The Best Way to Learn What Your Members Want

Some people are just natural connectors and they know everything about everybody in their communities. We all know, however, that not all operators or community managers are like that. Some of us, myself included, take a slower approach to connect with strangers, even if they are members of our space. I’d like to share a strategy that has worked well for me in the past (and still does today when I consult) as an introvert managing or helping out coworking spaces.

This strategy works both for adding great content to your marketing pipeline and for figuring out what makes your members tick (something we all strangely have a hard time with considering the industry we’re in). It’s called, the interview.

It’s strangely intuitive, yet rarely executed. Here’s how it works:

  1. Reach out to some of your members (especially those you don’t know that well) and tell them you’re writing profile articles on some members for your blog.
  2. Ask them if they’d be willing to sit down with you for a casual interview/conversation for 15-20 minutes.
  3. Schedule the meeting.
  4. Come up with a list of questions. Don’t feel like you need to stick to the script. Keeping it light and conversational will help your members to open up more and feel more comfortable.
  5. Record the conversation. This is critical. Taking notes while talking to a person is unnatural and ruins the conversational tone, distracting the interviewee and preventing you from having the cognitive capacity to ask really interesting follow-up questions. This is something I learned to do during a Design Thinking course.
  6. Transcribe the conversation. I recommend transcribing it yourself as you’ll have a better connection with the content and be able to draw out a better story. This is something I learned from Malcolm Gladwell.
  7. Write a story about your member, drawing on themes that came out of the conversation. The theme can be identified by the commonalities in the stories they told you and how the various things they said connect to each other. Often people’s lives and careers have themes and this is the story you want to tell. The story should be about the person, because after all when a prospect looks at your space they want to know who they will be working with, not just what the person does.

These themes and explorations can be used to better know and understand your members’ wants and needs. Their wants and needs are critical to know to stay connected to the community that’s developing, and honestly are the piece of information most coworking spaces don’t bother to gather. So most spaces send out blindly created surveys to see what people want. Not only don’t people care to answer the survey because it’s so impersonal, but the questions your asking probably don’t matter to many of them.

In fact, starting with interviews, then moving to a survey based on your findings, will create more buy-in with your members. What’s more, you’ll actually be asking questions that they care to answer.

Do a few of these a week, focus first on the members you don’t know very well, and at the end of a couple of months you’ll have a plethora of great content (some already posted and some scheduled for a few months in the future) that’s good for you and good for them. You’ll also know your members a lot better and be able to serve their needs with more confidence.

Ryan Chatterton
ryan@coworkinginsights.com

Ryan is the founder of Coworking Insights, a coworking media platform focused on delivering unique and in-depth insights for coworking founders and their teams. He’s the Marketing Director at Habu, a quickly growing coworking management platform that is simple, fast, and intuitive for managing recurring billing, bookings, and other admin tasks. Formerly with Impact Hub and PARISOMA, Ryan now has over 4 years of combined experience in a variety of roles in the coworking industry, including marketing, events, operations, sales, software, and partnerships. He’s a digital nomad and a lover of wine and tacos.