Tom's distinguished career in propane, spanning five decades, makes him an invaluable resource for our clients and the industry. He's done everything from driving bobtails to running marketing and sales for Ferrellgas, one of the largest Propane MLPs in the country. He also founded NRG Distributors, a gas appliance distribution company based in Michigan, which was eventually sold to Ray Murray, Inc. Tom continues to hold a mechanical contractor license and closely follows advancements in propane heating equipment and appliances. He is passionate about packaging all that experience and knowledge into helping our clients figure out ways to grow their gallons.Tom is a frequent contributor to LP Gas Magazine. He facilitates a Benchmarking Council Group for NPGA and is chair of the NPGA Government Affairs Committee. All this activity barely leaves him time to tend to his small vineyard and commercially licensed winery in northern Michigan. Tom also likes to travel to faraway and exotic locales, like our headquarters in New Jersey.
Susan is an unmistakable champion for the heating oil industry who spearheads Warm Thoughts’ Partnership for Realty and Oilheat Success. PRO$ has operated in 9 states to help Realtors overcome obstacles in the sale and marketing of oil-heated homes. Under her guidance, PRO$ has connected with literally hundreds of thousands of Realtors nationwide, coordinating thousands of in-office presentations, appearing at hundreds of trade shows, establishing a recognizable presence on social media, and getting much needed support materials into the hands of real estate agents.
As a former real estate veteran and award-winning top producer herself, Susan is passionate about helping other real estate professionals, and makes herself available all hours of day and night. Utterly authentic, this “Jersey Girl” always finds common ground, whether in the hills of rural Ohio, downtown Baltimore, or toney Greenwich, Ct. She is a master of social media, with over 4,000 Facebook followers, and helped launch Warm Thoughts’ very successful social media consulting program. When Susan is not in the field presenting the PRO$ program, she is passionately committed to saving animals, as founder and president of Rosemarie’s Rescue Ranch, Inc. (rosemariesrescueranch.com)
After years of focusing on growth principally through acquisition, Bottini engaged Warm Thoughts to help aggressively grow its business organically.
Warm Thoughts refocused the Bottini brand, and helped the company put together a sales and marketing plan that emphasized growth in customer count and quality. We executed a new digital strategy, including a new website, SEO, social media and pay-per-click for both full-service and discount brands, which dramatically increased leads and web visits. We helped overhaul sales compensation, implemented training and invigorated customer communications efforts with newsletters, e-blasts, and more. We managed merger communications to maximize retention,drove a surge in budget and auto-pay accounts, and helped increased delivery fees on propane accounts with little customer pushback.
Highlights: Exceeded growth goals in propane and sales accounts, dramatic improvement in customer quality and lead generation, 500% increase in social media engagement—all within client's budgets.
Warm Thoughts manages over 150 websites and digital campaigns for propane, heating oil, and HVAC-related businesses across the country. Access to proprietary data shows us what works best to create experiences that drive leads and communicate your brand in a way that resonates with customers. Data guides us to create impactful “websites that work” with measurable results. Our services include:
Wilson Oil & Propane has evolved from a small oil delivery company to a mid-size diversified energy and home services company that sells oil and propane, HVAC services, duct sealing and discount fuel (in their separate Lawman’s division). Over the years, Warm Thoughts provided strategic and tactical support in the evolution of both the Wilson and Lawman’s brands, engaging a multifaceted modern marketing approach that utilized digital, traditional and social media, sales and customer service training, and coordinated customer communications. We helped pioneer their Homeshield offering, a bundled approach that has supported better new customer retention. They also extended the brand with creative use of truck wraps highlighting their auto-gas and charitable giving programs.
Highlights: 300% increase in customer base, successful launch of propane and discount fuel division, bundled selling approach which has resulted in substantially higher than norm program enrollments (service plan, budget, auto pay, price cap).
Sail Energy is a new consolidator that so far has acquired five propane and oil companies in New England. Sail faced multiple challenges as it sought to create a consistent brand identity while preserving or transitioning local acquisitions. Working with Sail’s executive team, Warm Thoughts crafted a brand strategy for integrating each acquisition that has facilitated significant retention, introduced new product lines and positioned each for growth.
Warm Thoughts executed a complete overhaul of the company websites, launched SEO, PPC and Facebook initiatives, repositioned service plans for profit, utilized direct mail and ambitious customer communications programs and PR.
Highlight: Exceptional retention of acquired customers, cost-effective leveraging of creative across all locations, 300% increase in social media presence, increase in service plan profitability by over $100,000, TV coverage of “spread the warmth” campaign.
Social media is an inescapable factor in our lives, and businesses who fail to tap its power are missing out on a significant opportunity to build their brand, engage with customers, and generate leads. On-line reviews are increasingly influential in attracting new customers. Warm Thoughts has generated tremendous success for clients by understanding how to attract more followers to them, and, even more important, engage . We manage your social interaction, with creative posts created just for you, and strategy honed by our success with dozens of fuel companies. We manage your reputations 24/7. We can also help you tap into very effective advertising opportunities on Facebook and elsewhere. We’ve increased our clients’ effectiveness by over 700% . We have over 300,000 people liking the pages we manage, including the most successful in the propane and oil industry. And we can make your social media presence a source of pride and strength for your company- whether we are doing all the work, or coaching your team.
It is much harder to manage your social presence in a way that impresses your audience and gets them to interact with you. That’s not something your typical customer service rep, or “salesperson who is always on Facebook,” or even marketing director necessarily understands. . It is easy to post items that make you feel good.
Located in southern California, Hyde’s began as a family-owned appliance repair business. Now in its third-generation, Hyde’s has managed to grow their business year after year and continues to celebrate the opportunity to give back to their community with their annual “Celebration of Giving” program.
By partnering with Warm Thoughts for nearly two decades, Hyde’s has improved profitability through service plans, communicated with customers via newsletters, bill inserts, and door hangers and entered the digital marketing space. As a result, they’ve has grown to become one of the region’s largest and most diversified HVAC companies.
CMC is a leading provider of management and services for industry-leading utilities, and one of the few certified Women’s Business Enterprises serving the energy-efficiency industry. Warm Thoughts has provided strategic account management for CMC as it has dramatically increased its footprint and revenues.
Print projects include designing RFP templates, infographics, logos, style guides, sell sheets, cards, brochures, invitations, truck graphics, trade show displays and direct mail. Digital projects include website design, development and maintenance, SEO, reputation management, eblasts and other promotions.
Highlights: Redesign of the CMC Energy corporate website, a re-branding project for the CMC Energy Connecticut site, several projects for CMC’s 40th anniversary (2017) and the acquisition of Clean Markets (2018).
Warm Thoughts has supported Ehrhart's evolution, transitioning the brand to Ehrhart Energy, orchestrating its marketing plan and introducing their tag line,
It's not just business. It's personal. Warm Thoughts dramatically improved the company's digital performance with a new website, effective SEO and pay-per-click campaigns, and expanded social media. We’ve also integrated radio, direct-mail campaigns, newsletters, surveys and eblasts to engage customers across multiple channels and have instituted better tracking to make smarter marketing budget decisions.
Highlights: Successful implementation of a delivery charge that added hundreds of thousands of dollars to its bottom line. Plus 200% increase in website traffic, surge in monthly payment programs, re-balancing of promotional budget more aligned with goals, and reduction of customer losses.
Carroll Home Services has been a success story in a dwindling heating oil marketing in Maryland. And Warm Thoughts has been part of that story for over 10 years.
Warm Thoughts orchestrated sales and marketing plans that resulted in tens of thousands of new customers for Carroll, increased retention, and supported its diversification into HVAC services, plumbing, and propane. We re-branded its Alliance discount division, and supported its significant growth.
Over the years, our efforts have used virtually every tool in the traditional & digital marketing toolbox, including organic social media, PPC, Facebook advertising, eblasts, highly targeted direct mail, billboards and radio advertising. We've conducted market research, trained sales and customer service personnel, and supported the brand transition to CHS when the company was acquired by the Star Group several years ago.
Highlights: successful diversification of business, acquisition of tens of thousands of new customers while driving cost per lead down by 25%, market research that changed approach to HVAC sales.
Parker Gas is a second-generation family business with 5 locations in North Carolina, and a cylinder exchange program called “Rapid Exchange.” As the propane market has come under pressure from heat pump and natural gas conversion, Parker looked to Warm Thoughts to amplify its marketing effectiveness.
Warm Thoughts identified key areas that would be important to improving Parker’s competitiveness. We completely overhauled its website and digital promotional strategy, which has led to a dramatic increase in visits and leads. We substantially improved customer communications by sending a newsletter several times a year to build relationship and positioning with customers to cross sell appliances. Warm Thoughts also helped Parker implement a delivery fee, first testing the concept to give them more confidence, and then managing all customer communications. We also developed a new website with a promotional campaign to significantly increase traffic to their Rapid Xchange business.
Highlight: Helped implement a delivery fee that has netted them hundreds of thousands of dollars.
With 16 locations throughout Louisiana, O’Nealgas needed an agency to pull all their marketing under one roof. With deep experience in the propane industry and an understanding of their customers, Warm Thoughts was the right choice.
O’Nealgas began the process with updating their website from something that looked nice and everybody liked, to a fully optimized marketing tool that would generate business. Our objectives were to help the company grow by acquiring new customers and selling more to their existing customer base. A combination of direct mail, newsletters, digital advertising and social media was deployed to help O’Nealgas achieve their goals, all with a budget that made sense to their corporate structure. Heavily focused on ROI, our efforts have been achieving real results for the past two years.
Energy United is an electric cooperative and the second largest electric utility in North Carolina, serving more than 120,000 homes and businesses. It also owns Energy United Propane, which has multiple locations in both North and South Carolina.
Warm Thoughts was first engaged by the propane division to significantly improve its customer communications and digital marketing. We created a new website, developed a customer newsletter and managed customer communications when it was time to merge one of its acquisitions into the Energy United brand. It also executed an aggressive “Opt-Out” budget plan promotion, which resulted in a 300% increase in plan enrollments virtually overnight!
Based on the success of its efforts, the parent company also engaged Warm to lead a brand review and create a new website for the electric cooperative.
Highlights: Overnight transformation of customer quality, seamless transformation of acquisition with few customer losses, integrated electric and propane digital presence under the single brand umbrella.
Warm Thoughts Breakthrough Groups™ offer the opportunity to learn from our industry’s leading strategists and from top fuel companies as well.
Volatile prices, pressure from conversions, changing customer behaviors, aggressive competition, fewer gallons per customer… Our market is changing as never before. We need to find real breakthroughs that will allow us to thrive in a new world. Breakthrough Groups provide an opportunity to cut through the noise and work one on one with your peers to solve your biggest challenges.
We meet three times a year to share ideas, benchmarks and explore new opportunities in a supportive, confidential and industry-focused environment. Unlike other groups, participation is limited to non-competitors so substantive discussion occurs and honest relationships develop.
Tap into the extensive experience of your facilitators, peers and other experts associated with the program and gain the chance to expand your own horizons and gain valuable insights into the issues you’re facing and achieve real breakthroughs.
Warm Thoughts leads the way in developing and executing state association programs that generate strong results for association executives and members. Considered the leading marketing and communications provider for heating oil and propane associations around the country, Warm Thoughts is:
But don’t take our word for it, read what they have to say:
“Warm Thoughts has been a fantastic partner in helping us maximize our NORA funding. They have developed innovative programs that have exceeded our expectations.”
- Eric DeGesero, Fuel Merchants Association of New Jersey
“Warm Thoughts hit the ball out of the park for us. They basically reinvented our approach to rebates, and in so doing, invigorated my membership, grew gallons and opened our eyes to a new way to approach marketing.”
- John Jessup, North Carolina Propane Gas Association
For companies that offer products and services to the propane, oil or HVAC industries, Warm Thoughts is a tremendous strategic ally. Twenty-five years of experience in the space gives us a unique window into how these companies make choices about vendors and allies and the best ways to reach the right players. Our creative team works wonders to get your products and services to market with the best possible positioning.
Poore’s Propane and Oil in Delaware is principally a propane marketer, which also delivers oil and equipment service through a subsidiary, Service Energy. For years, Poore’s focused on growth through community propane projects and diversification. It is the largest Blue Rhino supplier in the country, offers tank refurbishing, septic system replacement and more. When Poore’s decided to refocus on residential growth, it replaced its agency with Warm Thoughts who put together a new brand strategy, bringing Service Energy under the Poore’s banner to reduce market confusion. Warm Thoughts diagnosed substantial underperformance in its SEO and PPC programs and developed a new website and social media campaign that substantially outperformed its previous efforts. It provided sales and customer service support. Warm Thoughts also designed Poore’s successful service plan and budget program, and supported its tank refurbishing business.
Posted on March 30, 2020 - By Ben Gutkin
Warm Thoughts Communications has been in touch with hundreds of oil, propane and HVAC companies during this crisis. In particular, we have been moderating virtual meetings of our Breakthrough Groups™, who have been especially helpful to each other with ideas for coping with this fluid situation.
We’ve assembled some of the better ideas we’ve heard, along with things we have been implementing ourselves. Depending on where you operate, you might be in deep lockdown, or simply waiting your turn. Wherever you are, we hope these ideas help you make smart decisions to support your business. Call if we can be of further help.
Use the drop-in fuel prices to take customers off the table before price wars start next fall. Consider getting early price protection promotions out, such as caps, pre-buy, budget plan, etc. If they are not yet done with their current programs, allow them to lock in now. Consider offering to use Budget Balances to cover price cap or other service fees. Several members report much greater success than normal doing 18 month or 2 year caps.
If you are trying to maintain installation appointments, call several days ahead of time to put customers’ minds at ease. Explain the precautions you’re taking, offer to use a side door, etc. Also, use this call to confirm no one in the house is sick or exposed to someone who was.
Ramp up customer communications. In times of crisis, your customers appreciate hearing from you. If you’ve passed the point where you are overloading them, you will see it in people not opening your messages or opting out.
For example, some companies were reluctant to send emails to customers outlining all the precautions you were taking, because you thought they were being inundated from all sides. They may not care what Jet Blue has to say, but they do care about their school district, fuel company, plumber, etc. A whopping 48-56% of customer are opening the COVID-19 service update emails we have created.
In addition, use your Facebook page to keep people updated on any service changes or other important information, and refer them to a dedicated page on your website that will have all updates to your service, hours, restrictions, etc.
Counterintuitive Alert: You might think with all this craziness, that people are searching less for things like propane, oil, equipment, etc. You’d be wrong. Evidently, people still need what they need, want what they want. They may not pull the trigger on large purchases until the crisis passes, but they are investigating options, especially since they have more time on their hands. And they will be attracted to oil and propane offers that save them money going forward. It is critical that you are there when they are looking.
We looked at all of the websites we manage. Over the last 2 weeks:
Organic traffic to our digital clients’ websites is up 14%.
Pay per click campaigns for oil, propane and HVAC are up 18%; the click through rate is up 13% and total leads are up 10%.
One of our campaigns for propane tankless water heater had its best response ever the day after the governor of the state issued shelter in place directions.
The whole category of “stay at home services” is a shining spot in the otherwise gloomy picture. There is a definite increase in interest in Indoor Air Quality products as people face the reality of staying at home. Propane pool heaters (giving people an opportunity to get their kids outside and into the pool earlier than normal can be very enticing), outdoor living appliances, grills, etc. are all potentially very popular as people spend more time at home.
Facebook use is up 50% this month. That is amazing. People have more time on their hands, and they are spending much of it on social media. Be sure to be there positioning your company as caring, competent, responsive. Find tips to share; not just about ways to stay safe, but fun ways to pass the time at home without killing your kids and spouse. Recipes with leftovers. Show pictures of your people taking precautions. Give them something to smile about.
Companies are starting to do Virtual Sales calls using Zoom or Facetime with customers. Better than sending someone into their homes now. Remember, not everyone will lose their job, but everyone will get hot in a few months. People will need water heaters. Boilers will break. Make it easy to connect.
Use this closing technique: “Once restrictions are lifted, we expect a huge surge in installations that may back us up for weeks. If you are sure you want to get a new ______ installed, lock it in now and put down a deposit so you will be early on the list. (You might consider offering to make that deposit refundable if they change their minds.)
If your CSRs have more time on their hands, get them to make outbound calls. They can be switching people from will call to auto, enrolling people in budget plans (big), price protection, autopay, paperless billing, etc.
Some companies are looking at ways to beef up the appliance part of their website so that customers can see what they offer in terms of grills, patio heaters, hearth products for which they would otherwise visit the show room. E-Commerce may offer some interesting solutions to consider going forward.
Get some positive press. Some Breakthrough Group™ members reported the following:
Donated installation of propane heaters for hospital tents to several hospitals (not the tank or the fuel, just the set up.).
One utility offered to give 200 $20 gift cards to a restaurant of the customers choice if they switched to paperless billing.
Find ways to help elderly in the community get necessities.
Use your imagination!
Make sure all truck drivers and service techs stick to their own vehicles. Don’t let them congregate in or out of the office. Go through safety procedures repeatedly. Don’t just assume they “get it.”
Dispatch techs from home. Don’t allow techs to shop. Have parts and work orders delivered directly to their homes. Have service slips dropped off and picked up if it is not done electronically. Don’t require customers to sign for work.
Make sure that your answering service is prepared to work remotely should anyone in their office get the virus. Some can. Some can’t. You don’t want to find out only after you have lost them.
Set up video conference meetings with drivers, techs, CSRs. Most anything you could do in regular meetings with them can be done via video chat, including training. It’s actually pretty cool once you start doing it. The “face connection” is more important than you may realize, especially if you are limiting company interaction. Breakthrough Group™ members are using platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Facetime, Skype, and Go To Meeting.
If you are considering necessary layoffs, also plan for the fact that some of your people are bound to get sick, and they will be out for an extended period.
If they are working remotely and connecting to your office computer via VPN from their home computer, make sure it is equipped with Malware protection that has been updated.
Let customers know that if they have second homes, they should notify you if they are moving into them for an extended period. Let Will Calls know they need to give you more time for deliveries.
Many of your automatic delivery customers are using more fuel now because they are home when they are normally at work, and it has been chilly in many places. Keep on top of it.
Along these lines, several group members reported that they have started using a program called ADEPT offered by Angus Energy. It is an algorithm-based program that seamlessly integrates with your back office system to enable you to make more deliveries with fewer trucks. This might be a good time to check it out to keep costs down going forward.
Warn employees of Fueling Station pump handles as a source of transmission. Distribute fueling mitts to staff.
Change your web site “contact us” page. Make it more robust in case remote working conditions constrain phone resources.
I hope you have found these tips to be of interest and valuable. If you have any you would like to share, please send them to me! And of course, if there is anything that we can do to help, please be sure to give me a call. Our team is always available to help you.