This past week, our Senior Director of Marketing Chris Brablc presented on 15+ Marketing Ideas to Wrangle Will Call and Acquire New Customers at the Minnesota PGA Summer Meeting. The blog post below is a post based on this presentation.
Recently, I presented some simple and more advanced ideas for propane marketers to acquire new customers, retain existing ones and most importantly, increase referrals for our company online and through conversation.
For any propane marketer, the lifeblood of the company is in keeping customers happy and ensuring your reputation for service passes on from your customers to other propane consumers. We will discuss how to take advantage of this reputation as well as the 10 best marketing ideas from my presentation at the Minnesota PGA covering everything from SEO to Email to Social to propane tank monitoring services.
Hope this gives you some ideas for your own marketing campaigns!
What Works for Propane Marketers To Acquire New Customers?
Before we go into the actual ideas, one piece of research that we would like to share is around our 2018 Propane Consumer Survey (you can sign up for a free download here). When we conducted the survey we asked over 300 propane consumers how they found their fuel supplier and saw that a whopping 76% of propane consumers found a fuel supplier either a Referral or some previous relationship (i.e. tank already installed on the house or appliance purchased).
The second biggest source was Google which equated for 19% of the rest. See the results below.
There are two takeaways here.
- Relationships are incredibly important and we need to figure out how to amplify the referrals that come from them.
- Google Search is a growing channel that we need a reputable presence on.
Last but not least, this doesn’t mean all other marketing channels are not worthwhile. In surveying propane marketers many are just starting to leverage new age marketing channels such as email, social media or Facebook Advertising. So we might not see the results until this year’s survey.
Now let’s talk about these channels and what we can do to grow our customer base!
Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Getting on the First Page of Google
If you are like most buyers, the first place you go to when looking to buy something or answer a question is Google. Google dominates search and companies that appear in the first few listings or on the first page of Google often see a big boon for business.
Here are some ideas to get found on Google:
Idea #1: Optimizing Your Website with On-Page SEO
SEO refers to you optimizing your site for relevant keyword searches that someone might type into the search bar. Better SEO means your website will appear higher on the search result list and means more traffic to your website.
What To Do:
- Identify Phrases To Target: This can be done through creating a list of phrases you want to be ranked for. I’d recommend that “propane near [LOCATION YOU SERVE]” should be at the top of your list. This piece has a great step-by-step on how to find other phrases.
- Update Your Website With Those Keywords: Once you identify the keywords, update your website to include these relevant keywords in the page title, page copy, and meta tag descriptions. This can be easy for your Webmaster or Website Owner to do.
Idea #2 Prioritize Your Google My Business Listing
One thing we are seeing more and more is that Google My Business listings are appearing at the top of local searches. See the example below for propane near St. Cloud, MN:
“Propane near me” is one of the most search phrases that include propane and having positive reviews on your Google My Business Listing is crucial to showing up when someone searches.
What To Do:
- Run a Search: See which propane marketers appear when you do searches for regions you serve.
- Claim or Add Your Business: First, check to make sure you own your Google My Business Listing. If you don’t I’d claim it. To do this, follow these instructions.
- Respond to Reviews & Update Information: Google ranks businesses highly if they are active and responsive to reviews on their account. This will push you up search rankings!
- Ask Customers for Reviews: Make sure to point customers who would like to recommend you to do so on Google. This will again help your search rankings!
Idea #3 Create Content Toward Commonly Asked Propane Questions
Some things which you can do to make sure you are included is to create and share content which is relevant. Having a blog or page dedicated to answering common propane homeowner questions can be a great way to get found by customers as well as a way to differentiate yourself from competitors.
What To Do:
- Write blogs or pages on your site that Answer Common Questions: Questions around propane tank size, owning vs. renting, and propane price are popular searches. You can see below the top results for questions around tank size (they are all to propane marketer websites!):
Using Email to Upsell and Engage Current Customers
While most propane marketers rely on phone calls to communicate with prospects and customers, we are seeing a trend where customers increasingly prefer email as a communication method. Take a look at our 2018 Propane Customer Survey results below:
While phone calls were still the favored method of communication for consumers, email was a close second. For propane marketers looking to improve engagement with their customers, becoming more adept at email communications will be important.
Idea #4 Capture Emails On Website and For Every New Customer
Capturing emails is one of the first steps of this process of sending emails. We will share some of the best methods for capturing emails below but you also need a place to store them. Tools like Mailchimp, Constant Contact, Hubspot or other Marketing Automation tools can be great ways to store emails for your customers. But in the meantime, you can always use Google Sheets.
What To Do:
- Include a Capture Form on Your Website: If you have a Contact Us page, you should have a form that enables someone to put their name, phone number and email.
- Pop-up on Your Website: While you might not think it, pop-ups work incredibly well at capturing information for websites. Ask your webmaster if you can include a form pop-up to connect them with a product expert.
- Just Ask: Any new tank you set, you should be asking for an email from these customers. Or if you have a customer service call and you see you don’t have an email. Great times to ask for an email for your accounts.
Idea #5 Monthly Customer Newsletter
Another insight from our Customer Survey was that a majority of propane consumers never heard from their propane supplier between deliveries. This provides an opportunity to improve engagement and retention with customers.
What To Do:
- Set Expectations: For any new customers, tell them that you have a monthly newsletter that will be sent out every month. It will include any special fuel or appliance deals as well as a giveaway picked randomly.
- Offer a Prize: A few propane marketers will actually offer a prize to a member of their email list each month. This encourages their customers to read the email each month and builds goodwill.
Facebook Advertising To Target Specific Prospects
While many propane companies are using Facebook to communicate with their customers and prospects via their Facebook Business Page, what I want to talk about today is Facebook Advertising. Please note that using your Facebook Page is a great way to communicate to your audience as well (and I suggest Hootsuite to manage this!)
Facebook Advertising enables you to precisely target your audience through factors such as location, age, and interests. Best of all, if you have captured your customer and prospects emails, you can specifically target them with customer audiences within the Ads dashboard. This article from Neil Patel is a good starter for using customer audiences.
Idea #6 Target Potential Prospects After a Storm or Cold Snap
We all know that customers are at the most risk of changing fuel providers when they run out and the time of greatest number of run-outs are usually after a storm or sustained period of cold weather. Wouldn’t it be great to advertise to these folks when a run-out happens?
Pro Tip: You probably don’t want to do this if you ran folks out as well. However, you should be able to ensure your customers don’t get this message by excluding a customer audience!
What to Do:
- Segment Your Ad Audience by Zip Code: Go into your Ads tool and segment by the zip codes you serve that were hit the hardest by the storm.
- Create an Ad: I’d highly encourage you to use Canva to create your ad. It’s a simple design tool that non-designers can use for things like ads. This ad probably should be something around run-outs and maybe a special offer to new customers who switch.
Idea #7 Target Former Customers
Wouldn’t it be great to get churned customers to try you again? You can do that with Facebook Ads if you have emails for those customers.
What To Do:
- Create a Customer Audience: Download a list of your former customers and upload it to Facebook Ads. Save this as a customer audience of former prospects.
- Create an Ad: For this ad, a “we want you back” message is probably a good one with a cents per gallon discount attached.
Increase Referrals Both Online and In-Person
When we look at the stats, it is clear to never underestimate the power of referrals. In today’s world, there are two types of referrals: direct and online. While you probably get a bunch of referrals today, the key is determining how to improve and make it part of your everyday process to ensure they happen consistently with every new and current customer.
Idea #8 Just Ask for Referrals and Reviews
If you are looking to get a referral, it’s important to find a meaningful moment to ask your customer at points where you delivered (pun intended) value.
What To Do:
- Identify Meaningful Moments: This is critical to any referral program. Moments such as when you set a new tank, make a successful delivery, send a bill, answer a customer service call or sell an appliance.
- Make a Clear Ask: Know what you are asking them to do such as “How was our service? Would you review us on our Google My Business listing?” or “Do you know anyone that would benefit from our services?”
- Unexpected Gift: While you can do a more formal rewards program for referrals just asking usually is just as good. That being said, what’s even better is rewarding someone that doesn’t expect it. A simple Thank You card with a $25 gift certificate is a great way to delight a customer who helped you win new business.
Convert Will Call Customers to Automatic with Tank Monitoring
The last touch point we will cover are strategies on how to transfer your will-call customers to automatic. Will call customers often lead to lower efficiency, routing which is hard to predict, and no sense of loyalty to your company. And what we’ve seen is that customers you can convert to automatic have a greater lifetime value for your organization.
So how do we do that? Many propane marketers are using tank monitoring services.
Idea #9 Requiring Generator, Pool Heater or Agricultural Accounts to Have a Tank Monitor
These accounts often are incredibly hard to predict because you have no idea when propane will be used and when it is used, it’s used in a hurry. The other problem is that especially for generator and pool heater accounts, you often don’t drop a ton of gallons for these accounts.
What To Do:
- Require a Tank Monitor on These Accounts: Instead of asking these customers if they want a monitor, require it. With this monitor, you can also make them automatic customers.
- Message is Key: The message here is to ensure they know this is a unique service only your company provides. This is designed to serve them better and ensure their few thousand dollar investment works when it should. They will have peace of mind with you that no other propane supplier can provide!
Idea #10 Offer 6 Months Free Of a Tank Monitoring Service to New Customers
The worst thing you can do for your business is to put a tank monitor on a customer’s tank and not tell them of this value added service you are providing to them! Most propane marketers never charge customers for propane tank monitoring due to the efficiency savings they receive and that’s great. But that still doesn’t mean that you can’t promote the valuable service you are providing for free!
On that note, we’ve also seen propane marketers increasingly use monitors on new customers to determine usage patterns and make sure the customer didn’t forget to tell them about a fireplace or other appliance that is propane powered! In these cases, innovative suppliers often promote it as a trial service.
What To Do:
- Create a Flyer: For new customers, provide them with a flyer that tells them that you will provide a premium tank monitoring service to them for free for 6 months! We can help here!
- Give Them The Mobile App: When you put on the monitor, make sure to invite them to download and use the mobile app that comes from your monitoring provider. This gives them the ability to keep track of their tank level and consumption and also includes your logo front and center!
- Follow Up in 6 Months: At this time, you decide if you would like to move the monitor to another account (if usage is ok to forecast with degree days) or if you want to keep it on. In either case, you should communicate what you decide with the customer.
- Moving the Monitor? Offer the Service: If you do decide that you can move the monitor, tell the customer and offer your $10 a month tank monitoring service with mobile app to them. Many will say they want it!
You Don’t Have To Do All of This, Find What Works For Your Business
That’s a lot of marketing ideas that I just threw at you in this post but the key is that you don’t have to do them all. Pick and choose some of these ideas to try out and measure for customers. Some will work, some won’t but the key here is to figure out what can help you acquire new customers and retain current ones.
Also remember that we are here to help at Tank Utility. As a customer, we provide free marketing consultations to help you with your marketing campaigns especially around selling tank monitoring services.