As more and more employees are becoming freelancers, contractors, and small business owners around the world, there’s a growing need to accommodate the changing way people are working.
It’s a fascinating time in history and coworking and shared offices are growing exponentially because of these work evolutions.
In 2015, there were roughly 7,800 coworking spaces worldwide. It’s expected to reach over 30,000 spaces by 2022.
If you’re in a city like Toronto (where I currently live), you’ll see dozens of coworking spaces popping up. Furthermore, being a large city, Toronto is a prime target for big players like WeWork to enter, which is expected to happen sometime in the not-so-distant future.
WeWork is known for their aggressive marketing campaigns when they enter into new cities. Their prices are hard to beat (for a while) thanks to the funding they have behind them, and their locations are known for being impressive… to some.
Which leads me to the point of this article: if you’re a coworking space in a competitive market, it’s time to differentiate or die.
When I said that WeWork is an attractive workspace solution to some, I mean that it’s not an ideal fit for everyone.
WeWork, for example, is not an ideal fit for more conservative businesses who depend on having a quiet, corporate atmosphere for their shared work environment.
They’re not a fit for the stodgy old lawyer or doctor who needs their office to represent their conservative values when their clients come to visit. There are, however, many serviced business centres that do that job nicely.
How to Identify Your Target Coworking Members
The first part of differentiating is understanding who your coworking and shared workspace is for.
Having a broad statement like, “our workspace is for everyone” will make your space feel like just another bland, commoditized place to work.
Instead, you want to focus on one or two ideal members and make your website copy exclusively for those people.
In order to do that, you need to look objectively at yourself (the workspace business owner) and your space, to see what makes you and your business truly unique.
Are you an artist? Do you have a beautiful open space with lots of room for creative work to be done?
Or are you more tech-focused, with interactive technology and “the Internet of things” running through your veins and your workspace?
Knowing yourself and your workspace’s true identity will help you attract more people like you. More people like the space you’re creating. This is called community building.
When you know yourself and your workspace, and therefore your ideal member, you now need to articulate how you service that particular group of people and then rally them to join your tribe.
Creating a Tribe in Your Coworking Community
One of the main benefits of working in a coworking and shared office environment is who you get to meet and connect with.
The culture you promote and attract through your messaging should be consistent throughout all of your channels. There should be a common thread or identity that unites all people in your community.
Taking a stance by saying that, “we are a coworking space for people who do or believe in X”, makes your workspace more compelling to that group of people.
Creating a tribe (aka having a brand) involves having insiders and outsiders. It’s about taking a stance and having a position on who’s an insider and who’s an outsider.
Which is a stronger positioning statement to you?
“We’re a coworking and shared office space for small businesses in Chicago.
“We’re a coworking and shared office space for independent creative professionals and small but growing companies who want to make a big impact through their work.
That’s not to say that the second is necessarily better than the first, but it does take a stance with words like “creative professionals” and “small but growing businesses” who “want to make a big impact through their work”. It’s a rally cry for people who already identify themselves as such.
Alternatively, you can use a positioning statement like:
“We’re a shared office space for seasoned professionals who like to get their work done in an environment that matches the high standards of the products and services they offer.
Wow – what a difference! Not only will that attract a certain crowd, but it will also dissuade a certain “other crowd” who would not be homogenous with their target community members.
And that’s the point. You want your community to be diverse, yet homogenous in their values. You want like-minded people to connect and create a working environment that matches their personality.
You can’t please all people, no matter how hard you try. Especially in competitive markets – you want to be the clear leader in a particular niche vs. one of a dozen options available.
Your Positioning Statement for the Win
Your community building starts with your positioning statement. When you’re trying to attract new members to your shared workspace, you will need to stake a claim about who your workspace is ideally suited for.
Your positioning statement is a promise, so you’ll need to spend the rest of your time creating an environment uniquely tailored to those members.
This is what makes your members want to join and stay with you for as long as possible.
It’s what makes you stand out in a competitive market. It’s what makes you less of a commodity based on price and it creates a value-add experience through the homogenous community you build as a result.
It makes people feel like true members of a club, not simply customers of an office environment.
Are you convinced yet? What’s your positioning statement?
Email me your thoughts at kevin [at] everspaces [dot] com.