We’ve been getting traffic to our website recently when people search on Google for “free solar leads.”
I’m glad to have the traffic, but getting it this way makes me a bit uncomfortable. Do the people doing these searches have unrealistic expectations?
Do they think there’s some website out there where you can download a PDF with homeowners who’ve somehow put themselves on the Free Solar Lead list?
Even in an overheated business like residential solar, nobody can forget the old saying that in business, there’s “no free lunch.”
Free Solar Leads Aren’t Really Free — But They’re Worth the Effort
So, first I need to give you the bad news. If you define “free” as no cost and no work, then there’s also no such thing as free solar leads.
Then, let me give you the good news. The best solar leads are not the ones you buy from someone else. They’re the ones you make yourself.
As another old saying goes, “the best things in life are free.”
That includes the water that falls from the sky and flows from the ground, as well as the air we breathe. And of course the sun that powers the solar industry and will help us save the U.S. economy and industrial civilization. That’s no cliché.
Nature provides its life-sustaining services all free of charge. And despite misguided attempts to put a price on such boons as clean air or water, in reality these things are so valuable that we can’t even calculate their value in dollars and cents.
To use yet another old saying, the gifts of nature are “pearls beyond price.”
And so is the trust of your customers. In the words of Paul McCartney, “Can’t Buy Me Love.”
But it seems that many solar installers must not be Beatles fans, because they just keep trying to obtain the love of homeowners through cash purchase. They buy ads. They buy trade show booths. They buy direct mail services.
And of course, solar installers buy leads. Lots and lots of leads. Residential solar companies can never get enough leads.
Unfortunately, most of those leads are, er, how shall I put this — crap?
Why are so many paid solar leads worth so little? Because the homeowner just isn’t that interested:
- He’s not interested in solar — he just got on your telemarketing company’s list somehow, maybe because he told a phone survey caller that he owns a Prius? Or maybe his neighbor recently had an array put on his roof?
- He’s not interested anymore — by the time you get it, the has been through the hands of four other solar installers and it’s old and cold. The homeowner has now retired, sold his house and moved into a condo in Miami Beach.
- He’s not interested in your company — your won’t-take-no-for-an-answer offshore telemarketer annoyed the homeowner so much that he’ll never forgive your particular company for hiring that particular telemarketer.
Paid Leads Worth Less than You Bought Them For
It’s no surprise that low-quality leads from uninterested homeowners convert at a low rate.
Even worse, crap leads tick off your salesforce, who has to make cold calls and pay visits to people who are never going to buy. Or at least not before you start to pay them to put up solar. And maybe not even then…
Speaking of crap, when you consider the variety of methods used by generation vendors to get the leads they sell to you, buying solar leads is a crapshoot at best. Some lead generators are effective. But others, less so.
Why is it that it now costs $3,000 on average to acquire a new customer for residential solar, according to GTM Research? And why does that cost just keep going up?
It’s not because homeowners are turned off by the rising cost of solar panels. Because solar panels are not rising in cost — and CleanTechnica estimates that the cost of solar will fall another 40% in the next two years.
And costs to close customers are also not rising because financing is getting tougher. Because it’s not. Financing is getting easier every day, thanks to the spread of solar leases, PPAs, community solar and other ways to make solar more affordable for homeowners.
So, you can’t blame high sales and marketing costs on lack of consumer interest. Homeowners are ready and able to buy solar now more than they ever were.
My theory on why it’s gotten so expensive to close a residential solar customer is that, as competition has increased, to stand out from the crowd, more installers have turned to shady marketing tactics like aggressive telemarketing.
That’s led to complaints by consumers, action against solar installers by regulators and even new legislation to control how solar companies can market their services.
And all the talk of “solar scams” has led to a loss of trust in the public. The public still loves solar. But they don’t love solar installers as much as they used to. And they hate solar telemarketers. Just do a YouTube search for “solar telemarketing” and you’ll find half a dozen videos of consumers tormenting cold callers trying to sell them solar. It almost will make you feel pity for the poor telemarketers. Almost.
As researcher William Hirshman has put it, in the minds of consumers, residential solar companies risk becoming the aluminum siding ripoff artists of our era, today’s Tin Men. Or as he also puts it, the Wolves of Solar Street.
It’s hard to close a solar prospect when the homeowner isn’t open to your pitch because the way you got his number lost his trust. A far better way for solar installers to make more sales is to build trust among homeowners. That will yield better sales leads.
And the good news is that, yes, the best leads aren’t for sale. You generate them yourself and you use them for your own company. In that sense, these are free solar leads.
But high quality leads don’t just fall out of the sky, like the rain or the sun.
No, you have to earn these free solar leads. And that’s part of what makes them so valuable. Once you do the work to get them, they’re yours exclusively. You don’t have to share these leads with other solar installers.
Fortunately, there’s a well established way to make your own free solar leads. It happens mostly online. And it’s called inbound marketing. That’s when you attract a customer to your website instead of using “outbound” methods like cold calls to try to reach out to the customer.
To help you get started, the Curren Group has created a page of resources on solar inbound marketing. There you’ll find all sorts of advice and tips and resources to help you earn free solar leads that no amount of money can buy.
Solar inbound marketing will provide the best leads, but it will take time to really kick in. So, in the meantime, you still need to sell installations, right? That’s why we also recommend places you can buy leads that also use inbound marketing.
Check out our Solar Sales Lead Generation page and get started today building the trust with solar buyers that will help you kick the habit of buying crap solar leads.
To end with a final cliché, you’ll make more sales if your solar leads are more about quality not quantity.
— Erik Curren, Curren Media Group