Jake Bolling of CoworkingSEO.com outlines strategies and best practices get the right message to the right person at the right time.
Digital advertising for coworking spaces
Bolling really is an expert when it comes to search engine optimization. But that’s not all he and his team do for coworking spaces. They specialize in helping coworking and flex operations make more of their website and their digital footprint to grow their business.
Our last conversation was all about optimizing for organic search performance. That means setting up your website in the most effective way using best practices. However, coworking spaces today do need to invest their dollars in generating business, which brings us to digital advertising.
But why would you want to advertise when organic marketing is, as they say, free?
“Getting butts in seats is like building a warm campfire,” Bolling explained. “You need to use big logs (SEO), and those take time to build a blaze. In our case, it will take about three to six months until you start ranking. Unless you've got time to wait in the cold, you'll want to put some kindling under there, too (PPC); that will get you the warmth (leads) you want very quickly, but require that you keep adding (pay-per-click).”
So let's start with some theoretical digital advertising principles. These are overarching best practices when it comes to spending money on digital ad campaigns.
“First and foremost, it's the strength of the offer,” he said. “You need to answer the age old question: what's in it for me?”
It doesn't matter how beautiful your ad is. It doesn't matter how clever your headline is.
“If your offer isn't strong, and your targeting isn't aligned, it's not going to work. You want to go forward with a strong offer that clearly solves a problem, that says, Here's what's in it for you.
His next tip is a great visual: throw one tennis ball at a time.
“You need to keep it simple. Focus on the strongest reason that your prospect should take the first step. Don't throw too many messages at people.”
Yes, you've got great coffee. Sure, you've got amazing light filled offices. It’s great you're close to a bus stop. You don’t have to tell the whole story. You just need to whet their appetites.
“The ad should really be clean and easy to understand and fast. Don't make people work too hard.”
Bolling’s third tip is find your fit. He’s got another great metaphor.
“What makes a hot dog stand sell out of hot dogs? It's not the quality of the hot dog, it's not the sign on the stand. It's not even necessarily the location of the stand. What makes the hot dog stand sell out is the presence of hungry customers. That's why a hot dog stand outside of a crowded bar at 2AM will sell out. Every. Single. Time.”
His fourth tip is really simple. “Test, test, and test!” he said.
“Just because you think an ad is great doesn't mean it's going to perform the best. Listen to the data, test your headlines, test your graphics, and test calls to action. Learn from your audience and let go of your confirmation bias.”
Okay, now let's get practical. Here are some hands-on tips to leverage digital advertising for your coworking space.
First tip, use your list!
“Start with the database you already have,” Bolling said. “Put it into social media as a custom audience and create a lookalike audience. Take your target audience and find more people just like them. The data from a list of 1,000 past leads can be extrapolated to identify 20,000 potential leads. That's what these social media platforms do.”
Bolling’s next tip is to start slow. Get started with digital ads on one platform. “Don't try to be everywhere all at once. The easiest platform to start with is Google, because of how the ads are set up. Google is where people search when they are already in the market for a coworking space. That way you don't spread your dollars too thin at first. And give it a couple of weeks per platform, depending on your risk tolerance. The real cost of trying to be everywhere for the budget-conscious coworking space owner is spending $10-30/day in testing phases on two to three platforms at once, rather than seeing the first stage through on one platform alone. The longer you give a campaign, the more data you're going to get and the more the platform has the time to learn your audience.”
Bolling’s third practical tip is to lead with your best and strongest offer.
“For coworking spaces, that is a free day pass,” he said. “Industrious gives people a whole week pass for free! Smaller spaces can't really afford to do that. But you can afford to give a day – your customers need an opportunity to see if they see themselves commuting to and working from your space before they commit to the monthly payments. You need to get people in the door and give them a free tour.”
After all, that was Bolling’s own experience. If he hadn't gotten a free day pass to work in the coworking space The BenchSpace. He might never have become a member, and if he wasn't a member, he might never have started CoworkingSEO.com.
Bolling’s fourth and final tip is to have a system to nurture the leads.
“You're spending money on ads. You're spending money to collect those leads — don't lose them! Set up tasks for your community manager to follow up and invite folks to see the space. Use automation to invite them to events. Make sure you have a brochure or flyer that they can take home with them. Make the journey clear and easy. Act like a concierge.”
And lastly, here is a bonus tip from Bolling.
“Don't be afraid to copy what works for someone else until you learn what works for you,” he said. And to that end, Bolling has assembled over 500 digital ads that coworking spaces can be inspired by. You can download it here.
“Look,” he said. “An enduring brand will need to be unique. But until you're ready to go forward with your unique selling position, you can experiment. Start with what's working for someone else. Don't rip anyone off, but be inspired and tweak as you go. Give it your own flavor. Running ads for the first time is just a lesson you learn with your own skin in the game.”