Here at Aurora, we’re constantly thinking about how we can help you be more successful in selling solar installations. We retained Katherine Glass, founder of SpringMark and an expert in helping companies create their marketing and branding strategy, to offer some insights for solar companies. Katherine spent seven years at Lippincott where she worked on branding strategy for companies like Delta, Petco, and Starbucks. Four years ago, she launched her own firm, SpringMark, which works with young companies on creating, developing, and launching a cohesive and powerful brand.
We are excited to share what we learned with you in the form of a three-part series. This is the second of two articles from our interview with Katherine on what solar contracting companies should know about branding (check out the first one here!). The third provides actionable tips on how you can make your solar sales proposals more compelling.
What are the 3 biggest pieces of advice you give to your clients?
1) The biggest piece of advice is to clearly identify your brand objective. Every company is going to need to address different parts of their brand at different times. At the beginning, it’s all about building awareness. You’d rather have someone misunderstand who you are than not know who you are at all, because you’ve got to get your name out there.
As you grow, your objective might change to clarifying who you are, and getting everyone onboard with exactly what makes you special or different. Then, at some point, it’ll change to actually making sales and it’s all about driving revenue.
Stop to do a competitive audit and look at who else is out there. What are they communicating about themselves? What are they offering? Where do you stand relative to them?
2) Second, always look at the competition on a regular basis. A lot of companies when they first start out, they’ll take a little bit of a look around and see who else is out there, but then they dive into their own world. After a while, it’s hard for them to get their heads out of the sand.
On a regular basis – whether that’s once a month, every six months, or once a year, depending on how quickly the industry changes – stop to do a competitive audit and look at who else is out there. What are they communicating about themselves? What are they offering? Where do you stand relative to them?
You need to be constantly going out there and talking to your clients… and reflecting on how their needs are changing.
3) Finally, always get customer feedback. When companies start out they’ll do some initial consumer testing, make sure people are understanding their product, etc. They’ll set it up once and think it’s done.
But the reality is you’re always getting new customers, and technology, expectations, and your product are always changing. You need to be constantly going out there and talking to your clients or customers and reflecting on how their needs are changing.
How else can consistent branding be applied?
As you become a bigger organization, constantly checking in and reminding your team of the importance of being consistent with your branding across the company is key. It’s easy to set up a brand the first time, have your templates in place, have your business cards, have your website and then you think you’re done. The reality is that’s just one small piece of building your brand.
Whether it’s every six months, once a year, or even more frequently, communicating with your company what your core values are, who you want to be, and how you want people to think about you will help your employees rise to the occasion. They’ll start to internalize that and reflect it back.
…make sure the way your company runs and what customers see are one and the same.
I think the internal brand (aka employee culture) really has to match your external brand. If you’re claiming to have the best customer service, then you need to treat your employees that way too. If you’re claiming to be the fastest to install, then you need to hire people that are able to work efficiently and have efficient protocols and processes in place.
Build both your internal and external brand from the same root; make sure the way your company runs and what customers see are one and the same.
We hope Katherine’s branding advice — clearly identifying your brand objective, paying attention to the competition, getting regular customer feedback, and ensuring consistency in your internal and external brand — can help take your company to the next level.
As the solar market becomes increasingly crowded, attention to branding and marketing can help your company stand out from the competition. Whether it’s offering a unique sales experience through solar design centers, or approaching solar from a roofing perspective, differentiating your brand can have a big payoff.
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