GCUC 2015's unconference schedule. Events are a great way to market a coworking space. Photo by author.
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Digital marketing agency Heroic Search shared their top tips for marketing coworking spaces in a recent blog post. We liked their post so much we decided to delve deeper. We asked leading coworking space operators and visionaries for their top marketing tips. Here’s what they shared in their own words:
1. Get to Know People Outside of the Coworking Space – Alex Hillman, co-founder of Indy Hall
Go outside. Literally, go outside. Stop trying to get people to walk into your coworking space as the first step to discovering you. Most of the people who are ideal members for coworking aren't actively looking for an office, so expecting them to walk in off the street or even sign up for a tour is crazypants.
Get to know people on their own turf. Where do those people already gather in your city/town/village? It might be coffee shops…but it also might not be. Try focusing outside of the obvious "business" meetups – explore all kinds of activity based communities. Within them, you're bound to find people who have similar goals and values, even among different professions.
Then participate in those communities instead of just trying to sell them on coworking. Bring people together. Add value. Earn trust. If you already have some members in your coworking space, invite them to come along. Help cross pollinate the communities you get involved in.
When people ask how you all know each other – bam. "We're all a part of Indy Hall." What's that? "Have you ever worked from home…and felt like being alone was hurting your productivity…."
2. Spotlight Members – Benji Mauer, co-founder of Make Shift Boston
Our most effective marketing tactic has turned out to be extremely simple. We have awesome members doing great stuff. So, nearly every week for the last couple month we’ve done #MakeShiftMemberMondays. Basically it’s a post on Facebook and Twitter with a photo of a member and they love about Make Shift Boston, along with info on our first-month-free offer and a link to join. We have boosted the Facebook post most weeks, which has broadened its reach.
And we’ve gotten a bunch of applications since we started it. Why was it effective? Because it showcases our greatest asset, our members, and also happens to let people know about our free first month and low dues. I also think it’s been effective because it’s easy for us as busy people to put one together and share it on social media, and ask people to take a minute out of their day to do the same.
Make Shift Boston regularly hosts community gatherings and events. They also celebrate and spotlight the great work being done in the space. Photo: Make Shift Boston
3. Talk to People – Tony Bacigalupo, co-founder of Cotivation and New Work City
Just talk to people. It may seem silly, but I can't tell you how many times I've wracked my brain sitting in front of my screen trying to reach people who were literally walking past me. Despite all the marketing and social media strategy that's out there, the value of striking up a good conversation with the people you're looking to connect with in real life is not to be underestimated.
4. Help People Share Abundance – Vincent Ariens, community manager of Seats2meet
We see that in the sharing economy a lot of sharing initiatives/organizations struggle to share their own abundance. We do our utmost to share ourselves as well (and not only facilitate the process). Our most successful marketing and engaging strategy is that we share our abundance and, as of a couple of weeks ago, help others to share their abundance as well.
The S2M software makes real-time and relevant meeting of people based on our intelligent algorithm possible in every space you can think of. We receive a lot of positive feedback from all our users and the recent research done by the Erasmus University shows that the figures about engagement are growing each year.
We believe in [this approach] and made it part of the core vision of our strategy. Our business model is based on a financial and social capital component. If they are in balance we see that we make (unexpected) progression. On the other hand, you have to trust in your model because social capital is not always easy to quantify.
Seats2meet focuses on sharing their abundance and helping members connect and share their abundance. Photo: Seats2meet
5. Host Unexpected Events – Melissa Mesku, founding editor of New Worker Magazine
One thing I've heard a lot of people say would be a good idea – though I haven't seen it done anywhere yet – is to hold a singles event. Coworking is a great place to meet people, and making that explicit beyond just business related networking events seems a smart choice. At the very least, it'd be fun.
Aside from that, events in general are great, especially ones like hackathons where people spend long enough in the place, and invest enough emotional energy, that they feel connected to the space after they leave.
6. Give Memberships to Local Icons – Liz Elam, curator of Link Coworking and Founder of the Global Coworking Unconference Conference (GCUC)
When I opened Link Coworking I gave memberships to some icons of the Austin entrepreneurship world. They received a free membership at Link and held all their meetings there. It was a win-win for both of us. They got a great place to meet people and space to work, and it instantly gave us street cred and traffic.
Hosting a really killer grand opening is a great marketing tool. You can get media, sponsorship and exposure all in one swoop! Don't skimp on the food or beverage and definitely book a DJ.
People working in coffee shops may not know about coworking. Ashley Proctor advises letting them know there's a better way to work. Photo: Robert Couse-Baker (CC-BY)
7. Let People Know There’s a Better Way to Work – Ashley Proctor, founder of Creative Blueprint and Foundry, Executive Producer of GCUC Canada
I used to simply wander into coffee shops and chat with the people working there. Foundery also used to rent a unit to Starbucks and I would walk into the cafe and offer free trial days to everyone with a laptop.
The manager of the coffee shop would be pleased to see a table free up for other guests and we were happy to show the potential new member what coworking was all about. Win – win.
It's really about simplicity, honesty and human connection. There is a better way to work and we are just sharing that news with others. No pressure.
Reaching out is the first step to welcoming a new member into our coworking community.
Meeting them in their own 'coffee-shop office' works on many different levels. They are usually experiencing a problem, they are working in the cafe to try and overcome that problem, and then we offer them an ever better solution. Once they try coworking, they rarely go back to the cafe to work.
NextSpace Santa Cruz's Speed Networking Night attracted coworking members and the larger community. Photo: NextSpace Santa Cruz
8. Host a Speed Networking Night – Maya Delano, senior community manager at NextSpace Santa Cruz
Speed Networking Night was one of our best events yet. It was extremely effective as NextSpace Santa Cruz was able to get many new faces in the door and it was a wonderful networking opportunity for our members to connect and promote their business.
Link Coworking's Grand Opening featured a live band. Photo: Link Coworking
Here are some of our favorite suggestions from the Heroic Search blog post, Unique Marketing Ideas for Coworking Spaces
9. Twitter chats: Engage in coworking-related twitter chats (real estate, startup, entrepreneurship, etc). Your participation will help to establish you as an authority in the coworking world and put you in touch with a wealth of resources that can help you stay on top of your game and give your members what they want.
10. Nonprofits: Get involved with nonprofits to help spur memberships and events. Many times nonprofits simply need manpower, so getting members together on a Saturday can bring people together while also helping the nonprofit achieve their goals.
11. Offer childcare: Spaces like NextKids, Sprout, and Work and Play have done a great job offering kid-friendly work environments. In addition to being an extremely marketable “perk”, benefits like this can make a world of difference to parents who would otherwise have to work from home.
12. Be live music friendly: This might be tough (read: impossible) to do during working hours, but you could easily have a dedicated spot for people to play in evening hours. Performers could be musically-inclined members or you could make a full event out of it and invite a band to come and play from time to time.
13. Create a health insurance program: It can be a challenge for individual spaces to do this on their own, but if you band together with other spaces in the area, it can become manageable. COHIP, the Coworking Health Insurance Plan started by Ashley Proctor, has worked wonders for press for the brand, not to mention helping the coworking clan worry less about healthcare, a big perk and pretty significant draw to membership.
Twitter chats, such as The Common Desk's #coworkchat, are great ways to engage members and potential members.
14. Invest in member promotion: This is huge. A coworking space should be viewed as an ecosystem. It’s incredibly common for members to work with each other on their own volition, but how about helping cultivate that culture. Back end dashboards that list members’ industries and events like Lunch and Learns are good examples of ways to help members connect.
15. Provide organized classes: This goes beyond regular Lunch and Learns. Providing organized training courses for higher-level skills like coding, SEO, or graphic design can not only become a strong marketing asset for your space, but also help you get press, not to mention the value add for your members if they get a discount on the courses.
16. Create a food program: This could mean certain member companies providing meals on certain days or a dedicated “food fund” that members contribute to on a regular basis or some other arrangement. However you work it out, having more lunches in-house will increase the likelihood of new people meeting each other and sharing unique ideas for projects they’re working on. And just like the rest of these tips, a food program would be an extremely attractive bonus to a prospective member in the middle of deciding where they should set up shop.
What’s your best marketing tip for coworking space operators? In the comments, let us know. See more creative marketing ideas at Heroic Search.
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