Should I buy residential solar panel installation leads or generate my own in 2020?

We all know that we need leads to sell solar jobs. However, what most solar business owners are less sure about is the best way to go about doing this. Should you be doing your own solar marketing or should we be buying leads from a solar lead generation business? This article compares both strategies.

How hard is it for solar panel installation companies to generate their own leads in 2020?

Very Hard……The profit margin in the residential solar industry in the US is phenomenal compared to similar home improvement industries or by international comparison. For example, installed residential solar systems are sold in Australia at around $1.20 per watt. To put it another way, you get paid $16,000 more than a company that installs the exact same 8kW system in Australia.

Given this profit margin, it is not surprising so many are investing heavily to attract solar leads. The consumer has been bombarded with solar marketing and are now less responsive to outbound mass marketing, whether telemarketing, television advertising, radio or door knocking. In 2020, every homeowner knows there are many zero down solar offers out there. It is not a novel or new concept anymore as it was in 2013-2015. The consumer now reserves their right to choose when they engage with a solar company. When they decide to do so, they usually start with a web search. This is why web generated solar leads are now the best source of solar leads.

However, generating your own web leads is not easy. Companies like SolarReviews and EnergySage spend millions each year on content creation and still only generate a few hundred leads per day across the whole nation. It is very difficult for a small installer to spend the same amount on content or online marketing as much of the spend would ultimately generate leads outside their service area. Even the largest solar installers can't match this investment and buy leads from solar lead generation companies.

Why doesn't content I publish on my website rank as highly as content published by SolarReviews and EnergySage?

It takes constant publishing of new content for 2-3 years for a website to get a high enough domain authority so that any content you write will come up highly in searches. A nicer website might help convert prospects from existing marketing efforts to clients but it won't generate any significant volume of additional leads in the short term.

However, it can be worth investing in your own content marketing if you take a long term view of return because in the long run organic search positioning can deliver a small volume of leads at a zero marginal cost. These leads may also be exclusive to you and have a higher chance of converting sales.

Can I generate my own solar power leads using Google Adwords?

Yes, but this usually involves you spending more per qualified lead than simply buying them from a reputable solar lead generation company.

The difficulty you will face with Adwords is that new Adwords accounts tend to buy the clicks that the experienced advertisers don't want because they don't convert to either leads or sales. It is probably still worth trying your own Google Adwords account, and comparing the cost of acquisition you get from it to buying leads from a lead generation company. However, if you do so I would suggest using a professional adwords manager to track your spend and return properly as most get very poor results.

Who generates the most genuine residential solar leads in 2020?

2020 has seen a busy start to the year for the solar industry with solar leads up 25% over 2018 levels.

However, much of the status quo that has applied for the last 2-3 years in relation to solar leads remains, namely:

  • The biggest generators of organic residential solar leads are SolarReviews, Solar-Estimate (also owned by Solar Reviews), Clean Energy Experts (who are owned by Sunrun) and EnergySage;
  • Nobody else has any significant volume of organic solar leads. I know you still get called by a new solar lead generation company every week claiming they have leads to sell but most of these companies are frauds (they mainly have databases of aged leads and no way of generating new leads).
  • Given this is the case it is very important that you both understand each of these company's business models and lead generation processes and also that you look at ways to generate your own leads.

How profitable is buying leads in 2020?

Below you will find our solar lead returns calculator. From this you will see that even if only one in 20 leads you buy converts to a sale then you will generate a 100% return on the money you spend.

I highly recommend using this calculator as it shows you how much profit you are missing out on by not educating yourself about solar leads and forming partnerships with the best solar lead vendors.

Use our solar lead calculator

So what is the best strategy for buying solar leads?

Although I obviously take the view that SolarReviews' qualified solar leads will generate the lowest cost of acquisition I acknowledge these leads are also the most expensive and so you may want to try several lead vendors. For what it's worth, here are my views of the pros and cons of each of the major solar lead vendors and my best guess as to what contact and conversion rates are for the other lead sources based on what I know about how they generate their leads.

Company Lead Quality Benefits Contact rate (lead via phone) Conversion to Appointments Conversion to Sales ROI Comments
Solar Reviews High
  • Highest quality leads and best converting leads
  • Medium Volume
  • Lowest cost of acquisition
  • Manual QA process
  • Verification phone number belongs to lead
70-80% 30-35% 6-15% Best Only lead vendor that makes consumers enter an verification code sent to their cell phone to become a lead. Also has a manual QA process that vets all leads and excludes 50% from being sold.
Clean Energy Experts (Sunrun) Medium
  • Medium volume
  • Reasonable lead quality
50-60% 15-20% 3-6% Good Similar lead generation methods to SolarReviews being a mix of organic and paid search traffic but the problem here is that the company is owned by Sunrun and so there is a widespread suspicion that the very best leads from the overall leads pile have probably been taken out before you get them. Many installers don’t want to support Sunrun's internal lead generation objectives by buying what they perceive to be their scraps.
Energy Sage Lowest
  • Leads are cheap
  • High volume
Unknown but we estimate 10-20% 5-10% (estimate) 0.5-3% (estimate) Acceptable Because consumers can use their site without entering their phone number there is a lower overall intent to buy on average and so very low conversion rates. However, possibly still an acceptable return on investment.
Solar Reviews

Lead Quality
High

Benefits
  • Highest quality leads and best converting leads
  • Medium Volume
  • Lowest cost of acquisition
  • Manual QA process
  • Verification phone number belongs to lead

Contact rate (lead via phone)
70-80%

Conversion to Appointments
30-35%

Conversion to Sales
6-15%

ROI
Best

Comments
Only lead vendor that makes consumers enter an SMS sent to their phone to become a lead. Also has a manual QA process that will vett out 50% of leads from being sold.

Clean Energy Experts (Sunrun)

Lead Quality
Medium

Benefits
  • Medium volume
  • Reasonable lead quality
  • Manual QA process

Contact rate (lead via phone)
50-60%

Conversion to Appointments
15-20%

Conversion to Sales
3-6%

ROI
Good

Comments
Similar lead generation methods to SolarReviews being a mix of organic and paid search traffic but the problem here is that the company is owned by Sunrun and so there is a widespread suspicion that the very best leads from the overall leads pile have probably been taken out before you get them. Many installers don’t want to support Sunrun's internal lead generation objectives by buying what they perceive to be their scraps.

Energy Sage

Lead Quality
Lowest

Benefits
  • Leads are cheap
  • High volume

Contact rate (lead via phone)
Unknown but we estimate 10-20%

Conversion to Appointments
5-10% (estimate)

Conversion to Sales
0.5-3% (estimate)

ROI
Acceptable

Comments
Because consumers can use their site without entering their phone number there is a lower overall intent to buy on average and so very low conversion rates. However, possibly still an acceptable return on investment.

Solar companies need to measure cost of acquisition to be successful with lead buying?

You should certainly test all three of the above lead sources because although they are all different they are the three lead sources I would suggest are least likely to contain fraud. The secret is to measure results. No-one can defraud you if you continually monitor results and cost of acquisition each month. Our best clients share their cost of acquisition data with us each month.

Register to buy SolarReviews leads

How to calculate your return on investment from buying solar leads

A tool to help you value solar leads to decide which leads to buy and how much return you get from your investment

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Direct Job Cost Assumptions


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Your Business Estimates


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kw

Direct Job Cost Assumptions Total

(not including overheads or lead costs)

$1.46


Cost assumptions used in the calculator have all been validated by products available from www.cedgreentech.com and www.rexel.com.
In fact many solar companies pay less for products than what is shown here.


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Our three solar lead generation websites are:

 

Best solar installers, best solar panels
The largest dedicated solar reviews and ratings website in America. The site contains reviews of both solar installation companies and solar panels.
Solar estimate quotes, solar panels payback calculator
Originally developed with support from the US Department of Energy this site houses the leading "solar panels payback calculator" in America.
Solar panels, how much do solar panels cost
The largest solar panels discussion website in America.

 

Together these sites contain some of the most informative and unique content available on the internet for consumers who are considering installing solar panels on their home or business.

With approximately 3 million unique visitors per year and plans to double this traffic by 2018 these sites also represent the largest block of web traffic in America relating to information for homeowners that are considering installing solar panels.

All solar leads that we provide to solar installers are generated through these websites and so you can see the exact information and call to action that has led to a consumer requesting a quote.

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The information on our website is general in nature and is not intended as a substitute for competent legal, financial or electrical engineering advice. Reviews on this site do not reflect the views or opinions of SolarReviews or its directors or shareholders, nor an endorsement of any third party company. We make no representation as to the accuracy of the information entered by third parties. We disclaim any liability for any damages or loss arising from your use thereof.


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