My advertising colleague Scott Curry and I attended the largest solar conference and expo in the U.S. to learn more about companies in the solar power industry. We share a passion for sustainability and want to use our talents to grow businesses that care as much about the environment as we do. We saw a few large companies that have dominated the international market for many years. Their booths were larger, their advertising was corporate and their teams were experienced. Neither of us are particularly drawn to them, as we love challenger brands.
As we walked the floor it became painfully obvious that the rest of the solar power industry is filled with many entrepreneurs and small businesses fighting to get their share. While the products and services offered may be different, the marketing was awash with technical lingo, poor messaging and generic forms. Rarely did a company express itself in a manner that helped differentiate it from its competitors.
As I was biking home last night, I found myself thinking of what Scott and I discussed could help these companies. Here are three that surfaced often. Feel free to add your own.
1) Treat marketing as an investment, not an expense.
Bring in a communication expert to do your marketing. The same precision for developing your brilliant and often highly technical product needs to be applied to marketing. It takes a lot of knowledge, creativity and service to develop a strategic marketing plan that will build your company. And it also takes smart people to execute the plan tactically. When done right, marketing will pay itself back, and then some.
2) Figure out who your target customer is.
And design your marketing messages for that group. You sell solar paneling differently to a builder than you do directly to a consumer and all your marketing materials should reflect that. If you market to both, that’s even better. But make sure your collateral, messaging and imagery reflect what motivates each of those groups.
3) Talk to the media.
The economy, the environment, the energy crisis. They are all big topics of conversation with media. When you see that your local paper or TV station has covered something that relates to your business, call, write or email them a response to their story. Not only that, but tell them another angle that happens to involves your business. Is it a story about the upcoming increase in electric bills due to winter months? Write them and tell them how one of your clients will see decreases in his/her electric bill because of solar power. Just maybe you’ll get your own story published.