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Trade partners, consumers look to you for energy education

February 1, 2009 By    

The shaky economy has slowed consumer spending, especially for non-essential items. When consumers do spend money, they want to make informed spending decisions. Propane retailers have the opportunity to educate consumers and potential propane advocates such as builders and other construction professionals on the comfort, reliability, value and efficiency of propane heating equipment and other gas appliances. If you want to be a good educator, you need to prepare yourself. Here are some tips.

• Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) propane education courses – Take all five of the propane-related online education courses available for free at These courses are designed for architects, builders, remodelers, developers and other construction professionals. Architects can register and earn continuing education credits for taking these American Institute of Architects accredited courses. PERC is also planning to promote the courses to consumers later this year. More than 1,000 construction professionals took these courses last year, and that number is expected to climb this year as more courses are added and the promotion of the education courses is expanded. When you feel comfortable with the course materials, you can download PowerPoint versions from the Propane Marketing and Resource Catalog (MaRC) at Search for “Builder Education Course” and choose the courses you want to download for free. A test and test key also can be downloaded. You can print enough to give an education course to a local building company or your local chapter of the homebuilders association. Remember that construction professionals want to be educated, not sold.

• PERC research projects – Go to the MaRC Web site and search for research projects, webinars and other material that you can study. A good topic to search is the Propane Reduces Greenhouse Gas Emissions analysis. It makes the case for propane’s position in the green energy world.

• Industry conventions – Attend one of the several propane industry conventions such as the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) Southeastern Convention & International Expo held April 4-6 in Atlanta. The Atlanta expo is featuring more than 25 education sessions that provide essential skills and proven strategies that will make you a better educator. Find out more at Other industry-related trade shows such as the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Expo on March 18-21 in Reno, Nev., also have a heavy focus on education. You and key employees should select conventions that offer quality education and take full advantage of it.

• NPGA Benchmarking Council – Join the NPGA and then join the Benchmarking Council. More than 100 propane retailers from across the country meet in small, non-competitive groups to benchmark every aspect of their business to gain efficiencies and learn new best practices that are field-proven by your peers. Find out more at Look in the “About NPGA” tab under NPGA Business Councils. The Benchmarking Council may still be listed under its previous name of Marketers’ Management Forum.

• Competitor intelligence – Your energy competitors such as local electric utilities or rural electric cooperatives (REC) will have rates and other interesting information posted on their Web sites. Look for the breakdown on how their electricity is produced. There is a great green story to tell about propane, especially when you compete with electricity produced from burning coal.

• Read books – It may seem old-fashioned, but reading related books and materials is an excellent way to become a better-informed educator. The book on my nightstand this month is “AC/DC” by Tom McNichol. It is about the electricity standards war between Thomas Edison, a DC current advocate, and George Westinghouse, an AC current promoter.

These are just a few of the many ways you can learn more about the energy industry and prepare yourself to educate your customers, prospects and potential propane advocates such as construction professionals. Your education outreach can take many forms – face-to-face programs, statement stuffers and media advertising. Becoming Professor Propane will pay off for you and your business even in tough times. LPG

Tom Jaenicke is the owner and president of ATomiK Creative Solutions LLC, a company that provides marketing, consumer education and business development consulting, primarily to the propane industry. He can be reached at 810-252-7855 or

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