Why renewable energy marketing should move beyond green

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Times have certainly changed quickly for renewable and sustainable energy companies.

In the early days of the renewable energy industry, “going green” was a marketing phrase that wasn’t backed up by much substance. In its infancy, the renewable energy industry was selling the future and “going green” was more of a play to potential clients with environmental sensibilities and the robust coffers to act on them.

At best, renewable and sustainable energy companies had good intentions and believed in their products and services. They just didn’t have the data to back up the claimed benefits and their price points could only be justified on a 20 year return-on-investment horizon. At worst, “going green” degenerated into “greenwashing,” where the appearance of being environmentally friendly superseded its impact.

In truth, the marketing of sustainable energy solutions outpaced their ability to produce near term results and financial returns. Today, however, partnering with a renewable energy company to improve a company’s bottom line is financially feasible and produces greater returns in a far shorter period of time.

All renewable and sustainable energy companies, including energy audit firms, solar installers and sustainable construction companies should already have refocused their marketing efforts and messaging on results data rather than on environmental impacts. If you haven’t, it’s time to play catch up before it’s too late.

Here are a few marketing tips for companies operating in the renewable energy space:

Focus on the Bottom Line

While there is still room to market renewable energy as a company culture choice or to play up the emotional pull of protecting the environment, the better approach is to market through a clear, data-backed value proposition.

Focusing on financial benefits is always a good approach, regardless of whether your company is B2C or B2B. As we’ll discuss later in this blog, the weight of emphasis on financial benefits versus environmental impact is different depending on your audience and industry.

A commonly cited barrier to adopting renewable technology and services is the perceived high up-front cost and long time frame for tangible financial benefits. Clearly, the cost-benefit structure will vary depending on the size, complexity and type of sustainable project being explored.

That said, marketing your success stories through case studies, white papers, client testimonials and content detailing key industry data can go a long way to closing more sales. What that data is and how your marketing team positions it will depend on your audience and project types.

Using data can be a persuasive tool for encouraging investment. Any hard data can be helpful to your marketing and sales process, whether from your actual projects or wider industry information.

According to Facility Executive, “...in a typical office building, lighting accounts for 30% of the energy usage—the largest single category of controllable energy costs. The result? [More than] $115 billion in electric utility spending per year—a staggering number for those facility managers...and executives who need to find ways to help make their buildings more energy efficient and cut costs at the same time.”

Using information like the above, coupled with testimonials and client success stories will help debunk the common perception that sustainable projects are too expensive in the short term.

Promote Scalability

Not every sustainable project or renewable energy initiative is the same. Again, there remains a market perception that all projects in this industry are large, complex and will be disruptive to the organization. Yes, there are very large scale, complex and potentially disruptive projects out there, like complete building green retrofits. At the same time, there are many lower cost, less complex green solutions that actually can yield strong short term and long term benefits to a company’s bottom line.

  • The point is that “going green” is more diverse and scalable than ever before. Renewables are not only geothermal heating, vast fields of solar panels or installing a complex, high tech control system to manage a large facility.
  • Easing the point of entry is a critical marketing strategy for companies that operate in the renewable and sustainable energy space. Instead of shooting for the moon, promote easier points of access, which, if adopted, would lead to larger scale projects in the future.
  • Take lighting upgrades as an example. Promoting the benefits of low cost, low complexity (in most cases, but not all) upgrades from old school, higher cost lighting to LED can produce immediate wins by reducing utility bills.

In a recent case study published by Current, Transwestern engaged in a lighting retrofit project on its 12-story, multi-tenant building in downtown Washington, D.C. The result was the installation of 3,400 new, energy efficient lights on the interior and a parking garage that saved $20,000 in maintenance costs and $155,000 in annual savings. The project will pay for itself in one year, according to the case study.

Certainly, not all projects will be of this scale and produce such gigantic savings numbers. The takeaway here is that marketing easy access points with clear, shorter term financial outcomes can help establish trust in your company, the efficacy of the approach and lead to higher revenue projects in the future.

Position Corporate Responsibility and Public Relations As An Ancillary Benefit

When operating in the commercial renewable space, being a good steward of the environment has less value than, to be blunt, reducing operating costs by 20%. That cost savings can be used to hire employees, improve infrastructure and innovate. In the retail and B2C market, depending on the industry and audience, of course, environmental friendliness has a more direct impact on sales and the bottom line. The correlation between being a green company and improving profits is far less direct in the B2B world.

So, your marketing messaging should reflect this. Bottom line savings and improved profitability should be elevated in your messaging while the generation of PR and goodwill in the community, while still part of the marketing approach, should be a byproduct of retaining your energy solutions.

Appealing to the emotional aspect of renewable energy in your marketing and promotions has significantly less impact in a commercial, B2B environment, though it still can be used by your client to their benefit. Bottom line savings are the lede, always.

Know Your Audience, Embrace All Channels

Thus far we’ve been speaking in generalities about the tenets of a better marketing approach for sustainable energy companies operating in a B2B market.

Again, broadly speaking, renewable energy companies need to embrace digital marketing and a multi-channel approach to reaching their respective audiences.

Understanding your key target audiences and making adjustments to your marketing messaging to elevate savings and promote scalability and easy points of entry won’t work if you don’t meet your audience where they live and make decisions.

Adopting an integrated digital marketing approach that goes beyond word-of-mouth and referral networks will yield stronger results, more leads and a higher close rate for your business. It’s not just about tweaking your message; it’s also about the tools you use to get that message out into the market; it’s about great content that shares persuasive data; it’s about going beyond “green” to build the narrative that sustainable and renewable energy solutions is a viable path to increased profits, stronger innovation and a brighter future for a business and its employees.

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