The Ultimate Guide to Running and Scaling Thriving Residential Communities: How to Lay the Right Foundations for a Vibrant Community (Part 1)
When it comes to coliving, building a thriving community does not depend on having your residences up and running already.
When it comes to coliving, building a thriving community does not depend on having your residences up and running already. In fact, some of the most successful coliving operators started by shaping their community before their even broke grounds. How? This is what part 1 of our ultimate guide to running and scaling thriving residential communities is all about.
When going through these recommendations, keep in mind however that while most of these topics can already be tackled even before you open the doors to your first coliving location, the bigger and smaller tweaks that follow can be revisited more often to reflect and troubleshoot on reasons why your community might stagnating.
A short but heartfelt word of thanks to all the movers and shakers that have provided their insights, and learnings to make this guide possible: Bass Akkermann (Hive Coliv), Brian Welsh (Nido Student), Marta Wheeldon (UKO), Javier Caro (CBRE), Williams Johnson Mota (B-Hive Living), Eddie Sit (Dash Living), and Florian Färber (The Base), Matthew Lesniak (Conscious Coliving), Connor Moore (Coliv), Aitana (Spatial Experience), Jan Keck (Ask Deep Questions), Gaetan de Dietrich (Independent Advisor), and Cate Maiolini (Salto KS).
Thank you so much for opening up your knowledge to the world and helping all of us advance!
The complete guide is structured into five main chapters, each with a clear focus on a different topic on how to create strong residential communities:
- Chapter 1 — How to lay the right foundations for a vibrant community
- Chapter 2 — How to build a strong residential community
- Chapter 3 — How to unlock the business value of community
- Chapter 4 — How to measure your Community’s Success
- Chapter 5 — How to secure your competitive advantage with a residential community
It is our hope that by making this guide and therewith the learnings, insights, and good practices from the early adopters widely available within the broader residential living market we will be able to help you understand yet another piece of the puzzle on how to densify your buildings, while at the same time also provide the living experience your tenants crave.
11 secrets to laying the right foundation for a vibrant community
Before diving deeper into the topic of how to create a vibrant community, let’s first of all clarify what we understand by the term community. Without getting too philosophical, we understand a residential community as a group of individuals who share certain living arrangements together and are centered around a shared focus — however loosely defined it may be.
A vibrant community on the other hand is a group of individual residents that are engaged with each other, and form relationships. Bringing such a residential community to life is accomplished through value creation in a community, which empowers community members to interact, make connections, and build stronger relationships. That means we are creating a stronger and more engaged residential community to the extent that we succeed in creating the right value for each other — which forms the starting point of any community work.
The ultimate goal in building a vibrant residential community is kicking off the flywheel where the community itself pulls people towards its core, by making people first engage with the value, later contribute to the community themselves, and thus create new value for others in a cyclical manner. This is when community also starts to have a significant value on the bottom line of the business — as it impacts various business areas from duration of stay, to operating and acquisition costs as well as a satisfaction of stay and the overall brand value you are creating.
To achieve this community on autopilot, here are the 11 secrets on how to lay strong foundations for a vibrant residential community:
# 1 — Be clear on what you as a brand/community stand for
The most powerful communities revolve around a shared purpose, and it is this purpose that pulls people in and makes it easy for you to understand what is the value you should provide through your programming. It helps you attract the “right” residents, and also set clear expectations, and empowers you to create the right programming around it. To define what you are standing for, ask yourself: What are your values you stand for, who is the audience you cater for and what are the things you can offer to create value for your residents. Remember: Engagement, in the end, is just another word for people seeing value in what you are offering or are willing to contribute by adding their own value voluntarily. While it might be tempting to be less explicit in who you would like to live with you as you’d like to fill your beds as quickly as possible, good practice shows that instead of being less clear on the vision of your community, the actual answer in filling your beds fast lies in creating a strong community already before you are opening your doors and create a stronger waitlist (see #4).
- To dive deeper into the topic of figuring out what you and your community really stand for, have a look at the community canvas as a great resource to take you through the early stages of defining your community vision.
- Listen to Gaetan and Cate talk about why this is so important on Rooftalks Live
# 2 — Be clear on who your stakeholders are
Get clarity on who your stakeholders are and get them to buy into why your community is not a ‘nice to have’ but an integral part of your product and see how they can help you shape it.
- Spatial design — for ground-up developments, make sure to get the balance right between densifying your asset but also designing the space in a way that forces people to meet and mingle (great work from Fadi Sarieddine for Hive Coliv. Also read this great interview here and find a more general introduction into the value of spatial design for coliving from Spatial Experience here)
- Local neighbourhood — help them understand how your concept impacts and uplifts the local neighboorhood and local businesses (the impact report from Venn in highlighting the impact that coliving operators have on the local business.)
- Local authorities — make sure you also involve the respective people form the local authorities into your planning process and explain to them how your project does fit their priorities and regulations with the community your are building.
- Residents — engage your future residents early on in the process. What would they enjoy within your community, how can you help them make progress in their lifes. Also, use this opportunity to start building and engaging with your waitlist.
- Investors — make sure you help your investors understand how your community focus helps you boost your profitability and the valuation of your asset. (Listen to Javier Caro talk about what investors are looking for in coliving here)
- And many others ranging from consultants over architects, etc.
- Having trouble sorting out your game plan when it comes to how to get all these stakeholders onto the same page? The Stakeholder mapping exercise from Conscious Coliving can help — as partners of this guide they are offering a free initial consulting call here)
- Listen to Williams talk about their journey and how they worked together with the various stakeholders here
# 3 — Define and design your brand and get it out
Don’t wait until opening day to reveal your baby to the world. And keep in mind that to build a brand you do not need to be a massive player, nor have a big budget to allocate. Start small by just asking yourself, if your brand would be a character, who would that be? What would they look like? How would they dress? How would they speak and what type of people would they hang out with? All this feeds into the brand you are building, and can set the tone for the experience you create.
- Of course, there is plenty of help around if you would like to take things to the next level, for example, you can find a lot of inspiration and examples on how others are creating strong residential living brands in the coliving insights No 8 — Brands and Marketing, or check out some of the work that Spatial Experiences have done here.
- Listen to Gaetan’s experiences on how to create your own coliving brand here.
# 4 — Start building an engaging your waitlist
You dont need to have an operational building to start building your waitlist. In fact your community does not require a physical building at all. Instead, you can already start bringing your brand to life by organizing activities like meet-ups and creating a bit of a local buzz around you. Keep in mind the stronger the community you have built upon opening day, the faster your lease-up, and the better the community experience — so this step will pay off massively! Additionally, engaging with your waitlist is one of the best research resources you can tap into — what do they need, what are their challenges, how can you help them, what are they willing to pay, etc. And you dont need to allocate a big budget for it. In face Dash Living has been almost organically built their big instagram following by being intentional about getting their word out there early on — initially started out as a content marketing experiment, they quickly understood the value of creating such an engaged community and focused on it. Keep in mind though that depending on your market you might lso need to throw in quite a bit of generic educational content about what coliving actually really is — which is what Bass from Hive Coliv experienced when they started out.
- Check out this article how Dash has been doing it here — and have a look at their insta for content inspiration here
- Listen to Cate talking about examples on how to build a strong waitlist.
# 5 — Be clear in your messaging
To create a strong community, once you are clear on your value and your audience, be very intentional with the language you use to craft a powerful message that resonates with them. Actively using the language of your target audience can function as a strong tool get your message across and make them understand that you really understand and care about them. Additionally be very deliberate about what promises you can make and how you will deliver on them? Keep in mind simple things can make a bit difference: For example being at home vs feeling at home. Once you are unable to deliver on any of your promises, people will start questioning your authenticity and intentions as they perceive this dissonance where you say one thing and behave differently. While this can work for a lot of industries, when you’re dealing with people’s homes — ultimately is the most intimate part of themselves, that dissonance will feel very, very cheap and for sure very uncomfortable.
- Listen to Gaetan speaking about the importance of the right messaging here.
# 6 — Experiment to find out what marketing channels work best for you
Another way to get a headstart for your coliving concept is to figure out which marketing channels work for you. Where do your ideal residents hang out and how can you reach them? Here next to the digital marketing channels — such as Facebook, Instagram, Google, etc — you might also want to consider some business-to-business channels like partnerships with bigger companies in your region. Housing becomes a critical component in the war for talent, but keep in mind: You want to create a diverse community and not a boarding house. Perhaps there are also some related local businesses that you could strike a partnership with? In the end, attracting your ideal audience at a lower price way is how you increase your margins. And again, here an early community of your future coliving brand can come in handy as there is a massive social network to tap into for high-quality referrals.
- Listen to Florian speak about how to find the right marketing channels here.
…. to be continued… :)
This concludes the first part of chapter 1 of our guide on how to lay strong foundations for a vibrant community. It is my sincere hope that you got a lot of value out of this and if you did, please feel free to share the content with anyone within your network you feel could benefit front this.
Of course, if there are any other burning questions on your mind, feel free to share those with us, also in case you would like to share your experiences to get in touch.
In any case, stay tuned for part 2 of our first chapter on how to lay solid foundations to building a vibrant community that we will be releasing over the coming weeks.
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- About the Ultimate Guide to Running and Scaling thriving residential communities: To help uncover good practices and learnings on this topic from within the field, we have identified the 50 most burning questions on community building — and reached out to dozens operators and thought leaders to help us answer these questions by sharing their insights, experiences, and learnings with us. Sign-up at obeyo.com and receive our monthly newsletter about all things residential communities, and be notified whenever we release the next parts of the ultimate guide.
- About Michael: Michael is co-founder and CEO at Obeyo. Passionate about connecting people, he loves to explore ideas at the intersection between community, shared living, and technology. Feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn.
- About Obeyo: Obeyo is the first all-in-one operating system and community app for residential living built around the learnings from 100+ shared living operators.