Solar Women Summer Series: Marketing the Solar Lifestyle
Post originally appeared in the HeatSpring Magazine, July 13, 2015.
Glenna Wiseman is the founding principal of Identity3, a marketing organization on a mission to “empower a sustainable world”, specializing in online/media marketing as well as event and Public Relations work. Wiseman has been an executive marketing professional in the solar industry since 2007, and has worked with solar companies from supply chains upwards. She has fueled growth in start-ups to divisions of Fortune 500 organizations, and is active in the U.S. Green Building Council, CA Local Governments Commission, and the City of Redlands Climate Action Task Force.
- Marketing solar lifestyle benefits to women is incredibly lucrative.
- Solar companies should prioritize better training for selling solar to women.
- Sources like Renewable Energy World, CleanTechnica, Solar Power World Magazine, Greentech Media, and SolarPro offer fantastic insights into the business of renewable energy.
- Staying up to date with your online conversations (via Twitter and other social media channels) will help you craft audience-relevant content.
What do you do in the solar industry? How’d you get started?
The marketing, communications and new business development skills I have developed help companies in the solar industry reach their revenue goals.
Having built companies from scratch as well as work within corporations, I understand the importance of ensuring marketing activities align with sales and revenue generation objectives. In the solar industry I’ve been privileged to work with firms along the solar supply chain from manufacturers to installers, financing entities to solar O&M providers and across continents to international firms making a U.S. market entry. It is exciting to contribute to emerging trends, new companies and the growth of established firms. In my career I’ve worked with start-ups to divisions of Fortune 500 organizations. In the final analysis, no matter the size of the company, there is always a core team. Contributing to the team’s success is very important to my professional fulfillment.
The Great Recession changed the course of many lives. In my case, my path into the solar industry began at the cliff’s edge of the recession.
My partners and I built a smart home integration company from scratch into a successful player in California new home construction. Our model integrated smart home related devices encompassing entertainment, digital communications, security, energy management and lighting control, into new home control systems. We worked with high end tract builders for the initial wiring and option package development, conducted “smart home seminars” to introduce the concept to the tract’s new residents and sold option packages to home purchasers.
I learned valuable lessons in turning complicated technology language into lifestyle benefits. This was important for the wives to help them understand the technology’s impact on their family life. Each time I sat with a couple my options were in competition with granite, high end flooring and new swimming pools, analogous to the solar industry.
When the economy and new home building in California crashed, as a single parent, I needed to find work. My goal was to find a construction firm, preferably environmentally oriented, near by. It was an incredible blessing to align with HelioPower, a CA based solar installer. Their need for a marketing lead aligned with my experience. I’m proud of the work I did to help HelioPower grow from late 2007 until 2012.
My experience working with hundreds of homeowners has biased my view about marketing solar to women and the lifestyle benefits solar represents for households in America. I think there is a very strong opportunity for women who want to sell solar and can get support to be on a sales team with an installation firm. Selling solar lifestyle benefits and paying attention to how women want to be marketed and sold to can be very lucrative.
You’ve worked with a lot of different companies – what’s been your favorite project so far?
As a consultant you are asking me to choose between my clients, not an easy task, so I won’t choose a favorite. It has given me great pleasure to contribute to the growth of Alectris, a global service provider for solar asset care. Their sector of the industry, operations, maintenance and management, has been developing worldwide. For nearly two years now I’ve been able to contribute, through aligning with Vassilis and his team, to this conversation in the industry and to their global growth.
Originally I went to school as a journalist. This morphed into communications, PR and business development. These skills have served me very well in my career. In the solar industry my background translates to fulfillment in developing insightful content, highlighting emerging trends, contributing to important dialogue or educating the industry as a whole. With Alectris, I’ve been able to exercise these content development muscles to contribute to the overall industry discussion related to solar O&M while helping them reach global expansion goals.
I use the term vibrant marketing for my agency because creative campaigns are very exciting. At HelioPower we worked with Bob’s Big Boy, the iconic eatery in Burbank, CA for their “Sixty and Solar” celebration. While it seems like ancient history now in “solar years,” this campaign stands out as one of those eliciting a smile to my face. It touched so many stakeholders in the community, lauded Bob’s decision to go solar and elevated the awareness and press for all involved. I’ve been so blessed to have worked with so many great firms like Sony, Porsche and charities including Ronald McDonald House Charities while at HelioPower.
As a consultant it has been my pleasure to work with the Renovate America, the HERO team and now with Mitsubishi Electric Solar among others. One of my favorite social medial based campaigns was our Solar Power International campaign last year. The #SolarChat campaign, with founder Raina Russo, brought several companies together for two Twitter events, a live event in Las Vegas and lots of press along the way. Having Senator Harry Reid on the post #SPIcon event really brought home how many impressions we can generate with a timely topic and coordinated effort. Readers can find more on this #SolarChat Unplugged campaign here.
Finding my way in this journey has proven to be both strenuous and rewarding. Its cliché to say “don’t give up when the going gets tough” but it is true and applicable to those who want to work in this industry.
What are you doing to get more women into the industry?
My contribution has been on the side of how the industry can best market to female consumers. I believe as the industry gets bigger more women can be involved. That said, in 2013 my partner at the time, Raina and I asked Andrea Luecke of The Solar Foundation if she could start tracking the number of women in the solar industry as part of her foundation’s amazing work with solar workforce data. She affirmed this course and today we are seeing the numbers reflect more diversity, proving “what you track you can improve.”
There are so many organizations now working to spur gender diversity in the industry including WISE, Grid Alternatives, Women in Cleantech and Sustainability, STEM, etc. The example set by the DOE’s SunShot leadership, Minh Le, in hiring really smart women in this federal level program has been very inspiring, to cite one example.
I’m working on some other ways to reach more women with the solar value proposition. Stay tuned!
Any specific people or companies who have helped you grow in this industry? Personally? Professionally?
Professionally Marti Barletta, the country’s foremost authority on marketing to women, has inspired me greatly. She allowed me to capture her insights and funnel them into initial articles for industry publications.
Personally and professional my gratitude goes to Raina Russo. We worked together for over a year to forward the marketing solar to women conversation and on a year’s worth of #SolarChat events including the aforementioned SPI 2014 campaign. Recently we came to the realization our paths needed to diverge and not be directly aligned. She is continuing our initial work with Women4Solar as an LLC in Florida. 2014 was a very difficult year for me personally with the death of my beloved father. During this time Raina developed into a something beyond an industry colleague into a “solar sister.” She has contributed selflessly to the industry and I wish her all the best in the world in her current endeavors. My experience in this industry would be so much less sunny without her vibrant contribution to my life.
There are many others with whom I collaborate, talk, depend and contribute to in this industry. Even at 174,000 strong it is still a very small world and we need each other to continue solar’s growth as a major industrial sector.
You’ve done a ton of research on women’s purchasing decisions when it comes to solar. What are 3 big takeaways that solar companies should pay attention to when it comes to marketing and selling solar?
According to our research and the feedback I have from installers in the field, the industry has the opportunity to:
- Train their sales teams to better sell solar to women.
- Along with training existing teams, actively promote and get more women involved in solar sales.
- Target and market to female demographic groups.
What are you most excited about right now? Professionally/personally?
Working with more companies in the industry in general and developing powerful campaigns to reach more female consumers. Personally I am inspired by the advent of more awareness around the business benefits of mindfulness and meditation, powerful practices in my own life.
What are your 3 favorite resources, tips, books, etc for someone interested in joining the solar industry?
On a daily basis, because of my work, I look at many resources in the industry, tracking those sources who originate great journalism these include but certainly are not limited to Renewable Energy World, CleanTechnica, Solar Power World Magazine, Greentech Media, SolarPro, etc.
@GlennaWiseman was just named one of the top 100 Twitter followers in #cleantech. Any advice for those of us hoping to one day earn that honor?
My tips include:
- Use a tool like Hootsuite.
- Identify and develop lists of hashtag conversations, media outlets, organizations, and leaders aligned with your topics of interest allowing you to filter out unimportant Twitter conversations. Stay focused.
- Carve out time daily to stay up to date with these conversations.
- Develop content that will contribute to your relevant Twitter conversations.
Anything else you’d like to share?
The industry is growing increasingly social media savvy. Unabashedly I’ll encourage marketers to review the series we just posted on the Identity3 blog about hashtag marketing for solar event organizers, marketers and to pump up your campaigns by giving hashtags three-dimensional appeal. These are timely as we go into #Intersolar and #SPIcon. This series is with the very talented industry graphics gal, Aimee Tuck. Collaboration, it is key to vibrant marketing and professional happiness!
- Purchase Identity3’s 2014 ‘Shining a Solar Marketing Light on Women’ survey results.
- Keep up with Identity3’s Marketing Blog!
- Free Course: How to Make Money in Renewable Energy with Chris Williams
- Free Course: Residential Solar Sales Optimization with Chris Williams
- Learn more about women in solar via RenewableEnergyWorld.com (the exclusive media sponsor of this summer series)
- Join us on July 13th at the Intersolar North America Happy Hour hosted by Women in Cleantech & Sustainability, Solar Marketing Group, Women In Solar Energy, and GRID Alternatives.
- We’ll also be at the WISE Intersolar North America breakfast on July 14th!
- Check out the National Women in Solar Initiative webcast series hosted by GRID Alternatives and SunEdison
- Free Course: Basic Solar PV Design, Code, Economics, Sales, and Site Visits
- Learn the financial modeling background and perspective often lacking in deal negotiations by taking our Solar Executive MBA Training