How do you market your workspace? Do you sneak trending keywords onto your website to attract online traffic, even if the description is off the mark? Or are you 100% true to your type and style of workspace?
Your choice of terminology might bring more leads to your front door. But if your promises fall short of expectations, it will send your conversion rate plummeting. The same goes for the wider flexible workspace industry, itself. Our market is riddled with terms ranging from ‘business center’ and ‘serviced office’ to ‘coworking’ and, still, ‘executive office suite’.
Here, Ray Lindenberg discusses the ramifications of language and why your sales pitch should always be true to your workspace. He also makes a case for the universal adoption of ‘Serviced Workspace Industry’ in order to keep our growing market sector on the same page. What say you?
Watch Your Language! What You Say Can, And Will Be Used Against (Or In Favor Of) You
By Ray Lindenberg, President and Founder of WANY – The Workspace Association of New York
“…if you sell and market COworking Spaces, plus hybridize and add (at least some) enclosed office spaces, day offices, touchdown spaces, Virtual Offices, conference rooms, interview rooms, duplex offices, cul-de-sac offices, semi-private room-shares, Corporate ID Plans, on and on, you’ll attract a heckuva lot more interested buyers that’ll result in lots more closings and income.”
What you call and consider yourself, as a workspace provider, will have an effect on who, and how many people consider and sign on to use your space. Thus, it ultimately impacts your overall financial success as an Operator.
Choose wisely and you’ll create a robust flow of the right ‘motivated buyers’ beating a path to your door, which will more likely translate into a greater number of closings.
Choose the wrong term and brand identity, and you’ll suffer the fate of a fisherman at a swimming pool … you won’t get any bites or catch any fish.
Be crystal clear
The first step is to be crystal clear in your mind, heart and soul about what you’re selling, and to whom. What’s your secret sauce? What is the market and individuals that you’re targeting?
Remarkably, here’s where the biggest breakdown occurs for many Operators. They’re either touting the wrong brand to the wrong audience, or equally as bad: they’re limiting their audience and the size of their potential prospects pool.
In an astounding amount of cases in our industry, Operators are calling themselves COworking Spaces, to take marketing advantage of the hot, sexy term ‘COworking’, when what they are really offering is almost exclusively traditional enclosed Business Centers.
The reverse is also true.
There are countless COworking Operators who market themselves as ideal, varietal office-needs solution providers, when in fact, they’re offering only Open Plan workspaces. To many who are in the hunt for a suitable traditional, enclosed office space (still a sizeable market chunk), they get turned off by when they walk into a place where, in their opinion, there’s not enough privacy and conventional enclosed space to satisfy their conceptual needs and comfort zone, based on the norms that they grew up on.
There is a burgeoning market demand for Open Plan, community-centric COworking spaces, for sure. But there is still very much a robust demand for higher sticker-priced, less-transient, traditional private office spaces — a demand that may shrink in years to come, but will always be a market fixture.
The need for enclosed offices is receding, as more and more Open Plan space amenable Millennials take over the demographic majority, while Baby Boomers and other enclosed office-preferring traditionalists head for retirement.
But the need for private officing will be a constant in the industry.
Many COworking Operators can attest to that. They have experienced the heavy drumbeat of private workspace requests, and have added enclosed offices to their offerings in order to provide variety, and thus not lose prospects or market share.
It’s a simple, winning axiom in business — sell only coffee, and you’ll only make money on selling coffee. Sell coffee, tea, donuts, rolls, bagels, croissants, juices and other breakfast items, and you’ll sell a lot more stuff from expanded revenue streams, and attract lots more customers.
Same is true at Serviced Workspaces: sell COworking Spaces, and you’ll attract just a segment of the market, and only make money on COworking Spaces.
But if you sell and market COworking Spaces, plus hybridize and add (at least some) enclosed office spaces, you’ll attract a heckuva lot more interested buyers that’ll result in lots more closings and income. These may come in the form of day offices, touchdown spaces, Virtual Offices, conference rooms, interview rooms, duplex offices, cul-de-sac offices, semi-private room-shares, Corporate ID Plans, (coffee, etc.) on and on.
Can you afford to limit your offering?
You need to ask yourself if you have a bouyant enough market demand to successfully go with a single or limited industry segment with your services and plans. For instance, can you operate exclusively as a Business Center or COworking Space provider — of which there are very few one-dimensional specialists offering such these days.
Or do you have the ability and desire to expand your pool of prospects and income potential by offering a wider array of customizable workspace and work-way packages? Clients could perhaps shuffle back and forth on these, as their needs and lifestyle changes, as most Operators these days are gravitating to — which is sometimes referred to as the CO-BC Hybrid sweet spot.
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Perhaps more critically, the ‘what’ that you call your space can be a real bonus or deterrent to sales.
It needs to be a strategic, sharp, deeply committed and clearly defined concept in order to project a more readily sellable and compelling winner of a space.
Pick the right brand and winning formula, and present it with laser-like precision to the marketplace, and you’ll be on your way to Serviced Workspace Shangri La. Stumble with a misnomer that conflicts with your actual offerings, and brace yourself for a real rough go of it.
Considerations for search optimization
Unquestionably, the magical search optimization term of the day is ‘COworking’, which depicts an Open Plan workspace that is community and collaboration based.
The words that primarily COworking Space Operators need to steer away from in their sales and marketing are: Office, Suite, Executive Suite and Business Center. Those are brand terms that appeal to another market sector, and, in many instances, operators find those terms to be indicative of a work-way that doesn’t fit their objectives.
On the flip side, if you’re committed to being exclusively an enclosed Office Business Center Operator with no other offerings in your portfolio — a dwindling lot — be careful not to upset your market by trying to capture COworking audience. You are not suited for it, because your space is too traditional and laden with enclosed, longer-term room rentals that they’re really not interested in.
Don’t do what many have failed at.
Don’t risk your reputation by trying to sneak up on prospects … attempting to draw them in to tour a space that is either not what they want, or so tangentially related to their needs and expectations that they walk away shaking their heads for having wasted their time with you. That’s a real no-no.
Yes … ‘COworking’ is a powerful search term with a booming market demand. But if you adopt it and claim you offer it — then make sure you truly offer it! Don’t omit it from your offerings and play anything resembling a bait-and-switch game.
If you are succeeding in marketing solely to people who want the more private, higher-ticketed/higher-commitment, enclosed BC office, Mazel Tov — more power to you. By all means, send the right signal to that specific market niche and use the term “office”, “Business Center”, “Suite”, or “Executive Suite” in your terminology and marketing. For them, that’s language and a signal they welcome if they’re not interested in the Open Plan COworking world.
The moral of the story is: Watch Your Language! What you say can, and will be used against (or in favor of) you.
Remember that all serviced workspaces and Open Plan spaces are NOT automatically “COworking”.
Some Open Plan working is also “Touchdown Spacing” — a highly popular, agile and flexible work-way. It is appealing for its convenience and price to many who may not relish the interactive, serendipitous, community and collaborative nature of true Open Plan COworking.
In fact, an argument can be made that the sector of the market that seeks Touchdown Spacing is actually more in-line with those that prefer traditional, non-interactive, to-one’s-self enclosed BC office spaces. In a similar vein, many COworking Operators have taken to devoting more of their space to quiet, library-like sections or enclosed office offerings on their campuses, in order to meet this skyrocketing market demand.
Finally — here’s a vote in favor of calling the overall big tent of our industry the ‘Serviced Workspace’ industry. That way, we’re all working off the same page.
No industry has ever flourished over the long-haul without a clear direction and agreement on the vocabulary of its offerings, to avoid confusion.
“COworking” and “Business Center” wouldn’t fit as our industry’s overall banner term because they are sub-sets that are too distinct, as described earlier in this article. “Flexible” and “Shared” offices or workspaces are actually generic terms for a workspace or work-way type that can be found at any private company and office, and not only at a retail ‘Serviced Workspace’ such as what we offer.
What makes our ‘Serviced Workspace’ industry unique and distinguishable from any other space is the contracted or outsourced ‘Service’ that we offer.
To at least some degree, this is provided by a professional on the staff of a retail, serviced space provider — from minimal receptionist and greeting services at some spaces; to more elaborate community, high-hospitality, and/or detailed, traditional, corporate office services at others.
We are the ‘Serviced Workspace’ industry — a sandbox full of a wide variety of workspaces, services, amenities and price points.
We provide much more than just an office or workspace with a monthly rent bill, which is pretty much the limit of what a landlord does.
And yes, our workspace environments can include some elements of ‘flexibility’ and ‘sharing’ … alongside our Open Plan, COworking, Touchdown Spacing, and/or Enclosed Officing, plus other features.
But our hallmark and distinction that sets us apart from the central or headquarter workspaces of private organizations is the provision of our staffed ‘service’. Hence, the term: ‘Serviced Workspace Industry’ is probably the more accurate and best of the lot when it comes to settling on a general umbrella term that captures the essence of who we are.
Ray Lindenberg is President and Founder of the industry advocacy group: WANY – The Workspace Association of New York, founded in 2005, whose members operate Business Centers, COworking Spaces and CO-BCs in over 400 locations worldwide. Ray is also the Founder and Chief Innovationist of Winning Workspaces Hospitality Group, established in 1991 as a consulting firm specializing in maximizing on sales and operational efficiencies through high yield, community-building strategies. Ray can be reached on: [email protected]