• Defining customer personas for your coworking space can ramp up your marketing strategy.
  • During a live training session on November 14th, Cat Johnson taught workspace operators how to build a customer persona.
  • Assigning a character to potential customers makes it a lot easier to market your space to them.

Does your coworking marketing include customer personas? If not (or if you have never heard of them before) you’re certainly not alone.

During the marketing workshop at GCUC UK in September 2018, Steve Eveleigh, CEO at Gripped, took a quick poll of the audience to find out who had built personas for their potential coworking members. Out of around 150 people, only 4 put up their hands.

That means you have a brilliant opportunity to ramp up your marketing strategy right now, and leap ahead of the pack.

What is a Customer Persona?

Customer personas are an incredibly useful way to understand your target audience and their needs more clearly.

It’s an exercise that enables you to put a face to your ideal customer. Quite literally, you can produce an image of a fictional person – or a number of them – and give them names, jobs, locations, and aspirations.

Cat Johnson, a content marketing consultant for the coworking industry, ran a live training session on Wednesday 14th November to teach workspace operators how to build customer personas as part of their marketing strategy.

We’ll dive into the key takeaways of that session in a moment. First, here’s an example of a customer persona that Cat used to explain what it’s all about.

Meet ‘Susan’:

“Susan” is a freelance developer who works from home; knowing her needs will help you better market your space to her

She is a fictional person, but if she walked into your coworking space today she could be your perfect member.

‘Susan’ is a freelance developer who works from home but feels lonely and overloaded; she’s losing motivation due to isolation and she’s looking for ‘something’ to break the monotony. She wants to expand her professional network and be around people during the work day. That ‘something’ she needs is a place in your coworking community – but she might not know it yet.

That’s where your persona-driven marketing comes in.

The point is, assigning a character to this type of customer makes it so much easier to market to them, rather than trying to market to faceless individuals.

“A customer persona is a market segmentation,” Cat explains. “You take a huge audience of everyone and then segment it into who is really and truly your perfect customer. That’s your target market.”

Why Can’t I Just Market to Everyone?

As with everything in life, you can’t please everyone.

Your space doesn’t appeal to everyone. It might be too informal for some, too corporate for others. Too small, too big, too noisy, too expensive, too far.

That’s why you need to think carefully about who really does need your space, and how you can solve their problems. Once you’ve done that, you can craft your marketing efforts to cut through the noise and speak clearly to those people.

“If you try to create content for a huge group of people, it ends up feeling bland and generic,” says Cat. “Personas help you change those faceless masses into a relatable person, and it helps make sure you’re hitting their pain points and challenges.”

The fact that not everyone is perfect for your space is actually a good thing.

“You want to create a great space for a small segment of people rather than a bland space for everyone. That’s where personas come in.

“If you don’t have a clear picture of who you’re marketing to, your marketing ends up being a list of your amenities – like desks, offices, WiFi – and that doesn’t resonate with people. A customer persona keeps you focused on the people, their needs, their challenges, and most importantly, how you solve those challenges.”

Remember: Your potential members don’t need a desk and WiFi, because they can find that in their local coffee shop. They need connections, flexibility, and fulfilment. That’s what you bring to the table, and that’s what you need to weave into your marketing content.

How Do I Create a Customer Persona?

Let’s dive into the key takeaways from Cat’s training session.

  1. Talk to your members.

Start by identifying the people who are really thriving in your space – the ones who come in regularly, engage with your community, and who genuinely value your space and services.

Let them become the core of your personas.

“Talk to them, get to know them. You can also send out surveys. The better you know them, the better you can serve them.”

You can do the same with prospective members, too. Go to local freelance meetups, join social media groups, and speak to people who come in for tours. The idea is to find out what they’re struggling with, and let this knowledge guide your marketing messages.

Whether you’re talking to a long-term member or someone coming in for a tour, ask questions to find out how they found you, and why they chose you. “See where the conversation goes. Try to get a sense of the person – once you get a good sense of the people thriving in your space, then you’ll get a good idea of who to market to.”

  1.     Starter questions.

Conversations are important. But what exactly should you ask? During the training session, Cat laid out a series of ‘starter questions’ to help build the foundation of your persona(s):

  •       What’s your job and industry?
  •       What has your career path been?
  •       How did you get to your space?
  •       What does success look like for you?
  •       What does a typical day look like for you?
  •       What skills and tools do you use in your work?
  •       Are you responsible for everything or are you part of a team?
  •       Are you the decision maker?
  •       What are your outside interests?
  •       What are your goals?
  •       What are your values?
  •       What are your biggest challenges, at work and in life?
  •       What are your regular pain points?
  •       What triggered your decision to search for a coworking space?
  •       What do you hope to get from a coworking space?
  •       What concerns did you have about joining a space?
  •       What were a few factors in choosing a space?

You won’t need to pose all of these questions, but they should help guide your line of questioning to get a good idea of the type of person who needs the services you have to offer.

  1.     Get quantitative.

“Your persona will be a combination of qualitative and quantitative data.” The qualitative data is formed on conversations, while the quantitative data is derived from sources such as survey results.

Google Analytics is a great source of quantitative data. You can really drill down into this data to find out what search terms people use to find you, but also other metrics such as their age, gender, location, and so on.

  1.     Use criticism constructively.

Your research should also include feedback from people who haven’t been successful in your space. Try to find out why it didn’t work out, and use this in your construction of your perfect customer.

  1.     Get visual.

Once you have a good idea of who is thriving in your space, why they’re there, and how you help them, start building. Your aim is to create a picture of someone who ‘looks’ like your perfect, regular, successful member.

It could be a suited-and-booted financial advisor, a developer with t-shirt and headphones, or a busy PR consultant with a cell phone permanently attached to her/his ear. You could sketch this person, find an image on a stock photo site, or build a word cloud around a stick figure.

“Don’t get derailed by the fine details,” advises Cat. “It’s more important that you understand your members rather than what that person looks like. It can be a quick sketch or a full 4-page report – go for whatever suits you, in the time you have. But don’t miss the big picture.”

When designing a customer persona, it’s important that you know what their pains are and how you can solve them.

Remember, you can fine-tune your pictures at a later date. Just like your workspace, your ideal customer is always changing and evolving.

  1.     Next steps.

So, now you have a persona, what do you do with it? “Write for your persona,” advises Cat.

“Be specific, clear, honest, and authentic. This is what resonates with your persona and across the marketing segment. Generic marketing broadcasted from on-high doesn’t actually resonate with anyone because it’s too broad or vague.”

Re-evaluate all of your current marketing efforts. Take a look at your website, your blog, your social media, your search ads: if you were in your persona’s shoes, would those messages interest you? Or does it just sound like any other coworking space?

Take time to get to know your persona(s) and re-write your content as if you’re speaking directly to them. For coworking operators, it’s more straightforward than you think – because those people are probably sitting in your space right now.

Remember, with only a small minority of coworking spaces taking advantage of this customer persona strategy, you have a huge opportunity to leap ahead of the pack. Good luck!

Cat’s next live training session on 12th December focuses on how to create a content calendar. Reserve your space here.