Many solar contractors are aware that digital marketing is helpful for connecting with prospective commercial and residential solar customers. However, knowing the best ways to make use of the host of strategies available can be a challenge. In this Aurora Solar series, we explore how contractors can design an effective digital solar marketing strategy to achieve optimal results.
We’ve discussed the importance of digital solar marketing as well as how to create an effective website, choose keywords and optimize a site for Google search. Given how important social media is for organically connecting with solar prospects, we also looked at how to use Facebook effectively.
In this installment in the series, we examine how solar contractors can capitalize on the social selling opportunities presented by LinkedIn’s company page.
Why LinkedIn works for solar marketing
With 500 million members, LinkedIn is a top choice for professionals seeking to stay connected with colleagues and informed about their industries. Of these members, 61 million are senior-level influencers, 40 million are decision-makers and 6.8 million are C-level execs. Participants use personal and company profiles to establish a professional presence and share business-related news. Companies can showcase their offerings, cultivate networks and leads, and recruit employees. As a robust content-sharing platform, LinkedIn also enables businesses to establish thought leadership and build trust by offering industry insights and advice.
LinkedIn allows solar contractors to connect in a way that is unique on social media. The company describes the platform as unlike other networks because it is centered around the professional objectives of its members. Oleg Calugher, marketing strategist and executive director of web hosting service Temok, explains that LinkedIn is where “people get serious and get down to business. The prospects are already refined and are delivered on a silver platter-they are here to connect and network.”
LinkedIn is also well-suited for digital solar marketing because it is a platform used by so many solar industry influencers, business owners and prospects. Solar businesses across various sectors can swap product updates and solar industry news and drive traffic to their company websites.
Despite the fact that many solar professionals may consider LinkedIn an exclusively business-to-business (B2B) platform, it has actually been found to be quite effective for business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing. Professionals are consumers on LinkedIn with considerable buying power and can be reached organically through useful and informative content about solar. The idea of social selling (using your social network to connect with prospects) definitely applies to LinkedIn as a means to generate commercial and residential leads.
Best practices for LinkedIn marketing
Due to LinkedIn’s unusual position as an exclusively business-focused social media network, there are a number of strategies solar contractors may want to keep in mind when using the platform. A few of them are below.
There are two kinds of LinkedIn profiles: personal and company. Personal profile pages differ from company profile pages in that they can be used to message people directly, gain endorsements, and share details about one’s professional experience. While this article focuses on company profile pages (now called LinkedIn Pages), it should be noted that it is beneficial if individual profiles for each company employee are optimized. An optimized profile has content that is aligned with the brand, a compelling lead sentence and headline, and high-quality images.
An optimized LinkedIn Page (company page)
In order for LinkedIn to be an effective solar marketing tool, it is important that solar contractors create a LinkedIn Page that represents their brands well. A LinkedIn Page is largely a broadcasting tool that uses visuals and succinct text to act as a gateway for the news feed (or Recent Updates as it is known on LinkedIn), Showcase Pages, employee profiles and company website. It can generate visibility for a company, allow it to send free updates to followers, and help it index well in Google’s search engine.
The LinkedIn Page should include a complete description of the business and clients and can touch on topics like company mission and offerings. Both Sunnova and SunPower do a good job of succinctly communicating their value to customers on their LinkedIn Pages. The text used on pages should be search engine optimized with keywords, pertinent content links and complete information in all fields. Include the company logo (300 x 300 pixels) and a high-quality banner image (646 x 220 pixels). Vivint’s LinkedIn Page uses an image that is in line with the color and style of its logo on its LinkedIn Page.
Employee profiles can also support and connect to the LinkedIn Page. Social marketing strategist Ted Rubin encourages employees to link their pages to the company LinkedIn Page, share insights and advice and include keywords in their summaries.
“Your employees are your company’s best resource-make the most of their passion and individuality,” Rubin told HuffPost. “They’re already social, so start thinking of how you can empower your employees to have their own voice, build their influence and expertise, and you will discover many can and will become your company’s most active and valuable social advocates.”
Additional features that complement the LinkedIn Page
Showcase Pages are a valuable, if surprisingly underused, resource. These are additional pages that link to the company’s LinkedIn Page and feature particular products and services that target specific types of customers. They have their own sets of followers, summaries and Recent Updates. This allows a solar company to run separate campaigns and demonstrate thought leadership with specific audiences, such as professionals in agriculture, car dealers or homeowners. Amazon has 12 Showcase Pages, while Microsoft has 15 different pages that focus on products like MS Office, MS Cloud and other tools for educators, developers and the government.
LinkedIn Groups present an opportunity to share content, connect with potential customers and drive traffic to the company website. Groups are a shared space for “professionals in the same industry or with similar interests to share their insights and experiences, ask for guidance and build valuable connections.” While not a place for advertisements, these groups allow a solar company employee to tap into or create a forum where customers and industry professionals connect.
Solar Power World has a LinkedIn Group that addresses topics related to renewables and solar. Members are able to share news and SPW can promote webinars and other events. It is important to note that LinkedIn Groups are only accessible through personal profiles, not LinkedIn Pages-though a company’s LinkedIn Page can link to featured groups.
Engaging content on LinkedIn
Content marketing-offering valuable content to attract prospects and build a relationship with them so that they choose your company when making a purchase-is a prime way to catch the eye of prospective customers on your LinkedIn and Showcase Pages. However, it is best to do it in a way that doesn’t come across as overly “salesy.” Marketing specialist David Meerman Scott told HuffPost that interactions and content on LinkedIn are meant to “educate and inform instead of interrupt and sell…create something interesting that will be talked about online. When you get people talking, they will line up to learn more and to buy what you have to offer.”
Consistently posting valuable, relevant information in a company’s Recent Updates, which automatically updates in followers’ feeds, is a great way to establish a company as a thought leader and nurture relationships with prospects. A company can feature marketing materials such as white papers, e-books, case studies and how-to content on topics relevant to prospective residential and commercial solar customers.
Companies may also want to consider writing posts meant only for LinkedIn. Digital marketing influencer Neil Patel told HuffPost, “writing posts just for LinkedIn is the fastest way to grow your brand and connections on LinkedIn.” LinkedIn recently added a feature called Content Suggestions that helps generate topic and article ideas based on a particular audience.
Recent Updates on all pages can include short intriguing insights, thought-provoking questions, or pieces from longer content. SunPower and Vivint Solar‘s LinkedIn Pages have examples of feeds that are consistently updated with interesting, useful information. The global tech company PTC updates its engaging feed multiple times a day.
LinkedIn suggests trying the 4-1-1 rule to ensure the updates are centered around the audience’s needs: for every piece of content shared about the business, share an update from another source and four pieces of content written by others. Marketing company HubSpot showcases a number of businesses that use Recent Updates effectively by employing strategies like posts that drive traffic back to their websites, sophisticated and highly targeted advice, post-pinning and cross-promotion of content on other social media channels.
Eye-catching visuals and varied types of media can go a long way. One useful feature on LinkedIn is Slideshare, where a company can share marketing and sales presentations, videos, webinars and infographics using an easy-to-digest, visually pleasing format.
LinkedIn can be an effective platform for solar lead generation as both commercial and residential sales reps have the opportunity to connect with prospective solar customers. It is intended for long-term relationship building through the exchange of useful information and advice that serves to establish trust and create sales pipelines that may close 6-12 months down the line. If used judiciously, LinkedIn is a social media tool that can reap benefits over many years.