We talked to Willie Jiang of SolarFeeds about the solar materials procurement hub, and he had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Willie Jiang: We adjust to the pandemic lifestyle pretty well. I am super lucky to have my mother living with us. While my wife and I are working, my mother takes care of my two baby sons and house chores.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded SolarFeeds.
Willie Jiang: Before starting SolarFeeds, I had been working in the digital marketing industry for a long time. But I didn’t find a deep meaning with my jobs because while I was making a decent living, there was a nagging voice inside urging me to do something more fulfilling.
After years of soul searching, I finally decided that solar was the intersection of my passion, skills, and impact.
I decided to build SF Market, a solar materials procurement hub, the “Alibaba for solar equipment supplies,” if you will, where solar installers get quotes from worldwide suppliers.
How does SolarFeeds innovate?
Willie Jiang: a typical Silicon Valley tech startup that builds a product before growing its number of users, we wanted to build our audience base before launching a product. With the Domain Authority of SolarFeeds.com and my SEO expertise, within only 18 months, our website’s organic traffic grew 44X (from 1000 to 45,000 monthly visitors) without any advertisement spending. Also, instead of spending on expensive trade shows, I have added over 2500 decision-makers of solar installation companies on my Linkedin and still have been adding about 300 valuable contacts per month.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Willie Jiang: It actually had a very positive effect on my business.
Aside from building the marketplace, we provide digital marketing services to keep our business afloat. A lot of solar installers can’t use “Door-to-door sales” any more to sell solar. So they’re now more willing to look into online lead generation.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Willie Jiang: Yes, some changes. With the “gig economy” more widely accepted, our team has agreed to hire contractors only, primarily from Upwork and Fiverr.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Willie Jiang: The pandemic works in our favor. Now, hiring a remote team is much more widely accepted. Our clients now are more willing to hire us instead of a local digital agency.
Thanks to these tools, our service is possible:
>>PandaDoc: for our sales team to present solutions and get signatures;
>>HubSpot CRM: for our team to pass over notes and deal status;
>>Loom: this chrome extension makes screen recording and sharing recorded videos super easy;
>>Other tools include Skype, Zoom, email, and Clickup.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Willie Jiang: Not so far, I need to look more into them.
Your final thoughts?
Willie Jiang: The coronavirus pandemic has a profound impact globally across almost all sectors. To many people’s surprise, it actually increases US homeowners’ interest in solar and energy independence. What changes for the solar installers is how they sell. The speed of adaptation is literally life or death matter. With Biden’s Inauguration and the falling cost of solar and wind, the time for renewables has come.
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