A recent conversation Partisan had with a developer centred on co-working and whether this trend had peaked, especially with the expansion of the WeWork brand in Manchester.
The developer perceived that they might be too late to the party to capitalise effectively on the demand for co-working and serviced office space.
What it made us think about was the critical importance of placement in the commercial property market, and understanding your own brand positioning as a developer.
The WeWork Effect
Since WeWork opened its first space in Bishopsgate, London, the impact has been felt in a significant increase in vacancies in London’s office sector, according to CoStar UK.
There is no wonder WeWork has become one of the largest commercial real estate owners in this sector. It knows its market, researching it thoroughly, and applying its brand values effectively.
We do not yet know the impact WeWork will have on Manchester, but if there is a significant rise in vacancies, as there has been in London, the office rent price rises will slow and plain out. Currently, WeWork has office space in Spinningfields and St Peter’s Square, with a third development in progress on John Dalton Street.
Is this bad news for other developers though, or is it an example of how successful branding can offer new niche opportunities?
Your Biggest Asset
The accepted adage is that people are a business’s most valuable asset. In the same way, occupiers are a developer’s best asset.
This goes back to developers understanding their target audience, and using this to leverage their place in the market, rather than simply having to race to the bottom and compete on price alone.
WeWork understands its audience, so other developers must put in the necessary legwork in terms of researching their users and property trends to do likewise.
This is about positive brand building through adding value to business occupiers.
They want to know how occupying a specific space will support them and their business.
Developers must work hard to answer this question if they want to market their spaces as more than purely commodities. Get the answer right, and their occupiers become brand ambassadors, helping developers reach their target audiences.
Making the Business Case for Co-Working
What is the main reason for a business wanting to occupy a co-working space? All of these spaces should be able to meet general business requirements, providing a certain standard when it comes to facilities. But this will not differentiate them in the marketplace.
Think in terms of what added value a co-working space might provide if it is attuned to specific business needs?
To achieve success through occupancy, requires a focus on being the best at answering these specific needs, rather than only answering the most general of things any business might want.
Being Alert to Agile Working
What does this agility entail? Increasingly, businesses are aware that while agile working has clear benefits, allowing people to work from home may not be one of them.
Instead, there is a different solution: allowing people the agility to occupy co-working spaces closer to home.
One set of supporting statistics for this concept is the larger return on investments for developments that regional hubs have yielded, according to CoStar UK, in Bolton, Stockport, Altrincham, Salford, Trafford and Oldham.
It also ties in with the argument for regional regeneration in Greater Manchester, so that the focus is not just on the city centre.
Strategic Steps to Reimagining the Workspace
As a developer, we think you should consider these three things:
- How to create value beyond what you charge your occupiers – what can you offer that will support their business aspirations?
- Knowing who you are creating your space for and communicate this through your brand. Not all co-working spaces are equal.
- Agile working is an opportunity – larger companies are doing it, but to do it well they need the third party facilities to support it.
Build Your Brand
You can only make any of the above points work for you if you are clear about your own brand identity and what it represents to your customers.
- Brand positioning – knowing who you are and how your customers perceive you.
- Brand identity – finding your niche in the marketplace and owning it.
- Brand marketing – devising a marketing masterplan to enact your strategy.
Branding is the thing that can drive your business and shape everything you do, including the design, planning, construction and marketing of the built environment.
Please, get in touch.