David Bucher
HERSHEY, Pa. — David Bucher chose the right audience to deliver his seminar on marketing and advertising for small oil companies at the 50th Anniversary Convention and Trade Show of the National Association of Oil Heating Service Managers (NAOHSM). It took one simple question: “How many of you are satisfied with the bang for the buck that you spend on advertising?”

No one raised his or her hand. In fact, only a few responded in the affirmative when Bucher asked if they had an actual advertising budget.

Bucher, an oil heat business consultant from Lancaster, stressed the importance of having a budget and understanding customer needs when creating the advertising and marketing plan. “Your customers have potential needs, and your job is to assess those needs and sell to them,” he said. “It isn’t about your needs – it is about what your customer needs.”

One of the first things that customers need is information from a knowledgeable source. For example, if a contractor is advertising a special promotion, it behooves the contractor to inform all employees of the promotion, especially the first point of contact.

“The smartest and highest paid person in your business should be the receptionist, but that is not the case,” Bucher said. “They are the first contact with the customers, and what good is it to spend money to get your phone to ring when the person answering the phone is not well informed?”

Some Advertising And Marketing Tips

Bucher said that if all contractors in one area advertise price, it is a good idea to differentiate by not advertising price. Also, do homework on the competition — competition that may be coming from peers who might be offended with a particular ad campaign.

“Make a folder or a book of competitor’s ads to see what they are doing and how you can differentiate [yourself],” he said. “A lot of you are too chummy with each other and don’t want to get too personal with your message.”

He said there is a guideline to follow when advertising something new. “If you have a new product or service, invest 10 percent of your gross sales in advertising it,” Bucher said. “And as a rule, two to five percent of revenue should be for regular advertising.”

Bucher acknowledged that it costs a lot of money to find and keep a customer, so it is important to do what is necessary to satisfy current customers. This helps in customer retention and the word-of-mouth advertising that goes along with positive experiences.

“If you have a customer, do whatever you can do to keep them, including spending a little extra time or money on them,” he said.

Advertising For Small Businesses

Bucher has a list of his five principles, which he handed out to the seminar attendees.

1. Be ready to advertise. Get everything else in the market mix settled before advertising. If you spend money on advertising, don’t have a dirty truck or sloppily dressed employee represent you. “Do all the things that are necessary to ensure that you have something to advertise,” he said.

2. Make a plan. “You need to have a business plan first,” Bucher said. “If you have a marketing plan and no business plan, it is like having a trailer with nothing to pull it.”

3. Focus your message. Know what you are saying and to whom you are saying it. “When choosing your target audience, do you want people like yourself for a customer?” Bucher asked. “Do you want them to be different? Are there some who you don’t want as customers at all?”

4. Choose the right messenger. “Media buying should be done with a plan and purpose,” he said. In other words, don’t dump a lot of money into one media, (e.g., the Yellow Pages) if everyone else is doing it and neglecting other media options.

5. Review your results. “Every time the phone rings and it is a new customer, ask how they learned about you,” Bucher said. “It is not worth your advertising budget if you don’t invest in reviewing your results.”

Bucher stated, “Interpret your message as you think your customer might.

“Remember that an advertising/marketing program is a process. You may have to go back to the first step and start all over again.”

Sidebar: NAOHSM Award Winners Announced

HERSHEY, Pa. — The National Association of Oil Heating Service Managers (NAOHSM) had another record breaking convention to celebrate its 50th year as an association.

“Attendance was up again this year by 1percent to 5,198 people,” said Judy Garber, NAOHSM executive administrator. “The attendees had an opportunity to see over 300 displays of vendors serving the oil heating industry.

“Attendees had an opportunity to visit three display areas — two indoors and an exciting outdoor area. With sunshine aplenty, vendors and attendees were quite happy outdoors. In addition to the outdoor display, there was also an exhibit of antique delivery and service vans.”

Garber announced the winners of the First Annual Installation Competition. Winners included:

  • New Construction — Residential: Taylor Oil, Kevin Taylor, Pawling, N.Y.

  • New Construction — Commercial: General Utilities, John Griffin, Plainview, N.Y.

  • Gas to Oil Conversion — Commercial: Washington Heating, Ron Wheeler, Washington.

  • Replacement Oil — Residential: Frame Oil, Dave Gentele, Conyngham, Pa.

  • Replacement Oil — Commercial: Scasco Energy, Joe Buchas, Seymore, Conn.

    “Industry Award Winners” are:

  • Hugh McKee Award — David Bessette, Northeast Mass. Chapter

  • Service Manager Award — George McQueeney, Service Manager for East River Energy, Killingworth, Conn.

  • Associate of the Year — Richard Breeden from the Fairfield County Chapter

  • Manufacturer of the Year — Riello Burners

  • First Annual Instructor of the Year — Michael Markarian, director of educational programs for National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA)

    Fifth Annual 2003 Dave Nelsen Scholarship Award Winners:

  • Michael McCulloch, Freehold, N.J.

  • Joseph Ricciardi, Yonkers, N.Y.

  • Louis Ursitz, McDonald, Pa.

  • Paul Harrison, Derry, N.H.

  • Adam Whitten, Orange, Mass.

  • Peter Webb, Dedham, Mass.

    “The scholarship program started in 1999,” noted Garber. “To date, 23 young people shared $43,000 in scholarship awards. As an industry, many have worked towards getting the fund over $100,000.

    “This year alone, PA Petroleum donated over $5,000. Al Levi of Appleseed Business, donated a portion of his speaking fee, ITT Industries annually financially supports the fund and Dan Holohan continues to help support young people by conducting seminars and getting folks to sponsor him so that proceeds go to this worthy cause.”

    — John R. Hall

    Sidebar: Mercurio Donates Cash Prize

    Alan Mercurio, creator of www.oiltechtalk.com and a familiar speaker, educator, and writer on the oil heat industry, showed his true colors during the NAOHSM convention.

    Mercurio won the 50/50 raffle for the Dave Nelsen Scholarship Fund — $1,250. He promptly donated the money back into the fund. “If there is anything to be learned from this, it would be to trust in the Lord and follow your heart,” stated Mercurio. “That's all I did. It's a great feeling to be able to 'Pay it Forward.'”

    — John R. Hall

    Publication date: 06/23/2003