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HOUSTON — The series of marketer roundtable meetings that CITGO Petroleum Corp. held from Jan. 12 through Feb. 2 are an annual event, but that doesn't make them just business as usual for the company.
The preparation phase is a continuous process through which the company identifies best practices to aid its marketers throughout the United States, according to CITGO executives.
"Our internal planning team begins months in advance, taking away key learnings from each session and region to apply to the next year’s event," Alan Flagg, assistant vice president of supply and marketing for CITGO, told CSNews Online. "Topics are chosen not only based on feedback we receive from marketers throughout the year and during regular marketer council sessions, but also surrounding which CITGO brand initiatives will be most relevant and beneficial to our marketers at their respective company and station levels."
The 2016 CITGO Marketer Roundtable Meetings — held within the company's Central, Northeast and Southern marketing regions — brought together corporate representatives from regional sales, brand programs and payment programs with local marketers to discuss CITGO's plans for the coming year.
"At our 2016 meetings, we've been looking at ways to differentiate the CITGO brand based on factors including multiple consumer channels, cultural and behavioral shifts, along with industry regulations," Flagg shared.
More specifically, this year's talked-about developments included enhancements to the CITGO Rewards Card program, the Club CITGO mobile app and Fueling Good community outreach, as well as the growth of CITGO's quality fuel message and TriCLEAN gasoline, plus other initiatives to increase simple and secure payment methods.
While many CITGO marketers are already familiar with most of these programs, the roundtable meetings give the marketers a chance to better familiarize themselves with and discuss changes. The CITGO Rewards and Fueling Good programs are regularly evaluated and updated to build the CITGO brand and help marketers engage local consumers.
This year's meetings also included sharing recent successes around the newly launched Club CITGO mobile app, and planned updates for 2016.
Additionally, marketers learned of the expansion of training initiatives (to now include the marketer sales team), and the introduction of new ACH payment products to CITGO's branded card portfolio.
Beyond information sharing, though, CITGO firmly believes the most important aspect of these meetings is the opportunity for in-person communication, according to Flagg.
"The roundtables are the ideal time for our marketers to speak face-to-face with members of our team and with each other," he explained. "The opportunity to engage everyone in an in-person group setting to share ideas, updates and best practices is important to us and our marketers. We encourage feedback from our marketers during the Q&A sessions and incorporate those ideas into future program enhancement."
The 2016 meeting series also included a different guest speaker for each region who provided insight on topics related to the industry, business trends and overall best practices. The speaker lineup was: Michael Davis, vice president of member services, NACS, in the Central Region sessions; Ieva Grimm, owner of SYNERGE, in the Northeast Region sessions; and Jim Cox, retail development manager for CITGO, in the Southern Region sessions.
"The goal of providing these types of guest speakers is to keep the marketers up-to-date on changes within the retail convenience segment, so they are able to inform and advise their retailers accordingly," Flagg said. "CITGO values the importance of each branded retailer being successful with inside sales, in addition to fuel sales."
Houston-based CITGO is a refiner, transporter and marketer of transportation fuels. The company is owned by CITGO Holding Inc., an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Petróleos de Venezuela SA, the national oil company of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.