Differentiating the Dealership from the Competition

Selling propane equipment can help outdoor power equipment dealers grow their customer base and stand out from the competition.

Dealers should sell propane mowersbecause demand among contractors is growing.
Dealers should sell propane mowersbecause demand among contractors is growing.

For outdoor power equipment dealers, standing out from the crowd can be a tough task—especially in an oversaturated market where it can feel like every dealership is selling the same products and similar services. Fortunately, there are ways for dealers to offer real points of differentiation between their business and the dealer around the corner.

Propane commercial mowers can be that point of differentiation. By selling propane mowers, a dealership can both grow its customer base and stand out from the local competition for a variety of reasons.

1. There’s Growing Demand for Propane Equipment among Contractors

Dealers deciding to sell propane mowers are setting themselves up for growth, first and foremost, because demand among contractors is growing.

Last summer, more than 15,000 commercial propane mowers were in operation across the country. Dedicated propane mowers are now produced by 12 manufacturers in a variety of zero-turn, wide-area walk-behind and stand-on models. There are six different Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)- and California Air Resources Board (CARB)-certified aftermarket conversion kit manufacturers, too.

If these numbers alone aren’t convincing that dealers deciding to sell propane mowers are setting themselves up for growth, a 2016 survey commissioned by the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) found that interest in propane is increasing as well.

The survey, which was conducted by Wiese Research Associates from a pool of 150 landscape contractors, found that 34 percent of those surveyed answered they were somewhat or very likely to purchase a propane mower within the next three years. Yet, in a similar survey conducted with equipment dealers, only a quarter of the 100 dealers interviewed responded that they currently offer propane options. By staying ahead of the contractor demand that’s coming, dealers can bring in new customers that may otherwise go elsewhere.

2. Propane Can Create Buzz for the Dealership

Dealers are always looking for ways to increase sales with existing customers and reach out to potential customers. Entire marketing campaigns can be designed around a dealership making propane mowers available to create a buzz at the store.

Green-minded contractors are going to be happy to know where the go-to dealership is to meet their equipment needs, and sales staff can use propane as a reason to reach out and invite existing customers into the dealership to see new products and start a dialog.

3. Propane Has Many Selling Points

Dealers have a lot of selling points to work with when it comes to commercial mowers powered by propane. It’s commonly known that propane has a clean emissions profile, which is a major selling point for green-minded contractors or those with public agency contracts in which sustainable practices can be a plus.

Propane commercial mowers can also give a contractor’s bottom line a boost because of lower fuel costs and increased productivity.

Propane typically costs less than diesel or gasoline, and contractors can ensure fuel costs remain low by creating an annual fuel contract with a propane retailer. This can protect against the fluctuations of fuel prices that can swing wildly within a single cutting season.

Furthermore, sales staff can point out that refueling mowers is faster and easier with propane. Full propane cylinders are refilled or delivered on site, so mowers are ready when crews depart for the day’s work, decreasing the time spent at gas stations filling tanks. And because propane mowers use a closed-loop fuel system, propane can’t be spilled or stolen, saving contractors headaches and wasted fuel.

Plus, contractors routinely report the power of a propane commercial mower is virtually indistinguishable from a gasoline unit with similar horsepower.

It doesn’t have to cost more to switch to propane either. Start-up costs for propane equipment are comparable to gasoline mowers. A new unit is approximately the same cost as a new gasoline mower with help from PERC’s Propane Mower Incentive Program, which allows contractors to receive $1,000 for each new dedicated propane mower or $500 for a certified propane conversion kit.

4. Offering Propane Mowers Positions a Dealer as a Local Innovator

By offering propane mowers, a dealership is positioning itself as the place contractors can go to find the latest in emerging technology, products and services. It’s a cue to contractors that a dealership is staying on top of industry trends.

Even if some customers don’t ultimately transition to propane mowers, that impression may have them coming back.

Differentiating a dealership in a competitive market can be tough. Adding propane mowers can be a simple way to do just that. Propane can position a dealership as an innovator, bring in green-minded customers and even act as a conversation-starter for existing customers. Dealers who decide to offer propane mowers (or currently do) should start spreading the word by signing up for PERC’s Propane Equipment Dealer Point. This free online database that allows contractors to find local dealers selling propane equipment can be found at www.propane.com/mower-dealer.

Jeremy Wishart is the deputy director of business development for the Propane Education & Research Council. He can be reached at jeremy.wishart@propane.com.

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