The flex space industry is currently undergoing a big change, similar to the marketing industry over the last 20 years.
Today, product-led marketing is the norm in many fields, putting customers and their experience with the product at the heart of everything. The product is the brand as well as the most powerful selling weapon.
In a talk from our FlexWorld event, four industry leaders discussed why flex space businesses must evolve in a similar way if they want to future-proof their demand generation and drive growth.
Let’s start with the foundation of all marketing activities – the customer.
Customer research is essential for pretty much everything we do, especially growth and demand generation.
If you haven’t started doing it already, there are lots of free resources online, so there’s no point in turning this into a customer research guide. Just start by finding the people and businesses you want in your flex space and learn about their goals, challenges, and pain points.
You can do that by surveying current and potential customers. Another important (and often overlooked) tactic is sitting down with customers who are leaving your space and talking to them. Invite them for a cup of coffee and try to understand what made them leave.
Just don’t try any sales tactics to convince them to stay if they’ve already made up their mind. That will likely just annoy them. Your only goal should be to understand what went wrong, so you can correct it.
Besides general market research, as a flex space operator, you also need to understand COVID-19’s impact on your target customers.
While the pandemic obviously changed a lot of things, we can segment the major shifts across three dimensions.
1. Business type and size
3. Contract types
All of these changes are massive on their own, let alone in combination. That’s why you shouldn’t be surprised if you find out that your target customers actually care about different things than the ones you’ve listed in your marketing materials. They might even want different products or services.
Once you know who you want to work with and have a good idea of their pain points, it’s time to learn where they hang out.
First, ask your best customers how they found out about your business as part of your research. Chances are, other potential customers also use those channels.
You should also check your website analytics to find where your traffic is coming from. This might be a combination of different channels like:
Doubling down on channels that deliver results for your business is usually a good idea since developing new ones takes more time and resources.
Once you’ve selected your channels, it’s time to try and talk to potential customers there. When doing so, don’t just splatter the same message across everywhere. That won’t work. Instead, use what you learned in your customer research to highlight your differentiators.
“Most coworking spaces, their websites just don’t reflect any of those data points that companies or users are interested in. I think there are simple things that operators can do to start leveraging some of that community information and those data points in terms of sustainability mission. Those are becoming far more valuable in making a decision” – Ginger Dhaliwal, Co-Founder & CPO of Upflex
Here are a few specific things to keep in mind:
When the shift to product-led marketing happened, the product became the brand. The same goes for flex space businesses, with one important distinction:
Your community is also a huge part of your brand, alongside your product. Freelancers, solopreneurs, and small businesses are especially passionate about community. Interesting furniture, cool drawings, and catchy slogans are all good and well, but make sure the human element is at the heart of it all.
“I think that now, the culture of the space, the staff, the people, and the clients are actually more important (than location). And that’s what’s gonna drive client retention and client referrals.” – Inga Taylor, CEO of Opstech Services
Another thing you can do to add something extra to your visitors’ experience is to find and list cool restaurants, workout spots, or other leisure activities nearby. This does require more work, but it also adds to the human element and shows your commitment to hospitality.
We went over a lot of stuff here, so let’s try and bring everything together.
To do so, we’ll use Hector Kolonas’ idea of the operational stack for flex workspaces, which includes four layers:
“All four of those layers have to operate together and seamlessly in a way that you can portray your message, your brand, your products to the right markets.” – Hector Kolonas, co-founder of Syncaroo.
If there’s one word that summarizes everything we just went over it’s change. The entire world has changed due to the pandemic and the flex space business is no exception. That’s both a challenge and an opportunity.
People and businesses want more ways to consume space. It’s your job to make that happen. While that might seem overwhelming, it’s the only way to future-proof the demand for your business.
Here are a few specific tips, which you can start implementing today:
Again, if you want even more details on the topic, watch the full talk on future-proofing demand generation for flex spaces.
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