Four takeaways from the first PERC Can-Do Conference

August 16, 2018 By    
Photo by Joe McCarthy

The first PERC Can-Do Conference was held July 30-31 in Chicago. Photo by Joe McCarthy

When Tucker Perkins, president and CEO of the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC), took the stage at the first ever Can-Do Conference, the over 200 attendees waited with anticipation, not knowing what to expect over the next two days.

“This is the most transformative day for the propane industry this year,” Perkins said in his opening remarks. “I firmly believe it.”

The PERC Can-Do Conference was established with the goal to educate propane retailers on marketing, the long-time neglected business practice that is now more important than ever for the propane industry.

Here are four takeaways from the two-day event.

Marketing is the future of the propane industry

 The Can-Do Conference came about through a combination of what PERC was hearing from propane retailers about marketing education and what the council was seeing on the business front.

According to Bridget Kidd, vice president, industry relations for PERC, the council was getting a lot of feedback from retailers on the implementation of marketing in the digital space. This was the idea that sparked putting on a marketing conference for the propane industry.

“The need is there,” Kidd says. “People are very hungry for this kind of content, so we said let’s do it.”

Chris Earhart, chairman of the National Propane Gas Association, echoed the thoughts of PERC and the propane retailers, and stressed the important relationship between marketing and the future success of the propane industry.

“We have to get the message out and promote propane for all the value that it is, because there are a lot of values to it,” Earhart says. “Being someone who waits for the phone to ring is not working and it’s not going to work. We have to be out in the market promoting our market, our product and our companies.”

It is critical the propane industry quickly learn how to improve its marketing strategies. The next wave of homeowners will be purchasing new homes over the next decade. These future homeowners will be the ones propane retailers need to target for not only home heating, but propane appliance transformations, autogas and other gallon growth opportunities. This can only be done through a strong marketing strategy.

Do something  

Propane retailers know propane, but they might not know marketing. Throughout several sessions at the Can-Do Conference, the marketing professionals provided one simple piece of advice: Do something.

Jody Jankovsky – founder and managing member of Black Line Consulting, a software development, network management and digital marketing company – provided this practical tip, “Just do it. Don’t be afraid of being wrong.”

Propane retailers need to get into the marketing game one way or another. Creating a website and establishing a social media presence are two simple steps retailers can take into the marketing world. If you do not have your name out there, potential customers will not find your operation. Word of mouth doesn’t cut it anymore.

Your website should answer the following consumer questions: Why am I here? What should I do? And why should I do it?

As a company, your website’s goal should be to get consumers to fill out a contact or information form or pick up the phone and call a salesperson. You want the consumer to talk to someone at your company. Consumers visit a website to answer the above questions, so your content needs to be strong enough to push a consumer to reach out to your business.

Here are a few statistics to consider if you are hesitant about creating an online presence for your website: 87 percent of consumers say a business needs an online rating of three stars or more to use that business; 85 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations; and 67 percent of a consumer’s purchasing journey is now done digitally.  

Be responsive online

Once you’ve established your online presence, you need to keep it fresh and stay in front of consumers.

Mike Blumenthal, a web design specialist, highlighted the importance of having strong content on your website because that content is automatically pulled and used for your Google listing. Constructing content that works well with your Google listing is critical because 70 percent of consumers learn everything they need by doing a Google search instead of visiting the website. Your website’s profile picture is the most important photo since this is what appears when your company’s name is put into a Google search, Bluementhal adds.

Additionally, keeping up with your business’ reviews on Google is crucial to your customer service and business performance.

Several sessions highlighted the importance of reviews, providing the following research on Google reviews: 58 percent of customers come from reading business reviews on Google; 58 percent of consumers care about a company’s overall star rating on Google; 47 percent of consumers care about the sentiment of the Google reviews; 80 percent of all traffic of searches on the Internet are done on Google; and 48 percent of consumers need to see at least 10 business reviews to trust a business.

Not having a fresh website or keeping up with your digital presence can paint a bad picture of your business to potential customers.

Jankovsky adds the next wave of homeowners are going to base decisions on what the online crowd says about your business. They are more likely to heavily research your company online before ever making a call. 

Aligning marketing and sales is crucial

To put it simply: your marketing strategy and sales approach need to be aligned for ultimate business success.

Brian Basilico – president of B2b Interactive Marketing Inc. – used a quote from Zig Ziglar to start his presentation: “You can have everything in life you want if you just help other people get what they want.”

This should be the relationship between marketing and sales at your propane operation. Basilico says it is the sales team’s job to convince a customer they need a product or service and it is the marketing team’s job to give the sales team the fuel to do so.

“The key thing we want to do is create a well-oiled machine,” Basilico says. “With our inbound and outbound marketing, digital and sales working together in harmony.”

The growing trend of customers using the digital marketplace in purchasing decisions, means it is crucial your marketing team creates captivating and educational content for your digital presence and your sales team needs to know what marketing material is out there. When a potential customer calls a sales person with questions, you want to be able to send this customer to your website to see content that answers all of their questions. Having an informative website creates trust between the consumer and the company, which should lead to sales.

According to Basilico, there is a 20 percent annual growth rate for companies with a strong marketing alignment, while a poor alignment can experience a 4 percent decline, on average.

To conclude the conference, Perkins came back out in front of a now educated group of propane industry members. “Now it is ‘must do’,” Perkins says. “If we just came here to learn and went back and stuffed this in a drawer, then this was a waste of two days.”

About the Author:

Joe McCarthy is an Associate Editor of LP Gas Magazine. You can contact him at jmccarthy@northcoastmedia.net and at 216-363-7930.

1 Comment on "Four takeaways from the first PERC Can-Do Conference"

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  1. Tom Jaenicke says:

    My impression of the many positive aspects of the Can-Do Conference match up well with what is said here. Our clients find out early on that having a dynamic continually optimized website and engaging social media platform makes the phone ring when everything else becomes just an advertising expense with no measurable ROI. Our prospects start to realize that one and done is not the way to manage a website or their social media when the phone traffic slows and their energy competitors seem to be experiencing growth. The phone is still ringing but not in their office. Kudos to PERC for holding the Can-Do Conference and, as Jody would say, it is time to “Do Something”.

    Tom Jaenicke

    Warm Thoughts Communications