How is the business centre industry showcasing its coworking spaces? Not very well, it turns out.
Search for coworking or shared offices in city centres and you’ll be over-run with choices. In London for instance, high-profile brands like Club Workspace and The Office Group’s ClubRooms make the process easy. A quick Google search and you’re done.
But searching for locations out of town isn’t quite so straightforward, as I found out myself.
When I decided to look for a local coworking space, I didn’t think it would be too taxing. I already know the industry, I’m familiar with the jargon and I’m clued up on search engines. No problem.
I wasn’t expecting to find many spaces, simply because I’m based out of town and a fair distance from any major city. However as I discovered, there are plenty of shared offices out there. More than I expected, actually.
They’re just shockingly difficult to find.
I started the search. My chief criteria were (a) location (20 mile radius) and (b) a shared office. I tried all manners of different search terms and local towns, first via an online search, then by Google Maps, and finally by third party platforms like OfficeGenie.
I’d tried the same tactic when looking for a coworking space in Bristol and got what I wanted in a flash. But not this time.
I persevered, and drilled down a little further, using long-tail search terms to cover off multiple phrases and location names.
Aha! Finally, I came across a local business centre with a shared space facility just 20 minutes from my door. Turns out they offer everything from hot-desking and coworking upwards. It’s perfect. So why hadn’t I found it sooner?
I tried Maps again, this time zooming right in on various locations around my region and searching with the same concoction of key terms: ‘coworking’, ‘shared office’, ‘shared workspace’, ‘club’ and the like.
Another good result! And even closer than the first.
Suddenly I had two choices that both ticked all the right boxes. In a rural location, that’s quite an achievement. Yet I very nearly missed both of them – and that’s coming from someone who knows the industry and is an experienced web user.
What went wrong?
This is quite worrying for business centres and independent coworking spaces. What about people who know what they’re looking for, but don’t know the industry terms? Or who aren’t experienced web users? Or who give up after 5 minutes?
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I wonder what percentage of workspaces are losing out because local clients simply don’t know they exist. This could be a very real reason why coworking spaces are forced to close.
There’s no one-size-fits-all marketing strategy, but on a basic level, and speaking from experience, operators should at least consider these points:
- Add landing pages that ‘speak’ to your target audience. People who use coworking spaces are different to serviced office users. They want more flexibility, less commitment and affordability. Cover as many related search terms as you can. Your target market might not know it’s called ‘coworking’, so they’ll instead search for something like ‘communal office’ or ‘shared desk’. Try a keyword tool like Google’s Keyword Planner to search for the most popular phrases.
- Tie your landing pages to locations. Don’t just settle for your town name. Include the county, region, wider area, motorways, local train station, even surrounding towns and villages too.
- Add your locations to search engine maps. Ensure you’re listed on Google Maps and other search engine variants, and add as much detail as possible. Along with your company name, include key terms like ‘coworking’ or ‘shared office’, not forgetting those less obvious variants, too.
- Use third party marketing platforms. Consider platforms like NearDesk and DeskUnion as well as traditional broker channels. Remember, coworking is a market of its own so it’s worth researching alternative and emerging platforms. While you’re at it, check out location-based social channels like FourSquare, too.
Getting found is all-important, particularly in the flexible workspace industry where there’s plenty of churn. These suggestions are by no means exhaustive but they may help to elevate your profile in addition to your regular marketing activities. Plus, it will make my next coworking search considerably easier!