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CMO50 2020 #26-50: Stuart Tucker

  • Name Stuart Tucker
  • Title Chief customer officer
  • Company hipages
  • Commenced role October 2017
  • Reporting Line Chief executive officer
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 14 staff, 4 direct reports
  • Industry Sector Information technology
  • 2019 ranking New to CMO50
  • Related

    Brand Post

    Leading a breadth of initiatives beyond traditional definitions of marketing, from CX programs to customer self-service initiatives and product redesign, has given Stuart Tucker plenty of opportunity to inform growth at online tradies marketplace, Hipages.

    He highlights curiosity is one of his most important skillsets in seeking out such growth. “There’s also the need to have an appetite to be continually challenging currently held views and have an inquiring mind and a taste for data-driven insights,” he says. “It’s really about asking yourself: Is there a better way?”

    It’s this very question that saw Tucker spearhead a cross-functional team effort aimed at empowering tradies through self-service tools. The second aim was to build a digital on-boarding experience so customers are more successful on hipages’ platforms. Despite being a tech-driven business, many of the group’s processes remained manual, leading to high cost to serve and a compromised CX.

    “Analysis showed a high percentage of our customers were calling us every month, often for simple tasks,” Tucker says. “I asked the team: How do we achieve the holy grail of CX by reducing the cost to serve and improve the tradie experience?”

    Working with engineering, product, design, marketing, sales and service, and tapping agile skills, functionality was introduced enabling tradies to adjust key settings in real time to extract maximum value from the platform. These include changing their travel radius, adjusting categories served, enhancing digital profiles and loading before and after job photos.

    So far, tradies have added or removed more than 3 million postcodes and 600,000 categories, plus 150,000 images, even as hipages reduced service headcount. Hipages also launched an automated onboarding experience including an individual onboarding score for every customer.

    Customer-led thinking

    A push for efficiency and improved CX through tools is also the approach being taken to improve customer stickiness and deepen hipages’ relationship with tradies beyond a transactional approach.

    “Until last year, the customer offering for tradies was complicated and created unnecessary complexity for revenue accounting. There was a mixture of legacy ‘pay-per-lead’ [PPL] plans and relatively new subscription offers, known as value caps,” Tucker explains. “The issue was the mix created confusion for customers and our sales/service team, plus difficulty with revenue assurance for the finance team. Additionally, the PPL plans did not provide value for customers.”

    A cross-functional team was created with the goal of eliminating the pay-per-lead model and shifting the business to a 100 per cent subscription model. Deliverables also included creating additional value for high spending customers, injecting loyalty offers into the acquisition process, allowing customers to ‘roll over’ lead credits at the end of their contract, and adding pause as new functionality to enable flexibility – a highly valuable commodity once COVID hit.

    “The plans aimed to address core customer issues such as flexibility and build value for hipages as an initial step to being a SaaS business,” Tucker says. “Within four months of kick-off, we were piloting the new VC plan, which included all functionality outlined in the dot points above.”

    Tucker calls the results “transformational” for hipages’ long-term future. During FY20, the business increased the percentage of customers on subscription by 16 per cent to 77 per cent.

    Commercial acumen

    A similar cross-functional effort came into play to improve consumer jobs growth. Jobs posted on the hipages platform by homeowners is a key measure of business health. However, the process for doing so was previously a disorganised function without clear goals and was poorly resourced.

    A growth team, led by marketing, with representation from data science, engineering and product, was set up. “The team had clear goals and a mandate to drive change through experimentation and a data-led approach,” Tucker says. “The objective was to generate sustainable growth on the consumer side of the marketplace.

    Additionally, like many startup businesses, hipages had been heavily dependent on paid media channels to drive growth, with more than half of all jobs coming from paid search (SEM) in FY18. Tucker recognised this was not sustainable.

    The mission became to improve performance in organic and direct channels. “There was a focus on SEO growth, with a challenge from the CEO to ‘take share’ from one particular competitor,” Tucker continues.

    “Growth is now predominantly driven by unpaid channels such as organic search and app, with jobs from paid channels reducing to about 40 per cent in FY20. This has delivered substantial cost savings. As we exit FY20 and enter FY21, organic channel growth is close to double the prior year quarter-on-quarter.”

    Overall, hipages has seen 23 per cent year-on-year jobs growth for FY20, despite the impact of bushfires and COVID-19. The exit growth rate for total jobs posted during Q4 sits at 43 per cent YOY.

    “The Jobs Growth team is recognised within hipages as a high-performing team and has created a high sense of confidence in their ability to generate sustainable growth,” Tucker comments.

    Innovative marketing

    While hipages has big ambitions for its platform, brand awareness when Tucker joined was low, sitting at 27 per cent (prompted) after 15 years trading (2018).

    “We don’t have huge budgets, nor big teams, so we need to be focused. With no retained creative or media agency, we needed a big and bold idea to build brand awareness,” Tucker says.

    Having used free-to-air TV for the first time in 2018, the business knew it was the most effective channel on brand awareness and should therefore play the leading role in a 2019 brand campaign.

    “We also knew our ‘Change the way you tradie’ creative platform was effective in building an understanding of our offering, however it had missed the mark for brand consideration,” Tucker says. “We reviewed brand tracking to better understand how the creative ranked on consideration, realising we needed to demonstrate the brand proposition beyond advertising, and focus on building trust in hipages.”

    The idea of an integrated sponsorship, associating the hipages brand with a highly-trusted TV property to build authority, was born. The marketing team invested 100 per cent of discretionary budget with The Block as a platinum 2019 sponsor over 14 weeks. Tucker says this allowed hipages to naturally demonstrate product functionality and brand proposition through in-show integrations, advertising and content.

    And it worked. As well as lifting aided brand awareness to 47 per cent , versus an April 2019 baseline of 37 per cent, consideration went up 11 per cent to 34 per cent. Incremental app installs grew 123 per cent, incremental jobs postings from August to December 2019 were up 130 per cent, and incremental tradie registrations jumped 244 per cent.

    “There was no Plan B - this sponsorship simply had to work,” Tucker says. “The Block was a bold decision that paid long-term dividends.”

    Business smarts

    The original idea for the ‘Change the way you tradie’ proposition came from work done to understand hipages’ sustainable strategic advantage. An agile category design process, supported by research, defined the scale of the trade market. It found $73 billion being spent annually with residential tradespeople and 70 million paid jobs completed in 2018 by more than 250,000 Australian businesses.

    “Yet despite the significance of the industry, navigating the category remains challenging for tradies and homeowners - from finding a tradie, to getting the job done, resulting in 80 per cent of Australians feeling stressed about repairs or renovation,” Tucker says. “The industry remains inefficient and outdated. Today, 80 per cent of consumers are still engaging tradies through word-of-mouth.

    “Similarly, tradespeople find the process of preparing quotes, chasing payments, and completing admin the most frustrating aspect of their job. Seven in 10 agree technology could help make them more efficient.”

    Hipages defined this category as the ‘On-Demand Tradie Economy’ and set out a plan to be the category leader. Tucker says defining the category ecosystem included creating a diagram that articulates the strategic opportunity for the business, guiding prioritisation, program design, M&A activity and partnerships.

    “It now forms the basis for business strategy and is used regularly with investors to explain the category opportunity,” he says.

    This category work also showed Government expenditure on infrastructure repair and maintenance was a significant opportunity for hipages. In early 2019, the business was asked by the NSW Dept of Education to tender for a new program known as the Local Trades Scheme. The objective was to drive government spend into NSW communities by providing work for local tradies, with digital solutions providing efficiency improvements and cost reduction.

    “Working with the partnership manager, I immediately identified this as a key strategic opportunity to deliver incremental revenue and open up a new growth channel for hipages,” Tucker says.

    Over a period of four months, hipages was appointed preferred supplier to connect more than 2200 NSW schools to trusted local tradies for repair and maintenance. The first jobs were posted on its platform in March 2020 and substantial volumes are expected to flow in Q1 FY21.

    “Since launch, the Dept of Education is reporting cost reductions and time savings per jobs of several weeks, providing a substantial efficiency improvement for the in-field Dept of Education team striving to deliver better school conditions for students, teachers and families,” Tucker says.


    Having such strong foundations in capability helped drive bold thinking and adaptability as the COVID-19 pandemic heightened. Watching closely to monitor impact on the business, hipages saw that within days of the ‘lockdown’ rules announced on 23 March 2020, job volumes reduced and tradie cancellation requests increased.

    The marketing team went into crisis mode. Tucker chaired daily planning sessions, where government announcements, media reporting and key metrics were reviewed and action plans agreed.

    “We also knew tricks wouldn’t work and that the best way to keep our tradies confident and engaged was to keep generating jobs for their business,” he says. “There was significant confusion in the market and within our tradie customer base, so we started with an educational approach - informing the market that tradies were ‘open for business’.

    As this message landed and sentiment started to shift, Tucker’s team switched the messaging to one of advocacy, with a ‘tradies are an essential service’ message using owned, earned and paid media. The team lobbied state and federal governments with the same message. During that time, hipages generated 466 pieces of earned media coverage.

    As people spent more time at home and thousands of unsuccessful DIY programs were attempted, the tide further shifted. Real-time data was used to understand which categories were impacted - positively and negatively – with search trends as a market indicator.

    “Having created a position of authority in the market we were able to ride the wave,” Tucker says.

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