Every coworking space faces the challenge of marketing their space and growing their membership. With so many options available, the most important things to consider are time, money and where to spend each. After talking to several coworking spaces, including Benjamin's Desk in Philadelphia, PA, Bull City Coworking in Durham, NC and Mojo Coworking in Asheville, NC, we put together a list of successful marketing strategies that are helping to grow these businesses.
One thing to note right away: paid advertising is not something any of these spaces are making use of – that’s good news! Craig McAnsh, owner of Mojo Coworking said it best, “if it doesn't cost any money, it doesn't waste our time, and if it's connecting with potential members, we use it.” But the marketing help doesn’t stop there. Mojo Coworking and Bull City Coworking have both taken the initiative and gone above and beyond their own marketing efforts to create programs that help other spaces grow their businesses as well.
STRATEGIC EVENT PARTNERSHIPS
Hosting events is by far one of the best ways to attract new members – it can bring hundreds, if not thousands, of potential members through the doors. Event attendees get the opportunity to see the space, interact with the community and meet the staff and maybe even some of your current members. Strategic event partnerships are the key to maintaining a consistent, quality schedule of events. Creating strategic relationships with various organizations allows you to reach a diverse demographic and to rapidly build buzz using the power of word-of-mouth marketing.
Katie Cohen, Community Manager at Benjamin’s Desk explains, “since opening in August 2012, we've been very strategic with the partnerships we have established and the organizations and associations we’ve affiliated ourselves with. We make sure that our target markets are aligned and that the partnership is mutually beneficial for both parties. For instance, we are members of the Center City Proprietors Association, which is dedicated to serving Philadelphia’s small businesses by providing connections, resources and community through various programs and events. We’ve partnered with CCPA to host a series of networking breakfasts at our space for both of our member communities. Several CCPA members have memberships with us and vice versa.”
Forming strategic partnerships with local and national organizations has many advantages:
1. Co-sponsorship opportunities
2. Brand exposure on promotional materials (print and digital)
3. Positive brand association made through active community involvement
4. The opportunity to tap into extended professional networks for quality programming and memberships
Strategic event partnerships can have many layers. A typical partnership usually offers free event space in exchange for exposure to guests; however, there are many ways to get creative. Consider incorporating in-kind sponsorships for off-site events, membership discounts and special offers and a blog exchange, to start.
VIP GUEST LIST
A VIP guest list is your little black book of influencers in your community that you want to create relationships with – For example, local celebrities, leaders, and journalists. Consult this list each time you have big news to share, when you’re hosting a party or if you’re putting together a panel of experts. Craig McAnsh, owner of Mojo Coworking, knows the benefits of this strategy first hand. “The best marketing resource for us has been continual buzz in the community. Get tight with the community press and bloggers and invite them to everything!”
MONTHLY MARKETING THEMES
Focus your marketing efforts by putting together a calendar using monthly themes. Incorporate these themes when planning events, as discussion topics for member lunches, expert panels and when collaborating with the community. At Benjamin's Desk, “we all work together to create a themed monthly marketing calendar. Themes can be anything from startup tech to community building to funding sources. We plan all of our marketing efforts like email blasts, workshops, panels and other programs around these themes for concise marketing and clear communication.”
MEMBER REFERRAL PROGRAM
Craig McAnsh put it perfectly when he said, “there’s no better spokesperson for your coworking space than a current member.” With or without a referral program, your members are going to talk about their workspace experience, however, without a referral program in place, they won’t have much incentive to go beyond just a basic conversation. You want your members to encourage others to sign up and become part of the member community.
It’s important to create a referral program that your members are actually excited about, otherwise, they won’t participate and it won’t be a valuable program. Ask yourself, what do your members value most? Is it a membership discount, additional membership perks or extra conference room time? Speaking from experience, Katie from Benjamin's Desk notes that, “a little over 20% of our inquiries come from referrals.
These are a combination of referrals from our own members, businesses or even other coworking spaces in Philadelphia that may feel our space is a better fit for a particular lead. Our referral program is for current members who refer a friend to join Benjamin's Desk at any full time level. The referring member receives 10% off their membership for 3 consecutive months after the new member pays for their first month of membership.”
FREE COWORKING DAYS
Free coworking days are an excellent way to give potential coworkers an opportunity to interact with your space, members and to experience the value of coworking first hand. Free sessions can fill seats on slow days or seasons and can run weekly, monthly or as needed. However, be careful to avoid common pitfalls, for example, set a free day limit to discourage people using just these days instead of a paid membership. There may also be a point, as your membership grows, where free days are no longer advantageous. Robert Petrusz, owner of Bull City Coworking explains, “we offer far fewer free days to prospective members than we used to. These days, while we still have dozens of visitors to the space per day, our members expect a quiet and productive environment. This means we have to be conscience and more economical with how many free days we offer.”