The sky’s the limit: Learning from Tesla’s roofing innovation
Thursday, May 18, 2017
The latest darling of the eco-innovation trend, Tesla's new solar panel/roof tile hybrid product has continued the consumer inroads that their well-liked electric vehicles have already been cruising. In fact, Forbes pulled no punches discussing the concerns as well as the potential of the Tesla tiles.
Manufacturers can learn a great deal from the rollout, which touches on some easy-to-spot best practices for growth, each versatile enough to adapt to any industry. What can we learn, then, from these not-so-humble slabs of glass and the way they entered collective consciousness?
Stay true to familiar roots
A brand name alone, no matter how strong, is seldom enough to let a company branch out to an entirely different industry without repercussions. A quick glance at the ill-fated Colgate line of frozen dinners in 1982 is all it takes to see the problematic outcome — both are tangentially related to teeth, yes, but from entirely different angles.
Tesla is a name built on electric cars — a product that seemingly has nothing to do with solar panels, roofing or construction materials. Brainstorm a bit, however, and there's a clear overlap in eco-consciousness: an individual interested in moving away from traditional fossil fuels is primed to look to sources like solar power for their home.
Tesla didn't attempt to conflate the two drives, merely to link them in similar ideologies. This allows both products to grow and capture market share independently, while still resting on a mutually-agreeable base premise.
Leave room for cross-promotion
Tesla isn't just eyeing roofs for innovation, they're tying them into their home battery/power storage solution, the Tesla Powerwall. In order to get the most out of your new roof tiles — and you do want to get the most, don't you? — the consumer would need to buy both as a system.
The separate marketing of the components, as well as the "customization" factor that allows them to choose solar tile percentages and number of Powerwall batteries, is brilliant. It's presenting the two products as a system without necessarily presenting the full sticker-shock cost upfront, giving Tesla more time to communicate information, features and benefits.
Diversify, but keep it simple
Choices can be overwhelming, particularly if you've just led customers on the journey to a "yes." The most successful companies carefully balance the image of choice and customization with bloated SKU sets that slow down delivery and fulfillment. By offering only a handful of tile styles — each most likely developed with an eye toward neutral versatility — Tesla keeps expensive variable problems minimized while still delighting customers.
Don't overextend yourself in a new market. Chances are you'll be paring down eventually, but better a light trim than a buzz cut that requires industrial clippers. The latter could undermine confidence in your new product, which could in turn halt growth in its tracks.
Tesla has the benefit of billionaire Elon Musk backing its forays into alternative energy, but that doesn't mean the company is prone to rash decisions and wasteful R&D spending. By following in the company's marketing footsteps, your new brand additions will stand a better chance in a competitive marketplace, as well as the lucrative longevity that comes along with that.
Consumer need is only the first step of the product manufacturing process, and need alone won't necessarily drive growth. Keep your options open and your margins wide, listen and incorporate consumer feedback whenever possible.
A proactive brand is a successful brand, and one that's talented enough to move seamlessly between road and roof.
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