Want to sell solar? Lead your marketing efforts with “controlling energy costs,” not “save the planet.”
Our Energy Pulse™ 2012 research indicates that solar generation (particularly solar leasing) is poised for growth. As consumers grapple with rising energy costs, we’re seeing an increasing desire for personal energy independence.
More than 30 percent of our respondents said they’d buy their own solar energy system even if it cost $30,000. And when respondents were presented with the option to lease rather than buy, the percentage jumped to 60 percent.
The 30 percent of respondents willing to pay up front for a solar system include our “True Believers” market segment – the 21.5 percent whose behaviors stem from a desire to do right by the environment. These consumers are also the likely market for a solar garden, a community-shared solar array with grid-connected subscribers. It’s an appealing concept. Last August, when Xcel Energy in Colorado opened its Solar*Rewards® Community Solar Garden to project developers, it sold out within 30 minutes.
But True Believers aren’t the whole market for residential solar power.
The 60 percent of our Energy Pulse 2012 respondents who said they would go solar under a lease option includes “Cautious Conservatives.” This 27-percent market group may not respond to – and may even be turned off by – words about saving the planet. But they definitely want to save money on their electric bills, and in many cases, they have the financial means to invest in doing so. In fact, with the advent of options like the PowerSaver Loan (backed by HUD funding), it’s easier than ever to get the cash needed for a purchase or a lease.
Companies like SolarCity in California (one of the leading residential solar installers in the U.S.) and the Vermont start-up SunCommon connect homeowners to leases that reduce or eliminate the upfront cost of installing solar power. Both note in their residential marketing messages that the monthly payments can be less than their utility bills. Hitting the sweet spot for the key market segment, the four most prominent words on SunCommon’s home page are “Save Money. Go Solar.”
Both companies design solar power systems appropriate for the homeowner, pick the right equipment and arrange for installation. (Our research shows that comfort and convenience are essential for engaging Cautious Conservatives.)
According to the most recent figures from the Solar Energy Industries Association, the average cost of a completed photovoltaic system dropped by a third between the third quarter of 2011 and 2012.
Meanwhile, the U.S. residential market had its best quarter ever in the third quarter of 2012, with 119 megawatts installed nationwide. With California and Arizona leading the nation in residential solar capacity – followed by (in order) Hawaii, New Jersey, Colorado and Massachusetts – residential solar power markets offer significant opportunities, especially in states where solar installations are just getting started.
To take advantage of these opportunities, remember that while both of the best target segments for solar like the idea of saving money, that’s a shallow call-out that everyone is making. A more successful messaging strategy will target one or the other (specifically) and touch upon their deeper motivations.