Dad, where do solar leads come from? (Part 1)

If you have ever tried to do your own marketing to generate residential solar leads, you have probably been overwhelmed with choices, and choices within those choices. Should you send direct mail? Should I do some radio advertising? Television? Buy Google Keywords? Start a referral program? Create a blog and try for organic search traffic? What about banner ads on solar websites? Social media advertising on Facebook? Maybe a call center to call recent home buyers?

Unfortunately each one of these marketing tactics takes a significant amount of resources and discovery to form the right message and find the right channel not only for your target demographic, but your actual region. Also, remember you are competing with others that have this channel dialed in and figured out, so the chance of your ad out-grabbing the consumers attention may be slim. Unfortunately, about the time you find the right channel and the right message, all of the sudden it changes, or stops working! You’ve invested time and significant resources that will never pay off. If only there was a way that you could absolutely eliminate the risk associated with marketing. If only there was a way to avoid long term commitments with any marketing channel. If only there was a way to participate in hundreds of different channels without having to absorb years’ worth of learning. If only there was a way to only have to pay for the marketing that resulted in a phone call. If only I knew what my marketing costs were going to be so I could price it in to my quotes. Wait! There is!

Continue to Part 2

Dad, where do solar leads come from? (Part 2)

Continued from Part 1

Introducing: Affiliate Marketing (aka lead generation networking). There was a time when everyone grew their own vegetables. There was a time when we all did long division vs. a calculator. There was also a time when every business advertised their service individually. More and more, entire industries are collaborating to do one large marketing effort that captures the attention of consumers interested in a general product or service FIRST. From there, individual companies compete for the attention of consumers. The companies in the industry don’t collaborate directly with each other or anything. This function is voluntarily performed by an Affiliate Marketing/Lead Generation company. They constantly refine and research the various channels and do all forms of advertising simultaneously. Since the marketing company is essentially doing the marketing for hundreds of businesses, their buying power creates large economies of scale. The risk of a new channel or marketing push not working out and causing financial damage is also diversified away.

So What is an “Affiliate”? Affiliate marketing companies employ the help “Affiliates” aka “publishers.” These individuals or companies have mastered the art of advertising through specific channels. For instance, many affiliates have become very skilled at finding and purchasing databases of email addresses for consumers who have “opted in” to receiving advertisements of certain products or services or with a certain goal in mind like saving money. From there, the talented email publisher, would match an email database with the type of product or service being offered (in this case residential solar consumers) to yield a high probability that the consumer will respond to the advertisement. They have also mastered the technological aspects of getting this quantity of emails delivered out without erroneously being labeled “spam” by the various email systems. The Affiliate has an arrangement with the Affiliate Network/Lead Generator to purchase the “traffic” that is generated by all of the respondents who have clicked on the email advertising the product. The potential consumer would be directed to a website that has more information, but more importantly has a spot for the consumer to enter in their name, address, telephone number, email, etc. Once that information is submitted by the consumer it is called a “lead.” Now the Affiliate Network has thousands of “leads” of consumers that are interested in receiving a quote on getting a residential solar system installed on their roof. The Affiliate Network would sell those leads to a buyer. That buyer might be an installer of solar systems, or might be another company that collects the lead with the intention to resell it to an installer. This is how affiliate marketing works. Each role, from getting the advertisement in front of a potential consumer, to collecting the consumer’s information, to selling the information to an end service provider (in this case a solar installer) might be performed by completely different parties. Each channel has its own subtleties and differences, but on the whole, this is how it works, and it is much more efficient to market a product in this manner than most forms of traditional advertising.

How to Get Exclusive Solar Leads for a Non-Exclusive Price

Residential solar lead sellers typically sell their leads either on a multisell (aka non-exclusive) or exclusive basis. Exclusive means that they only sell the lead once (or at least only sell it once for a set time frame, and may sell it again as an “aged lead” after X number of days/months). A Non-Exclusive lead, or multisell lead is a lead that they will sell 3 or 4 times (hopefully not more than that, otherwise its value diminishes greatly). There are benefits to both exclusive and non-exclusive solar leads, which we won’t go into here (that’s covered here). In order to purchase an exclusive solar lead, an installer must simply out-bid the total price offered by the non-exclusive buyers. For instance, if a lead seller has 4 clients with the following bids $25, $30, $27, $32, then the buyer that comes along and offers more than $114 for the exclusive lead will likely be sent the lead. However, there are many solar lead sellers out there, and the smaller sellers often times don’t have multiple buyers in an area. Some of the larger sellers don’t either. Its not likely that they will tell you they simply don’t have competing buyers in your area, they will simply quote you an exclusive price and a non-exclusive price. When a solar lead seller doesn’t have multiple buyers in an area, the non-exclusive lead is effectively an exclusive lead. So where they “could” sell it multiple times, they simply don’t have other buyers for the lead. It is in this scenario that you could actually pay only the non-exclusive price, yet be receiving exclusive leads. Its possible that the provider will simply let you know that you are the only buyer if you ask, but its really not in their interest to be completely honest with you. The only way to truly know if the non-exclusive lead is actually an exclusive lead is to purchase the solar leads on a non-exclusive basis, and ask the lead (the consumer) if they have been contacted by other companies and if they have filled our multiple quote requests on the internet.

How do solar lead providers price their leads?

Lead pricing is a complex thing.  Many solar lead providers use somewhat of an automated bidding system.  While it is not real-time or very sophisticated, it does have an automated component.  When an installer establishes an account, they will often give two prices.  One is the bid they are willing to pay in a certain geographical area for exclusive leads.  A second is a price they are willing to pay for non-exclusive leads.  Typically the exclusive price is several times higher than the non-exclusive price.  However, in some markets, where the lead provider doesn’t have many installers, one can often times get an exclusive lead for a non-exclusive price!  Here’s how these little gems come about:  When a new lead comes in, the bidding system asks itself how much the lead can sell for.  If there is one buyer willing to pay $120 for an exclusive lead, and three other buyers that are willing to pay $35, $40, and $50 (for a total non-exclusive price of $125) the bidding system will choose to sell the lead 3 times as a non-exclusive lead for the highest price to the lead provider.   Let’s imagine another scenario.  One in which there is only 1 bidder, who has specified a non-exclusive lead price only of $40.  In this case, the lead provider has a “gap in coverage” meaning that they do not have enough installers in their network bidding on the lead.  This lead will get sold only once at the non-exclusive price, essentially making it an exclusive lead.  Spoiler alert:  There aren’t a lot of areas in which there are only one bidder.  However, here’s a good tip:  the farther and farther you get from a metropolitan area, the more and more likely you are to find one of these areas.  Many installer’s don’t want to waste the gas money traveling such a distance to simply give a site inspection and a quote.  This has some hidden benefits:

  • Much lower cost per lead
  • Much lower competition per deal
  • Much more willingness on customer end to work hand-in-hand with the installer, prior to the site visit.
  • Often times rural clients have larger properties, with accessory buildings, pools, dependence on expensive propane for certain appliances, and therefore much more potential for a larger installation with commensurate profit potential

There are other factors that influence the price of solar leads, and they relate mostly to quality.  Some lead providers call verify their leads before they make it to you. There are many different ways of generating leads, each have their own degree of quality, such as leads who have responded to an email, or who were presented with an advertisement on a social media site, or even who have clicked on a “banner ad” when browsing the web.

Call 855.495.4400 if you are interested in purchasing solar leads

What you need to know about buying solar leads (Part 3)

Continued from previous page

Returns.  Any organization selling solar leads should have a return policy.  Regardless of how well a lead is qualified, there are some that you should not have to pay for.  For instance, some consumers may have done a very aggressive information gathering campaign, leaving messages and making inquiries of dozens of installers before getting one on the phone.  Later, as they are contacted by other installers, they may no longer be interested in receiving quotes, or the price quoted by the first installer might have given them sticker shock, making them closed to further conversation.  In this case, a solar lead seller should replace the lead free of charge.

You are competing with other purchasers when working the lead.  It’s important to remember that when you are purchasing leads, that you are always competing against other installers who have received an inquiry directly from the consumer, or in the case of non-exclusive leads, who have been sold to multiple installers.  This means that you need to have the proper resources to “work the lead.”  The installer that makes the first contact with the consumer has a much higher probability of closing the deal.  Often times installers will employ a “dialer” to work the lead for them.  As soon as a consumer picks up the phone, the call gets instantly and seamlessly transferred to a sales reps phone.  Other installers have reps that are available after business hours.

You can set filters.  Many solar lead sellers allow you to specify the minimum power bill amount that a consumer must have.  This of course increases the price of the lead, but may be better suited for installers that only wish to work on large or complex systems, leaving the everyday installs to larger companies.

Please call 855.495.4400 if you are interested in purchasing solar leads

What you need to know about buying solar leads (Part 2)

Continued from previous post

Volume goes to the highest bidder.  Unlike many products, the less you buy, the cheaper the price, and the more you buy, the higher the price.   This is due primarily to the bidding system the solar lead providers employ.  The higher your bid, the more leads you are likely to receive.  If your price is low, you will only receive the leads that go unsold to higher bidders.  Many bidders have “caps” on how many leads they can receive in a given period.  After the caps have been reached, the next lowest bidder starts receiving leads until they reach their cap.  All of the leads in a given area may be sold before your bid price comes up in the pecking order, so if you find that you are getting fewer leads than you expected, it might be time to talk to your provider to see if upping your bid will help get more volume.

Caps on lead count.  You can opt to limit the number of leads you receive in a given day.  This can help even out your lead flow so that you don’t receive a burst of leads all at once.  Bursts of leads happen when large advertising campaigns get initiated by the lead provider.  The downside is that sometimes a lower lead price combined with an uncapped lead count can result in a cheaper total lead cost when there is a burst of advertising activity.  For instance if other bidders hit their caps, the rest of the leads go to those who are lower in the bidding pecking order.

Quality Varies.  From one lead provider to another, the quality of the lead may vary greatly.  This is because not all solar lead sellers call verify their leads.  For instance, if a consumer responds to an email that they received, and are looking for a solar quote, they click the link in the email and proceed to fill our their name, address, email, phone number, etc.  Many consumers might be looking to receive a call only, before the commit to releasing their true name and address.  This allows them to speak to a real person and increase the comfort they have with an organization prior to releasing other details.  As such, they will only provide a legitimate phone number, and fake information for the other fields.  Without a representative calling the consumer first and verifying that the information is correct, you increase the risk of paying for bogus lead information.  Also solar lead sellers get their leads from many different sources each with varying level of interest by the consumers.  These sources include: direct mail, radio, social media, email, display advertising, referral programs, lifestyle sites, blogs, pay per click advertising, organic search, telemarketing, and mouth to mouth referral programs.  If a lead provider call verifies each and every lead, the quality of leads coming out of the verification process is very similar.

Continue to Part 3

Please call 855.495.4400 if you are interested in purchasing solar leads

What you need to know about buying solar leads (Part 1)

What you need to know about buying solar leads (Part 1)

For those of you who have never purchased solar leads, or leads of any kind, you will benefit from understanding what a lead is and some of the basics about purchasing solar leads.

  • You can target geographical areas
  • You can choose from exclusive or nonexclusive
  • Volume goes to highest bidder
  • Caps on lead count
  • Quality Varies
  • Returns
  • How you receive your leads – excel/email/transfer/post
  • You are competing with other purchasers when working the lead
  • You are buying leads, not sales, so it’s a numbers game
  • You can set filters

First things first. What is a solar lead?  A “lead” is essentially the contact information of a consumer who has expressed interest in receiving a solar quote (usually Photovoltaic, or PV).   The lead information will often consist of first name, last name, address, email, phone number, average power bill amount, how much shade the consumer’s roof has, whether or not they are a homeowner, and the utility provider that they are currently purchasing electricity from.

Geographical Targeting.  When purchasing leads, you may specify what county, zip codes, states, or a mileage radius around a specific point.  Unlike radio, television, and some print advertising, that you purchase directly, you are not able to target this precisely, and often receive (and pay for) responders that are far outside of your ideal travel zone.

Exclusive/Non-exclusive.  While buying solar leads, you have the choice of purchasing exclusive or non-exclusive leads.  Exclusive leads means that the lead seller is only selling this lead once, and that is to you.  This doesn’t mean that the consumer hasn’t made inquiries directly with other installers, however, it does give you a higher probability of being the first or one of the few to contact the consumer.  Non-exclusive leads usually means that the lead is being sold multiple times (although not always such is the case when a lead provider doesn’t have many clients in a geographical region).  Non-exclusive leads can be very profitable for companies with the requisite resources to effectively “work the lead.” Such as a CRM (customer relationship management system), automatic dialers, and sales reps that are available outside of business hours.

Continue to Part 2

Please call 855.495.4400 if you are interested in purchasing solar leads.