Five ways to monetize technology in your coworking space

monetize technology in your coworking space

Guest post by Zach McNamara, CEO of isofy, a network management platform for coworking spaces. See the full tech support for coworking series.


As a coworking space operator, you are in a constant state of pressure. 

Pressure from your members, pressure from your landlord, perhaps pressure from your investors, and—most importantly—internal and external pressures on your profit and loss statement each month. 

Let’s talk about some ways you can (perhaps) alleviate some of that pressure by leveraging your technology stack. You’ve already made the capital investment when you opened your space, so let’s explore tactics to turn that initial investment into additional revenue streams.

Before we dive into a few examples, there is one aspect that I’m going to steer clear of: the constant question of “how much should I charge?” for these services. 

Why?

Because there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. 

What an operator in Dublin, Ohio charges may be wildly different than an operator in Los Angeles, California. Or not, it could be the same. Take some time to understand your market, your members, and their appetite for these services. 

When in doubt, simply ask. Approach a member and say, “I’m considering offering ______, does that resonate with you?” And if the answer is yes, simply follow up with “Is there a price point that would make sense?” This doesn’t have to be an extensive process, simply listen to your community and price accordingly. Think of ways you may be able to package multiple services—get creative!

Here are five ways you can monetize technology in your space(s):

1. Monetizing Wi-Fi & Networking

Reliable internet and Wi-Fi services are the baseline. You simply can’t operate a workspace without them. You should, therefore, have a base offering for your members. There are a couple of options here: 

You can have an open (non-isolated) network with a default bandwidth* level. (For example, every new member-company is placed into a “Members” network where members can “see” other member’s devices, and each device receives up to a 100Mbs connection.) 

*To understand bandwidth, think of the internet connection as a pipe. The data coming through is like water. And bandwidth… is the size of the pipe.  Having higher bandwidth is like having a bigger pipe, allowing more data to come through.

Why is this important to start with? 

You need to define the baseline before you can upsell. The two variables in the above examples—network privacy and bandwidth—need to be defined as part of your brand positioning. 

For example, with network privacy:

Do you want to be economical and more utilitarian in the baseline?
Then perhaps a non-isolated members network makes sense. 

Do you want your space’s network to be perceived as a premium experience?
Then perhaps isolated networks by default make sense. 

If your market is largely solopreneurs and coworking, perhaps there isn’t an appetite or requirement for high network privacy. If your market is largely enterprise, perhaps there is an “out of the box” expectation for high network privacy. 

Bandwidth is a little simpler to determine as it should largely correlate to the amount of bandwidth available on your internet service that you can devote to your members, while retaining enough to upsell.

Okay, once you have your baselines established, here are a few services to consider upselling:

  1. Isolated, private networks:

    If your default offering is a non-isolated member network, offer a service package for an isolated network. The pitch is something like this:

    “Your team can rest assured that only devices that belong to the team can communicate with each other on the network. As you know we have dozens of companies that occupy our space and many of them appreciate this enhanced level of privacy and security.”

  2. Bandwidth packages:

    If your default offering is 100Mbs, perhaps offer additional tiers, like 200Mbs or 500Mbs.

    This additional bandwidth would be especially useful for companies that need to download and upload a lot of data in the regular course of their workdays.

    NOTE: An important consideration here is to make sure that when you present this, and more importantly, when you put this in writing, to use the phrase “up to” the bandwidth level. (I could write a series of articles on bandwidth—it’s a very misunderstood concept. For our purposes here, the intent is to avoid a later conversation about “I’m only getting 185Mbs and you said I would get 200Mbs”—due to the fluid nature of bandwidth and the difficulty in getting a “true” measurement of it at any given moment, give yourself some room here.) 

These are the primary drivers of revenue on your network. There are several others that I won’t go into detail on in this article, but give some consideration to:

  • A per-device limit per member
  • Reporting on check-ins and check-outs that can be derived from network sessions (enterprise users love this!)
  • Secure co-located rack equipment space for member devices like servers, public IP addresses, and dedicated internet circuits. 

A network management partner with experience with flexible workspace operators—like our team at isofy—can help you navigate this. 

2. Monetizing Phone/Voice

This one is fairly straightforward: Decide if you would like to provide phones in your space and simply mark-up your costs. 

While the popularity of this offering has declined with video conferencing and app-based phone services, there is still a market for this. This is especially true for professional service organizations that need the ability to take inbound calls and distribute (transfer) those calls within the company. 

There are three primary ways to monetize your voice offering:

  1. The phone hardware itself: As you purchase phones, simply add a mark-up. Be sure that you are providing pre-configured phones that the member can plug-and-play. (Or even better, provide them configured and already connected for members in their space – a white glove experience.)

  2. The monthly voice subscription: Whatever you are charged for the monthly service, simply add a mark-up. Make sure that your offering is competitive. Most voice users expect basic features such as a companion mobile application and voicemail to email. 

  3. Advanced voice services such as: 
  • Phone Trees (“Press one for sales, press two for operations”)
  • Scheduled routing (after hours forwarding to a cell phone) 
  • Other features your voice provider may offer.

Most of these come at no additional cost to you but they could provide a way to drive some additional revenue if presented and managed correctly. 

3. Monetizing Printers

I’m somewhat hesitant to include printing in this list because it could be considered an operational commodity (charge more per printed page than what it costs you) However, there are some creative ways to position this as a value-added service:

  1. If you have a multi-function printer that has some advanced capabilities like stapling, binding, or large-format printing, consider how you may be able to turn those capabilities into a service. With a little bit of help from a staff member and your site’s printer, perhaps a member can avoid a trip to the local print shop.
  2. It’s a known fact around the world that people despise printers (including every IT professional!). Consider providing a printer as an available option in your spaces. You can work with your local printing vendor on lease options or go the do-it-yourself route and procure desktop printers if you have the ability to manage them.

Especially for member-companies that work in professional services, walking into a new office that already has a functioning printer in the corner could be very appealing. Keep in mind that supplies like ink and paper could also be an opportunity in this scenario. 

4. Monetizing Access Control

Access control can be a sneaky way to capture additional revenue. It’s an operational necessity: you need a system to regulate access to your space. Typically, if someone is an active member of your space, they have a keycard or fob that allows them into the space. Seems fairly straightforward, right?

Consider establishing a baseline access control package, like Monday through Friday, 8am to 6pm. This then allows us to consider additional access control packages:

  • Evening access: Monday through Friday until 10pm
  • Weekend access: Saturday and Sunday, 8am to 10pm
  • All-access: 24/7

These can, of course, be tailored to your members and their operational needs. While you want to be careful to avoid the appearance of “nickel and diming” for everything, if there is an opportunity to leverage the technology that regulates physical access to your space, it could be worth exploring.

The bottom line is: don’t take 24/7 access for granted.

    5. Monetizing Audio-Visual

    Attempting to monetize meeting room audio-visual systems can be hard. I’ve seen this scenario play out too many times; an A/V company shows you an amazing meeting room system, you spend a lot of money (and headaches!) getting it installed, and then… no one knows how to actually use it.

    I share that scenario as a caution: don’t get out over your skis on this. Let me explain:

    If you are providing a premium audio-visual experience, it is an operational commitment. You need to have resources in place to make sure that your members can fully utilize the system and a trusted partner in place to support the system when there are (inevitably) issues.

    Now that I’ve shared that disclaimer… when done correctly, and fully embraced at the operational level, audio-visual systems can be leveraged in a few ways:

    1. A mobile cart with a display and USB camera that members can rent for use in their spaces.
    2. A fully-equipped meeting room with PTZ cameras, integrated table microphones, and the ability to share screens within the room and remotely.

    This is a premium offering that could be leveraged by companies that need to hold “boardroom” style meetings or “town halls” for their distributed workforce. The technology underpinning these events isn’t commonplace. When done correctly, and executed well, this can be a unique offering that drives significant revenue.

    Conclusion

    While these are the most common ways to monetize your technology systems, there are many other ways, including some that you may be able to develop on your own.

    For example: I’ve heard of some operators maintaining a fleet of Chromebooks for hosting training events. Other operators have purchased monitors that can be rented on a daily basis in coworking or dedicated desk areas.

    There is a lot of room for creativity, especially as technology continues to transform and power a distributed workforce—many of the same currents that drive flexible work.


    🙌 Thanks to our partners at isofy for the tips on handling tricky tech issues in your space. Get in touch with Zach and the team for guidance and support on your coworking tech and network solutions.

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