Last month, when the TerraCurrent team sat down to a conversation with management consultant Robert W. Cross, it was clear right away that we had many things in common.
A professional dedication to growing clean energy businesses. A strategic approach to customer service and the value of holistic solutions that address branding, marketing, PR and sales.
We talked about the need to elevate the discourse about clean energy marketing. We also covered the challenges of navigating the emerging landscape of virtual conferences and industry events.
How best to allocate time and resources to these new, rapidly evolving opportunities? And how can we seize this moment to help bring quality marketing content to business leaders in the clean energy industries?
As a group, we’ve committed to host a discussion about these issues with industry peers. And to get the ball rolling, we’ve initiated a discussion right here. TerraCurrent chief marketing officer Matthew Hirsch posed questions for our guest Robert W. Cross, along with our CEO Glenna Wiseman and Chief Creative Officer Aimee Tuck.
We’ve all been involved in planning clean energy conferences and events, serving on education committees and in similar leadership roles. What’s the biggest reason these events don’t feature more content on sales and marketing?
Robert: The industry undervalues marketing and sales. The core focus centers around the product, technology and engineering–which makes sense—but marketing and sales are instrumental to success in business.
Aimee: I think there are two fears when it comes to dedicating time to sales and marketing educational content at clean energy shows. First, it’s tough to be in a room with competitors and ask questions about these topics, showing where one might have holes or weaknesses in their sales channels. Two, the belief that sales and marketing content will simply be a pitch to hire the presenter(s) instead of valuable information.
Glenna: When I’ve participated in creating marketing related panels at SPI in the past the conversations have been vibrant and the participation high. This is not a nod to my contribution. It is a contextual note for the confusion I feel around this topic. The conversation each company and the industry as a whole conducts with prospects is complex and laden with opportunity. Why we don’t want to explore in depth those opportunities and how to maximize them beyond paid leads is a mystery to me.
There are a lot of places to go outside the clean energy industries for sales and marketing content, including events like Dreamforce. How do you make the case to CEOs in clean energy that we need solutions tailored specifically for solar, energy storage and various industries we serve?
Aimee: While best practices in sales and marketing will work regardless of industry, it is valuable to see and hear about examples that really get to the core of clean energy marketing pain points. CEO time is short. The information provided should be on point.
Glenna: Our industry will continue to adopt best in class marketing and communications strategies and tactics. As CEOs and management teams fly through the “solarcoaster” they are best served by practitioners who apply tactics utilized by marketers globally to the unique environment of the solar and clean energy sector. One can burn a whole lot of time on educating a marketer about the industry instead of jumpstarting results with a team who is on the same ride.
Robert: By illustrating performance. Companies that embrace a strategic approach to marketing and sales—working with purpose and intent—will note the difference in business line results over time.
Clean energy companies of all kinds need to educate consumers, whether selling to businesses or end customers. At what point does it become necessary to take a fresh look at your business model and take on the challenge of monetizing content and bringing professional education into the 21st Century?
Glenna: Content marketing is a process. Impactful programs start with understanding the customer group you are engaging with the content. The discipline to work from persona development through content themes, then content development, distribution and results measuring – are steps in building a strong program. Once this structure is built it can and will reap benefits including lead generation. Skipping steps is like building a structure without a foundation. I will also add the industry has lots of opportunity to understand and engage women.
Robert: Every business should have a clear value proposition. From there, it is important to have a cogent brand narrative that helps you stand out in a crowded marketplace – differentiation and being authentic are key. Ignoring your online business presence, not being active, engaged or thoughtful on social, these are clear signs to your customers that you are behind the times.
Aimee: I think the better question to ask is, who is the beneficiary of the content? While all content should provide value to the viewer, if the company producing the content benefits by gaining leads, then I would question the monetization. If the viewer benefits, then it is a service and can be monetized.
What are a few specific ways that clean energy brands can work with TerraCurrent and Cross Consulting Services to bring better sales and marketing materials to industry events?
Robert: Invest in sales and marketing. Some companies are best served building internal capacity, others subcontract out or take a hybrid approach. Either way, make sure it is part of your business game plan for conference events.
Aimee: Contact event organizers and let them know you are interested in sales and marketing education. They need to hear from clean energy companies across the spectrum. Also, reach out to us to express your interest in learning. With digital learning so accessible now, perhaps this is an offering we can provide in 2021.
Glenna: Ahead of the installer solar marketing program we developed for Energy Trust of Oregon (Solar Marketing Free Curriculum on Heatspring) we did surveys with installers. 62% of them indicated marketing was the most difficult part of their jobs. This is an industry driven by amazing financial and construction talent. So, it is no surprise marketing remains as this mysterious cost center that is viewed as necessary but evil. As the industry matures marketing will become even more important. We’ve seen this now as clients work to sell in a virtual environment. Industry events must keep pace.
Join us at the Clean Energy Events Roundtable on August 26th.