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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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!