Coworking Influencer

Kevin Whelan on how to be a coworking category of one

Kevin Whelan headshot 400x400As a former web developer and B2B marketer, Kevin Whelan knows just how daunting marketing can be for coworking spaces. With a multitude of specialties from social media to data analysis, it's enough to make any operator's head spin.

"Marketing encompasses like 20 specialties," says Whelan. "Most people who open a coworking space didn't want to open a marketing company."

Getting organized with the 6 P's

To help spaces get a handle on their marketing, Whelan utilizes a process he calls the 6 P's: Projects, Processes, Performance are the three he'll cover at the upcoming GCUC North America event. Check out his podcast with GCUC here.

"Marketing is like a machine," he explains. "You've got one-off projects, but then other tasks need to be scheduled and done regularly — that's your program, not just campaigns."  

The key is having systems to organize all your ideas, execute projects efficiently, and then analyze performance. Whelan provides pre-built, customizable systems to streamline this.

Unearthing ideas with Trello

For managing the influx of creative ideas and recurring tasks, Whelan currently uses Trello as an "idea management system." He's tool-agnostic, however: "It's really about how each person's brain works, how their team works."

Having a central place to capture initiatives means no brilliant brainstorm gets lost in the shuffle. And documenting recurring processes frees up mental bandwidth.

Whelan also spoke with community-focused marketing maven Cat Johnson, sharing his background and his beliefs on how spaces can use content marketing to grow their member base. You can check that out here.

Start with the member experience

For new clients, Whelan first examines the product — the workspace experience itself. "As long as you have a good product, it makes it a lot easier to sell," he says. "You have to create a business around the type of customer seeking specific things."  

Getting the culture, amenities, and service model aligned with the target market's needs is priority #1. Only once that core experience is defined can marketing efforts amplify what makes it unique.

Define your "Category of One"  

"You want to be able to confidently tell someone on a tour: if you want this, that's all we do. If not, here are 14 other options," says Whelan. He calls this defining your "Category of One,"  getting laser-focused on your space's signature culture and clientele.

"It's hard to promote culture if you can't articulate exactly what it is," he adds. Photos and videos giving prospective members a genuine preview of the vibe can go a long way.

For example, if your space is known for fantastic networking events, you should record those events and highlight that lively atmosphere. If you have more of a quiet, professional workspace that serves small groups, market that experience with appropriate visuals and messaging.

Capturing the indescribable essence is invaluable. As Whelan bluntly states, "Bagels for breakfast once a year isn't enough."

On the importance of visuals, Whelan explains: "A picture is worth a thousand words — it's like the menu at a new restaurant. If something looks appealing, you're more likely to try it."

That's why he emphasizes quality photography and videography on coworking websites. An abundance of visual content demonstrating the space's energy, events, and member interactions helps convey the ineffable culture far better than text alone.

Baked-in self-sufficiency

From documenting procedures to providing tool training, Whelan aims to equip spaces to ultimately run marketing themselves. "I try to make myself redundant at every step," he says. "The goal is having everything organized so you can keep going if someone's out."

He ensures folder structures, login credentials, and systems are accessible to the team. That way, marketing doesn't skip a beat during any personnel transitions.  And after strategy, websites, ads, and more, the space can take over independently after six months or continue with Whelan's services on a recurring basis.

Specialization born of past projects  

So how did Whelan become a coworking marketing specialist? It started with projects for IQ Office Suites and other industry players nearly a decade ago.

"They had a profitable, fast-growing business and I liked the challenge of it," Whelan recalls. "And then I liked the community component — people were there to engage, connect and interact."

He was immediately drawn to coworking's human-centric philosophy. As Whelan puts it, "The people are really nice and incredibly generous. It's a community of community, and  the DNA is way more interesting than many B2B fields."

Ongoing education and relationships

Whelan has continued immersing himself in the coworking world through events, organizations like the Global Workspace Association, and relationship-building.

"All the people in the industry are incredibly generous in sharing experiences," he says. "There's a real openness to individualized strategies, as opposed to cookie-cutter approaches."

This openness to removing barriers and collaborating is part of what defines the coworking movement, according to Whelan. By being ingrained in that community, he can craft marketing tailored to each space's distinct identity.  

The right guide makes all the difference   

For spaces seeking to elevate their marketing game, it seems Kevin Whelan could be the secret weapon. With his systematic approach, specialized expertise, and community-centered mindset, he may just be the marketing wingman every coworking space needs.

As Whelan summarizes: "I try to make it as easy as possible - you just have to show up and be yourselves, and we'll strategize how to attract more of the members you want."

In fact, you can download Whelan’s Coworking Space Marketing Plan Worksheet to get a sample of his work and outlook. And Whelan’s Everspaces web site contains great articles, but he also offers a newsletter with even more valuable information for coworking operators. 

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