What Can Cleantech Communicators Learn From Mature Sectors? 8 Tips From Marketing Pros

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Clean energy is slowly but surely capturing market share from traditional fuels. In 2022, renewables generated more energy than coal in the U.S.,  and the IEA predicts solar and wind are on track to account for 25% of all electricity generated worldwide in 2028.

Cleantech is gaining momentum, but our sector is still young. To get a better understanding of how we can learn from more mature sectors, I sat down with a panel of marketing experts with 115 years of combined experience. These are folks who transitioned to the cleantech sector after having spent their careers marketing tech or consumer products. I spoke with five marketing pros, hailing from companies ranging from Facebook to firefighting technology. Here are their eight top tips:

#1: Use Data To Understand Your Audience

Data sharpens targeting strategies. According to Jodi Susman of Budderfly, “In tech, the sophistication of targeting is so critical… you have to rely on third party data and tech to break through and really understand your audience.” Jodi joined Budderfly, an energy management company, after spending time with SAAS, advertising, events, and video content companies. 

Social media platforms allow you to discover details about your audience. LinkedIn post analytics can show your audience’s geographic location, their employer type, their job title, and more. You can analyze the engagement rate of different posts to determine which topics resonate best with your audience. 

#2. Deepen Relationships With Trades

Brittany Maroney, Senior Director of Marketing at Transect, suggested building relationships with trade media by “asking them what the critical stories are out there, what they’re looking for.” Trade media is an important component of the B2B strategy for many cleantech companies. Building rapport with the editors at your top publications can generate media wins outside of the typical trade editorial calendars. 

#3. Use Trends To Connect Your Story To The Big Picture  

Maroney thinks that data-driven stories are essential because “businesses need to understand the value that they bring to the marketplace.” A data deep-dive can illuminate trends that allow you to create insight-driven content. Leverage data to illustrate big-picture findings to teach your audience something new. 

#4. Make Your Customer The Hero Of The Story 

Good storytelling on social media is formulaic. According to Anna Bishop Rehrig, who formerly worked at Facebook and Google, social media’s formula for good storytelling is about making the customer the hero of the story. 

You have heard about the six Ps in marketing: 1.) Purpose, 2.) Principles, 3.) Positioning, 4.) Promise, 5.) Proof, and 6.) Personality. Anna says she focuses on starting with the proof and promise of the product. 

#5. Offer An Inspiring Narrative

In tech-forward industries, data goes a long way, but we should not discount the power of emotional appeal. Adam Gordon, Fractional Marketing Executive at Sapients, considered how, “As an industry, we need some way of producing a better narrative, because the narrative that the climate industry is producing right now seems to have people mostly overwhelmed and scared, and it’s not a place from which people will make changes.” 

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#6. Be Willing To Be Vulnerable 

Most businesses are hesitant to reveal weaknesses. Yet, there are problems that plague us all.  

Solar and wind developers are suffering the consequences of community backlash. USA Today recently reported, “Across America, clean energy plants are being banned faster than they’re being built.” 

Reversing negative public sentiment is not a task a single company can take on alone. In the public eye, there is little brand recognition from one developer to the next. Banding together to overcome this challenge — and discuss painful realities — is a crucial lynchpin in our path forward.

The good news is that coalitions are building within both industry associations, SEIA and ACP. More of this work needs to be done, especially given the uncertain political outcomes of 2024 and the corresponding impact on the IRA. 

#7. Consider Leveraging The Power Of Social Influencers

Storytelling matters, and the messenger matters as much as the message. Brands often hire spokespeople to build trust with a specific audience. Nike’s Air Jordans offer an iconic example. The recent Super Bowl ads were filled with well-known faces like Tom Brady and Jason Sudeikis. While your company might not be able to afford a superstar on the payroll, consider how else you might leverage influencers in the era of social media. Do you have well-known people on your board who might want to share your content? Here is an example of how SunPower partnered with an Instagram influencer to demonstrate quick installation process.

#8. Step Outside Of The Bubble 

Given how young the renewable energy sector is, our networks are less established, and might lead to more insular conversations.  Wes Bolsen, an executive at Noon Energy says, “I think that sometimes we end up talking to ourselves in this industry. We want to put out press releases versus thought leadership.” 

As the sector welcomes professionals across industries, we have an opportunity to expand our knowledge and expedite the energy transition. 

Interested in learning more? Check out the resources below.  

It was great hearing from expert marketers. I’m sharing a list of resources they use to learn and grow. 

Melissa Baldwin
Melissa Baldwin

About the Author: Melissa Baldwin is the senior vice president of Tigercomm, a cleantech PR & marketing communications firm. Her clients include solar manufacturers, developers, storage, and energy service companies.


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