Creating small, measurable steps for propane market growth

December 11, 2013 By    

New Year’s resolutions date back to pre-Christian times with the Babylonians and Romans and have had religious and moral overtones.

It is estimated that more than 40 percent of Americans now make New Year’s resolutions on small, measurable steps that can be as simple as losing weight, volunteering to help others or making the decision to stop smoking.

New Year’s resolutions can be an important part of the planning process for your propane business too. Resolutions are not meant to replace a business plan, an annual marketing plan or your budget process, but resolutions can help you find your range and set the tone for those more formal planning processes.

Here are a few New Year’s resolutions for your propane business that can make a difference. I resolve to:

■ Stop using the words “switch” and “switch out” in my advertising, as it applies to stealing customers from your propane competitors. There is nothing wrong with adding new customers to your base by taking customers from your weak-performing propane competitors, but using those words shows a total lack of creativity and cheapens your growth efforts and our propane industry reputation. Your marketing and advertising should give compelling reasons why you are the best propane company with which to do business, and consumers will respond. Consider substituting “upgrade” for “switch out.”

■ Start learning more about propane and my energy competitors. Attend the Propane Expo in Atlanta and other regional and state events that have a strong educational component. Study the electricity, heating oil, biomass and renewables markets in your area. These energy markets differ across the country. I find that energy websites, blogs, other social media and my electric bill provide an abundant amount of useable energy information. Few propane marketers I talk with even know their own local electric rates, but they can tell me the per-gallon price of propane for every competitor within 50 miles. That’s a good way to win small battles but lose the war.

■ Provide more training for my employees. If you want to create a healthy team spirit at your company and have a safer and more successful propane business, keep your employees well trained in their core areas of work and other aspects of the propane business. The Certified Employee Training Program (CETP) or equivalent training, propane system installation and maintenance training, and appliance installation and service training offered by manufacturers or distributors are a few of the curriculum areas that can improve your employees’ skills, versatility and overall worth to your company. Look to the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA), your state or regional propane association, and appliance and equipment manufacturers and distributors in your area for primary employee training opportunities.

■ Add more burner tips to my residential and commercial customers. Your marketing plan strategy and tactics should include the addition of burner tips and resulting gallons to your current customer base.

You can start with small steps like improving your database on the propane usage of your residential and commercial customers. Every one of your customers has five primary opportunities for propane usage inside their homes or businesses. You should know what form of energy your customers use for space heating, water heating, cooking, clothes drying and fireplaces. It is also helpful to know the age and condition of that equipment. Then you can work toward ways to increase the number of those usage points per customer. You can identify propane usage by customer and application in a variety of ways, including GAS Check, customer surveys, new-customer checklists and service orders.

Also, consider joining the Residential and Commercial Market Growth Group, a new working group of NPGA members that includes propane marketers, appliance manufacturers and distributors, and state executives. Contact Randy Doyle at rdoyle@blossman gas.com or me for more details.

Now is the time to think about what your New Year’s resolutions should be for your propane business. You might be surprised at how much these small steps can positively influence your overall business strategy and formal planning process.

May you have a merry Christmas, happy holidays and a prosperous new year. LPG

Tom Jaenicke is the owner and principal adviser at ATomiK Creative Solutions LLC. He can be reached at 810-252-7855 or tom@atomikenergysolutions.com.

About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is the senior editor of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at kyanik@northcoastmedia.net or 216-706-3724.

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