Two years ago in my market no one was chasing me down for propane. My epiphany came when I took a step back and looked at mower advancement. Mowers have already gotten bigger. They’ve already been made faster. What else can the industry do to save the end user money? I believed that liquid propane was the last alternative to saving commercial contractors money.
In recent years, propane has seen a great rise in popularity. As it becomes more prevalent—with manufacturers like John Deere partnering with EnviroGard on propane conversions at the dealer level—dealers should really consider the current and future opportunities propane presents them.
Think about your customer base
Ask yourself: “If I'm going to be in propane, is it something my customers will want?” If you are selling commercial-grade equipment that commercial customers are using in their day-to-day mowing operations, they may want to consider the savings that comes with propane.
Propane mowers offer a huge advantage to contractor customers who are running through several gallons of the more-expensive gasoline a week. In addition to fuel savings, customers who purchase a propane mower or request a conversion can take advantage of the many Propane Education Research Council (PERC) incentives for doing so. For most contractors, your payback on fuel savings the first year pays for all conversion costs and puts some extra money in your pocket
Assess OEMs and the competition
What is the OEM bringing to the table for you to offer your customers without getting into the conversion business? Most of the OEMs until John Deere signed on with Tech Services and EnviroGard had one or two machines that they were offering specific to propane. Take to the internet to assess the propane product offering of varying OEMs that could be found at your dealership or available at your competitor. You can find a list of mowers by manufacturer on the PERC website here.
Assess the brands you are offering and then look at the brands your competition is selling. Do your brands offer propane options that could put you ahead of the competition? Ask yourself: “If I don't offer propane am I at risk of losing customers to another dealer who does?”
Know what to expect
With new propane products there is a considerable investment in product, parts, tools and training. You may be wondering what the return will be on that investment.
You should always talk to customers to gain knowledge of their purchasing intentions. Gauge their interest as you move into propane, but know that with this new venture, the first few years is less about dollars sold, and more about market share. In your first year you may have just a few units, but as contractors need to replace old units, they will gradually move to a full fleet of propane.
Dave Wood of Smitty's Lawn & Garden in Olathe, KS, is a stakeholder in a company called Tech Services Incorporated. Tech Services has partnered with EnviroGard to become its exclusive sales and marketing arm with worldwide rights for EnviroGard EPA-certified propane conversion kits.