Building a marketing planning calendar is one of the first steps you should take if you expect your propane business to be successful in 2017. You need to plan your marketing activities well in advance of the times they are implemented.
I have always found it easier to continuously plan marketing 12 months in advance with a revolving marketing calendar and adjust closer to the activity, if needed. For example, when your December 2016 marketing plan is fully implemented, you can determine if your budget is over or short, the level of success and what you will do differently in December 2017. Add those December 2017 plans to your revolving marketing calendar and you continue to look out over the next 12 months.
If you decide to use a revolving 12-month marketing calendar, you will find it easier to plan one month at a time rather than face crunch time to come up with 12 months of marketing planning at the end of the year when you should be taking care of customers and enjoying the holidays.
Choose your marketing targets thoughtfully. There are three categories of marketing targets you will want to consider: consumers who are buying propane from you now; consumers who are buying their propane elsewhere; and consumers who are not using propane. Some of the marketing messages and delivery channels will be different for propane customers you already have versus marketing to your competitor’s propane customers. Messages may also need to be adjusted when reaching out to propane nonusers.
Research performed over the years by the Propane Education & Research Council continues to show energy consumers not using propane have much less awareness and favorability toward propane than active propane users. If you expect someone to switch to propane from another energy source, you will need to adjust your marketing messages to account for this hurdle.
Some marketing messages can be universal across all targets. For example, propane tankless water heaters can be appealing to propane users and nonusers alike. Who doesn’t want endless hot water and a highly efficient way to produce it? Marketing tankless water heaters to your current customers will deliver customer satisfaction with related retention benefits and build or preserve your gas load. Marketing tankless water heaters to noncustomers will show the diversity of products and services your company offers to attract new business.
Today you have an array of marketing channels from which to choose to reach consumers compared to just a few years ago. Some channels – such as email marketing, bill inserts and newsletters – are meant for use with your current customers, while online marketing and direct mail can attract new business from current customers and prospects alike. The optimization and call to action of your website, the flock of followers on your Facebook page, the pay-per-click advertising campaigns and the read rate of your blog posts will lead you to sales success with all of those prospects.
Arranging all of these marketing activities into a calendar should be a simple exercise. The old saying “Shoot while the ducks are flying” applies here. For example, gas grill sales peak in early summer. Why waste marketing and advertising resources to try to move those sales to the winter season?
On the other hand, you may want to try to move sales up on some products and services by marketing early. Those who favor a summer fill plan should take note here. Look for holidays and special days and months throughout the year that you may want to use. Did you know there is a National Popcorn Day in January? Have some fun with it on your Facebook page.
Create a marketing calendar that will help organize your team and keep sales on track. There are marketing calendar templates available online if you would like to tackle this yourself. Some of you might have a marketing person or staff to whom you can turn this over, while others might consider hiring a marketing consultant as the best overall value in the long run. Whichever way you choose, it is time to plan to succeed.
Tom Jaenicke is vice president of propane marketing services at Warm Thoughts Communications. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 810-252-7855.