The core of every good business, and therefore every marketing effort, is having a great product. This shouldn’t require much explaining, but this is the most ignored piece of advice I give.
Let’s take a trip to the marketing department, that place where reality distorts itself and twists into a fantasyland of up-and-to-the-right bar charts, jargonistic language, and the ever-so-delicious vanity metric. In many marketing departments around the world (and I’ve been a part of a few of them), marketing employees and managers are constantly talking about impressions, CTR (click-through rate), and conversion optimization, among many other things that often mean very little. All of them, at some point or another, take on the role of the vanity metric.
Vanity metrics are the metrics we report to our managers (especially if they are going up), but that have little to no relevance to our end goal or goal at that particular time, which in this case is a member signing up to your coworking space.
The problem, and therefore the initial focus in this article series, is that it’s terribly tempting (and easy) to focus on vanity metrics than it is to concentrate on the actual product/member experience itself. As marketers, we even go so far as to obscure the word product with terms like “core offering” and “value proposition.” Let me tell you something. A member can’t do anything with your value proposition. They can only touch, taste, smell, and experience your product. A value proposition is just more marketing jargon.
So how’s your product (AKA the experience of being a member) holding up to the scrutiny of your members?
Deep down, you know whether your product is great or not. Just admit it. You know the lighting is bad or that the chairs are uncomfortable. This shouldn’t be surprising, but I’ll say it anyway: if it’s less than great, it’s wrong.
So fix the things that make your product not great. If your lighting is terrible, change it. If your space is uninspiring, run a quick Google image search for “beautiful coworking spaces,” and presto, you’ve got inspiration. If the internet sucks, get better internet. It’s not rocket science.
The truth is, most coworking administrators know the problems with their space, but do nothing about them. Their #1 downfall is the refusal to admit when, or refusal to do something if, the product they’re offering is subpar.
Lying to yourself isn’t going to fool your prospective members.
Letting go of the downside of poor product development for a moment, let's focus on the upside of good product development. It starts with “the sale.”
Perhaps the most important metric you can measure is the sale. Remember vanity metrics? Well, the sale is the anti-vanity metric. A sale means cash in the bank. It is the ultimate vote of confidence that a customer can give. The only thing better than a sale is a repeat sale.
When you focus on your product, you are directly impacting the sale, which is at the bottom of your sales/marketing funnel. The product is the last thing the customer considers before purchasing. In other words, when you focus on product you are focusing on something that amplifies results throughout the marketing/sales funnel.
Let’s assume you currently convert one member per month to join your coworking space. Let's also imagine that you’re outer-funnel efforts (SEO, Social, Events, etc.) are all phenomenal. People see your event promotions, turn up to the event, and even sign up for tours. However, when it comes time to join, prospects just find a way to disappear or tell you they like the space “but…”
At this point, does it really make any sense to improve your SEO or social media posts?
Of course not. Assuming you’re effectively moving people through the outer layers of the funnel (e.g. social media post > event > tour > trial day) the only thing left to improve is the product itself. At this point, mere incremental improvements in the product can yield impressive results.
What you do now completely depends on your situation, but you can follow this very easy process:
I’m not saying improving your product is easy, or even possible. In some cases, you can’t affect meaningful change or aren’t allowed to do so. You might not have enough funding, enough time, enough energy, enough willpower, enough authority, or enough creativity. There are certainly real limitations to product development, especially when it comes to coworking spaces.
But this is why you should focus on it relentlessly. Focus on it because it's hard. Since it’s the most difficult thing to do, that's why people don’t focus on it, which will put you ahead of much of your competition. Mark my words, successful coworking spaces focus on product development first and marketing second.