During the Global Workspace Association’s Coworking Council Live series, marketing expert Kevin Whelan talked about what it takes to create a successful coworking website.
Whelan argues that although a website has many jobs, its main purpose is to attract and convert potential members.
Successful websites tend be SEO-optimized and they also have clear messaging, easy to consume content, and intuitive layout.
A veteran marketing consultant shared best practices gleaned in 18 years of building websites with coworking operators recently in New York City. Speaking at the Players Club in Gramercy Park, Kevin Whelan of Everspaces shared the do’s and don’ts of websites in order to attract and convert members.
Whelan presented his 10 Commandments of winning websites and concluded with real-time website analyses of audience members.
With the high cost of member acquisition, particularly in highly competitive markets such as New York City, it’s important that coworking websites work as hard as possible to attract, inform and convert their target audience, according to Whelan.
“While a website has many jobs, its main purpose is to attract new members,” Whelan emphasized. “It should help coworking centers get discovered, educate the market, pre-sell potential members and convert prospects into leads.”
Whelan’s presentation showed how flexible workspace owners and operators can create and refine a website that:
- Is discoverable by search engines
- Has clear messaging
- Has easy-to-consume content
- Has intuitive layouts
- Leaves an impression
- Is trustworthy enough for prospects to take the next step.
Here are the top takeaways from Whelan’s 10 commandments:
1. Know Your Market Deeply
Successful sites go beyond aesthetics. They require a good understanding of the internal dialog of the prospective member. Knowing your market starts by taking a close look at your existing membership to determine what makes your coworking space unique and valuable to customers.
To focus in on your target market, Whelan suggests segmenting members by shared common characteristics. Characteristics may include things like size and type of business, the services they use and why, and the reasons they choose your space over others.
He recommends creating an avatar by describing a typical day in the life of a member, from their morning routine to their commute to the office; to their day at your space–including what services and type of workspace they use and why–; to their commute home.
“Doing this process will help put your services into context. It makes it easier for you and your marketing team to know what role your space really plays in your members’ personal and professional lives. You’ll know what levers to optimize in your business and what language to use to attract more of your best members,” he explained.
Whelan emphasized the importance of determining whether members were choosing the space for convenience (the ease of getting, using, and paying for a product) or fidelity (the quality of a consumer’s experience), concepts raised in the book Trade-off by Kevin Maney, which explains why some products take off and others do not.
Honing in on an ideal customer also comes into play when choosing which testimonials and images to showcase. Take for example photos and imagery, Whelan advises the photos used should resemble potential member; a space targeted at startups should not show men in ties.
2. Invest in Your Website Design
First impressions make a difference, especially when selling an experience. “The importance of excellent photography cannot be overemphasized,” Whelan explained. Showing the contrast in professionally shot interiors next to dimly lit empty desks, he recommended investing in professional photography.
“The way to do it without spending an inordinate amount of money is to use a residential photographer,” he advised. “They do interior photos all day long, shooting two or three or four in a day. They have their editing game really tight, which is how they can afford to charge that kind of money. And their results tend to be the best that I’ve seen.”
Whelan recommends making the website design reflect what is important to the target customer and the general look that prospects expect.
For example, “edgy” language is perfectly in place for tech startups, though not so much for business centers.
Likewise, the website for a space targeted at young, hip creatives should look different than spaces focusing on executive suites.
Similarly, highlighting promotions and low entry costs is not a good strategy when you’re selling a high-fidelity offering (i.e. luxury coworking) or business centers where the customer is a decision-maker at a large enterprise company and fees come out of a significant corporate budget.
“Assume people are scrolling through the site on a mobile device,” Whelan advised. “Make it easy to skim with legible fonts, distinct headings, short paragraphs, bulleted lists, block quotes, highlights, bold and italics.”
“And use a consistent color on all primary call-to-action buttons to make them stand out on every page,” he added.
3. Don’t Make Me Think
Website visitors should understand what is for sale, who it is for and how you are unique within 15 seconds of landing on your home page, according to Whelan.
The goal should be to make all important items obvious, intuitive, easy to find and understand.
“Avoid vague language on your website whenever possible,” he added.
Navigation should also be simple and intuitive with the fewest top level links possible to avoid decision fatigue. Arrows make drop down menus more clear. Less important information, such as a careers page, should live on the lower level footer.
For spaces with many locations, Whelan suggests using mega-menus with distinct headings or a search feature to make it easy for website visitors to find and jump to any specific location page.