Archive for Wind

Own Energy – Community Wind Development

OwnEnergy has a well-designed, well-written website (by my good friend Tess Forte); unfortunately the site does not leverage its potential given the firm’s business model of building ‘community’ wind farms.

If the underlying business model is the development and curating of community wind products logically they would utilize facebook, twitter, or some other Web 2.0 community platform to facilitate communicating and information sharing with the various communities and also use this to promote their projects.

A search for such projects revealed absolutely nothing. This represents a tremendous opportunity for the organization. Take for example their testimonials page. While the quotes from the various luminaries involved with their projects add a certain degree of credibility, an ideal platform would be a link an individual project detail page (or pages) to the testimonial. Following that, the various individuals involved could have links to their public profiles and from there we could learn more about the testimonials. We could see more how the community is involved with the project, especially if each project had a community organizer curating a page on facebook, or a shared blog, etc., about the project.

The weakest aspect of the site is this very component, Project Development. The pages and graphics appear as if they were simply pulled from a power point presentation. Again, this is an area where current technology is not being fully leveraged. For example, the steps in development could be an interactive chart tied to a map showing where the many projects OwnEnergy manages currently fall in the timeline.

Basic areas of improvement

  • Update the site more frequently. From what we have seen, the last press release and article were both dated March 2010. For a number of reasons, one of which is search engine optimization, greater effort should be made to update the site more frequently.
  • Better and more calls to action. The only area on the site where a reader can commence a dialogue is within the ‘Contact Us’ section. Ideally, there would be additional means of contact, as there are certain points, such as within the services section that means of access should be provided.

There were some basic questions that came to mind after reviewing the site. What is the goal of the site? Who are the target audiences? Frankly, after reviewing the site, in spite of being well-designed and well-written, it does not appear to be much more than a catalog with a very basic description of the company. Perhaps that was the only goal — simply to have a website describing at the most basic level what the company does and the services it provides. I would challenge management to think more deeply about their site, and their overall web strategy, if they have one. There is a tremendous amount of potential for a company such as this, and if it truly seeks a leadership position in this field, it should learn to leverage the (actually not-so-new) tools of the web.

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Community Energy – Iberdrola Renewables – Part II

Navigation and Design

Community Energy’s website has an excellent, easy-to-understand navigation; it certainly helps guide the reader to the appropriate sections. Unfortunately, there are significant gaps with the site that belie its professional look. The depth, surprisingly, is lacking. The marketing materials section promises an update, but until then why are they providing a link at all? This gets even worse, their link to sign up for clean energy today actually failed! The press releases are also dated, with the newest one listed as December 2008. One would hope their PR department created at least one new press release each quarter.

The design, while a bit trite for renewable energy companies, works. It elicits a positive vibe and keeps information intact.

SEO

This site fares poorly as far as SEO is concerned. The basics, such as meta-tagging, are not covered well. Often the <title> tags do not include keywords. There is clearly no link building being attempted, less than 300 external links to the site exists. At the very least, Iberdrola, the parent company, should have links to it. I could not even find that…

Before we conclude, we’ll take a look at their blog. A promising addition to the website…

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Community Energy – Iberdrola Renewables – Part I

Admittedly this has taken longer than I originally intended. I do have a full-time job and there had been some excitement lately. Publishing is indeed in a dire situation right now, hopefully renewable energy is progressing in the opposite direction.

Community Energy has a professionally designed website. It has clear calls to action and quickly segments the various types of visitors that may come to its site. However, the homepage is not frequently updated (it features news releases from December) and there are cetain aspects that are a bit amateurish. Nevertheless, they do employ some interesting, and I think compelling, techniques to maximize the utility (pun-intended) of the site.

Ecommerce/Transaction Features

The most innovative aspect of Community Energy is its ‘Gift’ feature. The site actually allows visitors to ‘Give the Gift of Wind Energy‘. This is an excellent twist for Iberdrola to expand its market and raise revenue. Most likely a significant number of visitors are interested in renewable, wind energy. They may already have opted into utilizing wind energy from their own home, this gift certificate enables them to expand on its adoption.There are some areas where this section can be improved however:

  • The ‘Buy Now!’ link should be a button rather than simply text. It makes the call-to-action clearer.
  • The introductory text should focus on the gift aspect more than the science. An interesting twist for a Mother’s Day promotion may be something like this: “Don’t just give mom flowers this Mother’s Day, give her something that helps flower grow every day.” Clearly I am not a copywriter, however by the time someone is on this page, they are already bought into the idea of wind or renewable energy, at this point the value proposition should focus on why the gift recipient will love to get this gift.
  • Clarify what the gift recipient will actually receive. From the design, it looks like some kind of certificate will be sent to the recipient. However, there is nothing stating that in the text. It is only after you click on ‘Buy Now’ that you realize a gift card is mailed to their home. The details (what does it look like?, what does it say?) should be readily available. Also, considering that the audience is especially environmentally conscious, they may prefer to simply send an e-card rather than print the information on paper.
  • The wind energy gift order page should be optimized. The reader should not be able to change the amount charged, that will confuse them. Instead, allow them to purchase various quantities of wind energy credits. You can only order one gift on the order page, so why is it asking how many gift cards to send? Supplemental information, not necessary for the transaction should be removed from this page and added later. These include: current electricity provider, billing phone number, and how did you hear about us. Those questions can be asked after the transaction. Finally, the submission button is terribly subdued. It should be louder, with more vibrant colors, larger, more positive text, along with simply being a bigger button.

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Ingreenious

Ingreenious reminds me of the movie Rudy. It is a sweet film where the main character, Rudy, dreams of becoming a football player for the University of Notre Dame. Sadly he does not have to God-given gifts of size or talent to truly achieve his dreams. In the end, he becomes a hobbit. The bottom line is that this site was a challenge to read, but the genunineness of their corporate mission is something you can sense so you root for it to succeed.

Ingreenious is is based in the Netherlands and, like Swift, designs wind turbines and, also like Swift, the website design is relatively elementary.

We are not going to delve into details for this site. The color schemes center on blue, probably the second most dominant color for companies in the renewable energy sector. The navigation is straightforward, however there is not a significant amount of content. Ecommerce aspects are absent as well.

I am going to chalk a lot of the issues with the website to problems in translation; there are some definite concerns in this area. One sentence in the project management section really got my attention:

“With their many years experience, the people of Ingreenious guard you for the falcon owls in which projects wear out.”

I googled the term ‘falcon owls’ and Dutch but really could not figure out what this statement meant. I certainly do appreciate guarding against falcons (and owls), but I wonder where this fits into project management in general and turbine design in particular.

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US Manufactured Small Wind Turbines — Swift Wind Turbine Part 2

Ecommerce/Transaction
Swift Wind leaves a lot of opportunity on the table with its lack of an ecommerce strategy. While it is understandable that the site may not be ecommerce-enabled, nonetheless there is more the company can do to acquire new customers and generate interest in its product(s).  The section focused on transactions, ‘How to Purchase Swift’, is relatively difficult to find and poorly labeled. Again, a call to action, such as ‘Get Swift’, would elicit more interest, along with a burst or something prominent on the site.

The actual page, and it is only one page, for this section makes the situation even worse. It is outdated, promising availability in Sepetmber 2008 (that’s 6 months ago!) and offers nothing more than signing up for a newsletter. I had signed up for the newsletter over one week ago and have yet to receive any correspondence. When setting up newsletters, here are a few best practices:

  • Immediately send a welcome message/confirmation notice to someone that signs up — the topic is most fresh in their minds, and it enhances the customer experience
  • Provide an archive of previously published newsletters — this abets SEO and also let’s customers know what to expect

Swift did neither of these things. Moreover, simply signing up for a newsletter means a lot of potential information will be impossible to acquire. A small questionnaire/form on this page would help the senior management and marketing team make more decisions. Here would be my top three questions I would ask for someone who arrived on this page:

  1. What makes you interested in purchasing this product?
  2. Are you a homeowner or represent a business?
  3. What is your time horizon for making a purchase?

Of course demographic information would also be useful, but only after this most basic of detail is completed. From a web analytics perspective, I would love to know what the exit rate is on this particular page, my first order of business would be the double traffic to this section and halve the exit rate.

SEO

The site does not employ even the most basic of SEO techniques. There is no strategic use of meta tags, no linking strategy, nor a site map. Only one section, news, seems as if it is ever updated.

Conclusion

Swift manufactures an exciting product, unfortunately its website will not make it any easier for people to learn about it nor purchase it.

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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’ is 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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