Is email marketing useful for rooftop solar lead generation?

Solar PV installation projects are done on a wide variety of scales.

  1. Utility scale solar farms – with capacities in the range of few hundred MW to GW.
  2. Industrial rooftop solar projects – few hundred kW to MW range.
  3. Commercial / residential rooftop solar installation projects – the smallest projects, for installing solar panels on rooftops of commercial and residential buildings.

The residential and commercial rooftop solar projects are smallest in size, require less capital and much lower risks. Naturally, most new solar EPC businesses start their operations doing this type of projects.

High competition

Given the low capital requirements and low risks in starting a residential rooftop solar installation business, many entrepreneurs have flocked to this space in recent years.

This has given way to intense competition in the residential (and commercial) rooftop solar EPC space. In turn, this competition has put a lot of pressure on the profit margins of these businesses.

The need to be innovative and cost effective

All other things remaining the same, success of a rooftop solar business in this space largely depends on two things –

  1. How cost effective are your operations? So that you can manage with the shrinking profit margins
  2. What is your customer acquisition cost? So that you can have better margins than your competitors

For multiple strong reasons, online marketing proves to be very cost effective compared to other traditional lead generation channels. As a residential solar installer you can count on following channels to keep on providing you leads at very low cost –

  • Search engine optimization, optimize your website for localized searches of ‘solar PV installation’ services
  • Business directory listings – for example, Indiamart, JustDial etc.
  • Strong presence on Google searches – update the details of your business on Google Maps, Google My Business, Youtube etc.
  • Post about your successful projects on facebook, youtube, twitter.
  • Blog about the value that your customers have received from your projects. Educate your potential customers about the effectiveness of solar energy, till they become your customers.

So where does email marketing fit in the rooftop solar business?

There are two very different ways to use email marketing for your rooftop solar business. Both of them target two very different groups of customers.

1. Cold email marketing for industrial / commercial rooftop solar

If you are after for industrial or commercial rooftop spaces, you are essentially targeting business owners. Cold emailing is a very well proven marketing tactic in the B2B space.

For this, you need to first start with a list of businesses in your area. Today, you have many online sources that you can use to build your target customer list – LinkedIn, Indiamart, JustDial, Google Maps etc.

Make a list of businesses who are likely to benefit from a solar PV installation project. Get the emails of their owners and managers.

Next, create an email campaign to educate these business owners of the value of a solar PV installation in their facilities. Talk about the scale of investment, payback period on their investment, your past experiences, successful project execution etc.

But don’t cram everything into one single email. Create a series of emails talking about different things. Keep each email under 10 lines. Almost no one reads lengthy, article like emails. Keep them simple, most people would just spend a few seconds looking at your email. They should get the gist of it, at the first glance.

Once you write the content for your series of cold emails, sign up for a cold email automation app. Cold email marketing can ensure that more than 50-60% of your emails get opened, whereas bulk email tools like MailChimp only give you 12-15% opening rates.

Remember that the goal of this email campaign is to drive curiosity and generate leads. Link all the emails back to your website where your readers can come and request for a quotation – that is the ultimate goal of your lead generation campaign. Once you get the request for a quote, your sales team can take it from there.

2. Newsletters to build following for your business

On the other hand, if you are going after residential rooftop installation projects, you are targeting the house owners and building societies. These are smaller projects compared to the industrial rooftop installations.

So your approach needs to be more of B2C marketing and newsletters are known to be quite effective for B2C marketing.

Building a mailing list for your newsletters is quite different from the list of businesses for cold emails. First of all, your target market is too wide to create a list of everyone’s email address. You would want to narrow it down to only the people who are actually interested in your offering. Secondly, you don’t want to send too many cold emails to thousands of strangers without their permission. That counts as spamming. Again you would want to narrow down your mailing list to only the people who are interested to know about your solar installation services.

So how do you build a mailing list for these newsletters?

You should ask your website visitors to sign up for your newsletters. You can give them incentive that they can expect discounts, offers, technical articles, updates about new products etc. in your newsletters.

The best way to get a website visitor’s email address is to ask for it on their ‘exit intent’.

Once you start building the newsletter mailing list, next you should think about the content for your newsletters. Again, the emphasis should be on educating your readers. Most people will sign up for the newsletter because they are curious about the whole solar PV thing. If you only keep talking about your company and your products, you will soon lose their interest.

The last part is about finding the best emailing tool for your newsletters. You can choose to go with a newsletter tool like mailchimp which sends thousands of emails simultaneously. But only 12-15% of those emails get opened on average. OR you can go with a cold email automation tool, which sends a lower number of emails (50-100) per day. But you get much higher opening rate in this case. For example, Fuzen’s cold email automation tool can boost your email opening rate by 3-5 times. It is a simpler and 10X cheaper alternative to tools like mailshake / woodpecker.

This method will start slow. But if you keep on writing good content on the website and in your newsletters, you can develop substantial following of your business in no time.

Cold emails Vs cold calls

Many SMEs in the residential solar space wonder if it is better to collect phone numbers on their websites instead of emails.

We recommend, you collect both. But you can use emails much more frequently without annoying a potential customer. For example, you can send 2-3 newsletter emails in a month and no one would block you. But if you make 2-3 cold calls in a month, you would almost surely get blocked.

And cold emails / newsletters costs so little, that they should be ALWAYS done. You can do the cold calling campaigns on top of that.

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