Over the last few years, Heroic Search has been privileged to work on marketing campaigns for some truly kick-ass coworking spaces (see our coworking case study from Common Desk). They are consistently some of the most innovative groups of people we work with, so the ideas for promoting their spaces are equally kick-ass. Whether it be a concept of ours that we executed for a client or one that came from someone else, we wanted to share some of the most creative ideas we’ve seen for these spaces with you guys. Below are some killer marketing ideas that coworking spaces use to attract remote workers. We’ve either come across these indirectly or been a part of personally.
Disclaimer: It would be easy to suggest things like paid advertising, holding events, blogging, etc., but those are uber-boring. Don’t get me wrong, they totally work, but you want unique, out-of-the-box, members-pouring-in-the-door strategies. That’s what we’ve got here.
Local coffee shops. Create promotions of mutual benefit through coffee shops in your area. Sponsoring free drinks, free WiFi, etc., are all possibilities that the average coffee shop owner will be open to. You get the benefit of tapping into your target market and the coffee shops get to shuffle off some of their guiltiest “campers” to greener (and more work-conducive) pastures. (hat tip @NickClark83)
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.
Twitter chats (2). Start a branded Twitter chat to stimulate engagement around coworking, an industry you serve, a particular location, or an ongoing event you want to promote. (check out #coworkchat)
Non-profits. Get involved with non-profits to help spur memberships and events. Many times non-profits simply need manpower, so getting members together on a Saturday can bring people together while also helping the non-profit achieve their goals.
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. And although this post is largely about marketing to prospective members, this would also be high on the list of ways to retain your coworking members.
Popup coworking. Last year when Common Desk was being renovated, we held a popup coworking week in a rented space just a few minutes away. Members loved the change of pace, and partnering up with several local eateries helped spread the message of what coworking was and bolstered the space’s presence in the neighborhood.
Get local businesses involved. This is hardly a newsflash, but the idea can be applied in an infinite number of ways. For instance, you could partner with a restaurant to cater an event or team up with a local movie theater to host a special screening of a film relevant to your member base. This gets your name out to new audiences and strengthens local ties you can draw on later.
Create a map of coworking spaces around your city/state. This may seem a little counter-intuitive, since we’re talking about marketing your space instead of others, but at the end of the day people are going to become members wherever they want to, regardless. Making relevant information easy to find will present you as an authority as well as help the community overall. Update: related to this is adding your own listing to a more comprehensive map on Sharedesk (over 4,000 spaces in their global network). While adding your space to strategic and high quality directories should be a given, Sharedesk’s listings and marketplace takes that idea to the next level because it acts as another source of possible traffic and revenue altogether, making it that much more valuable.
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.
Partner with local transportation entities. If you’re in a densely populated area, try partnering up with the city to give discounts or other kinds of perks for members that use public transportation.
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.
Offer coworking getaways/vacations. These don’t have to be entirely free (although that would be awesome), but having organized working vacations helps make the community stronger and gives you a very marketable asset as a space. Reserve some spots for your members with someone like Surf Office or, hell, book a getaway on Coboat. Or, if that seems a bit much, consider working out an arrangement with a destination space that would allow your members to visit at a deep discount or apply part of their membership fee to a week at one of these spots.
Get creative with happy hours. Happy hours aren’t really anything innovative, but you can combine them with games, food or wine tastings, or some other twist to make them something special.
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 culutre. Back end dashboards that list members’ industries and events like Lunch and Learns are good examples of ways to help members connect.
Discounted membership promotions. If you’re looking to bring in members quickly, you could put together a contest or other type of promotion to help prompt tour schedules (think: Spring Break Signups Get First Month Free). Obviously not everyone who takes a tour to will become a member, but you should get a solid influx of new members, provided the discount/promotion was worthwhile. Either way, you’ve still increased awareness. Ideas like this can usually be managed via your coworking CRM, or an equally competent membership platform.
Offer conference discounts. More than likely, your members are regularly going to out-of-state conferences – how about sending them for free? Again, this could be combined with a type of contest if you wanted (Schedule a tour for a friend and be entered for a chance to attend The World’s Greatest Conference in the The Most Fun Place). This would work exceptionally well if you operate a coworking space that caters to a specific niche.
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.
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.
Build a member network app for your space. Similar to Wework’s member networking app, the on-demand Coworking locator app, Croissant, has a built-in component that aims to connect their network of thousands of members worldwide. When you check into a coworking space, it will show you other croissant members in the space, including their name and face to encourage networking. When you are logged in to the apps, a community tab is available for members to talk and post questions, meetups, events, groups, and job postings. This is something that other coworking spaces could incorporate into their marketing and user experience for building community within their collaborative work space. Remember millennials love using technology for connecting. In one of Croissant’s blog posts “how to startup a meetup” you can see some of the screenshots of community app sections. An alternative to Croissant that’s also worth considering is Andcards.
Partner with colleges. I know, I know, this is a little vague, but that’s intentional since there are just so many ways to do this. Things like student programs, courses offered at your space, or even internship arrangements backed by companies in the space. Note: An internship program will be that much more effective if you can get a big name that offices out of your space to dedicate X number of internships every season.
Keep an organized mentor list and use it. I’m currently a mentor at a space, and it’s awesome! Being able to participate in helping people’s businesses get off the ground is very rewarding (not to mention a great way to meet potential clients). Likewise, the businesses/members themselves have direct access to a collective knowledge base that the space has vouched for and helps keep organized through classes and events. Truly a win-win-win.
Host Hackathons. This was a great suggestion from @GetCrossant, and it’s totally true. I’ve personally seen some really great spaces take advantage of hackathons. It appeals to a huge target market for coworking spaces, and is awesome when it comes to building up collaboration.
— Croissant (@GetCroissant) October 12, 2015
Organize a panel. A panel can be a great alternative to a full presentation since it’s typically more intimate and can promote casual Q&A. This way everyone can jump in the conversation and get some good information from subject matter experts as well. Like Victoria says in the comments below, “The important part is getting people in a room together to talk.” Doing this on a regular basis would help build the reputation that your space is a hub where knowledge is plentiful and shared – definitely a marketable asset!
I know I’m not alone in unique marketing ideas for coworking spaces. Let me know in the comments below what stellar ideas you’ve done or heard of and I’ll make sure to add them here!