In anticipation of the soon-to-be released NREL report that benchmarks solar soft costs in 2010, plenty of media attention is being given to soft-cost reduction strategies. According to NREL’s data, customer acquisition and system design make up 11 percent of the cost of residential solar – the majority of that in marketing and advertising.

This is an area Clean Power Research understands, having spent 15 years developing software tools that help people value solar. Here are just a few examples of how these tools can be used to reduce customer acquisition costs:

  1. Empower customers, generate leads 
    These days, savvy consumers turn to the internet for information before they buy. Any solar provider can turn their website into a serious sales tool by offering potential buyers an objective, self-serve solar calculator. Armed with inputs as simple as a ZIP code and annual energy use, customers can quickly determine the economics of installing solar at their home or business, and explore different financing options. In addition to helping drive traffic to your website, an interactive calculator generates and pre-qualifies leads so you can focus your sales resources where they count.
  2. Streamline quoting with integrated proposal generation 
    Quoting solar systems is anything but simple, but today’s integrated web-based proposal platforms are making it possible to generate accurate, repeatable, customer-ready proposals in a fraction of the time than doing it manually. The most advanced tools go beyond quoting to consolidate and streamline the processes of customer relationship management, system design, proposal generation and rebate applications.
  3. Let algorithms do the heavy lifting 
    The best salespeople know that every customer is unique and every customer has a different decision driver. Is monthly bill the most important selling point? Bill savings? Is it the down payment? Or is your customer restricted by their roof size? No matter what the limiting factor is, by building a goal-seeking algorithm, a salesperson can simply define the static input and allow software to optimize and suggest the most economic proposal for each customer. Imagine the time savings!

Today our Clean Power Estimator® API customers are making these strategies a reality. Can you think of other ways online services can be used to drive down solar soft costs?