Courses for construction pros catching on with propane retailers

May 4, 2012 By    

The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) is in its fifth year of building an arsenal of training courses for construction professionals.

Originally the courses were designed to train architects about propane and the benefits of related applications. The propane industry had long felt that architects were an important first step in the residential and commercial construction process but had no way to reach this audience.

The average propane marketer can be intimidated by the architect community and unsure of the role it plays in energy decisions. PERC took the smart approach and did research to qualify the architects as energy decision makers and find out the best ways to reach them. The research showed that architects need continuing education to maintain their state license and are especially receptive to online training. It was also noted that no other energy provider was offering this type of energy-related training to architects.

With the door wide open, PERC stepped in the first year with one course on underground propane tanks, and more than 300 architects took the course. The propane industry went from zero outreach to reaching more than 300 architects in the first year.

What does the training program look like now? The Propane Training Academy has been established online and currently houses 22 free courses on a variety of topics, including new technology that PERC grants helped develop. Last year, almost 5,000 construction professionals, including residential and commercial architects and builders, remodelers, engineers, and HVAC and plumbing professionals, signed up for the courses. Included in those numbers are 200 propane professionals who found the training a valuable resource for connecting to the construction market and propane end users.

PERC is able to capture information during the training registration process, and the amazing results point out the true value that this training is bringing to the propane industry. An overwhelming 70 percent of the construction professionals signing up for the courses plan to build with propane in the next 12 months. Of the builders with no previous experience in building with propane, more than half of them plan to build with propane in the next 12 months.

This points to the efficiency and effectiveness of training the construction community and will result in incremental sales and gallons when you connect with those builders in the field. All of the construction professionals training with PERC at trade shows, through www.buildwithpropane.com and the Propane Training Academy are posted as leads on the Propane MaRC. Find them and create new gallons.

Training for yourself and your employees can make a difference in the way you approach today’s challenges of warmer-than-normal temperatures, a weak economy, accompanying conservation, and propane prices significantly higher than the previous winter.

For some retailers, it may be time to face this reality and make a choice: Downsize your business or create new gallons. Creating new gallons means creating new users and increasing the number of propane applications with current users. That is true propane market expansion in the energy sector, versus stealing customers from your weaker propane competitor. Creating new propane users is a strategy; stealing current users is a tactic.

While you may have opportunities in your marketplace to use that tactic, it shouldn’t be your only one. Add training for yourself and your employees to your tactics list. The training available at the Propane Training Academy should be incorporated into your slower delivery season, if creating new and expanded residential propane users is part of your strategy.

Make springtime learning time, not downtime, at your propane business. The training available at www.buildwithpropane.com/training will make propane retailers better prepared to sell to the construction community and to end users.

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