As a direct result of the Crockwell Farm seminar, we now have an extremely healthy sales pipeline with firm orders worth in excess of £5 million.
Ian Brent-Smith, director of Powersun

Project: ‘Harvesting the sun with solar PV’ - A half-day seminar for farmers.

Services: PR, copywriting, advertising, direct mail and email campaigns, event management, media relations, research.

Results: A 500x return on marketing investment with an order pipeline in excess of £5 million.

The client 

Located in Bicester, Oxfordshire Powersun specialises in the development of medium to large-scale solar PV systems for the agricultural and commercial sectors. It helps farmers and commercial landowners maximise profits from agricultural land and rooftops by offering end-to-end services for 30kWp to 10MWp solar PV systems. These services include design, product specification and installation. Powersun also manages initial planning applications (if required) and connection of solar PV systems to the electricity grid.

Solar PV for farmers

Recent studies show that 1 in 3 farmers plan to invest in renewable energy within the next few years with solar PV being their favoured technology. However, our research suggested that many farmers tend to be conservative, adopting a cautious and often sceptical approach towards renewable technologies. This is partly due to shifting developments with Government incentives for solar PV leading to investor uncertainty. With many farmers wishing to take advantage of solar PV, they often struggle to obtain independent advice about finance options, tax implications and up-to-date information about incentives.

Their needs 

Powersun’s aim was to convince the farming community that solar PV is still an attractive financial proposition and to position itself as a trusted source of information.

Powersun approached Resonates for advice on how to increase its current pipeline of sales leads within the farming community.

What we did 

Resonates proposed an integrated marketing campaign to promote a free half-day seminar at one of Powersun’s customer sites. Crockwell Farm in Northamptonshire was chosen for its close proximity to Powersun’s customer base and for its excellent conferencing facilities. It also gave farmers the opportunity to view a 50kWp solar installation, incorporating the Mécosun integrated mounting system, across two of the farm’s barn roofs.

A comprehensive database of over 1,000 farmers from Oxfordshire and neighbouring counties was put together and targeted via direct mail. In total, more than 2,000 individual emails were sent out with details of the event, which took place in December 2012.

In order to secure delegates, the event was positioned as a ‘one-stop shop by farmers, for farmers’, bringing together experts in solar technology, finance and best practice for installing solar PV systems. Farmers attending the event would be given essential information allowing them to make informed decisions about investing in solar PV and how best to maximise their income from it.

Industry experts were assembled for the event to answer questions from farmers. Spokespeople from the National Farmers Union (NFU) Fisher German, Inenco, Compass Renewables and Haines Watts were secured. They gave presentations on topics such as raising finance, Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs), Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), feed-in tariffs (FiTs) and personal taxation.

Other speakers presented information about the latest technology developments in solar panels, inverters and mounting systems.

In the weeks leading up to the event, adverts were designed and placed in the renewables section of key print and online farming publications. Social media channels, such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, were used to promote the event and to enhance Powersun’s SEO on the Internet.

In order to gain media coverage of the event, journalists from several publications including Solar Power Portal, British Farmer & Grower, Farmers Weekly and The Farmer were invited to attend.

During the event, each presentation was recorded and later shared on the video-sharing site Vimeo.

The results 

Over 45 farmers registered to attend the seminar. After the presentations delegates were given a guided tour of the farm’s solar PV installation and an opportunity to network with Powersun and the other presenters.

Coverage of the event appeared on Solar Power Portal with adverts appearing in National Farmer, Farmer’s Guide and the NFU’s regional bulletin.

Orders for agricultural solar PV installations were placed with Powersun amounting to £5 million. This represented a 500x return on marketing investment.

Videos of the presentations have to date received over 500 views on Vimeo.

Ian Brent-Smith, director of Powersun commented on this achievement: “I have to admit that my business partner and I were initially cautious about investing in a marketing campaign. Our time and budget were limited and we were unsure of exactly what value and ROI it would deliver. With limited resources, our own in-house marketing activities had been patchy and hadn’t proved particularly successful so we decided to enlist the help of a professional agency.

“Resonates demonstrated its marketing experience in the solar PV and renewables sector. Its initial proposal was meticulously planned and the event was well executed. We had some very positive feedback from delegates expressing how useful and informative the event had been. The results speak for themselves. As a direct result of the Crockwell Farm seminar, we now have an extremely healthy sales pipeline with firm orders worth in excess of £5 million.”

Our view 

The first challenge was to decide on a tactic that would meet Powersun’s objective – to grow its existing pipeline of sales enquiries. Once an event had been chosen it was important to deliver a format that would attract potential buyers of agricultural solar PV installations. The event was deliberately positioned as an information gathering opportunity, rather than a sales pitch.

Secondly, Resonates had to convince a sceptical audience about the broader financial benefits of agricultural solar PV installations. Our research showed that while farmers were aware of solar PV technology, many lacked a comprehensive understanding of the latest developments affecting their industry. Industry experts were carefully chosen to cover a broad range of issues, allowing farmers to receive information about everything they would need to know should they decide to use their land or agricultural buildings for solar farms or installations.

Well-planned and executed events can be an extremely cost-effective way for companies to raise their profile and generate an increase in sales leads. With strategic planning, involving a broad range of marketing techniques, a significant return on marketing investment can be achieved