If you haven’t been paying attention to YouTube, it’s time to start thinking about it. The platform has over 1.9 billion monthly users and 6 out of 10 people now say they prefer online video to live TV. Each quarter, Modernize compiles and publishes what we have learned from interviews with thousands of U.S. homeowners considering the largest home improvement projects in solar as well as HVAC, windows, and roofing. We’ve been doing this extensive survey for the past two years, and there have been times when we’ve been surprised by the results. One finding in our latest survey had us startled, and if solar contractors pay attention, they can take advantage of what we discovered.
Last quarter’s survey results indicated a whopping 17 percent of customers considering solar projects are turning to YouTube for their research as their next choice after Google. In no other trade category do even 10 percent of customers turn to this video medium. What does this mean for residential solar contractors? There are three points to keep in mind regarding this interesting data.
1. Solar marketing success hinges on customer education
Because solar projects are often more of an optional or “nice to have” project than other home improvement initiatives, solar prospects are prone to take more time and have more patience to become fully educated about what their project might entail.
In other words, the move toward YouTube reinforces that more education and persuasion is involved in the customer’s journey to saying “yes” to a solar project. This correlates with another survey datapoint showing that 53 percent of homeowners spend one to five hours researching before getting in touch with contractors and another 10 percent dedicate more than 10 hours to such research.
Solar prospects seem to feel less deadline pressure in making their decision. Whereas 33 percent of all homeowners considering major home improvement projects report feeling stressed, half as many solar homeowners (17 percent) say they feel stressed. At the same time, 86 percent of solar prospects start thinking about their projects without having a particular budget in mind, a much higher proportion than the 75 percent who start without a budget across all trades.
And one more aspect of the patient, needs-to-be-educated solar customer is their reason for cancelling a project, if they do so. For solar customers, 14 percent answer that the “timing’s wrong, it’s not urgent enough” whereas that is the case with only 8-10 percent for the other major trades.
2. Video is table stakes for solar marketing
Do you think you can safely ignore the 17 percent of prospects who use YouTube in addition to Google for their online searching? That would be a mistake. First of all, we know from Forrester, that website pages that contain video are 53 times more likely to rank on the first page of a Google search. That’s because search algorithms are tuned to giving web visitors what they really want, and that’s video.
It’s risky to deny giving customers what they really want. Our research tells us that two of the top three reasons why customers choose to NOT work with a particular contractor are related to perceptions: they cite unclear or confusing bids (24 percent), lack of communication (23 percent), and perceived lack of expertise (19 percent).
If you haven’t done so already, you owe it to yourself to see just what’s included in some of the more popular YouTube solar customer videos. One example is “Solar panels for home. – 9 months later” recently posted in mid-2019 and already having over 400,000 views.
Another even more popular video, “Is SOLAR worth it? 5 Years Later With Solar Panels”, with nearly 2.5 million views, was recently updated for 2019 to show the creator’s results “eight years after” going solar.
3. Solar contractors can differentiate through YouTube
Solar contractors shouldn’t care about utilizing YouTube just to “keep up.” The medium really can provide a communication channel through which your business can stand out. There are several ways to win with YouTube. Here are a few basic tips for getting the most from your YouTube presence:
Find inspiration from others’ success.
Just as there’s no point in starting from scratch to figure out how to get digital sales leads, you can and should tap into existing expertise to establish your YouTube presence. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Generally, the videos that do well are funny, unusual, or useful. Spend some time watching solar YouTube videos, like the ones referenced above, to get your own idea of what works. Look for the ones that have the most views and highest ratings. Take what they are doing right and make it your own.
Create a series, not just one video.
There are two reasons for creating a series, rather than a single YouTube video. First, there are so many aspects of the solar buyer’s journey that it can be simpler, and more effective, to address different issues in bite size segments. For example, do separate videos on budgeting, financing, inverters, aesthetics, local/regional incentives, zoning, maintenance, and local power company policies.
The second reason to aim for a series is that it helps take advantage of how YouTube’s recommendations engine works. YouTube is set up to promote additional videos after the viewer watches their first one. So, if you’ve created a series on your own channel, there’s a good chance you can sustain the attention of the viewer once they’ve seen your first video.
Nurture leads that haven’t closed yet.
Every contractor, of course, wants new sales leads that will close quickly. But, as I pointed out earlier, solar prospects have less of a sense of urgency about their projects than they do with other home improvement projects. So, naturally prospects who start looking at solar as an option for their home take more time to decide. That’s where the concept of lead nurturing comes in. The marketing automation platform HubSpot created a company and an entire mini-industry around the concept of lead nurturing. HubSpot, together with home Improvement-oriented CRMs like MarketSharp, have engines that enable contractors to continue engaging and connecting with sales leads that have not yet closed. This is done through email, blogs, and social media outreach. But those CRM lead-nurture programs only work when you can offer content that’s of interest to your leads. That’s where you can use the YouTube videos on the topics I outlined above – as your very own lead-nurturing content.
Experiment with different calls to action.
My final recommendation for constructing a differentiated YouTube presence is to use the wide variety of different options for asking your audience to continue interacting with your business. In digital marketing, we refer to those as “calls to action” or CTAs. Within YouTube, there are so many different ways to ask your viewer to continue interacting with your business before they make their ultimate decision. Each of these have their own benefits. Play around and find the ones that are most effective in keeping your business front and center with your prospects:
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The bottom line is that YouTube videos are becoming an important part of solar customer’s buying journey. Keep your solar contracting business relevant and competitive by creating your own approach to this exciting medium.
Jason Polka is the CEO of Modernize, a company that uses business intelligence software to connect homeowners with contractors. Jason has led numerous initiatives to identify and execute new service and differentiated product opportunities within the contractor referral market. Modernize is the largest provider of leads for window replacement, solar installation, HVAC and roofing. The company’s business model is designed to simplify and remove any friction from the process of hiring a contractor.
— Solar Builder magazine