Anna Covert, founder of Covert Communication and solar guru, recently joined Snoball's WOMM Podcast to talk about marketing strategies specific to the solar industry and how solar companies can best ensure high-quality leads, decrease CAC, and increase conversion.
Anna starts out by detailing some of her extensive experience in the solar industry. Her company is not only one of two recommended marketing partners with SunPower but also built the solar calculator for Panasonic. In addition, she also tells about her experience getting to sell solar during the pandemic:
“[Selling solar] was actually during Covid—it was my response to Covid. So here in Hawaii, I had the largest digital marketing firm in the state. We do other things besides solar, [like] retail and banking and work with Ocean Vodka, lots of different types of businesses.
“And when the pandemic hit, I had a big urgent care center in Maui that closed, and we had other tourist-related clients that, because the state was in full lockdown, were not able to do services.
“And I had a local SunPower dealer who wanted to really expand their residential opportunity. They were very focused on commercial [opportunities]. So I partnered with them and they taught me how to sell solar.”
Anna goes on to explain why she loves working with the solar industry so much:
“It really, truly is the only industry where everyone wins. Here you are, you're sitting in front of a homeowner, and they have this $500 bill, and it's climbing and climbing, and you're giving them so much peace of mind and security by being able to cut it in half.
“[They’ll also get] tax credits, and they're going to have stability. It's like everyone wins: the homeowner wins, the solar company wins, and the world wins. And that's why I just love solar so much.”
Because of this love for solar, Anna has helped a number of solar companies develop plugins or other features to promote their brand and heighten their client experience. One impressive feat completed by her company is the Solar Wizard plugin.
Anna says, “[The Solar Wizard plugin] is the number one plugin on WordPress. It's fully translatable into every language, and we've had downloads in 20 countries. What the calculator provides [to] solar companies is a very fast and affordable way to show what the average range of price would be for someone who wants solar.”
The Solar Wizard plugin was developed by Anna and Covert Communication to help solar companies get more reliable leads at a lower cost and help solar consumers get transparent and accurate information. Anna explains more about the need for this plugin in the solar market:
“[Buying solar is really an educational process, and I think that as an industry we need a change of culture, [because currently] we don't want to tell anyone what it's going to cost. We want the opportunity to give the homeowner the full proposal.
“Well, and that's fine, but now as a consumer's becoming more savvy, they really want to know, and they get more confidence by seeing, okay, yes, I can afford solar. It's like the Lamborghini concept, you know, everyone wants one, but they don't think they can afford one.
“Well, it's the same thing with solar. And I think by offering a range and being transparent, that just creates more consumer confidence, and they will trust and ask for a full proposal from that solar company.”
Anna concludes this comment by talking about the future of solar and energy consumption:
“After doing a quick calculation, we're also educating them on what they need. You know, if you sell someone a 100 percent offset of their bill today, you are doing the minimum service. They need more—the average American household consumes 5 percent or more power every year. That combined with the rate of utilities increasing, we're looking at at least 10 percent year over year that you're going to need more than you have today.
“And in the next five years, 20 percent of all vehicles will be electric. And I think part of this is educating the customer on how much solar they need, why now, and then ensuring them that they can afford it and providing them with the right partner to do that.”
Anna then shifts gears a bit and goes more into the dos and don’ts of marketing in the solar industry. Her first word of warning relates to choosing the right partners.
“Digital marketing is like the wild, wild west. There's no third party oversight. It's very easy to get taken advantage of, and that's a constant thing that I hear when I am introduced to solar companies or other companies.
“They've been burned so many times, and that's because they are trusting these companies that are going to bring them all these results and it's going to be so wonderful. But they don't understand what the data means. And then they're looking at reports, and these reports are fabricated or they're not even real.”
Anna goes on to explain that because of this lack of third party oversight in the digital marketing space, picking the right partners and setting measurable expectations is the best way to protect yourself from getting burned by a bad player.
Additionally, she stresses the importance of understanding the marketing data yourself, rather than taking your partner’s word for it. When you do these things, she says, you’ll be less likely to be disappointed by partners.
Anna then gives another word of caution to marketers in regards to set and forget bidding strategies:
“Google [or Bing] will be like, ‘Let us do the work. Don't worry, you just tell us how much you want to spend and we'll spend your money.’
“It's easy, right? Well, it's good for them. It's not good for you because not all keywords were created equal. Not all users are worth the same. It's the same thing. Think about a home. Not all neighborhoods are equal. You know, someone who lives in this zip code is worth more to us.
“They have bigger houses, they have more money than someone who lives in this zip code. Well, we know that, but the algorithm doesn't. So we don't let them bid for us, and we also have to protect the integrity of our campaigns by having bot protection."
Anna continues by emphasizing this need to protect your website and your leads, especially in today’s market:
“Almost half of all clicks are fake. It's a very scary time to go out there unprotected. [So you can’t] just hand over the keys to the car to Google and say, ‘You spend this money, I'm sure you'll find a place to spend it.’
“Of course they will. It's like me walking into Disneyland; sometimes I just want to just say, ‘Let me just hand you my bank account and you let me know when I run out of money. Because it might be simpler, but they would find a way for me to drain that.”
Anna is then asked to talk about what businesses can do to lower their customer acquisition cost (CAC). She gives two suggestions: first, understand your sales process and second, automate as much as possible.
In regards to understanding your sales process, Anna explains, “I think it really does start with understanding what's currently happening, not just with leads, but with the sales process.
“And we find that [marketing and sales] really should be intermingling, where marketing's getting the lead and [making] sure that it's high quality and that there's ways to measure that and to try to, you know, age data versus new data.
“And then really the speed to revenue, right? Because with an age data source, it might cost less to get the data, but it takes longer during the sales process to get to that end result. So you have to think about, what are you willing to spend for this conversion or this sale, and how long are you willing to wait?
“Because those two metrics can be different or variable. And I think people don't always think about that. It's like, well we want it to be $1,500, but we also need them to happen within 30 days. Well, you know, maybe then we have to have different expectations or have different funnels.”
The second strategy for lowering CAC, according to Anna, is to automate as much as possible. She explains that automating calls, texts, voicemails, etc. helps take out the room for employee error and allows you to jump on leads while they are still hot, even if your employees aren’t actively working all hours of the day.
She also suggests updating your CRM with new data multiple times a day, rather than just once or twice. This is because the time between when a solar lead is submitted and when the company reaches out to that lead is so precious and crucial to driving higher conversion rates and sales volume.
Anna concludes with her final, 30-second advice to marketers looking to up their game:
“I would say do [what] I'm going to call the BS checker.
“What I always like to say, or the question you ask [to a potential partner] is, ‘Are you going to be able to screen share with me?’ Like when they talk about reporting, it's like, oh, this is an example of a report. Well, no, I want you to show me, like, ask them to screen share and show you how they're going to do it.
“And if they can't do it, or they're not capable of doing it, then you know that they're outsourcing it or it's BS basically, and they're not the partner that you need because you're not talking to the real expert.”
You can connect with Anna on LinkedIn or learn more about Covert Communication below.
About Anna and Covert Communication
Founded in 2011, Covert Communication (formerly Wind On Water Communication), was born from the need to provide next-level online solutions for an ever-evolving digital marketing landscape. Leading from the front, Covert provides integrated online solutions, including remarketing, intent marketing, social media, and real-time affinity front-funnel solutions. Some of these solutions include search powered audience targeting, competitive conquesting, direct response, geo-fencing, CRM email marketing, website design, optimization, maintenance, and much more.
Anna has worked extensively on both the client side and the agency side, fusing her traditional and online media experience into a unique and seamless approach to build next-generation marketing strategies. Her experience encompasses a range of disciplines spanning account management, media buying, social media, e-marketing, retargeting, branding, strategy, and public relations for well-established brands like SunPower, Panasonic, Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, Mokulele Airlines, Burger King, and many others.
Anna is passionate about the rapidly evolving digital landscape and has hands-on experience employing everything from wildly successful digital and social media campaigns to applying Google analytics to traditional media planning.
Anna graduated Cum Laude from the Bentley University School of Business in Waltham, MA with a BS in marketing and a minor in management. In her spare time, she enjoys donating websites to nonprofits including the Boys & Girls Club of Hawaii.