Selling solar is tough these days. Traditional solar sales tactics like knocking on doors or buying leads from telemarketers just don’t work as well as they used to. That’s for a couple reasons.
First, consumers are harder to sell. In a more competitive market filled with stories of solar scams, homeowners are less and less likely to go with the first solar company that contacts them. Potential buyers want time to do their own research before committing to solar and to an installer they can trust.
Second, like everyone else in the Age of Information Overload, where the average American can see 3,000 marketing messages a day, potential solar buyers have less tolerance for being interrupted by high-pressure sales tactics.
Solar sales is broken. That’s why many solar companies and sales reps want to start reaching homeowners online. In particular, they want to start generating their own solar sales leads.
And the way to do that is online, through a website. But of course, you need to have your own website first. And not everybody does.
- A smaller solar installer may not have a website at all. Instead, they may use Facebook as their online HQ, a risky strategy that puts all their marketing eggs in somebody else’s basket.
- A sales rep for a national installer may get assigned a profile page on the company website. But that isn’t set up to send leads to the sales rep, only to the company itself.
Whatever the situation, few startup solar companies are set up to generate their own leads on the Internet. To help them get started, here I’ll present three ways to set up a website that will be ready to generate solar leads online.
Smaller solar companies can use the web to effectively challenge the big established national installers. And while I’m pretty sure that the top national installers have spent tens of thousands of dollars to build and maintain their beautiful websites, a solar startup can get a powerful web presence for much less if they’re smart about it.
If you’re comfortable with basic computing tasks like word processing or photo management, then you may just consider an off-the-shelf Do It Yourself (DIY) website builder. If you’re willing to forgo a custom design, you’ll find that the better versions of this service including SquareSpace and Weebly offer dozens of templates with a contemporary, minimalist look and user interface that lets you get started quickly. Most DIY website builders don’t charge any initial fee and monthly fees start at about $20 per month including hosting, which makes them even more affordable.
The downside is that such services are limited in terms of what functions you can add to your site. SquareSpace is all set to offer e-commerce, but how many solar companies sell things online? And if you ever outgrow these services and decide to go with a custom website, you can take your content but to build your site you’ll have to start over. And while these services do offer some tech support, the low price means that you’ll be doing most of the work yourself. Finally, DIY site builders are meant for a variety of small businesses, from coffee shops to welding shops, and they don’t have any special features or offer any marketing help for solar installers in particular.
If you’re a little more tech savvy and have the time to build your own site, you can’t do better than using the world’s most popular system for building websites today, WordPress. This open-source content management system (CMS) will give you a lot more flexibility and control than a website builder like SquareSpace or Weebly. A company called Automattic offers a service at WordPress.com for free websites with the option to add on paid features for more functionality.
And if you’re a lot more savvy, then getting your own hosting with a WordPress installation that you control will allow you to add such functionality as photo galleries or custom contact forms through plugins. Despite the company’s goofy name, GoDaddy’s Managed WordPress Hosting offers serious hosting optimized for WordPress that’s both fast and secure at about $80 per year.
WordPress is free and so is much of the software available to enhance it. But many of the most useful Wordpress software components and services come with a cost. Building a WordPress site yourself that’s good enough to generate leads online could cost you $1,000 or more for hosting, security, software, and subscriptions to services alone. And that’s not counting time for you or a colleague to put everything together.
If DIY isn’t for you — for example, you don’t have the time or skills to build a website on your own — you might like to get some help.
If you’re on a budget, a very inexpensive local web designer might charge $1,000 or even less to build a new website for your company. Most local web companies don’t specialize in the solar industry. They just take whatever business comes their way in the nearby area, whether it’s a coffee shop, a dentist’s office or a law firm. Or your solar company.
Many local web designers do good work. And you don’t need a web designer that specializes in solar companies as long as you’re willing to educate your web team on what solar companies need. This article on brilliant solar websites can help you give useful instructions to a web designer not familiar with the solar industry. And this article on costly web design mistakes can help you avoid wasting your money on a site you won’t be happy with.
Quality doesn’t come cheap. To get a website with the best technology, mobile-friendly design, a contemporary look necessary for credibility, adequate security to protect against hackers and spammers and a site architecture organized to get and keep your audience online, you’ll probably have to pay $3,000 or more.
The Curren Group does specialize in the solar industry and we know exactly what solar companies need on their websites to build traffic and convert visitors into sales leads. Our solar website packages start at around $3,500.
— Erik Curren, Curren Media Group