The last year has been a challenging one for the flexible workspace sector, as it has for many. Fortunately, the last few weeks have shown that there’s still an appetite for office-based working, and the target market is in fact broadening. 

One of the main challenges operators now face centres around how to attract new members while retaining existing ones. 

Attracting and retaining clients was the topic of discussion in Office RnD’s most recent webinar. On 11 March, Tim Schabsky, CEO at Work Inn (Germany), William Ballantyne, Director at MyWorkSpot (UK) and Colleen Moselle, President and COO at Fueled Collective (US), took to the virtual stage to share some tried and tested strategies.

Let’s run through some of the main points covered in the webinar.

Are operators focusing more on retention or recruitment at the moment?

Previously, Fueled Collective focused more on retention, in part because customer acquisition costs are so high. Its retention rate was in the 90 percentile before the pandemic. During the pandemic, the team had to quickly reevaluate how they’d remarket the space to a changing market.  

Fueled Collective found that its customer segment widened dramatically overnight during the pandemic – now they’re focusing on both attraction and retention.

Retention was also the main focus for MyWorkSpot prior to the pandemic. Licences came to an end as the lockdown started which initiated conversations around renewals. Lots of people are re-joining the space and, again, the market’s opened up.

Work Inn had just doubled in size and opened four new locations before the pandemic took hold. The operator’s main focus was on retention. It worked well – they’ve managed to retain many original members but do have spaces to fill.

How has the target market for flexible workspace changed?

Will and his team started MyWorkSpot under the impression that if they established a space close to a railway station, their primary market would be corporate individuals who usually commute to London to work. In actuality, they found that entrepreneurs and small businesses based in the local area utilised the space most.

The pandemic flipped things – what they thought would happen back then is happening now.

Over the last couple of months, they’ve experienced more demand from corporates; Will’s focusing on getting the message out to those who live near the space but work in London.

Interestingly, a few students have been joining Work Inn because the libraries and universities are currently closed (Tim signed up 10 students in a single week).

Colleen notes that lots of business owners still don’t know that coworking is an option. Fuelled Collective has been targeting larger companies who want to downsize, benefit from flexible terms and maintain their workplace culture (which is harder to do over digital platforms alone). 

How have operators been experimenting with new marketing campaigns?

Colleen’s been marketing plans and documents that can be used as resources for those in the process of reimagining their workspace strategies, and who also may be looking for a “third space”. She’s also been leveraging her CRM and relaunching nurturing campaigns designed to educate people about coworking and Covid safety.

Google Reviews are also proving effective. Colleen points out that they’re free and help build brand loyalty, partly because when someone writes a review, it helps them reflect and cement what they love about the space in their own minds.

MyWorkSpot has launched a series of informative blog posts which it’s integrating into its social media strategy. At the start of the pandemic, Will’s team ran to catch up calls so people could stay in touch. He’s also run a series of fun events, including a haircutting tutorial! 

One of Tim’s most successful initiatives was a referral programme. They sent out Christmas cards with a voucher for a free month of coworking for a friend to both members and business partners. Moving forward, Work Inn will be focusing on content marketing and PR.

Are operators changing their proposition to meet changing needs?

Now, it’s important for every company to have a real estate contract that’s flexible, says Tim. Will agrees, noting that before the pandemic, a 12-month licence was considered flexible, but now members expect even more agility. 

MyWorkSpot has launched part-time/timeshare offices. It means members can secure a regular space for, say, a day or two a week when they need to work with their team. They can’t brand it like they would be able to with a full-time office, but it’s guaranteed space.

Colleen’s also added part-time offices to Fuelled Collective’s portfolio. She explains that getting corporate customers accustomed to what coworking’s value proposition is can be more work, but “once they get ingrained in the community we see them adapt really quickly.”

Also, members’ employees who’ve been working in isolation light up when they realise they’re part of a community- one with a world of social possibilities.

What about digital coworking memberships?

MyWorkSpot offers a £10/month membership that allows people to access the coworking community virtually through different platforms. These members can also take part in catchup calls, and when they’re in need of physical space they can book a hotdesk. 

Will and his team have been trying to run meaningful events. MyWorkSpot is partnered with a Chamber of Commerce tier that also runs events, which helps drive engagement and value.  

One of the biggest challenges when it comes to digital memberships is creating enough good content to ensure value. Creating engaging content consistently without “saturating” people’s inbox is a heavy lift. Then there’s Zoom fatigue. This is why Fuelled Collective has shifted away from the virtual realm back to where it was before the pandemic.

Work Inn doesn’t have a digital-only membership, but it has introduced a traditional virtual office offering, which Tim says they should’ve done earlier! 

Tim’s Community Manager runs online events for Work Inn members, including coffees and breakfasts. In fact, they’ve created an online replica of their in-person schedule, with weekly yoga classes and health sessions. 

One of Work Inn’s tech-savvy members even created a digital version of the coworking space – users can move an avatar around the virtual co-working space and when they encounter another member they can hop into a Jitsi chat.

How can operators target larger/corporate leads?

Colleen’s uses Sales Navigator by LinkedIn to contact relevant people directly. She says it’s been the most effective method during the pandemic by far. Once a prospect has been engaged, they’re entered into a strategic nurturing funnel. 

“We get a 30% response rate when reaching out through our Sales Navigator,” says Colleen. 

Operators can reach relevant potential members on LinkedIn Sales Navigator by targeting specific industries, job titles and keywords.

It’s also important to make the pitch to brokers for corporate clients, says Tim. After all, if you have a warm introduction, it’s always easier. 

MyWorkSpot is offering a 2-day free trial which helps corporate business owners get to grips with how coworking operates. Also, colleagues seeing the space on the background of a Zoom call works wonders. “Just get one person from the business in – the rest of the team will be jealous!”