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20 marketing ideas for coworking spaces

This post was originally published on Heroic Search blog.

Over the last few years, Heroic Search has been privileged to work on marketing campaigns for some truly kick-ass coworking spaces. 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 for coworking spaces that we’ve come across 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.

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.
NexKids-Coworking-Space-1024x681

Offer childcare

Spaces like NextKids and Sprout 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.

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 neighbourhood.

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.

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.

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.

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.

We are never alone when talking about marketing and coworking spaces. Join the discussion and help us add idea number 20. Or spread the word by giving us a like or tweet.

Do not compare coworking spaces

I just came across an article with the title –  “Top 10 Co-Working Spaces in the World“.

It’s usually very good idea to write a blog post following this pattern – “The top [number] [things] in the world“. You most surely will reach a lot of people. You will collect plenty of likes on Social Media. Even Google will love you and will show your article to everyone that is looking for [things] on the internet.

But sometimes it just doesn’t seem right to do so.

“Top 10 Co-Working Spaces in the World” sounds a bit like:Top-10-external-hard-drives

  • Top 10 Cafes in the World
  • Top 10 Restaurants in the World
  • Top 10 Developers in World
  • Top 10 Websites in the World
  • Top 10 Dogs in the World

How to compare?

As I noticed, it is usually very good idea to write such an article if you can compare these [things]. When you find smart way to compare them, the article becomes really good resource to be used by others. This can really help people find useful information and ideas and also compare things that are unknown to them.

But what if you can’t compare them? Then you can’t really write such an article. If you do so, it might end up in something that is misleading, subjective, and even suspicious that is influenced by other factors.

Comparing Coworking spaces

The example with the Coworking spaces is very good anti-pattern. Every coworking is so different in its own way. How can you compare two coworking spaces and state the one is better than the other?

Do you compare by:

  • Location and physical presence?
  • Space and design – desks sizes, seating, layout, flooring, colors, natural lighting…?
  • Members and community?
  • Management and quality of service?
  • Prices and packages?

There are like hundreds of subjects that you can compare coworking spaces. The problem is that whatever you choose to use for comparison, you will certainly be wrong.

It feels like marketing

When you state that these are the top 10 [things] in the world you usually pick the biggest or the most famous ones. This will certainly lead to questioning the reasons behind this post.

  • Who is sponsoring the article?
  • Do the author picked these just because they are big and they will share the article with thousands of readers?

In any case the article will feel like it is marketing content rather than deep (or any) research on the matter.

Back to the coworking world – the top 10 coworking spaces according to Ubiq are accidentally some of the biggest spaces in the world. So when you pick them to represent your top 10 coworkings, you guarantee to have the biggest reach of the blog post. Most probably they will share the article with their audience. Because they are the biggest, you get the broader reach. Simple math.

The article is smart marketing move though. Maybe even growth hacking strategy? It’s not that bad overall but it is certainly misleading and unfair to all the thousands of cool coworking spaces around the world that didn’t make it in the list.

Please be mindful when you decide to write the next ‘Top [number] [things] in the world’ blog post.

Ps. The correct way of writing coworking is without ‘-‘. You write coworking instead of co-working.

Ps. 2. By the way I agree that the mentioned 10 coworking spaces are awesome.