Montana-based retailer implements traditional marketing strategy

July 12, 2016 By    
Photo courtesy of Axmen Propane

Axmen Propane opened its fifth location, in Bigfork, Mont., this year. Door-to-door marketing has contributed to company growth. Photo courtesy of Axmen Propane

The sincerity of old-school marketing techniques often trumps newer marketing methods for one Montana retailer.

From April through August, Axmen Propane, based in Frenchtown, Mont., dedicates one day a week to door-to-door marketing in the communities it serves.

Mike Svoboda, Axmen’s managing partner, asks all of his delivery drivers and service technicians to discuss the company’s product offerings with potential customers they visit on those days. If a customer isn’t home, employees leave a door hanger or magnet with information for potential customers.

This marketing activity isn’t just a random exercise to keep workers busy in the summer. Instead, Svoboda says it’s a strategic way to achieve residential growth in the offseason by trying to gain customers along the company’s existing routes.

Svoboda admits this strategy is nothing new – he’s used it for about two decades at a couple of companies. Yet, the approach has been highly effective in building residential business. Svoboda initiated the strategy at Axmen in 2007 when he started with the company and, within four years, the customer base grew by 33 percent. And Axmen has seen steady growth in customers since then.

Residential accounts are key for propane retailers in western Montana, as Svoboda says there aren’t many opportunities for commercial accounts in the area.

“We’re in a mountainous area,” he says. “There’s no farming in this region, really. You can’t get into irrigation or other types of accounts, so for us, residential is key.”

For Axmen, the traditional marketing approach wins more residential customers today than it had in previous years. Svoboda says taking the time to meet with prospective customers often speaks volumes to them.

“We get a lot of results out of the old-fashioned method,” he says. “We’ve received a lot of callbacks on our door-hanger method, even if the potential customer didn’t see the technician stop by.”

The door-to-door marketing efforts also help Axmen retain current customers. Drivers and technicians leave thank-you notes with customers periodically to show them the company cares.

As a result of successful door-to-door marketing efforts and customer feedback, Axmen recently opened a new plant in Bigfork, Mont. The new facility is the company’s fifth location in the state.

“I sent out a survey to the people in Big Fork, and the people there said they would like to have local service with a propane retailer,” Svoboda says. “With no propane retail facility in that area, we thought it was a good time to move in.”


More on Axmen Propane

FOUNDED: 2000
Headquarters: Frenchtown, Mont.
Owners: Grant, Guy, Aaron and Jake Hanson; and Mike Svoboda
Propane sales: 2 million annual gallons
Employees: 12
Customers: 3,000

Megan Smalley

About the Author:

Megan Smalley is the associate editor of LP Gas magazine. Contact her at msmalley@northcoastmedia.net or 216-363-7930.

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