Newsletters still work hard for propane operations

July 6, 2023 By    

New content ideas and distribution options renew effectiveness

Customer newsletters are still the most effective tool for propane retailers to reach their customers directly with no overlap or shortfall in distribution.

Both hard copy and email versions of newsletters put customized content in the hands of your customers rather than waiting to see if they find your social media content, visit your website or find you in other marketing channels with which you may be involved.

When targeting your customer base, newsletters are one of many options for outreach. You can fine-tune messaging and avoid overlapping with non-customers by using email, text, statement stuffers, direct mail, dropping information off when making propane deliveries and even handwritten notes.

Of all the options, only direct-mailed newsletters have the potential for full coverage. You already have current customer mailing and billing addresses. You should also have a program in place to collect email addresses and mobile phone numbers from new and existing customers to be used for specialized communications, including safety-related situations.

Emailed newsletters

There are pros and cons on whether you use email or direct mail to deliver your newsletters.

The emailed newsletter is certainly less costly to send because you avoid printing and mailing costs. However, it is easy to ignore emails and delete them without reading. My experience has been that the open rate for emailed newsletters has been about 30 percent. Opening the email doesn’t tell you whether they are actually read.

Tom Jaenicke

Direct mail

Hard copy newsletters are usually sent at bulk mail rates to cut mailing costs and arrive in customer mailboxes.

It is more challenging to determine open rates for bulk mailed versions, but putting an offer or two in the newsletter with a tracking phone number can get you closer to the actual read rate. A barcode that leads customers to your website is a helpful feature.

Surveys or contests with return postcards also give you an indication of read rates. You will find that those offers with accompanying tracking phone numbers are used for an average of two months after the newsletter arrives in the customer’s mailbox. It is doubtful that a 2-month-old, emailed newsletter would still be read.

No matter how you distribute your newsletters and content, presentation is critical for success. Catchy subject lines and interesting photos for your articles assure a higher rate of readership. Topics can vary according to your communication needs.

Popular topics include:

  • Promotions such as automatic delivery, tank monitors, budget plan, price protection, etc.
  • The benefits of propane versus electrification.
  • Propane’s journey to net-zero through the development of renewable propane.
  • Help wanted for career, seasonal and part-time job postings.
  • Supporting the five main uses of propane inside the home.
  • Heating equipment and appliance sales promotions.
  • Featured customer business using propane.
  • Money-saving efficiency tips.
  • Area energy assistance programs.
  • Safety tips.
  • Employee recognition.

The frequency of your newsletters can vary according to your communications needs. In general, propane retailers in colder climates settle on three newsletters per year, while those in warmer climates seem to prefer two newsletters per year.

If you aren’t sending newsletters now, creating and sending out your first one will make you realize how many good things you have to communicate with your customers, and you will want to do more.

Get professional marketing assistance if you are not sure you can handle the production well. A custom-designed newsletter coming from you can be your best customer retention tool. You have the opportunity to be the local voice for propane and your business versus today’s policy-driven electrification. Only propane is “energy for everyone.”

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

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