Westco - Blog images (1)-Apr-29-2024-06-35-26-4548-AM


As campaign challenges go, this was a tough one. How do we go about tackling the skills shortage when it comes to retrofitting homes? The Government has set a target of retrofitting 19 million homes by 2045 – about 70% of the UK’s total housing stock. It’s a mammoth challenge, especially considering that only 2.5% of homes in London have the highest energy rating. 


Achieving this goal is a central part of the Government’s Net Zero ambitions as homes account for nearly a third of all carbon emissions. There are two main issues. Firstly, consumers have so far been slow to take advantage of Government subsidies to decarbonise their homes by replacing gas boilers with heat pumps. Secondly, there just aren’t enough tradespeople with the necessary skills and accreditation to take on the work.


Our campaign, commissioned by the South London Partnership, a collection of five local authorities, focused on the second challenge. Our approach was to try and inspire small, medium, and large businesses to gear up and grow for what promises to be a £17 billion market. Our central message was that this opportunity is about today rather than tomorrow, with 635,000 homes needing to be retrofitted in South London alone.


Outreach tactics


To convey this message effectively, we enlisted ‘authentic voices’ – people who have acquired the skills and accreditation needed – to do the storytelling for us and talk about the benefits. We targeted 13,600 companies through various channels, using traditional approaches such as direct mail and amplification through partnerships with trade associations like the Federation of Master Builders. 


We also employed digital strategies, targeting individuals through online keyword searches. One of our most successful low-cost tactics was our use of Nextdoor.com, given that tradespeople are the biggest business users of the platform. This platform drove around one-fifth of all website traffic. We also wanted to make it as easy as possible for people to find out what they need to do and simplify access to courses in what can be a very confusing landscape, which we achieved with our website, www.retrofitskills.org


It’s still early days and the true measure of the campaign’s success is not the short-term goal of website visits (data that is easy to gather) but the longer-term outcome: how many people access the courses. Nevertheless, we've made significant strides in raising awareness among our target audience and converting that awareness into people actively seeking the information they need.


About the campaign: A case study


The South London Partnership (SLP) comprises five local authorities: Croydon, Kingston, Merton, Richmond, and Sutton. They tasked Westco with developing and executing a campaign to urge tradespeople (including builders, plumbers, electricians, insulators, and heat engineers) to acquire the skills and accreditation necessary to retrofit homes to improve their energy efficiency. 


The campaign spanned the SLP area and the London Borough of Wandsworth, running for 10 weeks from early February to the first week of April 2024.


The budget

Website build (including content development):  £9,950

Filming:  £4,950

Design:  £4,950

Direct mail:  £6,750

Paid digital advertising:  £5,000


The problem

It's estimated that by 2030, around 50,000 Retrofit co-ordinators will be required to meet the Government's target of retrofitting 19 million homes by 2045. Currently, there are fewer than 1,000 coordinators, and less than 5% of the plumbing and heating workforce possess the necessary skills and knowledge. The retrofitting industry is expected to be worth £17 billion by 2030.


The challenge ahead


Campaign objectives

  1. Awareness
  • Reach 80% of trades companies across the SLP area, informing them of the opportunities linked to retrofitting skills and accreditation.
  1. Engagement
  • 4,000 unique website visits from our target audience.


Audience insight

  1. Supply-side barriers*: These include the lack of essential skills for retrofit delivery, the lack of industry coordination, and a historic lack of long-term signals from the government, resulting in reduced confidence to invest in the energy efficiency market.
  2. Many trade companies have long order books and therefore don’t see the need to invest in skills training to retrofit homes given perceptions around the relatively low demand. The Government has set a target to install 600,000 installations annually by 2028, but only 72,000 were installed nationwide in 2022.


* Evidence from the ’Building a Market for Energy Efficiency’ Government report.


The strategy


We worked closely with the South London Partnership to develop the strategy based on our audience insight. 13,688 trades companies across our target sectors were identified across South London, using an AI-led approach that harvested data from 14 different sources. Our audience was broken down into:


  • Supplier merchants (68): companies that supply our target audience with materials that could help us reach our audience.
  • Directors of trade companies with 50-plus employees (186): highly influential people whom the SLP could engage with directly through events and roundtables.
  • All companies (13,866): companies in the region across key sectors such as plumbers, heat engineers, electricians, builders, cladders, architects, roofers, and window insulators.


537_7 - SLP Retrofit Skills Hub_social_0004


Creative strategy 

Our creative approach was centred on cultivating authentic peer-to-peer voices to engage their peers. Our key messages focused on what we knew were key motivators, i.e. how upskilling and accreditation will help you grow your business and tap into a £16 billion market. These opportunities aren't just for the future; they're available here and now.


Digital strategy 

We created a website that was a one-stop information hub for accessing training and accreditation. The landing page was organised into key sectors, including heating, cladding, windows, and solar, as well as coordinators, assessors, and project managers.


Advertising tactics


Our paid media strategy focused on four key pillars to reach and engage our audience online:


  1. Quantcast display: insight-led website advertising targeting a B2B audience in construction and associated trades.
  2. Google Search: search advertising with a keyword list focussing on terms searched by construction-related companies. The list would be focussed on generic search terms related to retrofitting, e.g. “Jewson’s opening hours”.
  3. Google Display: advertising targeting those working within the construction sector and associated trades. For example, segments included: ‘Employment > Construction Jobs’, ‘Employment > Industry > Construction Industry’, and ‘Business & Industrial > Construction & Maintenance’.
  4. Facebook/Instagram: Meta advertising targeting those in the ‘Architecture and engineering’, ‘Construction and extraction’, ‘Installation and repair services’  segments.  


The content plan 

We focused on reaching tradespeople through publications or online forums that they were likely to read. We also partnered with Nextdoor.com to reach tradespeople across the platform, knowing more tradespeople use it than any other business sector. Over 13,000 trade companies were directly reached through direct mail, including targeted engagement with suppliers and directors of companies with 50-plus employees.  



The SLP used its own Retrofit Taskforce, which included local colleges and business representatives, to test ideas and disseminate information. Comms teams across the six boroughs were engaged to leverage their local channels and networks too. Finally, we engaged trade associations such as the Federation of Master Builders, who helped us by disseminating information. 


Measuring progress


Reach:  2,463,525 impressions (a minimum individual reach of 549,541)

Engagement:  8,403

Advert clicks:  5,943

Unique website visits: 4,208 


Key learnings from the campaign 


  • Authentic peer-to-peer imagery and content are better able to cut through the noise. 
  • Direct mail (print) still has its place in the communications inventory.
  • Organic social content will always get higher engagement rates than paid; the key is targeting audiences in different ways on different platforms rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach.
  • Nextdoor.com is highly effective for community-focused content.



Simon is a former chair of LGcomms. He has worked as a Head/Director of Communications in local government since 2007.

If you are interested in running a communication peer review email Simon@westcocommunications.com


Simon Jones






As campaign challenges go, this was a tough one. How do we go about tackling the skills shortage when it comes to retrofitting homes?


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