Solar Customer Engagement with Content Marketing
Inside this Article
A well-designed content marketing strategy—supported by a robust customer relationship management (CRM) system—builds connections with prospects, engages visitors to your website, educates customers about products and services, establishes your brand as the industry expert and develops qualified leads.
In this article, we give you a bird’s-eye view of content marketing, including developing a marketing plan, identifying topics that interest your audience, and getting your message out to prospects and current customers. We also discuss creating a business plan and how a content marketing strategy can help you attain your company’s goals. Finally, we explain how CRM platforms support your content marketing strategy and streamline marketing and sales efforts.
Content Marketing Overview
According to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), “Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience—and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” (See Resources.) Note that CMI specifies that content needs to be valuable and relevant—and the audience needs to be clearly defined. Rather than simply push your products or services, as with traditional marketing copy, with content marketing you seek to educate current and potential customers, as well as meet their needs for information. (See “Solar Marketing in the Digital Age,” SolarPro, March/April 2016.)
Market research. Before you get started, though, you need to know your audience. Any content marketing plan must take into account current customers and the target market. That starts with market research. The goal is to develop at least a few customer personas that identify key demographics such as gender, marital status, income level and homeownership. How many of your current customers are looking to upgrade their PV systems? How many homeowners in your area are interested in solar but think it is too expensive? There are several ways to get this information, such as emailing surveys to purchased lead lists, adding a survey to your website’s home page or even calling current customers and asking them directly.
Unless you have a marketing department, you may want to consider hiring a content management firm. Look for one in your local region to get the best value for your money; if possible, find a firm that specializes in solar. According to content marketing firm Captains of Industry, which focuses on the solar market in Massachusetts, “Understanding your customers’ beliefs and desires, locally, is an essential first step that will lead toward creating your key message.” (See Resources for “5 Ways Solar Energy Companies Can Crush It with Their Marketing.”) The key message that drives your content marketing efforts should focus on the expertise and value your company offers. You want to set yourself up as the solar expert in your market.
What is good content? The principals at ThinkShift, a content marketing firm that specializes in sustainable businesses, have identified five essential elements to good content: insight (it offers lessons from experience, case studies, research and so on), consumability (it is well written and designed), credibility (it is accurate and well supported), generosity (it can help readers achieve their goals) and, finally, freshness and creativity. (See Resources.) If you do not have access to skilled writers, you may want to work with a content marketing or editorial services firm that does.
The content we refer to can include email newsletters, blogs, research reports, tweets and Facebook posts, video product overviews, case studies, interviews with satisfied customers—practically anything that your target customers could find useful. Blogging is an important element of content marketing. The key to blogging is providing content that your prospects want to know about, or, even better, writing content that engages your prospects on topics they did not know were important.
With your customer personas and selling proposition in mind, you can focus on picking topics for your content marketing program that help prospects move through your marketing and sales funnel. We recommend focusing on educational topics, industry trends and consumer interest topics. Educational topics and industry trends show that you are knowledgeable about the most current technologies, while consumer interest topics help build your credibility. A comparison of thin-film versus crystalline silicon modules could serve as a good educational topic, for example, while a consumer interest topic might focus on how to improve a home’s energy efficiency.
Getting the word out. How do you get your high-quality, relevant content to potential customers? In addition to ensuring that your content is highly engaging—and hence likely to be shared with others on social media, or even picked up by other websites—you can take a proactive approach. Email marketing to lists of targeted leads can be an effective strategy. For example, when you publish a blog post on a topic that’s of particular interest to your target customers, you could send an excerpt to an email list, with a “read more” link to your website. Social media can also be an effective tool: Use your company’s Twitter account and Facebook page to send out teasers. Taking advantage of multiple communication points increases your credibility and positions you as a resourceful expert.