Why the Green Industry Needs Third-Party Lead Gen Services

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The green industry is graduating from its rambunctious infancy to its more goal-oriented toddler years, casting sales and marketing teams suddenly under the microscope of sobered investors searching for a scalable business model. If baby ‘Green' is going to grow up to be just like its parents - Social Media and Cloud Computing - and match their "next big thing" realized status, some very different business backgrounds better learn to play together fast.


Most companies in the green industry are an oddly concocted stew of do-gooders, venture capitalists and contractors with a few software and telecom gurus sprinkled in for good measure, and everybody has a different concept of what drives revenue. The do-gooders - conveniently unmotivated by money - have a charming but unrealistic "if it's good for the world, then it's good business" perspective. Venture capitalists notoriously think more cash is the solution to all problems...until it runs out. Contractors come from a world where you hang up a shingle, call on some friends and work off referrals from there. Telecom thrives by the numbers game, putting enough feet on the street selling an unavoidable service that sales occur by shotgun effect. And software people think the ‘killer app' will sell itself. This is all bit tongue-in-cheek of course, but only a bit.


It seems that customer perspective is lost amidst all the hoopla about ‘Going Green'. While Green practices are necessary long-term, they're not of immediate importance for the short-term survival of an operating businesses, real estate portfolio or cash-strapped consumer. Green is also new, and lack of precedent is a strong deterrent from moving forward with a purchasing decision. Homeowners and real estate professionals know that reducing consumption and embracing renewable energy is a legitimate responsibility and economic directive, but their level of active response to this concern is directly correlated with their comfort level shopping for a solution, which is paralyzingly low at this point in the evolution of the green industry. Qualified buyers don't know what to do, so they do nothing.

New markets make the web a bit silly. Run a query in your search engine of choice for anything energy or green related, and you'll notice the top results - both sponsored and organic - are almost completely irrelevant. Bonanzas attract all comers, and if I were basing my purchasing decision off search results alone, I'd be getting an energy audit from a caffeinated beverage company!

It's clearly time for the green industry to become driven by revenue instead of speculation, but target buyers don't know where to shop, and sellers don't know how to efficiently fill their sales pipelines with qualified opportunities. A middleman is required to make introductions until relationships are established and best practices or on par with education. "Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match. Find me a find. Catch me a catch"- Fiddler.


We need to help buyers shop around en route building their comfort level with green technologies. This means embracing the notion of sharing sales opportunities with the competition for the common good of awareness. With an inevitable barrage of green purchases in the ten-year pipeline, a deal lost now to get your brand in the marketplace is worth three deals won later, if only we can collectively make believers out of skeptics.


Think about it. How do you purchase a new product for the first time? Do you buy from the first salesman that captures your attention claiming the latest and greatest, or do you seek reinforcement in the form of comparison shopping and referrals? If you're in the green game, your core sales opportunities are competitive, not exclusive. Sometimes you'll luck into a naively captive audience, but that's not a plan I'd sell to investors.

First-time buyers seek validation through referrals. Without the brand awareness of an established industry where a handful of well-known companies dominate the center of the market and niche players cater to the special demands of the fringe, home owners and property managers need a bit of hand holding to get them through the vendor selection process. They need a presumably unbiased voice of experience to vouch for the quality and integrity of their suppliers. They need someone to say "Don't worry. We know your heart's in the right place with this green stuff and you're afraid you'll get burned by a rookie mistake. We'll make sure you're in good hands."


Picture this: You just moved into a new home and want to lower your bills, help the environment and set a good example for your children and neighborhood by looking into installing solar panels on the roof. Two signs are posted across the street. One says, "We have the best solar panels. Call us now!" and the other says "We'll help you shop around for solar panels by matching you with top local installers. Just send us your info and we'll do the legwork for free!" While some people may prefer the simplicity of contacting the company from the first sign directly, roughly 75% would seek the guidance of the second company, and that's what the green marketing professionals need to understand at this stage in the evolution of the marketplace.


What's even more alarming to sales and marketing traditionalists is that even if you do manage to grab the attention of a potential buyer through independent sales or advertising efforts, this prospect is still likely to use your initial information and proposal as leverage to shop around and validate their decision whether or not to work with you. Like it or not, new markets lend themselves favorably to third-party lead generation services that can better engender the trust of anxious buyers than ostensibly biased vendors, and the green industry is most certainly a new market.


The clearest path to a scalable revenue model for green companies offering efficiency and renewable energy services to the residential and non-institutional commercial markets is through qualified sales referrals from independent third-party services that provide buyers the safety net they need to get over the hurdle of shopping without precedent. Differentiating your services with a consultative sales process that gradually builds familiarity with your brand, technology and the implications of moving forward will be a key driver of adoption, and satisfied customers will generate their own (possibly exclusive) referrals from there on out.


Certainly not the least of considerations, although not particular to the green industry, is that the pay-per-lead model is the easiest way to track marketing expenditure performance in terms of cost per acquisition and long-term ROI. You pay $X per sales lead. Y% of leads purchased turn into sales. The average sale is worth Z. If the math doesn't work out, you either need to increase the quality of the leads, your sales team or both. Simple.


Forget "If you can't beat ‘em, join ‘em." The real money for growing a green technology company in 2011 will be "Join ‘em, then beat ‘em".

http://www.GreenTechBuyer.org

 

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