Industry Insights
Solare Energy on Marketing Efficiency for their Smart Energy Solutions


Zachary Burda
Marketing Manager
Solare Energy



For those of us not familiar with Solare Energy, please tell us a little more about your company and your role as Marketing Manager there.

Solare Energy is a San Diego based company that specializes in residential, commercial and non-profit solar panel installation and energy efficiency services. We offer smart energy solutions that combine solar and energy efficiency to off-set energy consumptions and reduce electricity bills to the utility minimum. My role here is to develop and manage our marketing campaigns across all channels and ensure that we keep bringing in leads for the sales team.


When running ad campaigns, what is the main metric you optimize against? Is it a CPL when someone requests a Free Quote?

For digital, we focus mainly on CPL, but account for CPC as well to help optimize our campaigns more efficiently. We’ve seen a significant rise in first position keyword placing bids over the last few months and take all that data into account when doing our split testing. For broadcast channels, we focus on brand awareness levels more than actual CPL. We have a few different data sets we use to identify what is working and not, such as web traffic before, during and after a broadcast media campaign.


Do you have different Cost-per-Lead goals, depending on channel or partner? For example, your CPL in search could be much lower due to there being intent behind a search query, but a CPL for a display ad vendor could be higher as users are higher in the funnel. 

We definitely have different CPL goal’s dependent on which marketing channel the conversion comes from. We have found CPL to be lower on the display ad versus the search network ad due to the significantly higher CPC. Even with a display ad being higher in the funnel, if our ad strategy is working the conversion % is still very good within that channel. Our industry is also fueled by referrals, and you would be hard pressed to find a solar installer not running some sort of referral program. The industry standard leans more towards referrals being one of the top, if not the top lead generator. We find that TV and Radio advertising come with the highest CPL, and are better as a brand awareness builder and trust factor than actual lead generating channels.


When working with partners along all steps of the funnel (search / display / video), how do you approach cross-channel attribution and properly assign credit to each vendor?

On the digital side of things, we build out specific goals for each channel to identify where to accredit that conversion too. This data is key to our analysis of what campaigns are working and what campaigns need improvement. When it comes to broadcast, sponsorship, trade show or other non-digital channels, we create an offer specific that that channel to better help us identify where each conversion is coming from.


To the extent that you can share, how many new ad vendors / network do you test per month? How many would you like to ideally be testing per month?

Instead of spreading ourselves to thin across multiple ad vendor networks, we find it more beneficial when we focus on the ones we feel bring the most value in getting our ads in front of our target demographic. We spend more time optimizing our select networks versus trying new ones, I’d estimate we test at most 1 ad vendor / network every 2-3 months. Ideally I would like to elevate that to 1-2 per month, with the focus being on vendors that offer retargeting on different platforms in spaces we haven’t achieved optimal reach in.


What are your thoughts on the digital advertising offerings of behemoths like Google and Facebook? Do you think that due to their access to 1st party logged-in user data, they far outperform other, independent players?

Industry specific, Google is the best digital channel for us. We don’t find much value in leveraging Facebook and see more wasted ad spend and near astronomical CPL. With our target demographic and our product being a larger, longer term investment, people tend to do more research and want to be more informed before buying. I definitely think Google based advertising, in this day and age, is at the top of the pyramid, but I think you can find more value in independent players versus advertising on Facebook. For example, I find more value in retarget advertising than in Facebook advertising, and again this is industry specific.


To the extent that you can reveal, what percentage of your media buys are direct to publisher, through an independent ad network, or through a self-service ad buying platform?

The majority of our media buys are self-service and a break down would look something along the lines of 60% self-service, 20% independent ad networks and 20% direct to publisher.


What are your thoughts on programmatic advertising? What about programmatic within the context of performance marketing?

I feel programmatic advertising is just not there yet. It’s good in theory, but there is not enough transparency available at this point in time. There have been numerous studies in regards to programmatic advertising and ad fraud, and I still feel that is a major issue. As far as within the context performance marketing, this comes back to the transparency issue and the fact that is very hard to effectively track programmatic advertising. The software monitoring for programmatic is just not yet where I would feel comfortable trusting it.


How do you ensure that the ad networks you are working with that claim they are prospecting for new customers, are not just retargeting the existing audience on your site and claiming credit?

This is where our toolsets and ability to dissect our website traffic are truly tested. The starting point for us would be to look unique visitors vs. returning visitors and then review acquisition, behavior and if the goals we’ve set up within our analytical programs are being met. With the amount of data that is available to you, you can get a great idea of what ad networks are living up to their promises.


What are some must-use tools you use for market research & competitive analysis? (Quantcast / comScore / SimilarWeb, SEMRush / Keyword Spy, WhatRunsWhere / AdBeat / AdClarity / BoxofAds)

I am a huge advocate of HubSpot and WordStream. These are the two main toolsets I use on a daily basis to manage our marketing efforts here at Solare. HubSpot manages all of our marketing channels and allows us to stay organized, manage our different projects and meet deadline goals. We utilize HubSpot for everything from e-mail marketing to copy for radio and television. WordStream works seamlessly alongside HubSpot for our PPC efforts, and their 20 minute work week is an amazing time saving tool.


How has the consumer shift to mobile informed the way you approach digital marketing?

We all know how mobile our world has become in this information age. We see on average 60% of our web traffic coming from mobile. In this day and age your website, landing pages, and all digital content platforms need to be mobile friendly. All PPC campaigns should have call extensions. We focus a lot of time on optimizing for mobile to ensure success with our digital marketing campaigns. The more mobile friendly your campaigns are, the better conversion rate you will achieve.


How often would you say you test new creative units? Do you typically A/B test creatives when working with a new vendor to see which ones perform the best?

It varies based on what media we are using. For instance, we test broadcast media creative twice a year, while we test ad copy for search networks on a weekly basis. We always split test our creative, while it’s a lot easier to do on the digital side of things, we have found methods to A/B test our broadcast media prior to launching it live. I believe the more split testing you can get done, the better you can hone down your creative to resonate with your target audience.


Lastly, what is your take on the future of media buying for brands?

I think it’s going to continue shifting more towards digital and away from traditional. As information becomes easier to access and the consumer base continues to become more informed, the importance of your online presence will become the key factor in your marketing success. We see less and less budget allocation towards traditional medias and significant increases in online ad spend, web design budgets, and all things digital. Technology has made a lot of traditional medias out dated and almost to the point of useless and I don’t see that shifting back. I find it refreshing, as the consumer now has access to so much knowledge due to the digital side of marketing, they can make a more informed choice.



Established in 1989, Solare Energy is one of the largest installers of solar energy systems in San Diego County. We have unmatched contracting experience in the design and installation of solar panel solutions such as photovoltaic (PV), solar water heating, solar pool heating, as well as energy efficiency systems such as LED lighting, air sealing, duct sealing, insulation, heating, air conditioning, and pool pump systems.

Customer satisfaction is our highest priority – whatever it takes. That is why we only have happy customers. We are the only solar installer in San Diego that provides a list of over 50 customer references. And a significant portion of our new customers were referred to us by previous costumers.

Through our merger of Van’s Electric (installation contractor) and Economics Energy Consultants (energy auditing firm), we developed the capabilities to offer our San Diego customers integrated energy solutions that combine solar panel installation with various energy efficiency measures. Each solution is customized to the particular customer’s energy needs, to provide maximum energy and economic benefits.

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