July 31, 2008

How to Market Pole Dancing… Yes, Pole Dancing

A recent New York Times Article, From the Erotic Domain, an Aerobic Trend in China, talks about a interesting marketing case study that's actually relevant to all of us. It has to do with an entrepreneur who decided to offer pole dancing classes to Chinese women as a form of exercise.

Like a modern day equivalent of the Jazzercise craze in the 1980's here in the United States, some marketer cleverly repackaged pole dancing as a great way to get a workout. Apparently, and I have definitely not tried this, it takes quite a lot of strength to hold up your body weight on a pole (serious!).

It turns out that the Chinese do not have any stigma attached to pole dancing. In the United States, we associate it with the seedier side of society. But in China, it's just, well… a pole (like the kind you'd attach to a stop sign)

So what exactly does pole dancing give its Chinese students? Well, they get a good workout, get an interesting "war story" to tell, and get to pretty much irritate all the conservative people in their lives (e.g, parents).

For renegade women, what's not to love?

In all seriousness, there are two important marketing lessons here.

1) In marketing any widget, it's not about the widget. It's about what the widget does for a customer that matters. In this case, the pole is largely irrelevant. However, being perceived as a renegade is very relevant.

This is in a twisted sort of way along the same lines of "Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM." IBM doesn't sell hardware, software and consulting services. Instead, IBM sells the feeling of reassurance.

The pole dancing school does not rent you access to a really stable poll. They provide you with an incredible feeling of being unique, different and trendy.

The question to ask yourself is what feeling are you selling to your clients? As the ridiculously successful "Nobody got fired for buying IBM" campaign (from decades ago, no less) demonstrates, even when you're selling business-to-business, you're still selling feelings to the decision makers in those businesses.

2) The second big lesson is around targeting. Target market selection is one of the most overlooked, haphazard decisions made in many companies. It's vital that this targeting decision by made quite deliberately. And in today's uncertain economy, it's important to revisit that decision and make adjustments from time to time.

In a strange way, when a client of ours commissions a Bookmercial, the issues of feelings and targeting come up quite early in the process (though never in the context of pole dancing!) After all, why do our clients find our Bookmercial books so helpful early in the sales process?

It builds instant credibility and feelings of trust much more quickly than a cold call or a brochure ever could. Next to having your own television show, publishing a book is the  best way to build trust with prospects quickly.

Is this really any different than what IBM or the pole dancing school in China sells?  At the end of the day, we're all in the selling of "feelings" business. The only question is whether or not you realize it.

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Filed under Blog, Marketing Fundamentals by Victor Cheng

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