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UnThink Solar
a div of Impress Labs
811 Sansome St
San Francisco, CA 94111
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Solar Fred's Top 5 Solar Marketing Wishes for 2011: Advocate and Take Risks


It’s been a little over a year since I wrote my “Solar Fred’s Top 10 Solar Marketing Wishes for 2010.”

Many of my 2010 solar marketing wishes did come true: I’m seeing more solar companies on Twitter and starting their own blog and e-newsletters, and there are certainly more positive solar stories in the media.

Of course, solar is not main stream yet, and fossil fuel lobbyists spent gobs and gobs of money in 2010 to keep it that way.  So, I hope that you and your solar company continue (or start) my 2010 marketing suggestions, and while you’re at it, you can add these 5 new marketing wishes (and benefits) for 2011:

1)    Make at least one damn solar video, please.  I just wrote a post about this, so I won’t go into any more tips here, photo:Flickr/i1suisseexcept to remind you to keep it entertaining, simple, visual, and educational. Also, anyone can do it in 2011, so what are you waiting for? Bottom line benefit: You visually reach out to the many consumers and business owners who have an increasingly short attentions span.

2)    Be prepared to defend solar. It’s a new Republican Congress, and despite their jingoistic cry for energy independence, what the 112th Congress means is “Drill, baby, drill” and “Mine, baby, mine,” and "Burn, baby, burn." Already, the new Congress closed down an energy independence committee. My wish is that you prepare for the inevitable attacks on clean energy by these coal and oil and gas loving politicians. Educate yourself about energy politics, and be prepared to answer those who say we only import solar, solar is too expensive, or that solar doesn’t create jobs in the U.S. Bottom line benefit: You become an energy authority and a leader, gaining respect from customers with an open mind.  

3)    Start a solar advocacy initiative.  Last year, I proposed several solar initiatives on this very blog. I called for giving away solar panels to the White House, making April National Solar Quote Month, and joining a campaign against Proposition 23. All were successful for their solar advocacy goals, and they were also successful promotions for the companies who courageously participated, most notably, Sungevity with the White House "Globama" campaign. Bottom line benefit: Solar advocacy campaigns build your brand and your trust with solar customers. Create your own local or national solar advocacy campaign this year.

4)    Become a solar guerilla marketer. Take risks.  However you decide to market your solar company in 2011, I beg you to give yourself or your marketing department the creative freedom (and financial resources) to take bold creative risks. Here’s a 2010 post about the basics of solar guerilla marketing. At least one company took me up on my suggestions and showed me their solar flash mob efforts. I loved it. Please join them in your own creative way. Bottom line benefit: Not only do you get brand awareness and possible media attention, you and your staff will have fun and be inspired to keep finding new ways to stand out and educate.

5)    Find your own original marketing voice.  I have to say that most current solar marketing bores the hell out of me. Your grassy, sunny, sunflowery web themes and dry technical descriptions make you look and feel like cold, uniform, solar widgets. I don’t care if you’re marketing to a utility, to a solar installer, or to the family down the block. Be different. It’s okay to be funny or outrageous. It’s okay to use colloquial language. It’s okay to twist the sun and the grass and the solar panel into something that reflects your unique perspective of the world. Bottom line benefit: Customers will remember you, feel less confused, and pick you out of a six-pack of boring solar brochures (or web sites).    

2010 is over, and it was one of the best years ever for solar, in terms of installations. Yet the United States is still in the early adopter stage and solar has many doubters and enemies. As marketers, it’s up to us to stretch farther in 2011 and to inspire customers (and policy makers) ….to UnThink Solar.

Tor Valenza a.k.a. “Solar Fred” advises solar companies on marketing, communications, and public relations. Contact him through UnThink Solar or follow him on Twitter @SolarFred.

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