New Year’s resolutions for propane marketers

Cre­at­ing small mea­sur­able steps for propane mar­ket growth    

Accord­ing to the lat­est Wikipedia def­i­n­i­tion, a New Year’s Res­o­lu­tion is a promise that you make to your­self to start doing some­thing good or stop doing some­thing bad on the first day of the year.  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 over 40% of Amer­i­cans now make New Year’s res­o­lu­tions on small mea­sur­able steps that can be as sim­ple as lose weight, quit smok­ing, and vol­un­teer to help others.

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 show a total lack of cre­ativ­ity and cheapen 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.  If you still feel you must strengthen your adver­tis­ing close, try 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 edu­ca­tion 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.  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 NPGA, your State or Regional propane gas asso­ci­a­tion, and appli­ance and equip­ment man­u­fac­tur­ers and dis­trib­uters 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 data base on the propane usage of your res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial cus­tomers.  Every one of your cus­tomers has 5 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 check lists, and ser­vice orders. Also, con­sider join­ing the Res­i­den­tial and Com­mer­cial Mar­ket Growth Group, a newly formed work­ing group of NPGA mem­bers that includes propane mar­keters, appli­ance man­u­fac­tur­ers and dis­trib­u­tors, and State Exec­u­tives.  This still evolv­ing group’s efforts to increase res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial gas load are also sup­ported by PERC.  Con­tact Randy Doyle at rdoyle@blossmangas.com or me for more details.  Increas­ing the num­ber of burner tips per cus­tomer will increase your gal­lon sales and the value and sus­tain­abil­ity of your business.

Now is the time to think about what your New Year’s res­o­lu­tions should be for your propane busi­ness.  Hope­fully you have been inspired by some of the above.  You may 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!

 

Proposed HVAC Efficiency Standards Withdrawn by DOE

The Depart­ment of Energy has agreed to with­draw energy con­ser­va­tion stan­dards that had con­trac­tors con­cerned.  Here is how the set­tle­ment could affect your business.

Reg­u­la­tion Recall:  Revised Gas Fur­nace Effi­ciency Stan­dards Withdrawn.

Are you prepared when the power goes out?

At the Inter­na­tional Builders Show atten­dees learned why propane standby gen­er­a­tors are the best option to pro­tect homes from power outages.

 

How to Select, Size, and Install a Standby Generator

Did you know that the fiscal cliff deal extended propane incentives?

Propane can play a key role in mak­ing homes qual­ify for recently extended tax incen­tives for effi­ciency upgrades.  The fol­low­ing arti­cle out­lines the incen­tives for both builders and home owners.

Propane Incen­tives in Fis­cal Cliff Deal

 

 

Temporary construction heat exactly when and where you need it

Con­trac­tors face many chal­lenges when work­ing in the win­ter tokeep their projects on time and on bud­get.  In a recent arti­cle, Build with Propane out­lines some sim­ple solutions.

Tem­po­rary Heat:  A Sim­ple Solu­tion for Win­ter Weather Delays

There is only one International Propane Expo

Tech­nol­ogy Exhibits, train­ing, cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, net­work­ing, deal making

The National Propane Gas Asso­ci­a­tion Inter­na­tional Propane Expo 2013 (my ver­sion of the event name) will be held on April 13–15 in Atlanta, Geor­gia, and there is noth­ing else like it.  This NPGA-owned event has been held in Atlanta at the Geor­gia World Con­gress Cen­ter for many years and is endorsed and gen­er­ously sup­ported by the South­east States Propane Gas Asso­ci­a­tions.  Com­plete infor­ma­tion can be found at http://www.propaneexpo.com

The NPGA Inter­na­tional Propane Expo is the world’s largest gath­er­ing of a full range of propane indus­try pro­fes­sion­als who buy, spec­ify and influ­ence the prod­ucts that go into the propane mar­ket­place.  Atten­dees include busi­ness own­ers, man­agers, cus­tomer ser­vice rep­re­sen­ta­tives, sales peo­ple, and ser­vice tech­ni­cians.  Over 5,000 atten­dees are expected to travel to Atlanta from all over the United States, Canada, Mex­ico, and sev­eral other for­eign coun­tries. Here are some rea­sons why you should attend, no mat­ter where you work or what you do in the propane industry.

First, the Propane Expo is the largest exhibit of propane-related prod­ucts in the world.  The Exhibit space is expected to be sold out as well over 200 exhibitors focus on new ideas, tech­nolo­gies, and prod­ucts, includ­ing the highly antic­i­pated and long over­due, propane-powered bob­tail deliv­ery truck, the Freight­liner S2G.  I have talked with sev­eral other exhibitors and spon­sors and they are excited about the inno­v­a­tive prod­ucts and ideas they are bring­ing to Atlanta, the nearly nor­mal cold win­ter that most of their cus­tomers are expe­ri­enc­ing, the greatly enhanced domes­tic propane sup­ply pic­ture, and the gen­eral sense of excite­ment sur­round­ing this year’s Expo event.

The Propane Edu­ca­tion & Research Coun­cil is con­sid­ered an event part­ner with NPGA on sev­eral aspects of the Propane Expo and will have a wide array of new propane tech­nolo­gies on dis­play in its exhibit and the adjoin­ing Inno­va­tion Pavil­ion.  An excit­ing new fea­ture of the Inno­va­tion Pavil­ion this year will be a dis­play of unique, never before seen, Rin­nai propane prod­ucts not cur­rently avail­able in this coun­try but sold in other parts of the world.  You will get a chance to give your opin­ion on what the poten­tial for these prod­ucts will be in your mar­ket­place.  It’s all about bring­ing more propane burner tips to the homes and busi­nesses you service.

Sec­ond, and not far behind the exhibit floor in attendee inter­est, is the most com­pre­hen­sive propane train­ing pro­gram avail­able any­where.  It starts with a pre-conference Online Mar­ket­ing & Social Media Work­shop on Sat­ur­day morn­ing.  If you want to bring your com­pany into the present and on to the future of mar­ket­ing and adver­tis­ing, you will want some­one from your com­pany to attend this workshop.

On Sat­ur­day after­noon and Sun­day there are eigh­teen train­ing ses­sions sched­uled in blocks of six that run con­cur­rently in indi­vid­ual train­ing rooms.  Hint:  Bring more peo­ple from your com­pany if you want to take full advan­tage of all the learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties at the Propane Expo.  The train­ing ses­sions cover five learn­ing tracks, Busi­ness Oper­a­tions, Propane Appli­ca­tions, Safety & Stan­dards, Sales & Mar­ket­ing, and Sup­ply & Dis­tri­b­u­tion.  In future years you can expect the Train­ing Pro­gram at the Expo to include a Propane Pro­fes­sional Des­ig­na­tion Pro­gram with some ses­sions qual­i­fy­ing for Pro­fes­sional Des­ig­na­tions and con­tin­u­ing edu­ca­tion.  There will be more news com­ing on that later this year.

On Sun­day and Mon­day there are ten of the pop­u­lar Fast Track Ses­sions sched­uled on the exhibit floor that cover some of the more tech­ni­cal aspects of the propane busi­ness, such as NFPA and OSHA com­pli­ance, cloud com­put­ing, and new trends in gas piping.

New to the Propane Expo this year is Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion Train­ing for the instal­la­tion of both Cor­ru­gated Stain­less Steel Tub­ing (CSST) flex­i­ble gas line and under­ground plas­tic pipe.  Four man­u­fac­tur­ers will hold cer­ti­fi­ca­tion classes in areas set aside on the exhibit hall floor on Sun­day and Mon­day.  This is a great oppor­tu­nity for ser­vice tech­ni­cians and propane sys­tem installers to get cer­ti­fied to pur­chase and install new gas pip­ing prod­ucts that will sim­plify propane sys­tem instal­la­tions and save money.

Third, and some­times most impor­tant, the Propane Expo is a great net­work­ing and deal-making oppor­tu­nity for both women and men in the propane indus­try.  Friends and busi­ness asso­ciates and cus­tomers can come together in Atlanta to renew acquain­tances, find new clients and sup­pli­ers, and make the deals that will take them through the next year.

Will I see you at NPGA Inter­na­tional Propane Expo 2013 in Atlanta in April?  I hope so.  Attend­ing the Propane Expo will be good for your business!

Tom Jaenicke is the owner and prin­ci­pal advi­sor at ATomiK Cre­ative Solu­tions, LLC, a com­pany that pro­vides mar­ket­ing ser­vices, tech­ni­cal advice, con­tin­u­ing edu­ca­tion solu­tions, and busi­ness devel­op­ment assis­tance to energy com­pa­nies and sup­port orga­ni­za­tions.  He can be reached at 810 252‑7855 or tom@atomikenergysolutions.com.

 

What is your burner tip business model?

Increas­ing res­i­den­tial propane sales may mean adjust­ing your approach

Does your present busi­ness model fully sup­port res­i­den­tial propane growth by max­i­miz­ing the num­ber of burner tips in exist­ing homes and in new homes being built?  Don’t let your energy com­peti­tors, mainly elec­tric­ity, con­tinue to gain mar­ket share because you have turned your back on the chal­lenge.  You should feel respon­si­ble for the shrink­ing res­i­den­tial mar­ket and not wait around for your propane com­peti­tors to solve the prob­lem for you.  Here are some ideas that can turn energy switch­ing in your favor.

Review your busi­ness plan to make sure it sup­ports all res­i­den­tial uses of propane.  You should be actively look­ing for ways to stop energy switch­ing in your cur­rent cus­tomer base and work­ing to make sure that homes being effi­ciency upgraded or newly built are using propane in all avail­able appli­ca­tions.  One or a com­bi­na­tion of the 3 fol­low­ing burner tip busi­ness mod­els will help you accom­plish this.

Sell, install, and ser­vice res­i­den­tial propane burner tips.  The res­i­den­tial propane burner tips inside the home are the big 5: heat­ing, water heat­ing, cook­ing, clothes dry­ing, and fire­places.  Rough esti­mates are that only10-15% of propane mar­keters fall into this cat­e­gory of sales, ser­vice, and instal­la­tion.  Mar­keters offer var­i­ous excuses why they aren’t into this level of com­mit­ment, includ­ing lack of trained employ­ees, licens­ing issues, lia­bil­ity, and ser­vice issues, and the list goes on.  Yet, I can name many propane mar­keters who sell, install, and ser­vice propane appli­ances and heat­ing equip­ment and do it well.  Some of the mar­keters only sell zone heat­ing equip­ment, such as wall fur­naces and smaller space heaters, while oth­ers have a com­plete HVAC depart­ment that installs forced air fur­naces and air con­di­tion­ers, boil­ers, and other types of heat­ing and air con­di­tion­ing sys­tems.  Some­times this busi­ness is under a sep­a­rate cor­po­rate or LLC umbrella so the busi­ness can be more closely mon­i­tored.  The hearth shop con­cept is also pop­u­lar with some mar­keters where they deal mostly in gas fire­place projects and higher end out­door cook­ing equip­ment.  Many propane mar­keters aban­doned appli­ance sales when big box stores came on the scene.  Big box stores have some of this busi­ness, but not every con­sumer wants Chi­nese cheap prod­ucts and ser­vice and instal­la­tion from some­one they don’t know.  Your propane cus­tomers trust you and the ser­vices you offer or they wouldn’t be buy­ing propane from you.  Sell­ing, installing, and ser­vic­ing res­i­den­tial propane burner tips is the best way to con­trol the con­trol­lable and add more burner tips and related usage to the res­i­den­tial tanks you have in the field.  Finance plans and other pro­mo­tions can increase your cus­tomer loy­alty and referrals.

Part­ner with con­trac­tors to sell, install, and ser­vice res­i­den­tial propane burner tips.  There are var­i­ous lev­els of com­mit­ment in this model depend­ing on the rela­tion­ship you have with instal­la­tion and ser­vice con­trac­tors in your area.  It allows you to be in the sales, instal­la­tion, and ser­vice busi­ness with a hand-picked part­ner you and your propane cus­tomers can trust.  A pop­u­lar arrange­ment is to have more com­pli­cated and lengthy instal­la­tions han­dled by the con­trac­tor part­ner, while the orig­i­nal sale and ser­vice after the sale is han­dled by the propane com­pany ser­vice per­son­nel.  This arrange­ment can take advan­tage of the strengths of both com­pa­nies and bring added referrals.

Pro­mote con­sumer aware­ness, favor­a­bil­ity, and pur­chase of res­i­den­tial propane burner tips.  This is the eas­i­est busi­ness model to imple­ment but very few mar­keters are as active as they should be.  In fact, most mar­keters, big and small, are sit­ting by the side­lines while their energy com­peti­tors, espe­cially elec­tric, are eat­ing their lunches and low­er­ing their per cus­tomer usage rate.  Yet there are more effec­tive, low cost ways to pro­mote increased burner tips than ever before.  Some propane com­pa­nies don’t go inside a customer’s home because of lia­bil­ity fears but that shouldn’t stop them from pro­mot­ing con­sumer aware­ness, favor­a­bil­ity, and pur­chase of res­i­den­tial appli­ances and other burner tips from qual­i­fied con­trac­tors in the area.  Propane com­pa­nies have web sites, social media, email, PERC mar­ket­ing mate­ri­als, and good old fash­ioned state­ment stuffers they can use to pro­mote the value of more propane burner tips in the home even if they don’t sell, install, and service.

The NPGA Bench­mark­ing Coun­cil has com­mit­ted to an inter­nal bench­mark­ing study of the ser­vice busi­ness at each of their mem­ber com­pa­nies in 2013.  Mem­ber com­pany ser­vice busi­ness involve­ment fol­lows the gen­eral pat­tern, rang­ing from near zero to some very sophis­ti­cated sales, instal­la­tion, and ser­vice oper­a­tions.  Mem­bers are look­ing for ideas on mak­ing their ser­vice a more prof­itable part of their busi­ness and maybe they will be able to add some burner tips too.

Tom Jaenicke is the owner and prin­ci­pal advi­sor at ATomiK Cre­ative Solu­tions, LLC, a com­pany that pro­vides mar­ket­ing ser­vices, tech­ni­cal advice, con­tin­u­ing edu­ca­tion solu­tions, and busi­ness devel­op­ment assis­tance to energy com­pa­nies and sup­port orga­ni­za­tions.  He can be reached at 810 252‑7855 or tom@atomikenergysolutions.com.

 

Propane marketers partner with Rinnai to add burner tips to homes

Ear­lier this year a small group of propane indus­try mem­bers, led by Randy Doyle from Bloss­man Gas, began meet­ing with Rin­nai to explore ways to add gas load to their res­i­den­tial propane cus­tomers and attract more res­i­den­tial propane busi­ness.  All propane mar­keters have been suf­fer­ing through warm win­ters, con­ser­va­tion, and the load shav­ing effects of a bad econ­omy, but this group came together in a part­ner­ship with Rin­nai to find ways to over­come losses due to energy switch­ing, espe­cially to elec­tric­ity.  The Part­ner­ship “Group” is explor­ing ways to add burner tips to each exist­ing propane home and to max­i­mize the num­ber of burner tips in new homes being built.  The Group is com­mit­ting to try harder to con­trol the controllable.

Rin­nai appeared to be a log­i­cal choice for an ini­tial part­ner­ship with the propane indus­try mem­ber group.  Rin­nai is the num­ber 1 sell­ing brand of gas tan­k­less water heaters in North Amer­ica.  A sub­stan­tial amount of Rinnai’s tan­k­less water heater busi­ness is in propane mod­els.  When you exam­ine Rinnai’s global mar­ket­ing per­spec­tive, it also offers a wide range of kitchen and laun­dry appli­ances, heat­ing and air con­di­tion­ing units and other unique gas equip­ment for res­i­den­tial use.  Many of these prod­ucts are not cur­rently being offered for sale in the U.S., and the Group is explor­ing that port­fo­lio of prod­ucts to see where new burner tip oppor­tu­ni­ties may lie.

The Group also func­tions with Rin­nai as an advi­sory group on new prod­uct devel­op­ment, design, and com­mer­cial­iza­tion.  The Group’s objec­tive is to “organ­i­cally grow Res­i­den­tial gal­lons by dis­plac­ing other fuel sources, mainly elec­tric­ity, with propane burn­ing appli­ances that are:  1) high qual­ity; 2) depend­able; 3) func­tional; 4) inno­v­a­tive; and 5) priced com­pet­i­tively to meet the wide range of cus­tomer needs served by the propane part­ners.”  This objec­tive is meant to help all propane mar­keters will­ing to com­mit to try­ing harder, along with the Group.  Rin­nai seems to have lots of poten­tial to assist with the objective.

Some of the Part­ner­ship Group’s Lead­er­ship Team Randy Doyle, Bloss­man Gas Mike Pea­cock, Rin­nai Heat­ing and Energy Devel­op­ment Man­ager Tom Jaenicke, ATomiK Cre­ative Solutions

 There are over a dozen ini­tia­tives under study by the Part­ner­ship Group with 7 of them deal­ing directly with bring­ing unique new res­i­den­tial propane prod­ucts to mar­ket.  The Group is also look­ing at effec­tive ways to mar­ket to the res­i­den­tial chan­nel, sales train­ing for the propane indus­try, and plumber edu­ca­tion to make them believ­ers in tan­k­less water heaters, and the oppor­tu­ni­ties list goes on.

 

What the Rinnai/Propane Part­ner­ship is not 

This is not a plan to inter­rupt or inter­fere with the nation­wide dis­tri­b­u­tion sys­tem that Rin­nai has estab­lished.  Rinnai’s dis­tri­b­u­tion sys­tem has been suc­cess­ful to date, but there may be ways to make that sys­tem even more pro­duc­tive and effec­tive as we go for­ward.  I am sure dis­trib­u­tors will have full voice in those types of deci­sions, if it comes to that.   This is not a buy­ing group to get cut rate prices from Rin­nai or its dis­trib­u­tors.  Price is not the issue here.  The issue is hav­ing the right prod­ucts in the hands of the right mar­keters with the right knowl­edge to sell those prod­ucts to propane con­sumers.  If more sales vol­ume ends up bring­ing bet­ter pric­ing, so be it.

This is not a move to cut PERC from the pic­ture or dupli­cate its efforts.  In fact, PERC Pres­i­dent Roy Willis and Brid­get Scan­lon, PERC Direc­tor of Res­i­den­tial and Com­mer­cial Mar­kets, have given full sup­port to the Group’s efforts and recently become involved in the Group meet­ings to find ways to assist and pro­vide PERC resources if needed.  Oth­ers from the PERC staff and Swan­son Rus­sell, PERC’s adver­tis­ing agency, also have been involved in the meet­ings.  PERC has bud­geted heav­ily in the auto­gas and engine fuel mar­ket for next year, but seems eager to help in the res­i­den­tial area where new gal­lons are avail­able.  Propane mar­keters are start­ing to speak up about the need for more help from PERC in pro­tect­ing and grow­ing the res­i­den­tial mar­ket, the largest seg­ment of the retail propane mar­ket in the U.S., and PERC seems to be listening.

If you are inter­ested in join­ing the Part­ner­ship Group or find­ing out more about it, con­tact Randy Doyle at rdoyle@blossmangas.com or me.  Our motto is:  “There is no rea­son for an all-electric home in the U.S.”

Tom Jaenicke is the owner and prin­ci­pal advi­sor at ATomiK Cre­ative Solu­tions, LLC, a com­pany that pro­vides mar­ket­ing ser­vices, tech­ni­cal advice, con­tin­u­ing edu­ca­tion solu­tions, and busi­ness devel­op­ment assis­tance to energy com­pa­nies and sup­port orga­ni­za­tions.  He can be reached at 810 252‑7855 or tom@atomikenergysolutions.com.

Sales process training added to popular PERC program

Sell­ing advanced propane tech­nol­ogy becomes a top priority 

The research & devel­op­ment pipeline at the Propane Edu­ca­tion & Research Coun­cil (PERC) is begin­ning to pro­duce advanced propane tech­nol­ogy prod­ucts at a rate that war­rants stronger empha­sis on com­mer­cial­iza­tion, in other words, sell­ing these prod­ucts in the mar­ket­place.  After an ini­tial fund­ing delay, the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion of tech­nol­ogy train­ing, Mar­keter Tech­nol­ogy and Sales Train­ing (MTST), is being launched.

One of PERC’s first attempts at com­mer­cial­iza­tion was Mar­keter Tech­nol­ogy Train­ing (MTT). PERC has suc­cess­fully trained over 1500 propane mar­keters in the MTT pro­gram to date.  Over 60 ses­sions of the pop­u­lar pro­gram have been con­ducted in 31 of the 38 propane asso­ci­a­tions across the coun­try.  Now PERC is dou­bling down on the train­ing by adding improve­ments that include inte­grated sales process train­ing and expan­sion of the post-classroom expe­ri­ence with webi­nars, enhanced Mar­ket­ing Resource Center

pres­ence, and a “hot line” for quick response to sales chal­lenges.  This expanded and improved pro­gram has been renamed Mar­keter Tech­nol­ogy and Sales Train­ing.  The MTST train­ing pro­gram is designed to help propane mar­keters rec­og­nize new mar­kets as well as max­i­mize exist­ing ones as a way of off­set­ting lost gal­lons and increas­ing over­all propane sales.

Pat Hyland, Direc­tor of Indus­try Pro­gram for PERC, is excited about the sales oppor­tu­ni­ties that the MTST pro­gram will bring to propane mar­keters.  Pat says “The tim­ing is right for the more aggres­sive MTST pro­gram, with propane prices favor­ably posi­tioned in com­par­i­son to other energy sources, an abun­dant propane sup­ply, and a pipeline full of advanced tech­nol­ogy propane prod­ucts spilling into the marketplace.”

For those who attended the old MTT pro­gram, expect lots of changes in MTST.  The half day mod­ules have now been expanded to day-long ses­sions per mod­ule due, in part, to the expanded sales process train­ing included in each one.  Each mod­ule will have cus­tomized learn­ing objec­tives that include:

• Under­stand­ing the mar­ket oppor­tu­nity
• Under­stand­ing the ben­e­fits of propane over com­pet­ing energy sources
• Know­ing the tar­get mar­ket
• Under­stand­ing the sales strate­gies
• Know­ing how to pre­pare for prospect meet­ings
• Cre­at­ing effec­tive call open­ings
• Know­ing the tar­get ques­tions to ask a prospect
• Cre­at­ing a step by step sales action plan
• Under­stand­ing gate­way sales oppor­tu­ni­ties
• Know­ing avail­able resources for use after training

Amy ImparaAmy Impara is the owner of Sales Trans­for­ma­tion Now, Inc., the new PERC part­ner in the devel­op­ment and deliv­ery of the MTST pro­gram.  Amy is excited about the oppor­tu­nity to work with the propane indus­try and says, “Propane mar­keters will learn proven sales tech­niques that focus on best prac­tices used by suc­cess­ful com­pa­nies in real world sit­u­a­tions in many other indus­tries.”  Amy will be per­son­ally han­dling much of the MTST train­ing across the country.

 

I assisted PERC and its pre­vi­ous part­ner in the devel­op­ment of some of the mod­ules in the old MTT pro­gram and filled in as a trainer.  I recently par­tic­i­pated in a “Teach Back” ses­sion with Sales Trans­for­ma­tion Now to pre­pare myself to teach MTST, if needed, and I will tell you that the improved train­ing is just what the propane indus­try needs.  Inno­v­a­tive propane prod­ucts are here now, and it is time that propane retail­ers take on the chal­lenge of tak­ing them to mar­ket.  If you don’t, who will?  Con­tact your propane asso­ci­a­tion or go to www.propanecouncil.org/MTST today to see when MTST is sched­uled in your area.

 

Tom Jaenicke is the owner and prin­ci­pal advi­sor at ATomiK Cre­ative Solu­tions, LLC, a com­pany that pro­vides mar­ket­ing ser­vices, tech­ni­cal advice, con­tin­u­ing edu­ca­tion solu­tions, and busi­ness devel­op­ment assis­tance to energy com­pa­nies and sup­port orga­ni­za­tions.  He can be reached at 810 252‑7855 or tom@atomikenergysolutions.com.

 

Switching from Propane to Natural Gas Won’t Save Energy

Focus your cus­tomers on effi­ciency to get desired cost savings

Expect nat­ural gas pub­lic util­i­ties to become increas­ingly aggres­sive in switch­ing home­own­ers from propane to nat­ural gas for the pri­mary energy source for their homes.  Abun­dant sup­plies of nat­ural gas and low pric­ing have forced nat­ural gas com­pa­nies to look for the most prof­itable way to sell the increased pro­duc­tion from shale sources.  Nat­ural gas util­i­ties will be plac­ing extra empha­sis on the res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial uses of nat­ural gas instead of watch­ing all the new gas pro­duc­tion go to fuel new or retro­fit power plants.  It’s all about mar­gin, some­thing the propane indus­try knows very well.

The com­bi­na­tion of low home energy effi­ciency and volatile propane pric­ing can make switch­ing to nat­ural gas an easy deci­sion for the aver­age home owner.  Propane home­own­ers look­ing for a quick fix for their high energy bills will be tempted to switch to nat­ural gas, but doing so will not save energy.  The owner of an older home built to an ear­lier, less aggres­sive build­ing code, and with an orig­i­nal heat­ing sys­tem that has prob­a­bly been de-rated to 60% or less effi­ciency due to age and neglect, will not save energy by switch­ing to nat­ural gas.  Using nat­ural gas instead of propane will still send 40% or more of the pro­duced heat up the vent pipe and leak more through the enve­lope of the home.  All that is not even con­sid­er­ing the energy expended in propane ser­vice dis­con­nect and pip­ing of nat­ural gas to the home­site that energy switch­ing will cause.

If you see energy switch­ing as a chal­lenge in your mar­ket­place, now is the time to engage your cus­tomers in a con­ver­sa­tion about increas­ing the effi­ciency of their homes, includ­ing the enve­lope, heat­ing equip­ment and appli­ances, so they can pocket the sav­ings on their over­all energy bills and not be mis­led by energy switch­ing claims.  Home­own­ers can gain even more effi­ciency and energy cost sav­ings beyond space heat­ing by divert­ing home energy usage from elec­tric­ity to propane for other appli­ca­tions in the home such as water heat­ing, cook­ing, clothes dry­ing, and fire­places.  Your aver­age res­i­den­tial cus­tomer will end up with greatly increased home effi­ciency, lower total energy bills (propane and elec­tric­ity), and a more com­fort­able home.  There are dozens of National, State, and local pro­grams to help home­own­ers pay for home effi­ciency and weath­er­iza­tion improve­ments.  Energy not used is always the cheap­est, and energy not used is always the cleanest.

A next step for you as propane mar­keters can include part­ner­ing with a cer­ti­fied home energy audi­tor or start­ing a home energy audit­ing divi­sion of your own com­pany.  Home per­for­mance audi­tors use equip­ment to per­form tests such as Blower Door (whole-house infil­tra­tion), Duct Blaster (duct leak­age test), and Infrared Scan­ning ((iden­ti­fies invis­i­ble trou­ble spots in insu­la­tion).  Home energy audi­tors use a rec­og­nized per­for­mance stan­dard such as the REZNET (Res­i­den­tial Energy Ser­vices Net­work) -HERS (Home Energy Rat­ing Sys­tem) index, a nation­ally rec­og­nized sys­tem for inspect­ing and cal­cu­lat­ing a home’s energy per­for­mance.  Many new home builders are using the HERS index to effi­ciency rate their new homes to dif­fer­en­ti­ate them from the used home mar­ket.  Find out more about home energy per­for­mance by going to the PERC builder web site, http://www.buildwithpropane.com, and look for train­ing courses and train­ing tools such as the Energy Cost & Car­bon Cal­cu­la­tor.  This tool and sev­eral oth­ers can also be housed on your web­site to help make your com­pany the local energy expert.

Your local net­work­ing should always start with builders, but don’t stop there.  Great net­work­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties also exist with HVAC con­trac­tors, plumbers, home energy audi­tors, home improve­ment con­trac­tors, and oth­ers.  For exam­ple, home energy audi­tors may know a lot about the effi­ciency of a home, but they may not know the impor­tant role that propane and related appli­ca­tions can play in rais­ing home effi­ciency and sav­ing energy.  You can bring them busi­ness, and they can help you pre­serve and grow your cus­tomer base.

PERC has avail­able impor­tant research results, train­ing courses, and a wide array of other up-to-date energy related mate­ri­als for res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial build­ing and remod­el­ing that propane mar­keters should be using to reach out to con­struc­tion and energy pro­fes­sion­als.  PERC also has an inte­grated national out­reach pro­gram that reaches res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial builders and archi­tects, and to a lesser degree, HVAC and plumb­ing con­trac­tors and other influ­encers.  Builders and archi­tects can be reached by PERC with such an inte­grated pro­gram in a cost effi­cient and highly effec­tive man­ner, but propane mar­keters need to be engaged with builders to help them close the sale for propane.  The fur­ther down the influ­encer chain that PERC gets from mar­ket­ing to builders and archi­tects, the more impor­tant it is for local propane mar­keters to be involved.  The HVAC and plumb­ing indus­try is not as eas­ily reached in national or regional mar­ket­ing cam­paigns because of less influ­en­tial national trade orga­ni­za­tions and less media oppor­tu­ni­ties.  This means the most cost effi­cient and effec­tive out­reach to them is local.  Local means propane mar­keters face to face, net­work­ing with builders, trade allies, and energy professionals.

Don’t allow your cus­tomers to be mis­led by energy switch­ing.  Get local with your effi­ciency net­work­ing and allow your cus­tomers to have choices that will save energy, lower their over­all energy bills, pre­serve the envi­ron­ment, and give them a more com­fort­able home.  Increas­ing effi­ciency is where it all starts.

 

Tom Jaenicke is the owner and prin­ci­pal advi­sor at ATomiK Cre­ative Solu­tions, LLC, a com­pany that pro­vides mar­ket­ing ser­vices, tech­ni­cal advice, con­tin­u­ing edu­ca­tion solu­tions, and busi­ness devel­op­ment assis­tance to energy com­pa­nies and sup­port orga­ni­za­tions.  He can be reached at 810 252‑7855 or tom@atomikenergysolutions.com.