Posts Tagged ‘launch’

Pop-up retail, meet pop-up office

by Marc Watley on January 31, 2011

Gap did it next to their flagship 5th Avenue location in New York.  Method did it in San Francisco’s Union Square shopping district. (Method, those funny teardrop-shaped bottles of good eco-friendly soaps and cleaners found at stores like Target and Whole Foods).  You’re likely most familiar with Boo! – The Halloween Store that ‘pops up’ every fall.  Right – now I know you’re with me.  Pop-up stores are seemingly everywhere these days, and if retailers can enjoy success with these temporary locations, why not B2B-focused organizations?

The beauty of a pop-up office is the ability for a growing company to take full advantage of high-visibility retail space, making a high-impact presentation and increasing exposure to prospective customers in a particular market. Think of it as your booth at a 90-day-long trade show.

Last November, BusinessWeek did a story on pop-up stores and interviewed Erik Joule, Levi Strauss’ Sr. VP of Merchandising. “Success is exposure.” Erik said.  His Levi’s ‘workshop’ pop-up space in Manhattan reportedly draws 3,000 visitors each week.  Procter & Gamble apparently enjoyed similar success with their pop-up initiative, drawing some 14,000 visitors in just ten days!

Think about it: Let’s say your business is a Software-As-A-Service (SaaS) company, and you’re launching a software development and testing application focused on growing technology companies.  You’re based in, say, Dallas, but you desperately need exposure to – and presence in – Silicon Valley in order for your new product to succeed. You also know that University Avenue in Palo Alto or Castro Street in Mountain View, for example, are both hotbeds of Valley activity – with everyone from Googlers to Facebookers to VCs constantly rushing along these thoroughfares to coffee/lunch/dinner meetings.  These are the exact folks you need to reach, and ideally you’d like to have a company presence with proximity to one of these two areas.  Here’s how I’d go about this:

  1. Location. Find a small, high visibility vacant storefront on one of these streets and arrange for a temporary lease (with an option to extend if possible). With luck, I might be able to negotiate down to 50% of the market lease rate.  I might also consider reaching out to the local Chamber of Commerce, whose goal is to have zero vacant spaces in these busy areas and who might offer leverage during negotiations with the landlord.
  2. Strategy. I’ll work with a retail design professional to create my ‘storefront’ for maximum impact. (A local art college would be a good place to start, given they typically employ ‘working’ faculty.) Ideally, I’d want to have an open, inviting area for all passers-by, perhaps with large monitors looping mini-commercials of my new product.
  3. Move in. Gather one or two of my Dallas team, hop on a plane, and ‘move in’ to the new location. I might also consider bringing on a local sales rock-star with a solid track record of winning SaaS deals in the Valley to help with lead generation.
  4. Marketing. With the location and team in place, we’ll need lots of PR for the new pop-up shop. Enter social media: Facebook page. Press release. TechCrunch story.  Tweets galore.  I think you get the picture.
  5. Launch! Now to invite as many folks as we can find to our launch party (yes, with cocktails), barking on the street if I have to.  We’ll schedule and host regular interactive lunch-n-learn product demos, offering something a bit higher-end than pizza for lunch.  The door is always open, presenting a standing invitation for all puzzled-looking pedestrians to come on in.

Right now is a particularly good time to consider a pop-up office. Despite the recent corner-turning of the economy, most cities’ central business districts still have plenty of empty storefronts and ground-level offices. Aside from taking long walks through central business districts of prospective cities (which you should do), there are several online resources available to help find available retail spaces for lease; a couple that immediately come to mind are Rofo and Pop Up Insider.

Imagine your delight in giving directions to a prospect: “We’ve taken over the old Kenneth Cole location – you know, at the corner of Fifth and Main?” Oooh…was that a light bulb I just saw illuminating above your head?