We caught up with Paul Graham, founder and Managing Director of Planning Pipe for a chat about the service and how to use it well.

What is Planning Pipe?

Planning Pipe is a construction marketing information service, that’s the short answer. We provide project and contact details on upcoming construction schemes in planning , so that users can find the right prospect at the right time.

There are other sales leads providers. Where does Planning Pipe fit into the market?

The two companies that many will be familiar with are Glenigan and Barbour ABI. Planning Pipe is more focused on the small to medium sized firm and much low cost.

I actually served as MD of Glenigan for around seven years, a while ago now, so I’m very familiar with the service that they offer. And it’s practically identical to what Barbour ABI offers. One of the things I learned from my time at Glenigan was that 90% of customers were getting notifications at the planning stages. So what we’ve been able to do at Planning Pipe is to simplify the service so that people are getting what will be most useful to them, and just paying for that. We can offer core value at a key moment in the construction process.

Presumably the focus on planning stage leads works better for some than others?

Our customers include all sorts of general and specialist contractors, suppliers, and investors. Those who might not benefit quite so much from our service are subcontractors, as they’ll be looking for projects that already have a main contractor appointed. Some do use it successfully, but others will need later stage sales leads. The same goes for on-site services.

For us a key measure of success is how many people renew with us. You can sign up for a month at a time, or six months for the bespoke service, and success for us is people choosing to continue with their subscription. Renewal rates are around 70%, so we recognise that it doesn’t work for everyone, but we think we’ve been very successful overall at giving people what they need.

What advice would you give to those using sales leads for the first time?

I’d say it’s important to have a system in place, something that helps you to keep track of prospects. It doesn’t need to be sophisticated. Sometimes people wonder if they should have CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software, but you just need a set up that works for you. It could be a simple spreadsheet. It could even be pen and paper, at a stretch. The important thing is that it’s clear, and it needs to be repeatable.

Some people confuse sales and marketing. They need something to fill the schedule and get their team working, and they turn to us as an emergency to get the work quickly. Planning Pipe can do that, but it’s much better and more reliable if it’s used as part of an ongoing marketing strategy. Sales will come in if you’re doing marketing on an ongoing basis rather than panicking because you haven’t got any work. What you should be aiming for is a consistent, repeatable method to contact the right people – and what we can offer is the right people at the right time – and then you’re much more likely to be successful.

Any tips for those looking to get more out of the service?

You can be quite sophisticated in terms of your filtering. We have companies that are highly specialist - sometimes very niche like swimming pool roof manufacturers, for example. They have a very clear idea of what they’re looking for, and so they can include keyword searches or keyword exclusions to find the exact results they need.

A common problem is too much information. You do need to know your target. A lot of companies phone up when they first start to use Planning Pipe, and they’ll say “I’m just interested in house extensions or loft conversions in London”. We’re reporting on over three and a half thousand of those every month! There’s just no way you can cope with that volume. It’s not even helpful – it’s just data being thrown at you. So think about the targets that you’re realistically going to get, and go for those first. You can always change. You don’t have to plough the same furrow forever. Adapt the service as you go.

It’s always a balance between quality and quantity of leads, and using filtering and keywords can help you find that balance. You can always change what you target You don’t have to plough the same furrow forever. Adapt the service as you go.

How can people find out more, and see if Planning Pipe is for them?

We offer ten free samples – you can specify exactly the type you’re looking for. We can then take your specifications, and tell you how many of these types of leads you can expect in a typical month or week. With that information, you have a very good idea of what you will receive and how many leads you can expect.

You can then subscribe on a month-by-month basis, for two regions. For example, you can have the whole of London and the South East for your two regions. It will just give you access to the plans at the submission stage. The bespoke service will notify you about projects when they are approved and we deliver the projects to you on an email. You can also be quite a bit more sophisticated in how you search for target schemes. That’s on a six month commitment, and you can build up to that if you need it and it works for you.