Analysis of a Solar Case Study: 9 Biggest Mistakes
As I take a look at solar cases studies out there I’m surprised to see that, more often than not, they’re missing important elements that are the difference between a customer story that works and one that misses the mark. A solar case study
can be one of the strongest parts of your marketing toolbox, but only if it avoids some of these important errors.
No engaging lead
You want to grab the reader’s attention right at the top with a compelling first few sentences. Copyblogger describes it as, “Leave them begging to know the end in the very beginning.” It’s the difference between something dry lifted from your About page:
“Solar ABC is a leading provider of residential and commercial solar solutions, known for our efficiency and first-class customer service”
And something more bold or thought provoking:
“Few universities in the world are as passionate about environmental stewardship than University of SJ.
“How do you use your home to help secure your grandchildren’s future?”
“What can a retiree do to make her bills more predictable?”
Lift Communication reports that when a story “creates a meaningful emotional connection with your audience…the perceived value of your products and services increases…[and] they’re often inspired to buy.” A solar case study is the perfect opportunity to use your non-sales type of voice to convey just how much value you bring to your customers. So there has to be a good story. With some drama.
That drama is found when the prospects feel and understand what your customer went through before finding your (utterly satisfying) solution. So they need to hear about the stress of the summer electric bill that capped $600 a month in your customer’s older, less energy efficient home or concerns that a partially shady roof or byzantine town ordinance would get
in the way. A good story doesn’t omit these kinds of details.
A solar case study is the perfect opportunity to use your non-sales type of voice to convey just how much value you bring to your customers.
Poor quality photos or none at all
At least one photo of the client and one of the installation go a long way. HubSpot states that when there is an image paired with content, a reader spends more time looking at it than the text, retains 55% more info three days later and is twice as likely to share it on social media. And ideally these photos should be quality enough to do the installation justice, particularly given that aesthetic is sometimes a concern for home and business owners. You could also include the logo of the company for a commercial installation to add another nice visual and some extra gravitas.
Not easy to scan
A strong solar case study is scannable, as in your busy reader can skim through the main ingredients and get a good picture of the power of this story. This means headline, photos, snapshot, subheads, and bullets. And a nice compliment to this is professional looking design. Whether one page or four the story should be laid out to showcase it in the best possible way, which can include nice quality images and font and sidebars with quotes and tech info. This way the content and design work together to create an easy to scan, sleek looking document.
Your prospects, commercial and residential alike, want to hear about what these happy folks have to say. When customers speak directly to your prospects, it helps build credibility and overcome skepticism. Get the customer quotes that make the story relatable and powerful. For a commercial solar case study, get them from several key decision makers given that that the facilities manager’s insights will differ from those of the CFO.
Lack of a snapshot
A snapshot on the front page or in the sidebar is a good way to capture the background details of your customer story in a way that doesn’t interrupt the storytelling. It usually includes a few short headlines:
Tempe, AZ based Anders Hospital, an award winning provider of diagnostic and treatment services, with 1,078 employees
and a speciality in cancer health and wellness
How to create a solar system that converts three parking lots and several rooftops into a revenue stream in time to apply for a local rebate about to be phased out
Develop and install a rooftop and carport system that complements building and lot layout and design and meet paperwork requirements and deadline the first time around
- Carport and rooftop installations
- Estimated annual savings of $108,459
- Estimated annual offset of 1.3 million pounds of CO2
Business employees are, above all others, the most trusted voices regarding a whole host of business topics. – Edelman Trust Barometer
B2B customers love case studies because they humanize a product and can help them usher other company decision makers throughout every phase of the buying cycle. They are also terrific at building trust, which is key for a larger job like a commercial install: the Edelman Trust Barometer 2017 stated that business employees are, above all others, the most trusted voices regarding a whole host of business topics. So make it easy for a B2B buyer to print your marketing gold and pass it around the office, complete with your design and branding.
A brief paragraph does not make a powerful case study, especially for business buyers. Part of what makes case studies one of “the most effective content marketing tactics, identified by 89% and 88%, respectively, of B2B marketers” is that they include compelling details about the challenges, solutions, and feelings experienced by the customers as well as a mix of quotes and data about ROI. And for the commercial case study it’s an opportunity to make explainable and relatable what can often be a long, complicated process. And there’s just no way you can accomplish that in four lines.
Story is buried under technical info and industry jargon
Many homeowners just beginning to find out about solar can’t decipher their own electric bill, let alone understand microinverters or dual metering. Eclipsing the relatable, personal parts of the story under technical information leaves them either confused or unmoved. The tech should be there to support the engaging story of the customer’s journey with some nice hard (and translated) facts.
Note: I’ve partially adapted sections of Gordon Graham’s article, Case Studies: the 7 Biggest Blunders in this post.