Using solar system monitoring to improve customer acquisition

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With the PV system installation market becoming increasingly competitive, installers are searching for a business advantage and shifting their focus to customer acquisition.

A new metric for business competitiveness, customer acquisition costs, may have increased following the feed-in tariff reduction in early 2016 and became one of the larger portions of installation costs.  So, how can installers fight this trend and make their customer acquisition more efficient?

Let’s look at a basic marketing funnel. Prospective customers engage at the top of the funnel, journey through, and then become buying customers at the bottom. Here we will take a look at leveraging advanced monitoring technologies to widen the marketing funnel, communicate advanced technology, improve service, and “simulate a test drive,” for customers.

Using system monitoring as a visualisation of system benefits can potentially help widen the marketing funnel, increase traffic, optimise customer acquisition costs, and boost sales.

Casting a wider net

Many installers note that the referral business is the lowest cost of customer acquisition. The sales benefit of former customers becoming advocates and influencers is well known in the industry. Many installation companies offer referral bonuses to customers in order to increase sales.

However, by leveraging sharing on social media platforms, installers have the opportunity to boost referrals further.  As more system owners proudly share their PV system photos and monitoring screenshots to their networks on social media platforms, the marketing funnel widens, reaching exponentially larger audiences.

Since homeowners typically do not handle PV panels or push inverter buttons, their main experience of owning a solar energy system comes in the form of lower electricity bills and PV monitoring. PV systems that include monitoring applications for smartphones offer homeowners the means to interact with their systems and create referrals for installers.

When installers put monitoring in the homeowner’s hands, they gain confidence in their system performance and are motivated to share it on messaging apps, email, Facebook, and Twitter. With many monitoring applications, homeowners can share this information with the click of a button.

Know your audience

Sales teams take note of a new type of buyer in the PV market: the educated buyer. Today, many homeowners are researching technologies online and have the opportunity to receive quotes from multiple installers before a salesperson can get a foot in the door. It is no longer enough to tell them that they will save a certain percentage on their electricity bill – they know that already. 

Many homeowners are making decisions on systems that they intend to own outright. What was traditionally thought of as the top of the funnel has moved further into the sales process. This can be an advantage for sales people as more homeowners are self-qualifying.

But the traditional sales pitch won’t work with these homeowners. Today, more prospective homeowners want to know about options like enhanced energy production, improved safety features, monitoring, and battery integration. Buyers want to better understand their investment and are looking for any advantage to boost their payback.

Monitoring gives them the confidence that they can validate their system’s performance on a day to day basis. It shows how these elements are all connected with energy generated from PV being distributed into their battery or their electric vehicles. To improve early stage conversions, be prepared for more technical discussions with these homeowners and be ready to show how monitoring enables them to validate performance on a day to day basis. 

Service sells the second system

Service is an important aspect for a B2B company and this holds true for many B2C sales. During the sales process, many homeowners will take to online review sites to research their installers and to read the reviews as an important part of the decision-making process. Great reviews are like gold, and one of the best ways to generate this kind of support is to make sure that current system owners are content with their systems and level of service. Installers can provide superior service by using monitoring platforms that provide automatic alerts and remote monitoring for higher system uptime. This allows installers to provide proactive maintenance before a system owner even experiences a problem. Imagine the impact of a proactive service call on a homeowner and consider the boost that this practice would give to a company’s quality and service record.  

The importance of a test drive

Most people would not buy a car without test driving it first. The test drive can also be one of the more enjoyable experiences of purchasing a car – it is when emotions take over and people get excited about their future ownership. It is a key part in closing customers at the end of the funnel. But how do you take someone for a test drive in a PV system?

The answer is to focus on the experience. System owners experience their system through lower bills and monitoring. Monitoring services offer a window into the benefits of a PV system. By using monitoring, salespeople can use their smartphones to demonstrate financial savings, energy production, and environmental benefits.

In addition, by selecting a few systems with different hardware, salespeople can also offer options packages. Imagine the impact of comparing a basic system with a system that includes home consumption metering to see whole home energy usage or a system with an integrated battery – all from your smartphone!

By selling the experience of monitoring, especially when selling system upgrades, salespeople can provide system owners with the option to “test drive” a new PV system. Homeowners can download a version of the monitoring platform and see system performance from demo accounts as well. And the monitoring applications are free, meaning that these services can be used at no cost and in scale. Customer acquisition is now a main target for UK installers and has become the focus for many profitable businesses.

By leveraging the features of monitoring to “simulate the test drive” installers can boost their referral business, demonstrate technology differentiation, improve service, and optimise their marketing funnel. By leveraging the power of advanced monitoring technologies, installers can improve the cost of customer acquisition, increase sales and grow their businesses.