As always, NPGA Southeastern is one of the premier events for propane marketers to learn about best practices, network with other propane retailers and test out new and emerging technologies to help their propane businesses become more efficient, attract and retain more customers and in the end, make more profit at the end of each winter.
This year’s conference is no different and there are 3 key digital trends that I’m excited to see come to fruition after this year’s NPGA Southeastern conference.
The Rise of Digital Marketing
Digitization is impacting every industry as we look to utilize data and our networks to make better decisions on our businesses. However, we are also seeing a generational shift in how we expect to be engaged by products and services. You’ve probably heard a lot about Millennials and how they live online and, in their phones, but it goes deeper than that. It’s not just the younger generation that is acting this way, either.
It’s seen that 73% of purchase decisions start online by recent metrics. This means that our digital presence with our websites and how customers make purchases of products and services are becoming increasingly important in attracting and signing up new customers.
In recent weeks, I’ve heard propane marketers mention a number of creative ways to capture the attention of these buyers and I’m curious to hear more at the conference. We will have some post conference blogs with tangible advice on what you can do as a propane marketer to help.
And if I was a propane marketer, I’d focus my time on two areas:
Google Business Profile
If you type in “Propane in [CITY] [STATE]” immediately you will see Google Maps pop up with companies in that area. Are you included here for the regions you serve? Most importantly, how many reviews do you have and are they positive?
If you haven’t, set up a Google Business Profile. And if you have one, ask customers to review it. This will make a huge difference for inbound traffic to your website.
A pretty website is great but if it’s not keyword optimized and built for search engines like Google, it’s not going to provide value for your investment. If I were to build a website that converts more new prospects I’d focus on two things:
- Homepage content optimized for Search: This really means that your page title and content on the page should be geared toward what you think a customer would actually search. You will always own traffic on Google that types “[YOUR COMPANY NAME]” but what more general terms should you rank for? This may be “PROPANE in [CITY] [STATE]” or other key services you offer in the regions you serve.
- Call to Action Above the Fold: Fantastic, someone got to your website but now what do you want them to do? A good rule of thumb is to have an offer they can click and sign up for at the top of your site above the fold. This means that someone doesn’t need to scroll to raise their hand and give you their information. What’s important to note is that this is important not only for desktop but for mobile as well so test both website experiences!
Re-Inventing the Customer Experience
The customer journey especially for current customers is becoming incredibly important for propane marketers competing against other propane companies but also other energy alternatives. This makes the customer experience from initial sale to seasoned customer integral.
Propane marketers are experimenting with numerous ways to enhance this experience. Obviously, ensuring no run-outs is priority #1 to a happy customer but what can you do outside of this?
Using Billing As a Meaningful Customer Touchpoint
One area I thought was interesting was using billing as a marketing opportunity. we are seeing a lot of companies introduce electronic billing to customers but even for those still using hard copies, this remains a critical touchpoint with your customer. Inserts and branding included with this communication can help to up-sell customers and build better relationships.
Tank Monitoring, Not Just About Efficiency
Another huge trend is companies using Tank Monitoring to provide added value to customers but also an additional revenue stream through new services that they sell to customers. While tank monitoring has often been focused internally to improve efficiency, it’s value to creating better customer relationships is growing.
First, companies are leveraging native mobile apps with their tank monitoring partners to provide a consistent touchpoint with customers who want to check their tank levels from the warmth of their homes. What we’ve seen with our research that by branding this app with your logo, you will appear nearly once a week during the winter months to customers checking the app! By embracing this technology, it offers your customers peace of mind while often times limiting the pesky customer service calls you receive from customers.
Second, propane marketers are beginning to bundle services around the tank monitoring to help ensure that customers stay full during any weather condition. It’s a win-win for the propane marketer and their customer to ensure that the tank level is always being measured and used to schedule deliveries where it makes the most sense.
Big Data Analytics
We use back office solutions to optimize our routing and automate what are often time-consuming tasks of running the business and we use tank monitoring to help us take the guesswork out of managing our customer tank levels. And with all of these solutions we are capturing large amounts of data.
What’s been fun to see is that technologies are finally utilizing the all your data is interesting ways.
Back office systems have gotten increasingly sophisticated on helping to optimize the delivery process from a logistics perspective. Taking into account location, degree days and truck capacity they can determine the best routes and delivery models for you to ensure customers don’t run out pretty accurately. This helps to improve efficiency and save time for your dispatchers.
Tank monitoring companies are also starting to drive huge jumps in real-time knowledge of the business by taking your real-time tank level data and beginning to crunch the numbers to deliver insights into the profitability across customers. We are seeing this in two ways:
- Efficiency of Deliveries: Some of today’s solutions can give you insight into the customer tank accounts where you are delivering too much and where your drop sizes are too small. They easily highlight the accounts in question to help you make decisions on how to improve service to these accounts but also on how to improve the efficiency in ensuring this high service.
- Benchmarking: Benchmarking is integral to running a successful propane business and tank monitoring companies are taking note. Some companies are starting to provide aggregate data to their customers around benchmarking on key success metrics like average drop size and revenue targets.
Integration of Data
The other huge part of any technology decision is integration and how your data passes through the software and systems you use. If your back office cannot easily talk to your tank monitoring solution, then you have issues. Make sure to understand API and integration options before you purchase either solution.
Say Hi To Tank Utility at Booth #1251 for a Free Tank Monitor
We’re excited for next week and as such, we’re offering a free monitor to any propane marketer that stops by. Make sure to set aside some time to speak with us.