Sales Boost: Step 5

target this niche: Solar power

The solar power market is growing rapidly. Use these insights to break into the niche. Your sales are sure to be sunnier if you do.


Situated in the sun-drenched southwest, Black Duck Inc. counts several solar energy companies among its clientele. The Albuquerque, NM-based distributor's solar partners typically specialize in installing panels. And, they have no shortage of needs for branded apparel and hard-good promotional products.

For these clients, Black Duck delivers everything from T-shirts and caps for installers to wear on the job to polos, dress shirts and stylish jackets for sales staff to sport on calls. "We do a lot of long-sleeve shirts for the installers because they need the extra protection from the sun," says Doug Bird, Black Duck owner. Meanwhile, tote bags, water bottles, buttons and tees are some of the items Black Duck provides to solar companies for trade shows. "They're like most clients," says Bird of solar businesses. "They expect quality, fast turnaround and good pricing."

One of the solar installation firms that Black Duck works with enjoys being fun and clever with the messaging on its T-shirts. A shirt the firm did as a trade show giveaway, for instance, featured a solar panel and the phrase "Stick It Where The Sun Shines." Bird produced approximately 300 of the tees. Another time, Black Duck delivered 650 shirts that were a spinoff of a poster from the hit show Breaking Bad, which was shot in the Albuquerque area. The shirt included the business name in Breaking Bad-style lettering and an image of the company owner posed in the likeness of Walter White, the show's lead character. "It was popular, so they did a few re-orders," says Bird.

For Black Duck, getting into the solar market happened organically. The distributorship happens to neighbor one solar company with which it partnered. Another firm is owned by an existing client with multiple companies, so sliding into the business with the man's solar venture was a natural fit. Even if such serendipity doesn't strike for you, reps everywhere can establish a foothold in this burgeoning renewable energy market. Google, Facebook and LinkedIn sleuthing may reveal companies in your area. If you do business with utility providers or contractors/builders, they may be able to refer you to solar firms. "Solar is getting bigger and bigger," says Bird. "There's opportunity."

by the numbers

  • 35% Percentage by which revenue in the solar power industry is expected to grow between 2009 and 2019.
  • 578,000 That's the number of individual solar installations on rooftops, parking lots, landfills, deserts and fields in the United States as of Q3 2014.
  • 36% That's the percentage of new electric-generating capacity that solar accounted for through much of 2014.

biz tips:
Pitch products with eco-friendly properties to solar clients, as the "green" nature of the items coalesces with the renewable energy ethos. Try water bottles and apparel made from recycled plastic bottles.

The Solar Energy Industries Association predicts that solar installations in the non-residential market (commercial, industrial, government, nonprofit) are poised to accelerate significantly in those geographic zones.

Over the next few years, individual states will have to develop plans to meet proposed EPA standards for carbon emission. These compliance plans could result in myriad new opportunities for solar – and for reps focused on partnering with these companies.