If Day One of GCUC UK 2018 was all about ‘nichification’ and wellness, Day Two focused on the techniques flexible workspace operators need to build their brand and accelerate growth. Marketing is an integral part of this process, but where to start? Which marketing channels are best for coworking? Is social media really that important? And how do you decide what to blog about?
Answering these questions (and a whole lot more) were:
Here are our top 5 takeaways from the marketing masterclass session.
1) Get to know who you’re marketing to.
Before you even think about website platforms or social media, Steve Eveleigh, CEO at Gripped, advises coworking operators to first define their ideal customer. “Create clear personas around who you want in your space,” he said. “Understand the things they’re interested in, what they want from your workspace and their expectations of you. Align your content and messaging with those personas and support them on their journey to purchase.”
Digging deeper into client ‘personas’, Tushar Agarwal, CEO at Hubble — a search platform for flexible workspace in London — explains that Hubble actually built life-sized cardboard models of the clients they target, and gave them names.
“You decide what your ideal persona is. For instance, let’s say your client is in financial services. You know what industry they are in, but you have to go deeper. How many people do they employ? Are they male or female? Do they have kids? Where do they commute from?”
All of these elements help to build a picture in your mind of who your target clients are. A good starting point is local government research and statistics on regional demographics.
“The middle is a dangerous place to be,” added Agarwal. “Focus on who you are trying to target. It doesn’t stop you selling to other people but it does make your marketing efforts much more effective.”
2) Use inbound marketing to catch clients earlier in the buying process.
Inbound marketing is the process of understanding your customer and creating content that draws them towards you, rather than actively reaching out to them. Organic search and targeted website content are integral to inbound marketing.
“Once you’ve established your client personas, write pieces of content about why your space is specific to those people and their industry,” advised Rialto’s Nicolas Kint. “They will find you via online search.”
But rather than focusing on content and keywords at the point of purchase, such as “office space SE1”, it’s often more effective — particularly for those with limited marketing budgets — to catch clients earlier in the buying process.
“There’s a lot of money spent on SEO around buying decisions, but the reality is that those people are already looking at your competitors,” said Eveleigh. “Create content that catches people earlier in the decision — that way you get to be the benchmark and start communicating with potential customers before they figure out who your competitors are.”
You can catch your next client at any stage of the purchase journey — from the early research phase right through to urgent next-day meeting bookings — and support each step by creating relevant, helpful content that answers their questions along the way.
Rewind to the beginning of your client’s office search journey. What comes before the decision to buy? Usually it’s a series of challenges that your clients need to overcome. For instance, let’s say you’re targeting local creative entrepreneurs. They often work alone and need business support and local networking opportunities. They might not even consider workspace at this point, but you can pique their interest by creating content based around relevant topics, such as networking events or socials, guest speakers, workshops, and case studies or blog posts based on the creative members in your space.
Use your content to demonstrate how your services solve the typical challenges faced by creative entrepreneurs, and offer a call-to-action. In this case, you could invite them to sign up for email alerts on future workshops, or come along for a free trial day to meet your community.
3) How to figure out what to write about.
“Your site content is your SEO strategy,” said Eveleigh. “A lot of people struggle with the concept of writing content. Start by thinking about what people ask your sales or support teams, and frame your content around answering those questions.”
You can also find new ideas by running through your customer support emails and live chat queries, digging deeper into your FAQs, and asking your coworking members directly. Better still, keep a mental note of the questions you are asked during workspace tours.
“Solve their problems in as much detail as possible — even if it means going beyond what you are comfortable with,” Eveleigh added. “The aim is to build a level of trust with that person, and that means you must be transparent.”
You can’t get much more transparent than publishing information right onto your blog or website. The deeper the level of detail, the more the client will understand your offering and value. You’re also more likely to catch long-tail search terms, and educate potential clients along the way. It goes without saying, be sure to stick to your promises and honour the pledges you make in print. Online content has a habit of sticking around.
4) Your website is your business card.
For Karina Patel, Head of Marketing at Pacific Workplaces, your first priority once you’ve established your target audience should be your website.
“Your website is your business card,” she said. “It tells the story of your brand and the services you provide. Concentrate on filling up your site with high quality photos, and make sure there are people in them!”
This is essential, as it helps prospective clients ‘see’ themselves in your space. A picture paints a thousand words and while keyword-rich content will bring people to your site, it’s the visuals that help to convert them.
“It doesn’t have to be your own members in the photos if your space is new, but it should definitely look full. It helps members see how the rooms are being used.
“Above all, your photographs must be good quality. Pixelated, blurry or dark photos will put people off. Your photos must do justice to your space, or people will simply go elsewhere.”
However, Agarwal added a note of caution when publishing photos with workspace listings.
“One thing we’ve found is that if you have more than 8 photos, people tend to stop scrolling. That’s why we aim for no more than 8 photos [per listing] and use a mix of photos showing different rooms around the space.”
He also recommended showing off your range of space in a similar way to hotels. Think double, standard, twin, family rooms, and suites. Photos help to illustrate the differences between each type of product and any additional services. “Try to give that level of detail. Buying choices are very personal, so try to cater to as many choices as possible.”
5) Brokers are part of your marketing strategy, too.
“London is becoming crowded and new brands are popping up every week,” said Agarwal. “It’s very hard for customers to understand the difference between brands and the value they add; often they just see the price difference.”
This, he said, is why it’s essential to establish your positioning even before selecting which marketing channels are most relevant to you, which may well include brokers and search platforms.
When choosing a broker, the industry standard is 10% commission for the first year’s licence fee. Most brokers offer a free listing and only charge the operator when a client signs up. But ever since OfficeFreedom (formerly Search Office Space) created the first industry brokerage back in 1993, there are now multiple agents and search platforms in the marketplace. So which one do you choose?
Patel advises against going with all of them. Instead, choose the one that’s most relevant to your location(s) or your specific market and then monitor activity and conversions as frequently as possible. Some, such as Hubble, focus exclusively on a specific area (in their case London) while others are nationwide.
“Measure their performance”, she said. “At Pacific, every quarter we check to see which broker is proving to be the most effective for our target audience.”
But it’s not just about conversion rates — it’s also about customer service. “Some clients’ first experience of your workspace will come through a broker. Mystery shop your choice of broker and make sure they meet your service expectations,” Patel advised.