Archive for February, 2009

US Manufactured Small Wind Turbines — Swift Wind Turbine Part 1

Analysis: Swift Wind Turbine

In general for marketers, when analyzing websites we can break it into the following categories:

  • Design
  • Navigation/Information Architecture
  • Theme/Messaging
  • Ecommerce/Transaction
  • SEO

Swift seems to have an exciting product that could be appealing to both commercial and residential locations, however its website and web strategy could benefit from significant improvements.

Design

This is one of the site’s strong points. The imagery is more evocative of the company’s roots as a manufacturer, this may be preferred over a ‘green’ theme. The engineering and quality of the product is most likely a top concern of a potential consumer, and choosing an aesthetic emphasis on those elements, while still incorporating some environmental components (a la the black and white dandelions) works well. The red, black, and white color scheme actually differentiates it from the dominant blues and greens used elsewhere.

Navigation/Information Architecture

Ok, first things first: do not have a flash landing page! This is basic navigation 101, yet sites outside of the media or retail sectors still do not know this. Why are flash landing pages problematic?

  • Often they do not look good or even work in mobile devices and more and more people are surfing from their mobile devices.
  • Flash is not optimized for search engines, making your site harder to find. This is debated in the SEO community, but it is risky and there is less debate that having an entire page, especially a landing page, 100% in flash is a mistake.
  • Most people do not want to immediately watch a video, regardless of length, when coming to your site. In particular for a company like Swift, they are coming for information — provide it to them.
  • A better option would have been a standard html landing page that incorpoated flash in a particular area. GE does this, as does Vestas.

Second, keep navigation simple please. The site has both horizontal and vertical navigation that points to the same pages. Why? Better to keep it simple. The secondary navigation for the horizonal navbar works well, however. I would simply remove the left vertical navigation and allow for some more imagery.

Theme/Messaging

It was a surprise to me that the emphasis was on how ‘quiet’ the turbine is rather than the energy output. While I have not conducted any research, there are two main value propositions for the wind turbine:

  • ‘Green’ renewable energy — using this product is better for the environment and reduces energy dependency
  • Cost savings — what is the total cost of ownership? Most likely in a lot of areas the tax incentives make the purchase of the product yield a net reduction in energy bills

Of course, a negative may be the potential noise pollution, which is apparently relatively low in this case; nevertheless, there needs to be more of an emphasis on the positive. There are a lot of techniques to do this, a metaphor for the number of oil barrels I am not purchasing by virtue of using this product would work for example.

Overall, the website lacks a purpose beyond providing basic information. I would break it down into three potential areas:

  • General information — wind energy and the swift turbine product
  • Information for potential dealers — here the site is particularly weak. Their ‘contact us’ form is poorly designed, they provide no incentives or calls to action. Furthermore, they promise a reply after filling out the form in 6-8 weeks! Perhaps that is normal in this vertical, but it seems like a long time to get back to a potential dealer, especially after filling out all of the information.
  • Information for direct consumers — this is where there is the most potential. There are some strong points:
    • The ‘Wind Estimator’┬áis a very interesting tool. Again, this could be optimized in terms of design and call-to-action. However, the idea is very cool and has a lot of potential. Here are some things they can do with it:
      • Make the results embeddable. If my hometown or address has high potential I may want to advocate for it, show the results in my blog or a social networking site such as Facebook.
      • Overlay areas with the highest wind potential and the best tax incentives.
      • Surprisingly, Swift did add a viral component to the tool where you can email the tool to your friends. This worked well, the email was sent immediately and the copy in the email was adequate. Again, the calls to action were weak, without any buttons or sense of urgency; nevertheless this is a step in the right direction.
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Wind turbines for the home

There was an interesting article about wind turbines for the home in the Sunday Times. I had been hoping that wind technology would advance such that individual home owners could purchase their own as a means of supplementing their energy supply. The ramifications for this are huge if we can continue to improve their efficiency and energy output. Right now, the price point is high ($10,000 to $12,000) for mass distribution; however, there should be some niche marketing opportunities (affluent, liberal neighborhoods such as Edina, MN or Bayside, WI). I also wonder if the stimulus package will provide tax cuts or incentives to lower the real costs of purchase in installation. If so, that should make the marketing efforts easier. There are a few main tracks to market this:

  • Green — appeal to potential consumers’ environmental sensibilities
  • Economy — if true, appeal to the total cost of ownership savings
  • Aspirational — owning a product such as this, could have a positive ‘image effect’ for the owner

In the next two posts, we will take a look at the two companies mentioned in the article, Swift Wind Turbine and Ingreenious.

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