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An Interview with Tor Valenza Pt. 2: Overcoming the Hurdles of Solar Marketing

Marketing experts in the solar and energy storage business know that it’s a pretty specialized niche, and finding the right ways to maximize your impact and efforts isn’t always easy. Some people in this position might think of it as a disadvantage, but it’s all about knowing your customer and solving their problems. You’re not selling to your average person walking down the street; we’re looking towards a more targeted group and a very precise customer base.

So find the main pain points of your customers and solve them with your product/services. Sounds pretty simple right? But you need to research what they’re searching for, what their questions are and assure them through the right kinds of content that you are right for them. It can be blogs, webinars, videos, tutorials, social media, conventions—the list really is endless in things that can help you maximize your efforts.

In part-2 of our interview with Tor Valenza, aka “Solar Fred,” who has more than a decade of experience marketing in the solar industry, we talk about the number one thing it takes to maintain market leadership and some of the surprising challenges for those selling solar. Tor is now the Director of Marketing at SepiSolar, a national solar design and engineering firm, and he’s still working through many of the same pain points as the rest of us.

What would you say is the number one problem marketers face when marketing to a niche market such as solar?

The number one problem marketers face is that the lights will stay on if their prospects don’t go solar. In other words, there’s really no urgency to go solar unless you’re in Puerto Rico and worried about the next hurricane. So, the solution is to promote maximum savings, which everyone does, but that’s just the first step. You also need to communicate about the warm and fuzzy feeling of being a more sustainable business/homeowner, and the feeling of energy independence, or “the cool factor.” That’s the artful part, because otherwise, the lights generally stay on, so people feel they can always save money later or wait until the technology improves or the price comes down.    

When it comes to the ever-changing solar market, what is your advice to solar companies to maintain market leadership?

Two words: Customer service. Installation is becoming as commoditized as solar panels. To combat people just choosing the lowest $/watt installer and racing to the bottom, every company must make every effort to show why they’re different, why they care more about their customers—and showing that in creative ways that are unique to them. If you’re successful, you’ll not only leave customers with warm fuzzies about themselves, but also about you, helping you to get multiple referrals if you’ve done everything with care, quality, and integrity. Only then will price matter less and trust matter more.

How did you transition from writing for television to the world of solar and renewable energy, and in turn, to join SepiSolar?

The answer to that is probably worthy of a bingeable Netfilx series. The short answer is that I’ve been interested in solar since I was in high school but didn’t have the math and physics chops to major in engineering. But I did love to write and got my first screenwriting job right out of college. Years later, there was a Writers Guild Strike and I went to the movies and saw a double feature of An Inconvenient Truth and Who Killed The Electric Car? It rekindled my enthusiasm for solar, and I opened my own boutique solar PR firm, eventually joined a larger solar PR firm. A few years later, I ran into Josh Weiner at an energy storage conference. He was looking for help, and I’d been thinking about focusing my PR work on one brand and really liked Josh and promoting a great design and engineering company like SepiSolar.  

Check out part-1 of this series with Tor: An Interview with Tor Valenza Pt. 1: Energy Storage Project Design, Engineering & Permitting



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