In this article, we share lead generation sources that we found worth our time and effort, as from our own experience with our sister company Pacific Workplaces, providing flexible offices and coworking places in 18 locations throughout California and Nevada. We will review how some of these lead generation sources have changed over time. In no particular order, here are our top 6 lead generation sources:
1. Your own website and local marketing efforts
Your own website and local marketing efforts should always be your #1 source of lead generation. Make sure you follow Google guidelines for optimal organic ranking of your website, via careful selection of URLs for your key pages, meaningful meta titles, good and relevant content, blogs, etc. Index your site with Google and make sure you have an active Google Business Profile.
If your website is not listed organically on the first page of Google, or does not make the top 3 in the Google Business Profile (GBP) section (the local map) for relevant search terms like “office space in [cityname]”, “[cityname] virtual office”, “coworking in [cityname]”, consider retaining the services of a reputable SEO specialist. It may cost you anywhere between $500 to $2,000 per month, but if you own a single location outside of a large city, you may only pay a few hours of expertise from an SEO consultant once and achieve good results. You can also educate yourself by reading the helpful Google literature on the subject. Make sure your website is listed on the GWA directory, which works as a helpful backlink for SEO purposes too. No need to spend a fortune in SEO support if you can achieve top 3 organic ranking on your own!
If not done yet, we highly recommend to quickly upgrade your website with its own e-commerce capabilities, allowing you to sell day passes, meeting room bookings, or virtual offices online. Some of the platforms dedicated to our industry are designed to easily integrate e-commerce capabilities with your own website. Pacific Workplaces, our sister company, uses the Yardi platform and is able to make many sales online that way, often outside of business hours. They sell almost all of their Virtual Office plans online (91%) , and see multiple meeting room bookings each week from walk-in clients who transact and pay with their credit card. Adding that kind of e-commerce capability is a must!
2. Social media campaigns
How to optimize social media presence is outside the scope of this article, but social media is also an important lead generation source. It’s all about creating powerful word-of-mouth and brand awareness. Refer to the GWA library on how to do this effectively, but let us emphasize that proper listing on Yelp is important. You may also consider advertising on Yelp. We have done this with some results in the past, at a cost roughly similar to pay-per-click on Google. However, Yelp reviews and listings that used to rank high in Google searches seem to be gone from the first page with relevant coworking searches. We think that Google may be trying to replace Yelp and increase the relevance of its own ratings for professional businesses. As a result, we don’t see Yelp to be as relevant now as it was in the past for our business. Ten years ago, local networking efforts, such as attending local chamber of commerce events or hosting events designed to attract traditional brokers in our centers, were critical. We found that “virtual networking” is now much more effective and we spend more time focusing on generating activities on social media platforms (via check-ins, reviews, and outright conversations) than with traditional networking. You cannot do it all: something has to give.
3. List with web brokers active in your area
Web brokers market your location and services on the web, locally and globally, under their brand. Only when a lead is identified do they inform you and, at the same time, release your full information to the lead. Once the prospect is referred to you, it is up to you to close the sale. You keep ownership of the end-user.
Web brokers typically receive a 10% commission for the length of the contract up to 12 months (including renewals). It does not cost anything to list with a web broker, and a 10% commission is very reasonable even though they do a minimal amount of work. If the web broker is active in your area and you don’t list with them, the leads will go to your competitors. Web brokers represented close to 25% of our leads 15 years ago. Nowadays they represent less than 5%.
Examples include Instant Offices or Office Freedom. Web brokers tend to focus on Full-Time offices. Day Passes, Meeting Rooms bookings, or Virtual Offices, are rarely marketed by web brokers because a 10% commission is not sufficient to make value-adding marketing efforts worthwhile, given the lower revenue these services generate.
One word of caution here: the web broker market leader, Instant Offices, has been acquired by IWG a few months ago and is thus controlled by Regus’ parent company IWG. They maintain that they will work independently from Regus and continue to represent the whole coworking industry. Given Regus’ past behavior, some are skeptical that there would not be a built-in bias in favor of Regus. As a result, some operators are considering delisting from Instant Offices (as well as from DaVinci and EasyOffices that were acquired by Instant Offices and thus fell into the Regus galaxy). Many are concerned that Regus could have access to sensitive information on their operation, including vacancy, pricing, and more. Refer to A Changing Landscape in the Flexible Office Industry published on Pacific Workplaces by our CEO Laurent for more on legitimate concerns operators could have.
4. List with reputable value added resellers
Value Added Resellers resell and augment your services, locally and globally, under their brand. For example, they will resell your local mail services but add to it their own layers of service, such as live phone answering, live chat support, concierge services, and corporate account services. They also typically have stronger fraud screening and CMRA compliance capabilities than we and other independent operators have, an important consideration with Virtual Offices.
The Value Added Reseller is your client. He/she pays your bill. The end-user of your services is the Reseller’s client.
Resellers can greatly expand your market reach and e-commerce capabilities and are in a better position to reach out-of-the-area individual users and corporate accounts that you would be unlikely to reach on your own.
They take care of the revenue collection and will pay you a discounted price, typically 30% (although we have seen a range of 10% to 50%). Value Added Resellers worth considering include CloudVO. You can populate your information here at no cost to you. DaVinci had been the market leader for some years but was recently sold to Instant Offices which itself was acquired by IWG (Regus) earlier this year. As mentioned before, that could create a built-in bias in favor of Regus and against your locations.
5. List with reputable network promoters
Network Promoters promote large networks of locations under both your brand and their brand. Examples include CloudVO that promotes the CloudTouchdown network for touchdown at day offices and coworking spaces anywhere in the network on a subscription basis.
Preferred Office Network focuses on selling full-time offices via a meaningful corporate account capability working with companies with multi-location needs. Preferred Office and CloudVO are credible alternatives to Regus for many corporate managers.
The main benefit of Network Promoters is that they evangelize a network with defined characteristics (for example Amenity-rich professional business centers for Preferred Office Network or CloudVO) while providing a single point of contact and a single point of billing, a critical feature for corporate accounts that have multi-location needs. They will invoice the client and pay you the discounted price agreed upon in advance, typically 10% for full-time offices (but on-going, unlike in the web broker model) and 30% for day office or meeting room usage. They share similar characteristics with Value Added Resellers in that they are the operator’s clients and pay you for the usage of your services made by end-users.
6. List with marketplace providers that achieve scale
Marketplace providers also share common characteristics with Value Added Resellers but their mission is to evangelize the entire on-demand office space industry, not just a sub-segment of it, and to list venues on their platform where a comprehensive set of workspaces can be booked or purchased online (meeting rooms, coworking seats, even full-time offices).
The main difference with Network Promoters or Value Added Resellers is that their mission is comprehensive with respect to the industry, listing coffee shops alongside business centers, coworking places, hotels and any places with on-demand or even free conference rooms. In contrast, Network Promoters segregate the industry by promoting a particular site of locations that share common characteristics (e.g. professional, private rooms, staffed, in high-quality business buildings, etc.).
The marketplace that has achieved the most meaningful scale to-date is Liquidspace. Upflex has been gaining market share as of late but a recent investment by WeWork in the firm is raising new concerns. The discount/commission they retain varies. In our experience the weighted average discount/commission of the marketplace turns out to be in the 30-35% range, which is acceptable given the additional marketing reach they provide.
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