Is your company ready to grow?

March 7, 2016 By    
Author: free pictures of money / photo on flickr

Author: free pictures of money / photo on flickr

Growing a propane business organically is not easy. Just ask a growth-minded propane marketer who is adding new customers or increasing gallons by selling new propane applications to customers.

These marketers understand that growth requires a vibrant marketing function with ample resources, hard work, persistence and expertise. They also do not believe in the commonly held myths that growth will happen from mere advertising or from lifting the Propane Education & Research Council’s (PERC) consumer education restriction.

Are you a propane marketer eager to end the long-term pattern of slow and steady gallon decline? Are you tired of swapping tanks with your competitors while watching the overall market decline? Business owners, leaders and employees who want to be part of a growth company often express these frustrations.

Answering the question of “How do I grow organically?” is difficult because the components of an effective marketing function are expensive, complex and sometimes vague. Many propane marketers who lack marketing expertise have had the bad experience of wasting money on failed advertising or marketing programs.

In order to prepare a sound marketing plan and answer the growth question, one of the first steps is to begin with an assessment of your company’s readiness to grow. The growth readiness test will: 1) define the capabilities needed to be a growth-oriented propane marketer and 2) identify where improvement is needed.

The growth readiness test below illustrates the diverse factors needed to be an effective, growth-oriented company.

  • Is organic growth a priority of the company’s leadership, as evidenced by the resources allocated to marketing?
  • Does the company spend at least 3 cents per gallon on advertising and promotion?
  • Do employees consistently demonstrate the ability and enthusiasm to sell the benefits of propane products and propane as an attractive energy source?
  • Does the company have sufficient and effective direct sales staff dedicated to creating business?
  • Does the company have partnerships with plumbers, HVAC contractors and homebuilders to promote propane?
  • Does the company sell only quality propane appliances for all applications in the home that will consistently deliver a positive experience for the customer?
  • Does the company use PERC resources and tools to help develop markets?
  • Is the storefront attractive and does it create an inviting retail-like look and feel?
  • Does the showroom create the opportunity for current and prospective customers to experience the benefits of propane products?
  • Does the company create community goodwill through employee involvement and financial support of local non-profit organizations?
  • Does the company effectively sell new propane applications to existing customers?
  • Are customer programs easy to understand and are they relevant to the customer’s needs?
  • Is the company able to complete service work on time and in a professional manner?
  • Are all employees actively engaged in prospecting for new customers, burner-tip or spark-plug growth opportunities?
  • Is the company’s brand well defined and consistently communicated through the employees, equipment, buildings, bulk plants, printed material and advertising?

Upon completion of the test, identify which areas of readiness need improvement. Then create a plan. Be prepared to allocate new financial resources and staff time. Expect to take risks and reset your expectations and priorities periodically. Remember that you are on a multi-year path that will provide plenty of lessons learned along the way.

You will be happy with your decision to address the marketing function head-on. In time, you will not only experience gallon growth but also the satisfaction of meeting the desire to be part of a growth company.

If you are interested in the propane marketer’s growth readiness test, let me know and I will email you one.

 

Randy Doyle is CFO for Blossman Gas in Ocean Springs, Miss. He’s also a member of PERC and the National Propane Gas Association board of directors. He can be reached at rdoyle@blossmangas.com.

1 Comment on "Is your company ready to grow?"

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  1. Eric Hahn says:

    Might I suggest a couple more?
    1. Have a professional marketer on staff or have access to a professional marketing resource.
    2. Is your web and social media presence up to speed? If not, you need to invest in this area.