The typical propane business is usually in a new-customer sales funk this time of the year.
The main focus is on keeping those bobtails rolling and delivering propane during the peak heating-demand period. Many marketers in moderate and cold-climate areas of the country postpone most new installations until spring.
There is no better time for you and your sales staff to start identifying new sales channels and reinforcing your approach to the old standbys so you can keep more of the customers you have and fill up that spring installation calendar. Maximizing net customer gains should be your goal.
Here are a few sales channels into which you should consider tapping, if you haven’t already.
There can be multiple MOMI customer opportunities in any real estate transaction, depending on how far you want to follow the original real estate sale.
Do you have a plan in place to contact your propane customers who are selling their homes – what we refer to as a “move-out,” so you can attempt to capture the propane business at their new “move-in” location?
It is just as important to contact the move-in customer who is buying the home to make sure you retain the propane business at that location and the transition goes smoothly and safely. That move-in also moved out of a home that may be a target for your propane service as you move down the real estate transaction chain.
MOMI programs can be a bit complicated, dealing with realtors, closing attorneys or paralegals, and multiple propane users and prospects. When done right, the MOMI sales channel can be a big contributor to your net customer gain.
Propane home sales (new deeds)
Depending on the overall real estate market, newly built propane home sales add about 100,000 new propane customers to the marketplace every year.
It may seem obvious, but you need to pursue this sales channel vigorously. Your goal should be to build relationships with builders and other construction professionals to expand the use of propane in their builds and to have them make you the preferred energy provider.
Does your builder program take into account the process of transferring propane service from the builder to the new owner in a smooth and safe manner? It can differentiate you from your energy competitors.
Word-of-mouth is a powerful sales tool, and customer referrals are usually a rewarding sales channel in which to work. Are you promoting a customer referral program?
Do you have an employee spiff program in place to reward your team members for bringing in new propane business? Set up and managed properly, employee referral programs are an effective way to gain new customers and add new uses of propane to your current customer base.
Some of the more successful referral programs involve rewarding spiffs to others, such as HVAC contractors, plumbers, well drillers, realtors, electricians (think standby generators) and hearth shops. Referral programs can be challenging to manage, but they are effective at reaching multiple sales targets.
The advertising sales channel is the most used and most often abused of all.
Advertising in the old days was a lot of Yellow Pages and not much else. Now Yellow Page advertising has faded from importance, and other choices such as direct mail, newsprint, online and social media have taken over this channel.
Recognize the difference between donations and advertising and budget accordingly. Sponsoring the local soccer team may be important for customer relations and a sentimental favorite, but it is a donation, not advertising. The real purpose of advertising is to tell a story about propane, your business, and the related products and services you sell. It should be a channel or path to closing the sale.
Choose your sales channels wisely and create effective programs to maximize net customer gain. Your propane business will prosper for your efforts.
Tom Jaenicke is vice president of propane marketing services for Warm Thoughts Communications, a company providing marketing solutions for the energy services industry. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 810-252-7855.