Molonglo Valley's successful launch is a great example: Peter Chittenden

Peter ChittendenMarch 11, 20130 min read

Canberra’s Molonglo Valley First Release Sets the Foundation

One of the key points about Canberra’s Molonglo Valley is that the development might well take as much as fifteen years to complete and there is no doubt that market dynamics will change constantly. Fifteen years is a long time to be in the market, but with large projects of this kind it is not uncommon, even much smaller projects are frequently in the market for 3 – 5 years. It’s a hallmark of this facet of project marketing and as a result there are some conventions that we need to be aware of and always aim to tick-off. Step one is a highly successful launch.

Any project launch is important, because it sets in place the ground rules for how the brand will be seen in the market. If the brand gets off to a flying start, as was the case with Molonglo Valley, then future success will be more readily assured as the brand then moves from strength to strength.

By contrast, a poor start takes a lot of hard work to reverse, over time it’s not impossible, but if we look at how Molonglo Valley was launched we can see some clear pointers on how to achieve an outstanding launch. And that’s the result every project is looking to achieve.

Solid Planning and Some New Ideas

Every major land estate development will be sold in stages, and market conditions will always dictate how and when each stage is released. While other projects can also be released in stages the land estate environment is very different because of a number of key factors. One difference is the amount of time involved and the second is the reality that while new stages are planned and sold, early stages will already be complete and residents may well be living in their new homes. Your brand if you like is being tested while you are still very much in the market and this sets up some ongoing marketing dynamics that I will return to.

In this light the first release of 100 blocks at Molonglo Valley had the marketing team on the starting blocks facing a very long race, and for everyone involved the goal to achieve a great launch was clearly understood. In the Canberra market this had been a much anticipated land release, there was clearly pent up demand, the land would be popular but still there was a need to engage the market with a product that was still very much a vision.

First Release by Auction

"Almost immediately after the ACT Government announced that the land would be developed for residential housing we had buyers and builders eager for the first release, I think it was clear that Molonglo Valley would be a new chapter in Canberra's history and many people wanted to be a part of it."

“The market was ripe with expectation and so our role was to work and manage this first release, already aware that since the first announcement was made more than 1000 expressions of interest had been received.”

According to Shane Radnell, General Manager of Residential Land Estate Marketing at Colliers International Canberra, this was the market setting the scene for one of the largest land auctions of its kind and what would be a record event for Canberra’s residential market.

With agreement that the first release would be built around a sales path culminating with an auction in June 2010, the marketing of Molonglo Valley got underway.

No Site Inspections Possible

Formal registrations of interest for Molonglo Valley got underway on Friday 23rd of April 2010 and the results as might have been expected were immediate, many more people anxious for information soon joined the already 1000 early birds.

The opening of registrations was however preceded by intense planning and a variety of key marketing assets were in place to ensure that this wave of activity was well managed.  However outside of all of this bluster was the fact that the site of the first release was planned, and the suburbs had a name Wright and Coombs, but beyond that the land had not yet been developed, it was not possible to visit the site, walk the streets or physically see the blocks that were to be taken to market.

Clearly by any account this was a unique challenge, if you like we could make the comparison to selling apartments ‘off-the-plan’ but there was for want of a better comparison not display apartment. The location was familiar and the entire location could be seen from some nearby vantage points and so the gap had to be filled and this is where the team at Colliers International in Canberra delivered with a strong marketing plan and more than a few ounces of inspiration.

“Before we moved to open formal registrations in April we already knew that with an auction date of 19th June, we would face an intensive sales path and so we had to plan a robust plan.

“The sheer number of people who had registered in part dictated that how we managed and presented the details about Molonglo Valley would need to give our potential buyers, both private buyers and builders, the information and reassurance they needed to buy at auction, otherwise the process could have failed,” said Shane Radnell.

The sales path was built around several key steps, some will be familiar with the use of some new technology being a first and a clear way of adding lasting value to the brand.


Getting Value from Registrations

As might have been expected once formal registrations were announced the project website received an immediate and ongoing rush, and registrations were required to secure a time to visit a purpose built CBD sales centre. Every person who made a registration request was then contacted by the sales team and given help with all the information they required, this involved a great deal of buyer interface and as I have frequently pointed to this was not a process driven by auto-response or a self-select menu.

By the time any of the people who had registered came to the sales centre, they were already well versed in the process and would have been somewhat familiar with both Molonglo Valley and the sales team member looking after them.  I have always championed this level of personal connection and on auction day this level of familiarity and informality would be important.

The Sales Centre

Well ahead of the call for registrations and during the modest pre-launch advertising campaign a purpose built sales and information centre was completed.

The location of this centre was again a key part of the sales path, it was located in Canberra City in NewActon in an easily accessible spot with ample nearby parking and was open out of normal business hours. According to Shane Radnell, the aim was to make it as easy as possible for people to visit via scheduled appointments and the centre is still in use today.

“The sales centre and its contents were a key part of a very deliberate sales path, the centre was very spacious, even understated, it had high ceilings and a level of quality that some land estates do not usually offer.

“It was all about creating an open comfortable impression, direct sales material was very limited, we concentrated on helping potential buyers understand the site to make this first impression Molonglo Valley a stand out and we used a new form of interactive table top technology to aid the sharing of core information. ‘Hii’ as the unit is now know, was the first application of its kind.”

New Technology

‘Hii’ or Human Interactive Interface was a new tabletop application first used to launch Molonglo Valley, is an interactive platform that the sales people drive. The system allowed complex and detailed information to be displayed at a very engaging level taking buyers on a visual journey that started with an aerial birds-eye view of the site and then drilled down to the full details of individual blocks.

Then at the end of the presentation all of the selected details were instantly sent by email to the buyer. Feedback was excellent and buyers clearly indicated that the Hii unit helped give them a very clear picture of Molonglo Valley.

Results – Nothing Taken for Granted

Reading many of my and Shane’s comments you might be initially tempted to think that Molonglo Valley was at its launch gold-plated, high demand, a great location, big blocks and affluent target market, and while all of those facts are true, any new release always involves risk.

In Canberra there were several very high hurdles to jump that only solid planning and the delivery of key assets overcame to help ensure the delivery of the outstanding results that were achieved. In my final Molonglo Valley post I will recount these and bring us up-to-date with where the project now sits in 2013 and I will also take a look at Canberra’s Land Rent Scheme, which is part of the ACT Government’s Affordable Housing Action Plan.

Peter Chittenden is managing director for residential of Colliers International.


Peter Chittenden

Peter Chittenden is managing director for residential of Colliers International.
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