Solar broking startup with unconventional growth strategy targets regional Australia
Australia’s second ‘solar broker’ has entered the market, essentially aiming to link customers with reputable solar installers. With a keen focus on regional Australia, the Solar Saviour startup is looking to grow by engaging country communities and building after-care based referrals schemes, a method its Head of Partnerships, David Cobb, told pv magazine Australia Australia’s solar industry has under-utilised.
Dane Mitchell is a proud country boy. His familiarity with, and love of, Australia’s country has meant the solar broking startup he founded, Solar Saviour, is putting a particular emphasis on ensuring regional communities have access to what he calls “fairly priced” solar. Mitchell’s country roots have also seeded Saviour’s unusual growth strategy. By leveraging the often tight-knit relationships of country towns, Mitchell told pv magazine Australia the plan is to work with community groups, sports clubs and schools which have existing member bases to build referrals programs.
Coming into solar from traditional energy brokerage, Saviour’s Head of Partnerships, David Cobb, described himself as “shocked” to see most solar installers doing one job and simply leaving to the next. “Theres not a great deal of follow up, after sales service,” he told pv magazine Australia. Which is a massive oversight for businesses, he says, as it fails to recognise the wellspring of leads existing customers can generate. In his experience, nurturing relationships can form the core of a businesses growth.
In its first few months of existence, Solar Saviour – the solar broking arm of Mitchell’s larger Saviour Group startup – has already established a referral system for the commercial jobs it’s done. That is, once the company has successfully arranged and delivered a solar system for a business, it offers the business’ staff a discount to use the same solar company as their employer.
The ultimate goal though is to become involved with regional community groups like sports clubs, offering them a kickback to use their membership base and get the word out about referrals. The startup was recently involved with a regional charity which had worked with one of its partnered installers. “The western downs outreach program – we donated $600 to their cause and we have a referral program launching next week in their community. For any locals, they will receive a further discount and we will donate $10 per kW to the charity in Chinchilla and Dalby areas in Queensland,” Mitchell said.
Through this method of word-of-mouth referrals, Saviour is seeking to get “happier, stickier customers who are referring friends,” Cobb said. Based in the Gold Coast, Saviour services all of Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia. Mitchell says the startup also recently secured installers in WA, and plans to start working in the state from September. The startup is also the first accredited solar broker with the National Energy Charter.
How Saviour Group vets the installers it works with, and ultimately recommends to customers, is by looking into the companies within its industry networks, alongside basic checks. For instance, Cobb said he will talk to wholesalers, financiers and people he knows in the industry. “If one of our financiers like Energy Ease or Plenti or Bright won’t work with an installer for some reason, then that would be a red flag for us,” he said.
Mitchell adds that it is in Saviour’s best interest to find reputable installers with consistent points of contact. “We need that relationship as well,” he said.
As for payment, Saviour’s fees come from the installers who, through its service, save on marketing. Both Mitchell and Cobb are adamant the service doesn’t give preferential treatment either. “Our wholesale rates with our installers are almost identical across the board, so there’s very little difference at all,” Cobb said. “We set that up purposefully.”
“With our consultants as well, it doesn’t matter which company their going to get the customers install with, they’re not incentivised.”
Extending its scope, the startup also recently began brokering energy from solar farms to retailers, with Mitchell noting he is currently speaking with two major retailers. Mitchell added the company is also “aiding in brokering supply of panels” for two solar farms, one in Western Australia and another in regional Queensland.