BuildBook goes from pivot to product-market fit in 3 weeks with the help of Twilio Conversations
Time to read: 4 minutes
BuildBook was started by brothers Carson and Ryan Miller – both lifelong construction experts – to solve the challenges of miscommunication and a lack of paper trail between residential construction companies, clients, and subcontractors.
Their platform is built on the core principle of simplicity – making it easy for small-to-medium sized businesses to communicate with clients and track each interaction along the project’s journey. BuildBook’s multi-party chat application supports both internal and client communication, and delivers additional value by providing frameworks to customers around industry best practices to manage projects and grow their business.
Shortly after the initial platform launched, the BuildBook team saw an opportunity to rebuild aspects of it to better serve their current and future customers. Mitchell Lane, Head of Engineering, was tasked with evolving the platform to a real-time chat solution that could handle multiple participants in a single conversation and deliver timely notifications so users never missed important updates.
“Person-to-person communication can be messy sometimes,” said Lane. “With the pivot, our goal was to infuse our industry expertise into the product and make it easy for small-to-medium sized businesses to handle and track both internal and external conversations for their projects.” At the same time, Lane had to ensure they built a platform that could scale flexibly to support a sudden influx of customers on and after launch.
“Our goal was to infuse our industry expertise into the product and make it easy for small-to-medium sized businesses to handle and track both internal and external conversations for their projects.”
Getting to market in three weeks with one developer
In the early days, Lane was a team of one on the engineering side for BuildBook. He knew he needed a buy-plus-build strategy with a partner who could reliably handle the communications infrastructure while providing the flexibility for him to create differentiated features for BuildBook’s customers. He referenced the Conversations demo application as a skeleton framework to familiarize himself with the Twilio offering and understand how the main features were supposed to be used, including messaging channels and participant management.
Providing customers a secure, engaging multi-party chat solution
But it wasn’t just about getting to market quickly. The BuildBook team needed to make sure the new solution met their customers’ communication needs in order to drive increased engagement on the platform. In the residential construction industry, miscommunication can be extremely costly. And for small-to-medium sized companies, it can be difficult to keep all parties informed while maintaining a consistent paper trail of communication and decisions.
The BuildBook team set out to create “rooms” where different types of users could have access or be added. They created both client-facing rooms and internal rooms, ensuring the right employees were interfacing with clients and those clients only were exposed to communication intended specifically for them. If new people are added to the project, they can easily be inserted into the conversation to catch up to speed and maintain efficient project progression.
In a booming construction market, BuildBook’s customers always have a lot going on. What the BuildBook team found was that communications would sometimes slip through the cracks – either someone missed a comment or couldn’t easily find the thread of updates within the platform. To solve this issue, Lane built a layer on top of the Conversations API to essentially support @mentions whenever businesses or clients were looking to get a message to a specific individual within a conversation room.
“Every time a chat message gets sent, the system listens to the webhook to confirm it’s actually sent. Then, it looks for the specific format we created for @mentions and creates a notification within our platform ecosystem,” said Lane. “We don’t stop at showing our customers unread. It tells them the specific context in which they were mentioned and works across our entire interface, delivering exactly what the information they need in a simple, engaging way.” And the result? Customers love it! They’re no longer missing updates and BuildBook has expanded the functionality to allow customers to see comments, and be sent email, push, or platform notifications. “What we built was a night-and-day difference (from our original offering),” said Lane. “It really resonated with people, and has become part of the core functionality of our platform.”
Building for reliable scale without the infrastructure maintenance
After deploying their new platform, BuildBook saw immediate product-market fit. Customers were more excited than ever and new business sales accelerated. The BuildBook team exceeded revenue goals within the first four weeks of launch. As they look to support thousands of new customers, they continue to count on Twilio to provide a reliable chat infrastructure regardless of scale. They’ve encountered zero major outages and are able to focus on what’s important – continue to ship innovative products that support their customers.
“Twilio is reliable and can scale to whatever size we end up being,” said Lane. “Having a reliable chat infrastructure means I have less to worry about. That allows us to focus on product development. Our team prides ourselves on leaning into technologies that ‘just work’ so we can innovate quickly.” As BuildBook looks to the future, they will continue to add more frameworks to their platform to help residential construction companies grow their footprint. They are currently expanding their lead generation offering so companies can more easily drive new business, and will continue to look at emerging messaging channels that can help with that offering.
“Twilio is reliable and can scale to whatever size we end up being. Having a reliable chat infrastructure means I have less to worry about. That allows us to focus on product development.”