There are approximately 1650 Solar Installers and 155 active Distributors in the Netherlands with a ratio of almost 10/1. The total installed solar power in the Netherlands has grown from 2.9 GWp to 4.2 GWp in one year with the installed solar power capacity in the country growing almost twice as fast as the global market.
Neighbouring Belgium has approximately 750 Installers about 40 Distributors and has also been growing by 37% over the last 2 years with 544MW deployed in 2019 and total installed capacity increasing by a remarkable almost 500% within the last 3 years.
Despite of the Manufacturing Business Model brand awareness / recognition, and as a result Sales achievements, for certain solar PV Manufacturing Brands are high among Dutch and Belgian solar professionals whereas for brands with similar quality standards and product range are much lower or non-existent.
Why is this ?
Initially, let us define the four major Business Models in the solar PV manufacturing process.
a) manufacturing of solar modules utilizing own facilities and B.O.M b) a mixed model whereby a part is manufactured in own facilities and a part is allocated to other manufacturers.
c) OEM Original Equipment Manufacturing, under this model solar modules are produced by the the OEM Manufacturer under the buyers specifications and Bill of Material and finally
d) ODM Original Design Manufacturing, the simplest form of manufacturing. ODM products are complete and finished products that are being relabeled and sold under another manufacturer's Brand name.
The answer does not lie exclusively in budget, Tier 1 status and bankability.
Most Manufacturers find it extremely difficult in setting their products apart in terms of power-generating efficiency. As a result instead of focusing on upgrading the Quality of their approach to the market, they often result to cutting corners by using lower-quality materials trying to compete with the so-called established brands on the price level.
When you design your strategy around prices you will be mostly on the losing side and that is really very easy to understand and explain. When you compete on price, it’s extremely difficult to provide exceptional customer service and a quality product – in turn damaging the perception of your products or services in the eyes of customers.
Tier 2 and 3 Solar PV Manufacturers should compensate for the financial gap to Tier 1 Brands with quality in Communication, Marketing and most of all Sales and Business Development.
Mass emails with template content, a website that appeals only to the web designer and 1 or 2 exhibitions per year for lead acquisition purposes will not do. The Solar Market is fiercely competitive and extremely volatile.
Localization is an absolutely vital element of a successful Sales Strategy in a new International market and one also completely disregarded by many Solar Brands.
Localization in simple words is the adaptation of a product or service to meet the needs of a particular language, culture or desired population's "look-and-feel."
Of course, a solar module can not be "localized" however both the Marketing material utilized to effectively communicate the product as well as the Salesforce responsible for carrying out the process of establishing new partnerships can.
The Sales hiring process has to be upgraded and Solar PV manufacturers need to be staffed with Sales Professionals able to "Sell" a brand and convey the Solar Brand's value proposition in a way that truly resonates with the Prospective Business Partner. The process of selecting and hiring Sales Professionals in the Solar sector has to be improved and upgraded.
Times have changed. We have already shifted to a different customer acquisition model and Solar Brands that aspire to establish a strong foothold in the Benelux have to become aware of it and embrace the change as soon as possible.