Changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have led droves of Americans to flee cramped cities in search of more affordable and spacious homes in rural and suburban areas. The number of people who relocated from big cities to small and midsize metro areas rose 23% in 2020. And with record-low inventory and sky-high prices, the demand for this type of real estate keeps growing.
Homebuyers new to your area may be surprised to learn that their house has a propane heating system or propane-powered appliances. Coming from urban locations, it’s likely that they are more familiar with natural gas or electricity than they are with propane.
What does this Mean for Marketers?
It is challenging for you as a propane marketer to help new customers who are accustomed to the hands-off convenience of a utility adjust to delivered propane as a primary energy source. However, you can learn from Thomas Eidson, VP of Operations and Risk Control at G&B Energy in North Carolina who said on our recent webinar, “We mirror a lot of our programs at G&B to make propane as similar to a utility like electricity or natural gas as possible because that’s what people are used to, and that’s what they expect.”
Tips to Make Propane feel More Modern and Familiar to New Buyers
1. Offer Alternative Payment Plans
Getting hit with a $1,000 propane bill a few times a year can be a major budget-buster for homeowners who heat their houses with propane. Especially for first-time homebuyers who are taking advantage of today’s low mortgage rates to get larger homes. These folks may be in for a surprise when they realize what their heating costs are.
While it is possible to implement a consumption-based utility billing model, installing propane meters is equipment-intensive and prohibitively expensive for most marketers. Luckily, there are still ways you can mimic utility billing to help your customers spread their fuel costs out across the year.
If you don’t already offer a budget plan, this can be a great way to help customers divide their projected costs into even monthly payments which makes the cost of propane feel more in line with other utilities. Typically, monthly payment amounts are estimated based on the previous year’s usage, but for new customers who don’t yet have an account history, you can base monthly payment amounts on the square footage of their home until you have a history of their usage.
2. Offer Greater Usage Transparency
According to Tank Utility’s recent survey of propane consumers, 84% of consumers do not receive monthly usage data from their supplier, yet 69% of them would like to have it on their bill.
When asked how often they would like to receive the following information, 77% of consumers said they want a report of propane usage at a monthly (or higher) frequency. Many would like a frequent breakdown of their propane costs as well.
Provide your customers with usage transparency by sending them monthly consumption reports, similar to natural gas and electric meter readings. A usage summary enables homeowners to better understand their fuel consumption and stay engaged with your company.
To help customers manage their usage in real-time, provide them with access to a tank monitor-connected mobile app. Tank monitoring is an extremely valuable service to homeowners, and these 3 types of new buyers in particular may be willing to pay extra for a service with app access:
- Buyers who move into homes with pool heaters, gas logs, generators, or other appliances with fast burn-rates and unpredictable usage. They can set alerts in the app to notify them when their tank level gets low. You can offer to get them on an automatic delivery plan when they subscribe to tank monitoring services so they can rest assured they will always have enough gas.
- Buyers who own their own tanks and must remember to call you when they need a delivery. They can set alerts when tank levels run low to ensure they remember to call you for deliveries, and don’t call you when they still have plenty of gas in the tank. Monitoring can help provide visibility and prevent costly emergency delivery charges or tank checks after a run out.
- Buyers with smart homes who want to understand their usage patterns. They already use Google Nest, smart appliances, and smartwatches to stay connected, so an app that allows them to have real-time access to their tank level data is a natural fit.
Great Service = Stickier Customers and New Propane Proponents
Eidson made a great point when he said, “The more you can tailor your business to something [homeowners] are used to, the more comfortable they’ll be with your product and the more likely they’ll be to stay with propane if they purchase a home that has propane service in the future.”
Our industry faces challenges like outdated regulation and slow innovation, so adopting technology that helps your company and your customers have a great experience goes a long way towards ensuring the longevity of propane and differentiating your business. Get in touch to learn how Tank Utility makes work and life easier for you and your customers.