LP Gas

Selling opportunities to your current customer base

Author: kev-shine / photo on flickr

Some propane retailers spend a considerable amount of money and resources on marketing their company to prospective customers while ignoring their current “underserved” customer base.

“Underserved” is a word I stole from the natural gas industry playbook. Natural gas utilities use “underserved” to describe a propane user who has natural gas nearby but hasn’t switched yet. In the propane industry, “underserved” refers to propane users who haven’t taken advantage of the unique propane opportunities available to them. Many propane users don’t know all of the ways that propane can make their lives better in their homes or businesses because they are “underserved” by their propane providers.

The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) spends millions of dollars each year to develop products and programs to help state associations and propane marketers expand the use of propane across the country. Now that the restrictions on consumer outreach have been lifted, PERC is expected to boost those efforts even further. None of that money being spent will do any good if propane marketers choose to “underserve” their customers by not communicating with them. The resulting loss of gallon-sales opportunities is then magnified further in the commercial segment.

Let me give you a real-life example: An owner of a popular ski and golf resort in the Midwest was quoted in a chamber of commerce special report that having propane energy at his resort was holding back economic development, explaining that he supports natural gas expansion. The resort has large on-site propane storage delivered by a transport truck, so it is in a competitive class of service. When the report surfaced, it was a red flag the propane industry couldn’t ignore.

A small delegation of propane industry veterans arranged an appointment with the resort owners and key management team members. The meeting went well, and the resort owners were pleased with the attention. The meeting follow-up items included the following:

The conversation also turned to an affordable housing project and more accurate price comparison between natural gas and propane, standby generators, propane autogas use for the maintenance vehicle fleet and other opportunities at the resort.
The resort is a prime example of a propane customer being “underserved.” The propane supplier needs to be proactive in serving this type of account and finding ways to provide service and expand usage in ways that provide a better energy experience for the customer.

You can continue to “underserve” your customers or potentially double your gallon sales by showing them new opportunities. What’s your choice?


Tom Jaenicke is vice president of propane marketing services for Warm Thoughts Communications. He can be reached at tjaenicke@warmthoughts.com or call him at 810-252-7855.