Client Corner: The Problem? Everybody Knows Your Name

The following is a guest post from Steve Ahrens, president of the Missouri Propane Education & Research Council and a TSN Communications client.

Everybody knows about propane, and that’s part of our challenge.

Whether before the legislature, staffing a booth at a trade show or chatting over a meal, we’ve discovered that many people are familiar with propane used with a barbeque grill. And that’s about it.

We get a few Hank Hill fans. But it’s challenging to find that the world’s ideal fuel — clean, safe, versatile, efficient, economical, domestically sourced propane — doesn’t have a wider appreciation.

Our challenge is to take that glimmer of awareness and relate it to an array of other uses and segments. The variety of applications is formidable, from warming homes and powering irrigation engines to on-demand hot water and organic farming. To illustrate the benefits in each market requires messaging that is unique, targeted and compelling.

Our primary focus is residential-use applications like home heat and hot water. We’ve created unique touchpoints for these audiences: appliance rebates for homeowners, recognition and promotion opportunities for home builders, state-certified training for HVAC techs and plumbers, scholarships and pre-employment training for high school and vocational students.

Propane is a great motor fuel, too, and that segment (known as autogas) has its own unique opportunities. For example, the Missouri Propane Education & Research Council’s Lawn Equipment Assistance Fund (LEAF) has for 10 years provided the state’s professional landscape contractors with information and rebates. Not coincidentally, Missouri is one of the nation’s top states for deploying propane lawn equipment. If you see a mower that has a long shiny cylinder on board, that’s not a beer keg, it’s a propane mower!

Propane school buses are an increasingly important market. The benefit of switching from diesel to propane is almost too good to be true. Schools immediately realize lower operating costs, turning “fuel money” into “school money,” while at the same time providing a cleaner environment for students and communities. To help districts transition to cleaner propane buses, we’ve created the first-of-its-kind financing program which pays the interest on qualifying lease-purchase agreements. MOPERC has committed $1 million over 10 years to help Missouri schools upgrade their fleets.

We’ve also recently entered the transit/paratransit arena, looking to help municipalities provide a safe and affordable method of community transportation.

With government funding drying up, propane is an ideal solution to provide essential public transportation services without going back to the taxpayers for additional dollars.

That’s a lot to keep up with. As a not-for-profit executive, I’m used to wearing different hats for all the different demands – -finances, planning, lobbying, meetings, employees, board development and so on. But when it comes to effectively promoting our members and their products, that job requires a team effort. As you can tell, our marketing outreach is more than another “hat.” We strategically rely on TSN Communications to help us connect with motor fuel customers. The firm’s autogas knowledge and contacts are without peer. TSN not only is an expert in the communications field but has unmatched expertise in the motor fuel segment, working with manufacturers and national accounts to leverage our impact.

Whether cutting a rebate check to a homeowner or sponsoring a propane bus webinar for school superintendents, we’re using that initial awareness of a single, limited product to build a wider knowledge base. Through that backyard portal, we can introduce our old friends, gathered cozily around the barbeque grill, to the exciting applications and amazing benefits that propane provides.

Steve Ahrens is president of the Missouri Propane Education & Research Council a not-for-profit industry organization created by the legislature to promote the safe use of propane to Missourians.