Carolina Coworking Case Study
By Nick Valego
Carolina Coworking is a shared community workspace built around making work and meeting spots accessible to anyone who needs it, whenever they need it. It offers desks, private offices and meeting spaces where speakers and seminars are regularly hosted.
The founder, Gregg Gerdau, wanted to give entrepreneurs, small business owners and remote employees a flexible place to work on their own terms. Heavily invested in the local Triangle business scene, he knew it was difficult for businesses to navigate multi-year leases and gain a foothold in downtown Chapel Hill.
Carolina Coworking wanted more qualified leads, faster. They’d been going with a passive brand awareness approach before, but found that it wasn’t generating what they hoped it had. They wanted 1893 Brand Studio to take over their entire marketing strategy.
1893 Brand Studio approached this awareness issue from multiple angles – storytelling, web design and marketing were all involved. The marketing push consisted of email, social media, guerrilla and event marketing strategies.
The storytelling aspect had two components: written work and a video project. We produced two pieces of content per month for the Carolina Coworking blog to be used for social media, SEO, email marketing and landing pages. The video project took potential clients on a tour of Carolina Coworking, to be used in similar avenues.
Here is one of the blogs:
The web design consisted of a one-time landing page overhaul, which updated the content and the look of Carolina Coworking’s landing pages. They would better direct people to sign up for the Carolina Coworking email list, book a conference room or request a tour.
In efforts to grow the email list, we wrote, compiled and sent out two full newsletters a month to the Carolina Coworking listserv. We also sent periodic, as-needed email reminders to promote new blog posts or videos, remind people of upcoming events and share news and changes at Carolina Coworking.
We also completely took over the management of Carolina Coworking’s Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. The social media strategy was to create a monthly content calendar for each platform and run paid campaigns as needed on each platform.
Here are two examples of posts made from the Twitter account:
On-the-ground guerrilla marketing consisted of visiting highly-trafficked student and community workspaces. We passed out flyers to people working in places like Starbucks and Panera, alongside hanging flyers in entrepreneurial spaces like the Union, Kenan-Flagler and the School of Journalism and Media.
Market research, performed to provide a framework for approaching the client’s publics, consisted of interviewing students and young professionals working in community spaces on UNC’s campus and in coffee shops and restaurants around Chapel Hill.
Market research revealed three main buyer personas (more detailed findings can be found here) that could all benefit from coworking spaces for different reasons, and might need to be addressed differently. These were serious students, side hustlers and flexible workers.
Serious students are workers that don’t operate a business as their primary source of income, using study spaces more for getting classwork done. They value quiet atmospheres and a lack of distractions, but also appreciate background noise and lack of isolation. They are willing to pay some money to get a spot that fits their needs, especially during the crunch time of midterms and finals.
Side hustlers operate some additional projects on top of their main job or schoolwork. They as well appreciate quiet, distraction-free environments, but they feel most inspired when surrounded by others working alongside them. They feel ready to take their side hustle to the next level, and would make use of resources and business coaching.
Flexible workers value personalization and flexibility above all else. They like having an array of workspace options, from standing desks to shared rooms to private offices. They enjoy mixing up their work environment and having options at their disposal.
Our research showed that many people working in communal spaces around Chapel Hill valued focused environments that also allow them to be near other productive workers – something Carolina Coworking offers a more effective version of than most other places.
Through our market research and speaking with the founder Gregg Gerdau, we were able to get a strong feel for the type of people that might utilize coworking spaces in different ways, and the vision that Gregg has as for what Carolina Coworking can offer to the community.
Our blog writing and web design gave a voice to the coworking space, something essential for getting word out into the local area. Making information about what coworking spaces are and the many ways they can be used is important for garnering leads. Similarly, highlighting events hosted by Carolina Coworking shows people that it’s more than just an office space – it has resources that Starbucks and the library can’t offer.
Gregg Gerdau’s reason for wanting to approach the project this way was mainly to lower the barrier for entry and grow the local business ecosystem. It’s difficult for small businesses to gain a foothold in Chapel Hill, and spreading word that there’s a cheaper, flexible option in town brings workers in.
“We are the centerpiece of a larger opportunity for downtown Chapel Hill to be transformed into an innovation district,” Gregg said. He believes that bringing remote workers and small business owners in that might not otherwise have a space for their venture is the key to local growth. He wanted the campaign to not only advertise Carolina Coworking, but to also simply inform people about what coworking spaces can offer and how they can impact a community.
One student that worked on the campaign, Sarah Clark, noticed after doing interviews in popular local workspaces, that many students were “in for the long haul, it seemed, and liked to camp out to study.” Clearly, marketing this to students as a place they can spend hours at was important.
Of her interview with Gregg, she said that she “got a lot of general information about the space, but also about the benefit of collaboration and why a coworking space is a great environment for that.”