Solar energy is considered a long decision-cycle purchase. Due to the complexity of the sale and its financial components, consumers educate themselves thoroughly before buying. As such, vendors cannot move a customer through decision stages to close the sale.
With products that are more costly, complicated or high-risk, the customer has more at stake. If a solar installation goes bad, the customer is looking at losing thousands of dollars, the potential of roof damage/repair, time without basic necessities (electric heating, cooling, refrigeration, etc.), and a significant disruption to his or her life.
Adding to this perception of high risk is the nearly risk-free alternative of buying electric power from the local utility, a proven supplier with an unmatched record of safety and reliability. Relative to a utility, solar appears extremely risky.
In the world of high risk the customer will not rely on the word of the provider. The customer’s decision process is based on finding objective information from reliable sources, something the vendor cannot provide.
Think about the last time you had to select a surgeon, a family doctor, a lawyer, or an investment broker/advisor -- all high-risk purchase decisions. Would you entrust your life savings to a financial advisor or broker because of an ad or brochure? Would you select a surgeon based on his "messaging?"
The only way to increase adoption of a high risk offering is with methods that reduce risk in the mind of the customer -- references from someone the customer trusts, professional credentials/affiliations, a supporting infrastructure, industry standards, evidence of expertise, product quality, and ongoing service.
The solar industry needs to wake up and realize that the McDonald's-happy-meal approach to promotion is useless when the product is high cost and/or the purchase decision is high risk.
Marketing High Risk Products