Boosting Sales of Solar Systems Through Referral Marketing and Customer Experience

An interview with Patrick Crane, CMO of Sungevity


About four years ago, Sungevity, now a top 5 residential solar installer in the US, had less than 10% of business coming from person to person referrals. Recognizing the impact and opportunity of today’s social media world, the founders brought in Patrick Crane, former VP Marketing of LinkedIn and Yahoo, as CMO. “At present, roughly one-third of Sungevity’s business every month is purely customer referrals, so in other words, we have seen P2P referrals triple over the last few years,” starts Mr. Crane, who will be speaking at The Solar Future Netherlands Conference on May 27, 2015 in Rotterdam.  

“How we power our lives is a more interesting social topic than ever before, and we take more social cues when we think about how we power our lives, as opposed to how we power our car, what clothes we wear, what we eat, etc. How we power our lives today is an extremely social topic and is a fascinating dynamic to tap.”

“In markets such as Australia, where penetration is closer to 20%, we are seeing the shift to solar being bought not sold.”

Important to mention is that the differences in markets also present varying challenges when looking to expand the social world of solar. Notes Mr. Crane, “One of our many sayings today is that solar is sold not bought. When a market is less than 5% penetrated, or in the case of the US at present with 2% penetration, there is a lot of educating we need to do before we will see the penetration increase. However in markets such as Australia, where penetration is closer to 20%, we are seeing the shift to solar being bought not sold.”

The challenge in such a market is no longer about education, but about reputation and brand preference. “We are the only company to work in multiple markets, and this gives us an advantage as we can see what is happening in markets such as Australia, and prepare for other markets to follow suit,” conveys Mr. Crane.

“70% of customer referrals happen within a 5km radius.”

“One of the things we observe at Sungevity is that over 70% of customer referrals happen within a 5km radius. Yes, companies should provide plenty of tools to make it easy to refer, but they must never forget that these networks happen very locally. Solar companies have to think about marketing and sales techniques that unlock that dynamic, which is what we are doing with our technology and where my previous LinkedIN and Yahoo experience really comes in.”

“We have taken this passive online experience and turned it into a much more active involvement that just evolves depending on the stage where you are with solar!”

“I think one of the achievements I am most proud of in terms of what we have done at Sungevity is that we have taken this passive online experience and turned it into a much more active involvement that just evolves depending on the stage where you are with solar,” reveals Mr. Crane.

“We have created the online customer experience for solar. Today, if you are thinking about solar, you can request an iQuote online in just three clicks, which is a quotational guarantee of what you will produce with the specifics of your house. As you go from thinking about it to buying it, your online experience evolves and you can start monitoring how your system is doing in realtime.” He continues, “You can log into it anytime to see what you are generating, what you are off-setting, and how your friends are doing with solar. We introduced a lot of linkedIN style techniques, in the style of networking and open information sharing, to spread the word effortlessly. That is the single biggest reason in why we have seen the biggest jump in customer referrals; understanding when they are happy, engaging people online, and giving them the tools to communicate effortlessly.”

Mr. Crane will discuss the aforementioned trending topics and share his marketing insights in greater detail as a speaker at the leading solar strategy conference, The Solar Future Netherlands, in Rotterdam this coming May 27. In the 7th edition of this successful conference, The Solar Future focuses on marketing as a crucial component to take the Dutch PV industry to full maturity.


"How social is solar? Interview with Patrick Crane"

Fun fact treasure hunt: Find the three Solarplaza team-members hidden in the audience

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