Solar Buyer Personas: How to Profile Your Ideal PV Customers?

Marketing for solar panel installation will be more effective if when you begin in the very first step of the procedure: building buyer personas!

Running a solar business is not easy. Solar panel installation companies in most places often heavily rely on government’s incentive programs, which results in the term “solar rollercoaster” (or, the “solar coaster”).

the stock prices of 4 well known solar brands went up and down like rollercoaster rides
“solar rollercoaster ride” can be visually reflected by the stock prices of some well known solar brands

For installers, another big challenge is marketing in the age of the Internet. With its broad scope and ever-changing trends and confusing acronyms, digital marketing seems mysterious and complicated. Trying to figure out the infallible marketing code will only provide you with a headache.

But just because it looks challenging doesn’t mean you should solely rely on outbound salesforce. Marketing for solar panel installation would be much more effective and easy to understand— but only when you begin in the very first step of the procedure: identifying your solar buyer personas.

What is a buyer persona, anyway?

Simply put, a “buyer persona” refers to a single character profile that represents their demographics and observed buying behavior patterns of your ideal customers. Usually, a buyer persona is based on data, research, and interviews from real customers, but sometimes, a marketer uses a bit of imagination to flesh out the buyer persona character. Since there are an almost unlimited amount of details you can attach to each buyer persona, it would completely drive you nuts if you’re going too deep, which is why I’m recommending Minimum Viable Buyer Persona (MVBP, for short).

Just like the MVP defined in the Lean Startup methodology, a Minimum Viable Buyer Persona to catch only the essences of each Buyer Persona. They obviously aren’t perfect yet, so you move fast: get a draft and keep improving them as well you.

Why are solar buyer personas important for digital marketing?

The primary aim of building buyer personas is to help everybody in a solar company — particularly in the marketing, sales, and product development departments — visualize the customers as real humans and internalize the ideal customer that you’re trying to attract.

It helps you decide where to spend your marketing budget

Potential customers now have several options on where to get a solar installation, and for you to stand out from the competition, it’s imperative that you show them that you’re a better fit — that you understand the customers’ needs better, sympathize with their pain points, and most importantly, that you can offer better solutions.

And you can only achieve that when you actually have a clear grasp on your ideal customer’s style, general interests, where they get their solar information from, and how they like to receive it. And when you have a clear grasp, that’s when you can catch solar leads through your online marketing efforts, which can lead to more customers.

It helps to tailor your messages for each type of customers

In other words, understanding your buyer persona is important to driving content creation, product development, sales follow-up, and basically, anything that is related to customer acquisition and retention. Let face it, the buyer personas of utility solar, residential rooftop solar and community solar are drastically different. So you need to try your best to tailor your selling points to each buyer persona.

To summarize, your solar buyer personas help increase your return on investment. They are so crucial that in every marketing strategy, you always should begin with this. As you may have realized, the solar market right now is getting more competitive.

How to create a solar buyer persona

Know the definition of buyer persona? Check.

Know its significance in marketing? Check.

Know what a minimum viable buyer persona is and its pros and cons? Check.

Well, if that’s the case, then it’s time to get into the most important section of this article — the section you’re most looking forward to: the step-by-step guide on how to create your very own buyer persona for your solar company.

Step 1: Prepare all the tools

Just like every other research-based endeavor, creating a solar buyer persona begins first by preparing all the tools that you will need. After all, it’s just more time-efficient to have all the tools in place instead of scrambling for them as the procedure goes on.

In marketing, there are plenty of tools you can find on the web that will definitely help you in constructing a buyer persona. But realistically, not everyone would have the budget to pay for these tools. So here’re the most useful free tools.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics should be the first thing that you have on your website, and if you don’t have it set up yet, then you better do this quickly, because it’s free…. and easy to install. You can easily find a tutorial video on YouTube.

Essentially, Google Analytics is a web analytics service offered by Google that tracks and reports website traffic. It uses a small piece of Javascript tracking code to collect data about your website visitors and their interactions on your website, so you can get a good look at your potential audience and customers. And that is such a big help for your company.

If you’re unfamiliar with Google Analytics looks, the above image shows you the crucial attributes of your website visitors such as demographics and geolocation.

HubSpot (Make My Persona)

HubSpot’s Make My Persona is another free marketing tool that you can use in creating a buyer persona, and it’s a fun one because it literally helps you build a buyer persona from scratch.

Basically, how it works is that it walks you through each step of making a buyer persona and then makes the entire process interactive as you answer the questions right then and there. You get to pick an avatar for your persona! A name! A backstory! It’s so fun!

UserForge

Don’t like HubSpot? Then no worries because you have an alternate choice: UserForge (and yes, it’s free too!).

Just like HubSpot, UserForge’s main purpose is to help you create a buyer persona by walking you step by step in its process. Its interface is not as colorful as HubSpot’s is, but you might find UserForge’s way of creating buyer personas better. Why don’t you try it out for yourself?

Alexa.com

If you notice that some of your competitors are just simply killing it on digital marketing and you want to inspect their website so that you’ll learn the secret yourself, then all you have to do is to hop into Alexa and type in your competitor’s website. And voila! Alexa’s competitor analysis feature would give you a great picture of the traffic sources, best-performing pages, and demographics of your competitor’s website! It’s so easy and incredibly useful!

Alexa is not free. That is why only consider subscribing to Alexa.com if you actually have the budget to do so.

Like what was mentioned earlier, there are still so many marketing tools out there. If you don’t like these 4 tools, you can still check Content Harmony’s list of buyer persona building tools that are actually useful. You might actually find one there to your liking.

Step 2: Research, research, RESEARCH!

Now that you have gathered all the tools that you need, time to activate your researching mode. And you better be hydrated and well-energized because researching is the most demanding and exhausting step of them all.

Where to look

  • Search on the Internet: Google phrases like “solar consumer reports”, “solar buyers study”, “solar customers white pages”. Read them before even discussing with the team.
  • Check tools like Google Analytics and Alex.com: Remember the tools I mentioned?
  • Study your existing customers in your CRM: Okay, you don’t actually have to track them down like some sort of creepy stalker. Just use the good old fashioned Google search: visit a recent customer’s profile on, say, LinkedIn and browse through it. Find as much information as you can that answers your questions. If time permitted, you can get out of the office and actually talk to them — find out who they are, what makes them tick, and what is important to them.
  • Ask your colleague: The easiest thing you can do first in this step is to start asking the questions you’ve prepared to a small group of people in your company who actually have knowledge about your users and ideally have had direct contact with them. This means that the people you have to consult first would be people from Salesforce or support team.

What are you trying to find out?

Your salesforce or support team can not only shed light on specific details about your buyers but also identify key demographic trends of personas along with their preferred engagement channels. You have to prepare the right questions in order for your buyer persona to be successful.

Some of the basic questions to prepare to include:

  • If you were to categorize all our customers based on buying patterns such as commercial solar, rooftop solar and community solar, how many groups would there be?
  • For XXX group,  what is the age of your buyer(s)? Gender? Geolocation?
  • What are their buying patterns?
  • What educational or occupational backgrounds do they have?
  • What are their personal interests?

Other questions that you have to prepare are:

  • What are their responsibilities?
  • What are their goals and aspirations?
  • How are they evaluated or measured?
  • Whom do they report to?
  • Who reports to them?
  • What tools do they use?
  • What are their pain points?
  • What are their “buyer resistance” points? Is it the price? Or reliability? Or schedule? Others?
  • What social media platforms do they like to use?
  • What websites do they like to visit?

By preparing the questions beforehand, you are making the process of creating a solar buyer persona a whole lot less grueling. The point is: simply spend some time to research your users, enough for you to be able to get at least some idea of how many types can you group them.

Step 3: Agree upon user groups

Once you’re done with all the homework in Step 2, the next thing you have to accomplish is to identify and agree upon user groups–each user group represent a buyer persona.

When identifying your user groups, keep in mind to look for behavioral similarities instead of demographic ones. This is because it is easier to cover a group of users with just one persona when the group shares a similar behavior with each other.

After you have identified your user groups, discuss it amongst your team members and identify which of these user groups you consider to be the “key” ones — the ones you’re prioritizing to attract — since you will likely be focusing on these first.

Step 4: Create a minimum viable buyer persona for each group.

Now it’s time for the fun part: creating the minimum viable buyer personas!

Like what was said earlier, MVBPs simply contain the information that is good enough to help you achieve what you need to achieve, so using the information and knowledge that you’ve gathered during the research phase.

Start first with the key information for each persona, and this key information includes the following:

  • Goals: what are they trying to achieve?
  • Background: who are they? What is their backstory?
  • Needs: what matters the most to them?
  • Behaviours: what sort of a relationship with the product would they like?
  • Frustrations: what are their pain points?

Since the persona is a fictional character that you based on a group of users, you might have to resort to making assumptions sometimes, and that is totally fine. Just make sure to test those assumptions when the time comes. If not, then you are potentially designing against false premises.

After you’ve filled the key information, it will be a good idea to throw in a few more details that might turn out to be helpful in the end. These additional details can be:

  • Name and photo: adding a name and a photo (try to avoid stock photo) is integral so as to humanize your persona. By having a name and a photo attached to a persona, it will make you visualize them as if they’re real, living human beings.
  • Psychographic attributes: in other words, the characteristics of the persona. In a way, it serves to create a stereotype. A few examples:
    • Social media behavior offline or online/social media preferences
    • Favorite industry sites
    • Personality type
    • How long they take to buy
    • Spender or saver?
    • Someone who shares or someone who hoards?
    • Cultural preferences (music, movies, books, etc.)?
    • Activity preferences (hiking, walking, eating out, reading, etc.)?
  • Demographic identifiers: some of a few examples are:
    • Age
    • Gender
    • Degree
    • Salary range
    • Geographic location
    • Marital/family status
  • Their “buyer resistance points”: what are their major deal killers when buying from you? A few of the common examples are:
    • High upfront cost
    • Poor perceived quality
    • Not a good personality fit
    • Not established enough
  • Their quote: the kind of statement they would make that would define their point of view.

Step 5: Report.  

One more time, discuss among your team members the personas you have just created. That way, if there’s a persona that needs some more fine-tuning, then it will be done right quickly. Put the information into HubSpot’s Make My Persona, you can create something like this:

Bruce-Factory-CEO

By the time all the personas have received the approval of everyone, then it’s time to put them to use.

Solar Buyer Persona Examples

By now you must be wondering just how exactly a solar buyer persona looks like. To answer your question, here are two examples that might help you in your process of making your own.

Community Solar Buyer Persona Example

Geolocation: suburban area in Texas

Age: early 30s to early 50s

Gender: female

Advanced degrees: High school

Motivation: saving energy and money; concerns over global warming

Influences: the economy and pressure to do more with less, company management

Frustration: High electricity bill

Quote: “We’re tired of having to choose between paying the bills and having food on the table. We want to save money on bills, so we can have more savings or more budget for leisure.”

Rooftop Solar Buyer Persona Example

Name: Ranch House Paul

Background: owns home for about 20 years in a suburban area in Texas.

Demographics: 45 years old, married, 4 kids getting ready for college, annual family income of $90,000

Identifiers: socially liberal but fiscally conservative, financially responsible, environmentally aware, has little patience for hype and fluff

Common objections: doesn’t have cash available for large upfront payment. Needs approval for a rooftop array from the homeowner’s association. Worried that panels may break or produce less in the future.

Search engine keywords:

  • solar panels installation cost in  + [city name]
  • solar panels installation + [city name],
  • solar panels for home roof,
  • solar rebate + [state/province name]

Reaching him online: the biggest social network is LinkedIn. Interested in checklists of features, product comparisons, customer success stories, and independent reviews.

Quote: “Our electric bill is getting more astronomical each month, but it gets hot here, so we have to turn the AC on. But I’m tired of having to pay $700 a month for electricity.

Marketing messaging: no-money-down installation, meets common homeowners association requirements, arrays produce at a high level for 30 years

Elevator pitch: get solar on your roof with no upfront cost and save a guaranteed 20{1c6a625f47d2bf60ebe08ed091a7445e2bc544e87a21239325e4f4bbcebe02f1} each month on your electric bill with our power-purchase agreement.

As you can see, a buyer persona doesn’t have one uniformed look — it can look as diverse as you want to. So, do what you please, and construct the buyer persona profile that you think will work best for you.

How to Use Solar Buyer Personas

So, now you have created some solar buyer personas. What now? What do you do with them? Well, here are a few suggestions that you can use to get the ball rolling:

  • Where to send your salesforce: you can better decide where your sales team;
  • Where to advertise on: you want to spend at places where your buyer personas hang out whether it’s YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn or outdoor advertising;
  • Marketing automation: you can send them Emails and show them Ads based on their interests.
  • “Money-pages” copywriting: What selling points you should emphasize?
  • Content Creation: you can better decide what formats (blog, image, video, books) and what topics they like;
bA solar buyer personas worksheet
This worksheet will help you better address solar buyer’s resistant points at different stages

And this is incredibly important because this is where you will get your profit from. So, refer back to your buyer personas, and after carefully examining each one, determine what selling points you should emphasize that you think are the most appealing for your customers. Then integrate what you have learned in creating your money pages.

The Takeaway

Content marketing is the best way to educate your potential customers and defeat the common myths of the solar industry, but marketing is truly intimidating when you first look at it. It’s so huge and so vague! Where do you begin? Luckily for you, there is an answer to that: start with your buyer personas.

Buyer personas, the character profiles that represent the various goals and observed behavior patterns of your ideal customers, are immensely crucial to your marketing strategy because it is with buyer personas that you can better understand your ideal customers and that you can produce more useful, educational, or informative content — in the form of a blog post, video, image, podcast, and the like — for them. Buyer personas will also help you in your long-term marketing plan. Because of all the help that buyer personas contribute, it is no wonder why creating them is considered as the very first step in content marketing.

So how do you create a buyer persona? Here is a recap:

  1. Prepare all the marketing tools available at your disposal. Google Analytics, HubSpot, UserForge, and others that you prefer.
  2. Research! Put your detective hat on, poke around, and ask the right questions.
  3. Agree your user group among your team members.
  4. Create minimum viable buyer personas
  5. Finally, make it pretty and report to your team

Voila! Now you’re one step closer to generating more quality solar leads.

Basically, exert some effort in creating your buyer personas (it’s totally worth it!) then put the buyer personas to good use. And then finally, watch as your solar leads come rolling in.

Sources:

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Willie Jiang

Willie Jiang is an experienced SEO manager with a demonstrated history of success with content marketing. He's passionate about popularizing content marketing in the solar industry.

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