Examining Solar Demand Generation/Reduction through the “Jobs to be Done” Framework (Part II)

In Part I, I introduced the JTBD framework and used it to explore the solar consumer’s emotional struggles and arrived at the conclusion that solar customers are looking for freedom from rising energy prices and from the guilt associated with fossil fuel reliance.

In Part II, we will explore the 4 components of demand generation and demand reduction.

Figure 9 from Alan Klement’s When Coffee and Kale Compete illustrates succinctly the four key components of demand generation/reduction: Push, Pull, Habit, and Anxiety.

Push and Pull both work in the direction of Demand Generation, while Habit and Anxiety hold back the consumer (demand reduction). Figure 9 from When Coffee and Kale Compete (Klement, Page 62).

Forces of Demand Generation

Push: “People won’t change when they are happy with the way things are. Why would they? People change only when circumstances push them to be unhappy with the way things are.” (Klement, page 60).

Examples of pushes related to investment in solar technology include: the increasing public utility costs in various states in a troubled economy. On a moral and environmental level, the push may come from the vexation and negative feelings related to participating in the burning of fossil fuels, especially in Trump’s anti-regulation administration.

Pull: Pull is defined as the draw that the consumer feels toward a solution and toward a better life. According to JTBD wisdom, the consumer does not care about your product nearly as much as they care about the solution, about the better life that your product will allow them to have. To give a simple example, a consumer doesn’t care about the features of your grill so much as the awesome parties they’ll now be able to throw for family and friends. With solar, the promise of solar to provide freedom from rising utility costs, as well as the novelty of owning the means of their energy production.

Of the forces of push and pull, I would argue that pull is the more strategic force of demand generation to focus on. Whereas push is more straightforward, pull is something that needs to be evoked more artfully. The more effectively a solar company’s sales and marketing departments can evoke in their consumers the better life that their solar panels would provide, the more growth they will achieve.

The Forces of Demand Reduction

Habit: The demand reduction force of habit refers to the comfortable behaviors that prevent a potential consumer from making a change. In this case, the adoption of solar from more traditional sources of energy.

Familiarity and reliability of current energy set up. The comfort of being hooked up to a grid, and having no responsibility. You simply have to pay a bill each month, and the Utilities Company takes care of the rest.

Ugly. Expensive. Fragile. These are all words that hesitant solar purchasers have proffered as reasons NOT to install solar panels on their homes.

Anxiety: Is solar safe/reliable? I would argue that this is a huge factor, and much more of an obstacle and source of demand reduction than is habit.

Having solar panels on your roof no longer makes you an outlier or unusual so much as it serves as a huge source of pride and badge of your commitment to environmental consciousness. That is to say, because it is now a generally accepted technology, it’s likely that the consumer won’t be the first in their neighborhood to have their roof covered in solar panels. At the same time, this does nothing to alleviate the underlying anxiety of owning such an expensive piece of technology. Consumers are going to need to be well informed and assuaged of their concerns. I argue, therefore, that there is a significant psychological factor barring people from switching to solar that is rooted in anxiety.

SunWorks’ brilliant marketing displays the durability of their solar panels

Hailstorms. Stray home runs from backyard baseball games. The errant paratrooper. Between the rational and irrational fears around owning the means of energy production on your roof lies the subconscious thought form that somehow solar is flimsy, fragile, unreliable.

This perception, whether customers/the industry admits it, is that solar panels suggest the unconscious attribute of fragility. Although irrational (as proven by this video), I believe that convincing individuals of the solidity and reliability of solar, above and beyond what may seem necessary from the perspective of the sales consultant, is a very important step toward assuaging anxiety and converting more homeowners.

Owning the means of production of solar brings with it an implicit sense of responsibility. What happens if it breaks? If a hailstorm or earthquake destroys it? The anxiety of owning an incredibly sophisticated piece of technology is understandable. Though irrational, the anxiety surrounding owning this very expensive technology now affixed to one’s roof creates a subconscious obstacle that must be overcome in order to convert more homeowners to solar.

Conclusion

By looking at JTBD’s forces of demand generation/reduction, we have been able to further unpack both the emotional incentives AND emotional obstacles to converting solar leads to sales. An effective solar sales/marketing approach would attack both sides of the demand generation/reduction matrix in order to accelerate the push and pull that consumers feel, while simultaneously mitigating the common habits and anxieties that would prevent them from adopting solar. In addition, I feel that the most important factor to focus on is the anxiety of owning an expensive miniature power plant, aka solar panels. By taking extensive measures to reassure consumers of the safety of this investment, it will allow for significantly more adoption of solar technology by homeowners.

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