To say Central Lincoln was nervous about launching a new community solar program would be an understatement. Various other cities have similar programs that seem to be struggling to take off, leaving the lingering question: ‘how could they do it differently’ and get people excited to jump on board? Striving to ensure success, Central Lincoln decided on a “Go Big and get people signed up fast”, approach.
With the goal of selling the solar panels they built, they wanted an effective marketing plan and materials that drove customers to the project. After close collaboration with Goldstreet, Central Lincoln decided to roll out a full marketing campaign. The first step established a getting started strategy. During this stage, the team spent time determining the target market, and developed characters and materials to resonate with that group. It was essential to pinpoint barriers as well as benefits of community solar by creating a campaign that homed in on their target audience’s concerns. One of the leading public concerns: not having adequate and consistent sunlight on the Oregon Coast to power the panels, was seen by the PUD as groundless, but since it was so prevalent in the community, it was directly addressed by the materials. This made sure the notion wouldn’t affect interest in the program. Lastly, the plan included a direct mail post card, brochure and custom video. This multifaceted approach was designed to create buzz, awareness, and community investment in the program.
On a Monday Central Lincoln sent a direct mailer to the entire population of their community. Tuesday, they launched the video on their website and placed brochures at convenient places for people to pick up around the city. The mailer hit mailboxes on a Wednesday. Central Lincoln PUD was in for quite the surprise! It seems as quickly as people were learning about the Community Solar program, they were jumping on the PUD’s website to sign up. Energy Services Manager, Wade Carey said, “The orders were coming through so quickly that I couldn’t even keep up with processing them. Not only did we sell out, but we sold out 26 hours from the moment people received the flier in the mail and now I have a wait list longer than what we originally had available!”
The power of targeted messaging in reaching their community was decisive in bringing awareness to Central Lincoln’s Community Solar Program. In fact, the success of the program was so great their next plan is to incorporate this same approach across all departments by stepping up their communications and creating cohesive campaigns with similar targeted strategies.