UTS Library

Buildernet - Lodge Your Plans Over The Internet

Client: 

Water Corporation

PR Company: 

Water Corporation / Mills Wilson Communications

Award Category: 

Award Type: 

Call Number: 

2004 H 6

Year: 

2004

Executive Summary: 

The WA Water Corporation and Mills Wilson Communication Consultants joined forces to market leading edge technology to a tough, traditional market segment many of whom were entrenched in the old over-the-counter method of lodging building approvals.

BuilderNet allows builders to submit their plans via the internet to get instant approval for straightforward applications and speeds up all other applications. The challenge in marketing BuilderNet was to bring builders into the new millennium by convincing them of its benefits and getting them to make the change to the on-line service. At the same time, Water Corporation employees needed to be reassured that BuilderNet was not about job cuts and other stakeholders such as local government authorities and building suppliers needed to be convinced of the current and potential opportunities the new on-line service presented.

Thanks to a comprehensive campaign, all marketing objectives were surpassed within four months of the BuilderNet launch - 32 building companies, including WAs major builders, had signed up to use BuilderNet submitting 2,800 building applications on-line.

Situation Analysis: 

On average, the Water Corporation processes 30,000 building plan applications for water services annually for the metropolitan area and 10,000 for country regions. Until recently, the Corporation was operating an application system where builders had to manually lodge water service applications and building plans over the counter at just two  metropolitan centres or at one of another six regional centres. This was costly and time consuming and sometimes there were long delays in getting approval because of manual systems and high level building activity.

The Corporation has a strong relationship with the building industry, but it had struggled to communicate effectively in encouraging industry staff to use new technologies, such as the internet, for customer service transactions.

The communications were further complicated by the fact that different people in different building firms are responsible for lodging applications it may be the seasoned owner of the company who might be male, older and less computer literate or it may be the office administrator or even the office junior who tended to be female, younger and far more inclined to use online technology.

In marketing BuilderNet, the major communication challenges for the Corporation were to bring a traditional building industry and local government into a new era of technology and to promote the benefits and use of an on-line building plan approval system. With local government also required to give building approvals, there was an obvious  opportunity for the Water Corporation and local government on-line systems to eventually integrate and make the process even more efficient.

The Corporation also needed to communicate with its employees to inform them of the benefits of BuilderNet, both to the Corporation and its customers and to have them understand the benefits for their own working environment, rather than make them feel threatened by the new service.

To ensure the Corporation capitalised on this investment, a marketing and communication strategy was developed to increase awareness and acceptance of BuilderNet among building companies, the wider industry, local government and Corporation employees.

Research: 

Prior to launching BuilderNet, the Corporation undertook significant desk and field research, which helped shape its design and identified key stakeholders and communication tools.

Its past experience with the building industry indicated a reluctance to use on-line services. But in recent years the Corporation noticed a changing technological trend with plumbers and builders. The emergence of a number of young, modern business leaders in the industry and good progress with many others - helped open up the opportunity for the introduction of a service like BuilderNet.

A survey undertaken during information sessions with 80 builders and plumbers showed that the vast majority would indeed be interested in using a new service like BuilderNet, while a number of small building companies indicated they would find it difficult to use an on-line service.

Desktop research also showed that two-thirds of the 40,000 annual service applications were submitted by a small number of major building companies with 80 per cent of these relating to new houses on single residential properties. This was an important finding as it enabled the campaign to directly target a small identifiable market submitting the highest proportion of service applications.

This information was used to brief The Brand Agency (the Corporations advertising consultants) to develop the BuilderNet graphic and advertising campaign (See Appendix A A1).

A small written survey conducted at a Water Corporation customer workshop in May 2004 highlighted the success of the campaign. All workshop participants were now using BuilderNet, with 80 per cent becoming aware of the new service through direct marketing and 7 per cent through the building industry.

Target Policies: 

The target audience for this communication strategy was broken into the following categories:


Target <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />


Focus


Issues


Water Corporation employees



  • Customer Technical
  • Services Section
  • Customer Centre employees
  • System developers / training employees

Concerns that existing

Building Plan Approval

employees would lose their

jobs with the new on-line

automated system.


Building companies



  • Major building companies
  • Then other building
  • companies

Gaining support at

management and

administration level benefits

for both


Building industry associations  



  • Master Builders Association
  • Housing Industry
  • Association

Convincing associations that

their members would benefit

from the new system.


Local Government authorities

sections



  • CEOs
  • Building / engineering

May feel threatened as builders

may lobby councils to also put

building plan approvals online.


Building industry customers



  • Plumbers
  • Construction contractors

Liaising with customers to

inform them of advantages of

the new technology.


Media



  • Industry specific
  • General

Developing an angle to interest

the broader community.


State Government



  • Minister for Government
  • Enterprises
  • Ministerial staff
  • Valuer Generals Office

Inform minister, staff and

VGO of new technology and

impact of changes to industry

and Corporation employees.

Communication Strategy: 

The communications marketing strategy involved introducing the new system to employees and builders slowly using good communication tools with simple messages and building up the bank of champions who would publicly endorse BuilderNet.

There was an emphasis on one-on-one communication briefings for employees; training sessions for builders; visits to key builders; briefings for local government, and over-the-counter information for builders arriving to lodge their plans manually. To back this up, the Corporation sent information kits to employees and chief executive officers at major building companies to increase awareness and support for BuilderNet, and hosted information sessions with building industry associations and local government authorities.

Once key builders were on board, the Minister for Government Enterprises, Hon Nick Griffiths MLC launched BuilderNet at an official function at the Corporations Mount Eliza House in Kings Park, which included Dale Alcock, Managing Director Dale Alcock Holmes as a guest speaker representing the building industry and champion of BuilderNet.

BuilderNet posters and brochures were displayed at local government customer service counters, advertisements were placed in industry magazines and positive media coverage of BuilderNet was achieved in numerous community newspapers and key industry journals.

The response to the launch and promotional materials was overwhelming, along with the support from the building industry and local government authorities.

 

Key Messages

The Water Corporation used simple key messages to inform a traditional building industry about the benefits of a new on-line building plan approval system. These included that BuilderNet:

  • Simplifies the building approval process.
  • Is easy to use and saves time and money.
  • Enables greater flexibility within the builders workplace (ie. It doesnt have to be the builder or the person on the road submitting the plans for approvals).
  • Will ultimately boost the bottom line for builders.
  • Those builders who have tried BuilderNet say the system is quick, easy and effective.
  • Eliminates repetitive, manual processing work within the Water Corporation and gives employees the opportunity to pursue more challenging and  value-adding work.

Communication Channels

The following communication channels were used to ensure that stakeholders were informed about the new BuilderNet system. These included:

Marketing

  • BuilderNet graphic (featuring computer mouse shaped like a builders trowel) (See Appendix A A1).
  • Company visits.
  • Direct mail campaign to builders.
  • Builders training awareness sessions (at their individual premises).
  • CD ROM demonstration (See Appendix A A2).
  • E-mail to industry associations, using an animated version of the BuilderNet graphic to getmembers attention.
  • Promotional items including mouse pad (See Appendix A A3), chocolate mice.


Printed Materials

A simple how to brochure for builders incorporating builder endorsements (See Appendix A A4).

Poster for use in display at local authority offices (See Appendix A A5).

Advertising

  • Simply, catchy advertisements in two major building industry magazines (See Appendix A A6).

Media

General/ third party endorsement stories in:

  • Trade press
    • Housing Industry Association HIA (quarterly).
    • Building News Master Builders Association (Bi-monthly) (See Appendix A A7).
  • Community Newspapers (See Appendix A A8).

Water Corporation mediums targeting external stakeholders

  • News on Corporation website (moving graphic designed to catch peoples attention).
  • Mainstream magazine targeting Corporation key business stakeholders.
  • WaterMark customer newsletter.
  • WaterTalk Community Newspapers paid editorial column.

Internal audiences targeting employees

  • Briefing note (for key internal stakeholders).
  • Employee magazines and newsletters.
  • Minister was briefed about the new on-line approval system.
  • The Technical Services Team was briefed on the changes to their work duties.
  • Employee presentations.

Product Launch

  • Official launch for business customers (breakfast function on 26 September 2003).

Industry Award Submissions

  • Promote the Corporation as a leader in technology and innovation through award submissions.

(The BuilderNet system was highly commended at the 2004 WA IT Industry Awards and won the Customer Service and E-business categories at the 2004 IT Managing Information Strategies Awards.

Implementation: 

Results: 

A good product backed by the marketing communications strategy resulted in an overwhelmingly successful introduction of the Water Corporations BuilderNet service - the first of its kind to be introduced by an Australian utility.

Through the campaign, the Corporation won the support and built positive awareness of BuilderNet with building industry associations, major building  companies, local government authorities and affected employees, to ensure its success.

The marketing communications strategy ensured BuilderNet was promoted widely and professionally in a timely manner. Thirty-two building companies began actively using the new service within four months of the launch in September 2003 more than five times the target. During this period more than 3,000 applications were lodged on BuilderNet with the Corporation on track to process around 12,000 applications on-line in its first year of operation double the 6,000 target.

Rather than feeling threatened, the Corporations customer service employees became advocates for BuilderNet and promoted it with enthusiasm. The building industry overwhelmingly supported the new on-line service and the City of Swan has since piloted (on behalf of local government) a project to develop an on-line one-stop shop system that will enable builders to lodge building plans simultaneously with the Corporation and local authorities.

Evaluation: 

The success of the BuilderNet marketing communications strategy is reflected in the results of the number of builders taking up the new service and large volume of applications processed, which exceeded all expectations.


Evaluation Area<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />


Actual


Number of major builders signed up to use BuilderNet in first year


*50 (target 6)

* As at June 2004


Number of applications processed in the first month


1086


Number of applications processed in the first four months


2,800  (target 1,500)


Estimated number of applications processed in first year


12,000 (target 6,000)


Website hits in the first month


800


Different website users in the first month


350

Anecdotal feedback received by the Corporation on both the launch and new on-line service was extremely favourable, which is best summed up by Mr Eric Lumsden (City of Swan CEO) in a letter he wrote to Water Corporation Chief Executive Officer, Dr Jim Gill, immediately following the launch

(See Appendix A A9).

Mr Lumsden said BuilderNet was one of the most significant advancements in customer service to the building industry in the past 30 years.

As a result of the communication, industry launch and business awards, the Water Corporation boosted its image as a leader in technology and innovation.