NPGA Propane Expo — A Learning Experience

 

An expanded edu­ca­tion pro­gram for every­one from field to front office 

The South­east­ern Con­ven­tion & Inter­na­tional Propane Expo is going to be held at the Geor­gia World Con­gress Cen­ter in Atlanta, Geor­gia, on April 11–13, 2015.  This inter­na­tional event, sim­ply called Propane Expo, has the world’s largest propane indus­try trade show and the most com­pre­hen­sive propane indus­try edu­ca­tion pro­gram avail­able any­where.  

The Propane Expo edu­ca­tion and train­ing pro­gram con­tin­ues to expand to meet the busi­ness knowl­edge and work skill needs of every­one work­ing in the stor­age, trans­porta­tion, mar­ket­ing, sales, and deliv­ery of propane and related appli­ca­tions and prod­ucts.  The edu­ca­tion pro­gram is divided among sev­eral venues in the con­ven­tion cen­ter and starts at 9:00 A.M. on Sat­ur­day, so you should sched­ule your travel plans accord­ingly.  Most of the edu­ca­tion events are held in con­cur­rent ses­sions so you won’t always be able to sched­ule your time to attend every ses­sion in which you are inter­ested.  You should con­sider bring­ing more than one per­son from your com­pany to the Propane Expo to gain max­i­mum ben­e­fit from all of the edu­ca­tion offer­ings.   

Edu­ca­tion Ses­sions, held in a series of meet­ing rooms at the reg­is­tra­tion level of the World Con­gress Cen­ter, start off Sat­ur­day morn­ing with sev­eral work­shops.  An Online & Social Media Mar­ket­ing Work­shop will be con­ducted by Ben Gutkin from Warm Thoughts Com­mu­ni­ca­tions.  Ben’s work­shop has been the most pop­u­lar edu­ca­tion event at the Expo for two years in a row.  Run­ning con­cur­rently will be sev­eral Propane Deliv­ery Automa­tion Work­shops where you can learn about and com­pare the lat­est propane deliv­ery automa­tion tech­nol­ogy.  Other Edu­ca­tion Ses­sions con­tinue through Sat­ur­day after­noon and Sun­day morn­ing and cover a wide range of top­ics includ­ing propane sup­ply risk man­age­ment, col­lab­o­ra­tive nego­ti­a­tion, and sev­eral mar­ket­ing, tech­nol­ogy, and safety and train­ing ses­sions by sub­ject mat­ter experts from PERC.  Some of the ses­sions are iden­ti­fied for atten­dees to receive cer­tifi­cates of atten­dance as a record of their learn­ing expe­ri­ences.  These Edu­ca­tion Ses­sions are not held dur­ing exhibit hall hours, so you will be able to par­tic­i­pate in all aspects of the Propane Expo. 

Another pop­u­lar learn­ing expe­ri­ence at the Propane Expo is the Fast-Track Ses­sions held in the exhibit hall at the PERC Inno­va­tion Pavil­ion.  A sep­a­rate stage and seat­ing area is set up for 45 minute Fast-Tracks on a vari­ety of top­ics that can be more tech­ni­cal in nature and often related to safety and reg­u­la­tions.  You are sur­rounded by, and only steps away from, all of the exhibitors on the trade show floor.  Some of these ses­sions end up being stand­ing room only. 

Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion Ses­sions con­tinue to expand and this year are focused on most com­po­nents of a res­i­den­tial or com­mer­cial propane sys­tem, from propane tank to burner tip.  Ser­vice tech­ni­cians and installers, sales per­son­nel, and any­one else involved in the sales, instal­la­tion, and ser­vic­ing of propane sys­tems will be inter­ested in attend­ing one or more of the hands-on Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion Ses­sions.  Learn about the lat­est tech­nol­ogy in propane gas sys­tem com­po­nents and how they can be applied in the field to build safe, effi­cient, high per­for­mance propane gas sys­tems.  Com­po­nents such as propane tanks, plas­tic under­ground pipe, CSST flex­i­ble gas pip­ing, vapor­iz­ers, reg­u­la­tors, and meters are cov­ered in detail in sep­a­rate ses­sions held in enclosed areas toward the rear of the exhibit floor so you will be close to all the exhibitor action.  All Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion Ses­sions will be con­ducted by fac­tory experts and you will receive a cer­tifi­cate of par­tic­i­pa­tion. 

Have you heard yet?  There will be an Auto­gas Pavil­ion as a new exhibit area in the exhibit hall this year.  The Auto­gas Pavil­ion will bring together auto­gas indus­try vehi­cles, prod­ucts, edu­ca­tion, and ser­vices in one place.  You will be able to visit with experts in the field and learn how you can become more involved with propane auto­gas, the lead­ing alter­na­tive fuel in the United States and abroad.  A sep­a­rate Auto­gas Fast-Tracks seat­ing area will be avail­able where you can lis­ten to pre­sen­ta­tions by indus­try experts about the lat­est in propane auto­gas tech­nol­ogy.  The Auto­gas Pavil­ion will make the world’s largest propane indus­try trade show an even more pop­u­lar part of the Propane Expo. 

The entire energy indus­try, includ­ing propane, is chang­ing rapidly and the NPGA Propane Expo is the one event you can attend to catch up with many of those changes.  The NPGA Con­ven­tion Com­mit­tee and NPGA staff have put together a pro­gram that will draw atten­tion and atten­dance from across Amer­ica and around the world.  Atten­dees are able to get max­i­mum value for their travel dol­lars and time by hav­ing access to the most com­pre­hen­sive propane indus­try edu­ca­tion avail­able any­where, along with the world’s best exhibit of propane-related prod­ucts and ser­vices, all in one loca­tion, at the NPGA Propane Expo.  To find out more about the edu­ca­tion oppor­tu­ni­ties at the Propane Expo and reg­is­ter for the event, go to www.propaneexpo.com.   

I hope to see you in Atlanta.  I’ll be one of those old dogs there to learn new tricks about Propane, Clean Amer­i­can Energy. 

 

 

 

Renewables also hear “Not in my Backyard”

 Wind gen­er­ated elec­tric­ity faces head­winds from home­own­ers 

The propane indus­try has had decades of expe­ri­ence in deal­ing with the “Not in my back­yard” bat­tle cry from energy activists and other under-informed oppo­nents.  Propane indus­try mem­bers have faced resis­tance to every­thing from the place­ment of an above ground res­i­den­tial tank in a back­yard, to new bulk stor­age at a plant or satel­lite loca­tion, and to a game changer stor­age facil­ity like Fin­ger Lakes LPG in New York.  Expe­ri­ence, patience, and an excel­lent safety record usu­ally pay off when it comes to propane stor­age and dis­tri­b­u­tion improve­ment projects for our clean Amer­i­can energy. 

In sim­i­lar fash­ion, renew­able energy advo­cates, espe­cially wind tur­bine cru­saders, are find­ing strong resis­tance to the place­ment and oper­a­tion of wind farms to sup­ply the grid.  The cham­pi­ons of wind gen­er­ated elec­tric­ity are strug­gling in deal­ing with the “Not in my back­yard” bat­tle cry of oppo­nents.  Envi­ron­men­tal­ists are assum­ing that con­sumers will be com­pletely sat­is­fied with the declared utopia of wind gen­er­ated elec­tric­ity and are now fac­ing home­owner oppo­si­tion and, in some cases, out­right hos­til­ity toward the oper­a­tion of indus­trial wind tur­bines. 

Crit­ics of wind tur­bines are quick to point out some obvi­ous and some, as yet unproven, claims that could make a case for severely lim­it­ing the place­ment and oper­a­tion of wind farms in the future and even affect the via­bil­ity of some wind farms already in oper­a­tion. 

One of the more obvi­ous issues with indus­trial wind tur­bines is the noise from the revolv­ing tur­bine blades.  In some cases this noise can be audi­ble inside a home more than six miles away.  While this noise is not at dan­ger­ous deci­bel lev­els, it is objec­tion­able and can cause health issues.  Recent noise objec­tions have turned to more difficult-to-measure infra­sound, a low fre­quency sound pat­tern, being pro­duced at report­edly dan­ger­ous lev­els in indus­trial wind tur­bine oper­a­tion.  Homes near wind farms in Wis­con­sin and sev­eral other parts of the coun­try are being aban­doned by home­own­ers due to claims of nau­sea, headaches, and other symp­toms brought on by the sound char­ac­ter­is­tics of wind tur­bine oper­a­tion. 

Another com­mon com­plaint of home­own­ers located in that big “back­yard” of a wind farm is “shadow flicker”.  Shadow flicker occurs when the rota­tion of wind tur­bine blades causes alter­nat­ing peri­ods of shadow and light on adja­cent prop­erty.  Shadow flicker, while not a proven health haz­ard at this time, cer­tainly is an irri­tat­ing visual phe­nom­e­non to most peo­ple.  Proper sit­ing of wind farms can help to min­i­mize the effects of shadow flicker on neigh­bor­ing houses but does not seem to be a pri­or­ity for wind farm plan­ners. 

The other less talked about con­cern with wind farms is their some­what unpre­dictable effect on local weather.  Wind tur­bines remove energy from the wind and that causes change.  Some effects, such as ground warm­ing and dry­ing for miles around a wind farm, are already known, but cumu­la­tive effects on the weather and ulti­mately the cli­mate are unknown at this point and should be stud­ied.  Cli­mate change fanat­ics should take note. 

Don’t con­fuse indus­trial wind tur­bines that sup­ply the grid with small tur­bines designed to directly sup­ply a home or other build­ing.  In off-grid appli­ca­tions the small turbine’s vari­able out­put is bal­anced by bat­tery stor­age and usu­ally sup­ple­mented by an on-site backup gen­er­a­tor.  A propane backup gen­er­a­tor is an excel­lent part­ner with renew­ables in this type of wind tur­bine appli­ca­tion and is usu­ally a gate­way to other propane usage points in the build­ing.   

Elec­tric­ity is your main energy com­peti­tor and indus­trial wind farms are gain­ing a toe­hold in elec­tric­ity pro­duc­tion.  Learn more about the gross inef­fi­cien­cies of indus­trial wind farms that can never be over­come by tax­payer funded gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies at www.wind-watch.org.  You need to learn the pros and cons of all of your energy com­peti­tors to be able to suc­cess­fully sell propane-clean Amer­i­can energy.  Now you know some of the rea­sons why home­own­ers are cry­ing out loudly “Not in my back­yard” when it comes to wind tur­bine farms.  

May win­ter winds lift your spir­its.     

 

 

 

 

Tom Jaenicke is the founder 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.  

 

 

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.