keywords like “buy solar panels” or “best place to buy solar panels”. Wouldn’t it be great if your business was the one they clicked on? There’s a ton of organic traffic to be had!
By creating content that helps people with the process of going solar, and is also written in a way that Google can understand, it’s possible to get in front of people searching for these terms “for free”.
I say “for free” but whilst you’re not paying directly to be there like you do with Google or Facebook ads, there is a cost in creating content, managing a website, and working out the overal strategy.
It’s also extremly competitive on a national level, and in most states.
Local Google Search SEO
Good news: on a more local level, it’s actually not too difficult to appear for searches like “solar installers near me” by people who are a few miles away.
I could write a whole article on local SEO (search engine optimisation), but essentially where you need to start is:
- Register a Google Business Profile with a verified address (they send a card with a code on to your physical address)
- Get lots of four and five star solar reviews on this profile from happy customers
- Set up your website to clearly show your service area, along with service pages that clearly explain what you offer and where you install
- Write a 3-5 blog posts with advice about going solar, and within them include links to your service pages. It doesn’t matter if these don’t get found directly in Google very much, but it helps Google see that your focus is solar.
In many places it’s quite achievable to appear in these local results, which are above the standard search results.
If you’re trying to grow a national solar company, this won’t help very much, but for a smaller local solar company it can make a significant difference.
Facebook Groups & Personal Profiles
This is a more “active” strategy than Google Search. What I mean by that is with Google Search, you create content, and over time slowly climb to the top of the search results.
Whereas with Facebook, it’s more about having fresh content so that you can continuely appear in people’s newsfeeds.
The way this works is that you set up your own personal Facebook profile (or have your sales reps do this) to clearly show that you can help people go solar. It should have a clear call to action that people can follow from your profile, perhaps to get a call, or to check if they qualify for a rebate, etc.
Next, you use existing Facebook groups to find people who are interested in solar, are having conversations about high electric bills, or anything else that signals they could be interested.
Then you post helpful content that answers their questions. This can be in comments inside groups, it can be by creating new posts yourself, or it can be by creating your own groups.
If you’re posting in someone else’s group, then you shouldn’t add any direct calls to actions to your posts, as this will get you quickly kicked out. Instead, simply add as much value as possible, and you will find that people then find your profile and either message you or follow your profile links.
Also, you can add people as friends that you’ve identified could be interested in solar. Again, feel free to say hi, but don’t try to push anything on them at this stage. Instead, simply post valueable content to your personal news feed. Over time these people will see these posts and either comment or message you. If they comment, that’s a signal that it’s probably a good time to strike up a conversation.
This approach is good if you’re in the early stages, or are one of the many hard working solo solar professionals out there. However it doesn’t scale very well. So if you can afford to invest in other methods, you will find that you’re able to grow faster with those.
In terms of marketing strategy, YouTube videos sit somewhere between Google Search and Facebook content. This is because they have a compontent of organic search (YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine) and fresh content discovery.
People watching YouTube videos tend to be in more of the research phase, so it’s more about building relationships and trust with potential customers, then making an offer from them to contact you. People aren’t searching for transactional keywords like “solar quotes” very much on YouTube like they are on Google.
If you’re going to create YouTube videos, the best place to start is to take note of common questions or objections that come up during sales conversations. Try to create content that answers these, prioritising things that people are searching for on YouTube. You can use a tool called TubeBuddy to find out what people are searching for related to solar.
With our consumer solar PV brand UpLevel Green, we have a YouTube video that typically gets around 1,000 views per month organically. From that, we typically generate a small handful of leads each month from people clicking through to the website.
Paid Digital Marketing Strategies
If you’re a solar company looking to speed up your growth and not only get more solar leads quickly in the short term, and continue to consistently bring in qualified leads with a good return on investment over the long term, then paid online marketing is the way to go.
Google Ads allows you to get in front of solar prospects exactly at the moment when they have the intention to research or buy solar panels. It’s easier to find higher quality leads using Google Ads. That doesn’t mean leads from other ad platforms are always lower quality, simply that more work is required there to filter.
Using Google Ads you can bid on search keywords such as “solar installers near me” which tend to have high purchase intent. It’s important to focus on these more transactional types of keywords, using “phrase match” or “exact match” targeting (meaning you only want to pay for clicks from people searching those exact terms”). Google will try to push you towards “broad” targeting, but this will typically results in worse results becuase it will include people searching for “solar panels”, which doesn’t express an intent to buy soon, or “solar panels for sailing boat” which is likely not the kind of business you’re looking for.
Facebook Ads allow you to target people who have expressed some interest in solar panels, but aren’t necessarily looking into it right now. They’re looking to see photos of family, or message their friends. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be an effective place to get more leads.
On Facebook, you can experiment with targeting people at different stages of the sales cycle of buying solar. You can focus on “product aware” people who are shopping around on price, or quality of different components. For these people, having a picture of a specific high quality inverter brand, plus the kWp and cost of the system could work very well to generate high quality leads. That’s as long as your pricing and offer is competitive of course.
You can also target people at an earlier stage, for example by helping them calculate ROI of buying solar, or allowing them to check if they qualify for specific rebates, tax credits, financing, etc.
One of the advantages of Facebook over Google ads is that there is more room to be creative with your ads. Instead of a small couple of lines of text, you have the room to add multiple photos, videos, text, and different call to action buttons. That means you have the opportunity to compete against more established solar companies by having better ads.
This is a double edged sword however. Facebook ads more heavily rely on interesting creative triggering solar prospects to take an action, rather than simply being in the right place when they’ve already decided to check out solar. That means that you will likely find yourself needing to frequently update and refresh the creative of your ads so that they continue generating leads at a good cost.
Similar to with organic content, YouTube ads sit somewhere between Google Search Ads and Facebook Ads.
With YouTube ads you’re still interrupting people when they’re doing something else. However you are able to target based on which videos they’re watching or things they’ve recently searched on Google.
Obviously you can target people researching solar. But you can also try to develop a unique angle. For example, you could target people who are buying a Tesla, and create a video ad that talks about how getting solar will help them pay for the car quicker.
YouTube Ads Case Study: Australia
Relying on referrals, buying low quality ‘shared’ leads from list brokers. No reliable way to generate their own exclusive leads.
Reliably generating exclusive, high quality leads every day.
15x return on ad spend (revenue), with $90k in revenue in 60 days
Solar4Good is a relatively new solar company in the UK. The owners had experience in other markets, but were new to the UK. They didn’t have a clear picture of the hooks, offers, and marketing channels that would work well for generating UK solar leads.
Generating exclusive high quality UK solar leads daily.
8x return on ad spend (revenue), in initial 30 days
If you’d prefer to focus on your core business of solar installation, and not invest lots of resources in managing the process of generating online leads, then it can still be very profitable to simply buy solar leads from a solar lead generation company.
Here’s some questions to ask a solar lead generation company before you buy solar leads from them:
Are the leads PIN verified?
Are they checking that all the phone numbers being entered are real numbers? You want to have a way of knowing for sure if your sales reps aren’t making phone calls quickly enough, or if the phone numbers you’re getting aren’t even real. PIN verification solves this problem, although some people still enter their real phone number and then change their mind later.
Are they exclusive solar leads or shared?
This is an important one. Is the solar lead generation company selling the same lead to multiple installers? Or just you? People do often get multiple quotes anyway, so buying shared leads might not be the worst thing depending on your strategy. At Photonic Growth we prefer to sell exclusive leads.
Are they sent through instantly into your CRM? Or are they delayed somehow?
How quick you are to contact leads is criticly important. By having leads sent instantly into your CRM you can send SMS and email campaigns right away, track conversions, all that good stuff.
What offers are they seeing before they fill out their info?
It’s very easy to generate a lot of leads very cheaply by offering something a bit too good to be true, like the government buying them free solar panels. Make sure you understand the messaging that these solar prospects are seeing before their info is sold to you. If it’s not in alignment with what you’re able to actually offer, then it’s going to be an uphill battle to actually close sales.
Are the solar leads ‘blended’ from multiple sources?
As we’ve talked about above, Google Search leads tend to be higher quality but often more expensive. Some solar lead generation companies try to boost their margins by blending leads from multiple sources together.
I don’t believe this is a problem if it’s transparent, meaning that the orginal source is passed through to your CRM so you can track how well each source performs. Equally you might prefer to not have to think about that at all and simply buy leads that are all from the same source. So remeber to ask your solar lead generator about this!
Or if you’re interested in being able to have your own branded system for generating solar leads, we can help you get that set up.