Whether you run a coworking space or traditional business center, the heart of the shared workspace industry is supplying flexible office services to a continually expanding and increasingly dynamic workforce. Often, however, resources are tight and budgets are small, forcing workspace operators to focus solely on the required operational tasks. This causes other important elements of running their space to fall by the wayside, resulting in lost revenue and unhappy customers.
We’ve identified nine key elements of the lead to cash process which, if not managed effectively, can make or break the success of workspaces large and small. This nine-part series, and our free ebook, The Complete Guide To Growing Your Flexible Workspace Business, will highlight the challenges seen by workspace operators and offer accessible solutions to overcome them. Special thanks to Jamie Russo for part one, ‘Growing demand for your flexible workspace’.
Growing demand for your flexible workspace
BY JAMIE RUSSO. EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, GWA.
The workspace-as-a-service market has developed a wide range of offerings that meet the demands of the modern day worker – from entrepreneurs to larger established businesses. With demand increasingly driving supply in our marketplace, flexible workspace operators must respond to the increasing competition by having systems in place to capture leads and to have effective systems in place to manage those leads. I’m going to share some tips on how to do this.
Supply will Meet Demand – Stay on your Game!
At a high level, generating demand for services in the flexible workspace industry doesn’t seem complicated given the latest statistics for the Coworking sector alone, which project a compounded annual growth rate of 23%*. In many markets, supply is pacing well with demand, and in my five years’ operating a flexible workspace, I’ve learned that they key success drivers to running a profitable space are: 1) signing a good lease; 2) maintaining high occupancy rates by driving both demand and member retention.
To create a sustainable business, operator focus on the sales funnel is imperative – from getting a potential member/customer through the door, to nurturing a relationship with each prospect, to converting leads to long-term customers by providing an outstanding membership experience. This article is the first of a series focusing on demand generation and lead management.
Sourcing your Leads
Develop, document and systematize an approach to lead generation that reflects your market and your positioning within the market. The first step is to analyze your data to determine where to focus your marketing efforts (and dollars!). Where do most of your leads come from?
- Google AdWords?
- Social Media?
- Web brokers (Instant Offices, SOS, The Office Search, Search Office Space)?
- Value Added Resellers (Davinci Virtual Office, CloudVO, Liquidspace, Preferred Office Network)?
If you haven’t tested one or more of these channels, start doing so. Having the right CRM system and software in place to manage and track these channels will help you track leads over time so you can analyze performance and make resource allocation decisions more easily. Make sure to allow adequate time for testing – at least six months. It can take time to build relationships and see leads starting to come in. Don’t discount any potential source until you’ve tested it for an appropriate duration. It’s all too easy to deem an approach unsuccessful before you’ve given it sufficient time to perform.
It’s important to note that your lead generation mix may look differently than another operator’s depending on the size of your space, the mix of workspaces, market forces, what your competitors are doing in your market, how your SEO performs, etc. And your mix may change over time.
Your website should be a primary focus of your lead generation resources. If you follow a well-advised SEO strategy, consistently and over time, you can rank high enough in organic search results to make your own website your primary traffic source. This is not easy. The only way to win here is to have the right plan (seek professional help on SEO – two GWA members that I recommend are Find Workspaces and Smart Search Media) and to do the work, very consistently, over time. “The work” will involve creating content that targets industry keywords, using social media to promote the content, and optimizing your website to rank for keywords.
You may want to budget for Google AdWords to augment your website traffic until your SEO starts to kick in (again, this can take time). In my opinion, it’s well worth the money to hire a professional to get you set up and to advise you on budget and keywords and to help you review and interpret results. In my experience, if you attempt this on your own, there’s a high risk that lack of confidence, experience and ability to track results correctly will drive you to abandon your efforts too early.
Web to Lead Forms
Web-to-lead forms are essential and make it easy to capture prospect information and ideally funnel the data directly into your CRM system. Once you get a lead to your website, keep them moving through the sales funnel – the next step is to get them to make contact with you to get questions answered and then to schedule a tour.
As visible and accessible as possible on your website should have:
- A live webchat option that captures name and email address and allows you to interact with the customer in real time.
- A prominent phone number listed – people do still use the phone. Make sure that you have someone to answer the phone. Data from a major metro in the US shows that 38% of calls to shared workspaces self-identified as “coworking,” went to voicemail rather than to a live human.* Forty percent of callers hang up after 60 seconds, and 34% never call back again** Don’t lose that lead. If you can’t man your phone at all times during business hours, consider using a live answering service that will answer your phone and capture leads for you while you are away from your desk.
- A lead capture form (contact us) that allows users to ask questions or schedule a tour if they reach you off-hours or really don’t want to talk to a live person.
- A newsletter capture form – for the casual browser not ready to commit to a tour but that wants to get to know you. Don’t discount these folks – they may sit higher up in the sales funnel for awhile but the goal is to be continually filling the top of that funnel!
Download your ‘Complete Guide to Growing Your Flexible Workspace Business’ ebook
Walk-ins and Referrals
Despite our heavy focus on digital tools to bring in leads, about 10% of your leads will come from walk-ins and referrals. These leads will increase if you can place signage in the lobby of the building, in front of the building or even on the side of it.
While a small percent of your leads, referrals can be high-converters. Don’t assume that your members will think to refer you. They may need a nudge, so don’t hesitate to motivate them with cold hard cash. Determine the cost of acquisition for a new member through Google Adwords or a broker fee and use that amount to price your incentive accordingly. Take it a step further and incentivize your center staff to get customers to be referrers. A word of advice: the best time to ask for a referral is when a customer just moves in and is proud to show off their shiny new office.
Plugging into lead brokering hubs boosts demand for your workspace across various customer segments. Your acquisition cost for using a broker will generally be a 10% commission of the annual license fee. Note that when you accept a lead through a broker, you are by default accepting the commission. When you reject a lead, and that lead becomes a customer, you must also be prepared to show that the lead came from another source.
Working with a number of different brokers can drive lead volume but will also be time-consuming. Evaluate the quality of the relationship by tracking lead conversions and time spent managing the relationship. You can reduce the amount of staff time this takes by using intelligent tools that dynamically route leads into your system with auto-assignment rules, capturing full lead and broker information, while also removing duplicates.
Scrub your Existing Database
While web and broker-generated leads are an essential part of maintaining high occupancy rates, don’t forget the opportunity you may have under your own roof. A large part of potential business may already be in your database in the form of guest and non-member meeting room bookings. How are you capturing long-term client potential in those one-time and even repeat visitors?
Creating smart lists and automating email messaging that meets specific criteria will help you communicate your other products and services to sporadic clients, bringing them into your pipeline and one step closer to becoming long-term clients.
Leads are in. So now what?
Qualify them! Engage as quickly as possible with a new lead (if you don’t, your competition will! get there first!) Answer the live webchat, return the phone call or respond immediately to email inquiries. Your goal should be to listen and learn. Have a standard list of questions that you ask of each lead to understand their needs.
- What type of workspace do the need?
- How many people will need space?
- How often will they use the space?
- What amenities are important to them?
- Where are they currently working?
- What other options are they considering?
- When will they need the space?
Make an honest evaluation if you can serve their needs Then manage your leads – efficiently. After expending resources to generating leads and paying commissions to brokers to secure the leads, spending the time, energy and effort on nurturing them is the critical next step. It’s imperative to maintain frequent communication with your prospects and diligently track lead status so you have visibility into where your marketing efforts are paying off.
While we know how important this phase is, we get that it’s easy to lose track of email correspondence in your inbox and to forget to follow up with prospects. There are ways to automate this process! Save time and resources and use your CRM to:
- Set auto-responses to new incoming leads
- Schedule check-in emails
- Auto-add prospects to your newsletter list
When it comes to demand generation, the main challenge for operators isn’t usually a lack of access to leads, rather the meticulous work that goes into sorting the data, qualifying the leads and converting them into actionable prospects that can enter the sales funnel. In contrast, lead management tends to be more time-consuming and straining on your resources. Develop a process and stick with it. It will pay off!
Continue to Part II: Mastering the Shared Workspace Tour Experience
*Kate Leggett, “Trends 2016: The Future of Customer Service,” Forrester Blog, January 5, 2016.
**Jamie Russo, “Are you Answering your Phone? 1/3 of your Competitors are not!,” GWA Blog, November 2016
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