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)
As our PRO$ program coordinator, Silvia Revisore manages and markets the day-to-day operations of PRO$, which helps realtors understand and sell oil-heated home listings. This includes coordinating multiple CE classes a day and developing eblasts, which Silvia handles with the cleared-inbox finesse of organizational guru Marie Kondo.
Before joining Warm Thoughts, Silvia worked in sales for a major beauty company, ran her own small business and obtained her degree in Business Administration with a focus on marketing. Outside of work, Silvia attends online classes, enjoys crafting and keeps up to date on all things football. She’s working on achieving her goal of visiting every NFL stadium in the country!
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 4, 2021
Fuel companies and auto dealerships share a remarkable amount in common. Many are family owned, in business for generations. Both are essential businesses, selling products to consumers who have many options from which to choose. They need to battle to retain customer loyalty and to attract new customers. Both are seeing increased consolidation and the emergence of large competitors with deeper pockets. And both are facing radical changes in the ways their customers evaluate their options, find people to buy from and buying decisions.
It is this last point—how customers make buying decisions—where one of the key differences has started to emerge. After a slow start, auto dealerships have fully embraced the power of online and social marketing and shifted the vast majority of marketing dollars to digital tactics. Fuel delivery and service companies have been much slower to make that shift.
The recession of 2008 upended the automotive industry and accelerated its pivot to digital marketing in order to recover. Cayce Lindsey, who is now regional sales manager at Warm Thoughts Communications, started working in the automotive industry during this shift. He helped dealerships throughout the country take advantage of online tactics that could generate leads and sales more effectively, at lower cost. He also helped enhance service profit centers.
When Lindsey joined Warm Thoughts at the end of 2020, he didn’t expect to see much overlap between the two industries. In speaking with propane and heating oil companies, Lindsey finds that although they have much in common, their approaches to marketing differ. “The fuel industry is several years behind the automotive industry,” said Lindsey, specifically referencing their digital marketing strategies.
He recalled that when he began working in the automotive industry nearly a decade ago, “the marketing spend was split, with 70% spent on traditional media and only 30% on digital.” However, when he left the auto industry in 2020, those numbers had shifted to an “80% spend on digital with only a 20% spend on traditional.” In Lindsey’s experience, this shift in spend was accompanied by growth, particularly in lead generation through traffic to company websites.
Warm Thoughts recently conducted a benchmark survey of 60 fuel companies. The results revealed a split reminiscent of where the auto industry was about eight years ago. Most propane and oil companies still spend a majority of their marketing dollars on traditional advertising. What’s more, they are not taking advantage of many of the more sophisticated tactics that can significantly boost response, in part because they don’t understand them.
Based on successes he observed in the automotive industry, Lindsey shared four opportunity-making marketing strategies that have proven successful.
As of October 2020, over 48% of all web traffic came through on mobile phones. In 2010 that number was less than 4%, so we’ve seen a drastic increase in a short period of time. In order to win at the digital game, fuel companies need websites that are friendly for mobile phones, tablets and desktops. In addition, companies need to run litmus tests ensuring that the web design and code is beautiful yet error free when loaded by multiple operating systems. Finally, they need to build these sites bearing in mind that inevitable, frequent updates will surely affect how their customers interact with their websites.
One key element in Lindsey’s automotive experience was helping companies win the search engine optimization (SEO) competition to rise in Google’s rankings. Lindsey said that when working with auto dealers, “the goal was to have a significant majority of website traffic be driven by organic search. It’s like having a sales and marketing team that works 24/7.”
“Effective SEO is complicated, and, frankly, it baffles many typical business owners. Plus, Google often changes the ground rules. They don’t focus nearly enough effort and dollars to make this a strength. But in many respects, it is the most effective way to ensure you are ‘in the conversation’ when a consumer decides they want to buy something or make a change.”
For auto dealers, blogging was a big part of their marketing strategy, as well as using effective “keyword” strategy in the copy and structure of their websites. “Auto dealers learned that Google owns the board, and you’ve got to play by its rules if you want to get in the game,” he said.
Fuel companies, Lindsey finds, are way behind in this regard. “Many of the propane and oil companies I talk to don’t even realize that their company isn’t showing up in many towns they service when someone types in keywords like ‘propane company near me,’ ‘quality oil deliveries,’ or ‘water heater options.’ They think their ‘web guy’ is doing the ongoing work needed to win the ranking competition, and it’s just not happening.”
Lindsey highlighted dealerships’ use of social media as a way to connect with customers. “I had one dealership with a YouTube channel that had over 160,000 followers and another dealership with 80,000 followers on Facebook,” he said. “They also posted about topics that were related to cars but not self-promotional.”
It’s a strategy that propane and oil companies can incorporate as well. Social media, particularly Facebook, are phenomenal ways to build and expand your brand, in the same way that traditional TV advertising used to work. Unfortunately, most fuel companies make serious mistakes that undermine their social effectiveness.
“When I look at fuel company efforts, too often I see missed opportunities. They either post too infrequently for Facebook to serve them up to followers, or they do too much pure business, not enough fun and engagement. They are also not taking advantage of all the ways you can pay Facebook to advertise your brand and services in amazingly targeted ways. This advertising capability is why Facebook is one of the most profitable companies in human history, and fuel companies are completely missing the boat on this tactic.”
Lindsey emphasized the importance of generating positive reviews as an approach for attracting new customers. The automotive industry was likely the first to master the process of generating positive reviews. Think back to the last time you bought a car: Did the salesperson ask you to write them a review or respond to a survey? This positive experience is cultivated from the moment the customer expresses interest through to the close of the sale—and beyond.
His dealerships were hyper focused on calling prospects, following up on questions, making appointments, emailing, and performing other outreach as needed. According to a 2020 survey, 87% of customers read online reviews for local businesses and 92% said negative reviews make them less likely to use a business.
“Many fuel companies have not structured an approach for regularly recruiting five-star customer reviews, even though the overwhelming majority of their customers really like them,” he said. “This is a significant missed opportunity.”
The good news, according to Lindsey, is that many of the same issues he sees in the delivered-fuels industry are things that plagued auto dealers less than 10 years ago, and the auto dealers have turned that around. “There are absolutely ways to help fuel companies catch up on the digital front,” he said. “If anything, the pandemic has made this even more of a priority, as a larger share of the older population has also grown more comfortable engaging online for business services.”
“I look forward to helping connect the dots for fuel companies, and opening up some exciting doors for them to grow and defend their businesses. Warm Thoughts is excellent at all of the approaches I’ve seen as best practices, and our domain expertise in the propane and oil space is unmatched.”