One of the more troubling pieces of my research over the last 20 years is the persistent finding that early adopters of renewable energy don’t really like each other. When I interview people who have adopted solar power, they often tell me (politely) they don’t “respect” other people who have also adopted solar.
The reason this concerns me is a large percentage of promotional activity in solar relies on referrals, references and testimonials. And it’s a big problem for solar companies if your referral activities are only marginally effective due to the (apparent) dislike between early adopters.
I’ve been mostly ignoring this piece of my research until recently when I discovered a research study that EXACTLY confirms what I have been seeing.
Andrés Duany is the founder of the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU). In his presentation at CNU in Seattle last July, Mr. Duany describes the characteristics of early adopters of residential solar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=upZSbksrJXE.
His description of solar early adopters begins at the 49-second mark.
Mr. Duany’s method of segmenting the early market for solar is different than mine. Whereas I use two adopter segments, “innovators and early adopters,” he uses four segments: ethical-types, business-types, cool greens, and survivalists.
Mr. Duany’s presentation at CNU25 is very informative and the most relevant fact he presents is at the 4-minute mark where he says early adopters of solar “don’t even like each other.”
I have to be honest. There is something very reassuring about finding independent research that confirms your work.
So if early adopters of renewable energy don’t like each other, how can you attract them without the use of references and referrals? This is an important question because solar is still very much in an early market, which in dominated by innovators and early adopters. The mainstream doesn’t kick in until more than 15% of all houses in a given area are solar powered. So there are still plenty of early adopters to find and sell to.
The answer to this question lies in the single characteristic found in ALL early adopters — the desire to find a fundamental breakthrough. Any organization that offers clean technology or renewable energy can attract early adopters by emphasizing the potential for a quantum leap in results.
Talk is cheap these days so the best way to illustrate this concept of early adopter marketing is to provide an example. Therefore I have created a video that describes a green building using the “language of early adopters.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NjC7YlXf8cM
Notice the messaging includes phrases such as strategic advantage, visibility and leadership, all three of which are concepts that attract all early adopters.
Please let me know what you think.