Decoding Decision-Making: Andrea Pirrotti-Dranchak’s Insights on Marketing Strategies

Frank Cottle [00:00:29] Good morning, and welcome to the future of work. Podcast. We’re lucky today to have Andrea Pirrotti with us, and I’ve been a fan of Andrea’s for more than a decade. Andrea. Welcome to the future. Work podcast. 
Andrea Pirrotti-Dranchak [00:00:41] Thank you, Frank. I’m delighted to be here. 
Frank Cottle [00:00:43] Well, we’re really excited about this conversation today, and I wanted to start off by I know you’re a very empathetic marketer. You really tear into who the buyer is and who the consumer is. So talk to me about how you capture the heart and the mind of the buyer and the role of conversational marketing that you feel will be played out in the Future of Work. 
Andrea Pirrotti-Dranchak [00:01:10] Yeah, and I think now more than ever that this type of marketing is critical for the future of work. 
Frank Cottle [00:01:18] Conversational marketing. What is conversational marketing? 
Andrea Pirrotti-Dranchak [00:01:22] Well, conversational marketing is a way of engaging and having a dialogue with your prospective buyer and with your stakeholders. And conversational marketing, on a very superficial level, people will be like, oh, it’s a chat bot, but it’s so much more than that, right? So the idea of you have to start with understanding what your storyline is. What problem are you solving for both? On an objective level? Yeah, I’m solving to drive operational efficiencies, or I’m driving to reduce costs or whatever the needs of the business are. But where conversational marketing really comes in is when you understand that subjective factor that you’re solving for. And typically for the decision maker, for the decision influencer, for the user, that subjected factor is rooted in fear. Okay? And so if you can identify the objective factor that you’re solving for and then understand and that’s the mind I want to save money, it’s got to make business sense, because at the end of the day, this is a B to B decision. But then if you can get to that underlying subjective factor, I’m fearful to make the wrong office space decision. I’m fearful to make a recommendation to my company that may be out of the norm. I have an issue where I need to be close to home. Whatever that subjective factor is, if you can tap into that and then solve it through a series of dialogues, you’ve won. 
Frank Cottle [00:02:56] Well, those dialogues, a lot of those dialogues are as much, if not more sales dialogues than marketing dialogues. How do you gather the data in advance so that you can frame those conversations from a marketing perspective instead of just add some mentoring to the sales team and say, here’s how you do it, guys. Because really you’ve got to have a massive amount of information to frame those conversations in marketing. 
Andrea Pirrotti-Dranchak [00:03:26] Yeah, well that’s very true. You do. And these conversations come from when we’re looking at the future of work, we are not only looking at firmographic information, right? So we want to understand the sector of the company that we’re working with. The decision makers in the company is it the CEO, CFO, CHRO, the influencers and the users. So we want to also understand geographically where these people are coming from. We know that in our world, typically people will travel 15 minutes max, not miles, but minutes max in order to get to the workplace. And then also we want to understand demographically, who is that person making the decision and what is the profile, the demographic profile of that person. But then also psychographic, what are the motivators in making that decision? And all this information can be found through research. So third party research. And there are a number of brokers of data out there, if you will, that provide that research from Allwork.Space to instant to costar to a whole bunch of platforms to capture that third party data. But then you also want to use your own data, right? And even if you don’t have a lot of data from your own user base, what you want to do is you want to use lookalike data. But quite Frankly, I’m a big proponent of just talking to the customer. I have to tell you that the best way to find out information about your customer, what their needs are, what their motivations are, is to, number one, talk to them one on one, interviews, focus groups, and then validate. Your discovery through questionnaires where you just ask very simple questions. Three to five questions that I could rattle off those questions in a moment. And that is really a very simple way of understanding who your customer is and what their needs and wants are. 
Frank Cottle [00:05:45] Okay? I’m going to agree with that 100%. But I’m going to challenge something. If I only talk to my customers to get the why did they choose us? Information, I’m only going to be talking to the ones that did choose us, not the ones that didn’t. Therefore, how do I understand how to broaden my marketing base as opposed to ultimately it gets narrower and narrower and narrower because I keep focusing on a smaller and more specific group. So how do I broaden my unit? 
Andrea Pirrotti-Dranchak [00:06:19] This is a brilliant question and again, I’ll always start with I’m always going to start with the basics, right? Because a lot of money often gets into investment, often gets into the way of us discovering, right? So I’m always going to go very grassroots, very kind of bootstrapped before I go into spending a whole bunch of money on research. But the fact is, as a category, if you’re humming along for the office product. We are not converting 80% of the people who contact us for the office product. For the virtual office product, it’s a little bit less. It’s probably 50 to 60. And for the meeting room product where we get the most and the co working product where we get the most volume, typically for most providers, they don’t even know who this is because they are not tracking it because a transaction is happening so quickly. Again, we can get into that in a moment, but that’s reality. So the fact is, I do as I’m a huge proponent of contacting those 80% of people who inquired but didn’t convert to find out why. And again, that’s a very simple outbound questionnaire to say, hey, we know that you inquired. We’d love to understand what we can do to earn your business. Would you please let us know why, where you’ve gone or what you’ve done? Three to five questions in that questionnaire. 
Frank Cottle [00:07:45] This is something that most companies don’t do, but I would ask, how responsive is that group? Are they really responsive? Because most companies don’t do that. Most companies don’t say, let’s call the losers. They only want to talk to the winners. So are the people that pass, are they responsive in giving valid answers or is it just kind of goofy stuff? Is it information, data, but not real information and knowledge? 
Andrea Pirrotti-Dranchak [00:08:17] Yeah, well, the interesting thing is that oftentimes I’ll use that tactic to revise the dead, revive the dead, and to revive the living. And oftentimes they don’t even know that they’re dead. They have just prolonged their decisions. The fact is, yes, they are responsive. This is a warm list. This is somebody who’s contacted you with a need. And it’s not like they’re contacting the Ferrari dealer to go for a test drive. They have a need for an office or a workspace. And so they are making an investment to call you. And the fact is, in terms of response rates, you’ll get like a 30% open rate. It’s a warm list, right? 30% to 35% open rate. And if you give them something in return, which I’m a proponent of as a consumer, I don’t like it when Delta contacts me or Clear or whomever, because I travel a lot, contacts me and says, we need your feedback and we’re not going to give you anything in return. You have to give a token in return. It’s not a payoff, but it’s a, hey, you’re investing in us, let us in turn invest in you. So you do get a lot. 
Frank Cottle [00:09:28] I agree that you should never call upon anyone, whether it’s a friend for dinner or someone whose information you want without bringing a gift. It’s very simple. If you bring a gift, you’ll almost always be welcome. 
Andrea Pirrotti-Dranchak [00:09:44] That’s true. 
Frank Cottle [00:09:45] If you don’t bring a gift, you might not get invited back. So you do want to think through that. Overall, as we look towards marketing and we look towards changes in the way marketing is managed. In particular, let’s focus on the flexible workspace sector for a second. You have a ton of expertise. I know you’ve worked for global companies managing gazillion dollar budgets and dealing with hundreds and hundreds of thousands of customers. So when we talk about the world of Flex, how human, how one to one does your marketing have to be? Who’s in charge really? Is it the customer or is it the marketer? Is it the product creator or is it the actual end user? 
Andrea Pirrotti-Dranchak [00:10:43] If you have the ability and the deep pockets to gobble up to use money to gobble up market share and you can give free rent for a year and you can advertise until the cows come home and stay top of mind and buy eyeballs, capturing hearts and minds, not so important. You’re going to get that business right. But when you are a smaller provider and your competitor is going to outprice you 50 to one, you have to focus and you have to craft a strategy, invest in a strategy to capture hearts and minds and it becomes very powerful and it becomes the foundation for a sustainable competitive advantage. Because when you solve for the mind, there are a lot of people who can solve for the mind, but when you’ve captured the heart, it’s more difficult for you to break away. So who’s the decision maker? Well, we have shifted from we used to say that we could take, every 20 years ago we would say that we could take every decision maker out to dinner across the United States and fill our portfolio of spaces. It was that small. We’d have messages to the CFO talking about taking bricks off the balance sheet, the CHRO, we would talk about recruiting and retaining talent. To the property person we’d say put 20% of your property into Flex and to the CEO we’d say, listen, make your property portfolio as agile as your business. And you’ll notice that all my messaging there is very in the mind. It has nothing to do with making a heart connection. Right? So we’ve been working on making a mind and heart connection for a while now, but it was never more prevalent. The tipping point truly was the Pandemic, when people literally had to make a decision for the safety of themselves and for the safety of their families in order to come back to the office. And that was our tipping point. There’s a company called Timewise Out of the UK that has done a bunch of research and has helped people get out in terms of bringing women back into the workforce because where people work has been a barrier in terms of bringing women back to the workforce. But now that the Pandemic made both men and women, that decision of where and when to work, it, it touched every human. And so, and so the, the decision making process has changed from 1% of office workers, really to the entire population of office workers. And in fact, these office workers are voting with their feet and they’re saying, listen, I’m willing to take less pay. I want a hybrid working solution. 66% of people right now are working from someplace outside of the core office and businesses are responding because 12% of the jobs right now that are being advertised are being advertised with hybrid work solutions. So the decision maker is every single human that is sitting in that seat and they’re forcing change and they’re forcing change at the 1% who can actually take money out of their own wallet in order to affect that change. And that’s the business leaders. 
Frank Cottle [00:14:09] Well, you know, the manner in which decisions are made for a workspace or just the way people work in general, not just the space, but the total environment that they’re working within because the commute has as much to do with the location as the space itself. The community within space has a lot to do with it. These days, it’s not where you’re working with, but who you’re working with that seems to be very important. And in that human to human context, how do you get those things apart or across to the consumer without making it sound too fluffy? Because it always sounds good. Oh, we got this wonderful community. Yeah, my community is better than your community. Oh, my community is the best community. We have the coolest this and the best that. How do you prove that? How do you demonstrate that when a person has to move into a space before they can really experience that? 
Andrea Pirrotti-Dranchak [00:15:16] That’s a good question. Well, first of all, the whole notion of community drives me bananas, right? Because the fact is that the decision making process, and I’ve done tons of research over this, is when people are choosing a place to work is number one, do you have a location where I need to be? Next to my client, close to home, wherever that is in the hotspot of my category. Do you have a location where I need to be? Number two is can I afford you? And number three is can I envision myself working there? And that, I think, is where the community factor comes in. But community isn’t going to bring you to a workspace. It might help you to stay there, if you will. But we all know this as a category. I think a lot of us know this as a category that it won’t bring you there. So, very interesting, we have a location at 22 Bishops Gate, which is the tallest building, if you will, talus occupied building in all of Europe. It’s a very cool building. And at any given point in time, any month, I will have 500. And people who understand this category is understanding the future of work is in play right here, right now, at this location. I will have 500 individual day pass users come in and out of that office every month. I’ve had very interesting requests from enterprise customers and closed several deals of customers who are buying 50 memberships so that their people can come in once a week to work from that environment, but not in a closed meeting room, but in an open space so that they can be together, but also amongst people. And so the way that the culture or the community is being experienced is very different, but it is being experienced in the moment they’re living it, and then they’re growing within the space as well. So it’s the location that got them there. It was the right price that enabled them to buy, but then as they experience the environment and the culture, whether it’s on a day basis or whether it’s within a group, that they’re staying and expanding. The other way, Frank, is that there are some platforms that are really kind of cool where individuals are going into the space and then within the platform, they’re recommending the space to other people and to colleagues to come, and they’re rating the space and they’re saying, this is my favorite space, or Meet me here on Thursday. So it’s kind of a rippling effect where individuals are experiencing the space and then they’re sharing that space within their network of, well. 
Frank Cottle [00:18:28] You’ve just transitioned from a variety of marketing issues and really extending life cycle over to the concept of social capital. And that’s a big element. And I think when you’re looking at marketing, there’s something to be said. There’s always a cost of customer acquisition, and it can be somewhat uniform. It cost us X amount to drive Y amount of people through our funnel, and then we get the customer, depending on how your funnel works. But the best way to reduce your cost of customer acquisition is by extending the lifecycle of your customer. So you don’t need to acquire as many. 
Andrea Pirrotti-Dranchak [00:19:16] That’s right. 
Frank Cottle [00:19:17] That is the key to so many things in life is that repeat customer, the long term customer, the loyal customer, and that’s what we’re trying to build. So the marketing process, I would say, doesn’t stop when the customer purchases. The marketing process has to be sustained through their entire lifecycle to reinforce why they purchased and to bring new gifts, if you will, to them so that they sustain their loyalty. Nothing brings you back to a restaurant faster than you’ve been loyal to, than the major D coming over and bringing you a glass of wine on the house. Oh, hey, it’s good to see you here again. No, we’d like to there are little things that you do, so I think you could comment on that. And then when you deal with the concept of social capital, basically earning a place in a community by recommending it, do centers in the Flex World, do projects in the Flex World, and even as large as IWG do they reward these micro influencers in any way? Or is it just something that they hope will work and they try and encourage, but there is no, again, reward for it. 
Andrea Pirrotti-Dranchak [00:20:40]  Yeah. And the factor of reward is incredibly interesting. So to go in long back when I was getting my MBA, they talked about we learned about the power of post marketing, right? So this is like fine wine. So the idea of the initial acquisition is just the first part to delighting your customers from the moment that they move in and every day thereafter is like fine wine to people who understand marketing and understand the power of the customer, if you will. And so, yeah, I think it is as much as guiding the way, I think, within the future of work. This is a very new area. For most. It’s 20 years old for me and longer for you, Frank. And so we eat, breathe, sleep this in a good way. And so we eat, breathe, sleep this. And we understand, I mean, 20 years ago, I introduced a global membership program that was featured on the COVID of USA Today. That was 20 years ago. So we’ve understood where this was going to go. We’ve understood that offices and workspace would be as transactional as a hotel. We’ve been preparing for this. Right? And so one of the things that’s really important, especially with making a human connection and especially with retaining customers, is guiding the process and saying, listen, we got you. We understand what your needs are today and we also understand what your needs are long into the future and starting that retention process even before they buy. So I know we’ve all experienced this, is that from the very keyword coworking, people will type in the keyword coworking, but what they’ll really want is a private office. Or what they’ll really want is a dedicated desk, although they don’t even know that dedicated desk exists, what they really want to do is hot desk. So this whole idea of guiding and using our collective intelligence that we’ve captured over the last couple of decades guiding the process on the intake, helping the customer to or the member, whatever we want to call them to create the right workspace plan for them that’s going to support, enable and enhance both their business and the individuals who are going to be sitting in those seats and then working with them to adapt that product mix and how they engage with that product throughout their lifecycle with us guiding them. Because this is a very big decision. Facility cost is the second largest fixed cost behind people. So getting this right can make or break a business. So from the initial intake, guiding them through, creating the right product mix for them, delighting them from the moment they sign the agreement to move in and beyond, and then to guiding them throughout the process to right size that product that they’re accessing from us, so that they’re always getting the maximum value proposition, so that their perceived benefits outweigh their cost. And that is how you maintain your customer base and that is how you expand. We call it landing and expanding. Right. That’s how you expand within your customer base. 
Frank Cottle [00:24:10] Well, it’s funny, I think we’ve talked a lot about facility and place and marketing and all that, but when it comes down to it, there’s a huge migration that the process of officeing, which is an activity now, it’s a verb, not a noun. We don’t go to the office anymore. We practice. The activity of officeing has really become a service business as opposed to a facility business. And so looking at things from the service perspective I think is very important. And when you look at community and you talk about community, you talk about a larger client that might say, I need 50 workstations for 50 people. They’re going to cycle in and out of your space or anything. They’re going to be rubbing shoulders with maybe 50 people from another company doing that. This is a totally new phenomenon. In the past we built walls with moats around them where we isolated. I work for IBM on our campuses out here and we all wear blue suits and we all have red ties and I’m an IBM person. We all have these. I’m doing that because I don’t want to make fun of Google right now. But we isolated the workers of a company and built a very rigid culture around that. And today it seems like certainly in the world of flexible workspace, we’re intermingling the cultures of various companies and having the individuals, someone from IBM or Google might be sitting next to someone from Microsoft who are each there on a certain day of the week. And the sharing that goes back and forth socially, certainly they won’t be sharing business secrets and things of that nature. They shouldn’t. But the social sharing and the cultural sharing is very interesting. It’s the first time that’s ever happened in business. And I think the whole flexible workplace sector is responsible for this massive dynamic change in cultural structure. 
Andrea Pirrotti-Dranchak [00:26:26] I think you’re right and I think that honing that and massaging that and making sure that as leaders, as thought leaders, that we help to craft that community in that way. And so for example, there have been a couple of times where we have turned away deals, large deals, because we felt that that one individual company would have too much of a presence and domineer or take over the culture. And so we made the financial decision to invest in the long term longevity of the culture by turning away that large deal. Now, I don’t think everybody does that, but we are invested yes, in making sure that we are nurturing that culture and that there’s an equilibrium of voices within the environment. 
Frank Cottle [00:27:31]Well, I think that one of my watch words has always been balance in all things. And I think when you look at that, you do need to balance your community. You also don’t want to get over committed to a single company because when that company leaves, it’s kind of a really sad day. So you do have to watch how you build your own customer mix and everything as we go. Overall, we talked a lot about human to human to human, human to human, empathy, understanding, et cetera. Artificial intelligence is coming, baby. The bots are here. So how is artificial intelligence going to impact that human to human structure? How are the bots, the proverbial elements that will shape a lot of content in marketing and in relationship development? How will that impact everything that you’re thinking about and impact? We know it’s going to impact the future of work. That goes without saying, but what do you think the impact of artificial intelligence will be? 
Andrea Pirrotti-Dranchak [00:28:42]Actually, we’ve just engaged with a platform called ularity. And ularity is this really cool. It was founded in 2018 and it uses AI to optimize your paid digital campaigns and it uses AI to help you to create your social feeds and your social content. And it’s very neat. And in addition, we’re also using a chat bot. Now, when I say this, is that I think that right now in our category and as a marketer, we require a human touch, a human touch in making these decisions. And so while I will use AI to guide my Pay digital buy so to guide where my money is allocated in terms of whether it’s in social or remarketing and retargeting or traditional Google Pay per click or GMV, I will use AI to guide that. It will also select the ads that are performing best and the headlines that are performing best and the visual creator that’s performing best. But I think it requires that human to oversee it and to handhold it. So for an example, with this particular feature that uses chat GBT to create the social ads, what it does is you put in a question and then it draws from your website and it draws from other input to build your social ads. Because content as a marketer and Allwork.Space is the king of content. The best practice of content is specifically beyond the future of work. But content for most marketers is really the death nail. How do you get all that feed of content? And so we’re using AI and chat GPT to guide that content and to fuel that content. But I am insisting that my marketing team reviews it, has a hands on and adapts that to make sure that we are truly reflecting our brand and the needs of the consumer. And finally, from a chat bot standpoint, a lot of people are talking about, well, in order to have an appropriate chat bot, I need to man that chat bot or woman it, whatever there has to be a live human at the end of the chat bot in order to make that effective. And the answer is no from a marketing standpoint for me. And what I’ve experienced is that once you shift from the static form, which is not conversational marketing, once you shift from the static form on your website into a chat bot and if you create workflows that actually guide when I talk about being a guide in this process, right? We need to guide our prospective customers through the process of making an office related decision. So if you create a chat bot with a workflow that guides that dialogue, then what you’ve done is you’ve wrapped up the need, that objective need in a bow for the salesperson who’s trained in consultative sales, who’s trained in uncovering the subjective pain that your prospect is feeling and that marriage is nirvana. Because you’re driving in a tremendous amount of lead flow, you’re increasing the percentage of people that convert from visit to inquiry, and you’ve given your salesperson again, who’s appropriately trained the ability to uncover the subjective need in addition to the objective need, make that human connection and solve the problem. So AI. Yes. Handhelding by individuals? Yes, for right now. 
Frank Cottle [00:32:49] Two comments I want to make is, first, I completely agree with the need to use AI merely as a tool, not as a replacement. 
Andrea Pirrotti-Dranchak [00:32:59] Not yet. 
Frank Cottle [00:32:59] And a lot of people are going, oh, goody, goody. It can do this work for me. No, it can’t. It can’t think for you. What it can do is certain tasks more quickly and more efficiently. And it’s doing that very well because we’ve embraced it. Also, the other point, not point I want to make, the comment I want to make is I’ve never heard the term marriage and nirvana in the same sentence before.
Andrea Pirrotti-Dranchak [00:33:19] What can I say. 
Frank Cottle [00:33:24] On that happy note? We’re running along a little bit. Andrea and I’d love to keep this going on forever, but I do want to thank you very much for participating with us today. And also I want to let everybody know that Andrea will be joining Allwork.Space as one of the voices of the Future of Work as an ongoing contributor to the Allwork.Space team. And we’re very excited about that and very grateful to you for the thoughtfulness of all the work that you do across the industry. 
Andrea Pirrotti-Dranchak [00:33:56]Thank you for the opportunity, Frank. I’m really excited to join the team as a contributor in that way. That’s a real pleasure. 
Frank Cottle [00:34:02] Our pleasure. The future of work again next week. Take care.

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