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 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!


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

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