Old School Vs. New School workshop seriesYour Customers
Tom, your best customer for more than 20 years, is gone. Tyler is a recent college grad and Internet nerd who makes $75K a year. So, how do you make him your new best customer? This is the central theme of the Old School vs. New School: Your Customers workshop at EXPO 2011.
Our three “Your Customers” workshop speakers offered valuable advice to club operators on how they have stayed ahead of the curve on attracting the “next generation” of customers, while also utilizing tried-and-true “old school” methods of operation.
Jeff Stoller, Director of Global Club Licensing for Penthouse Media, has been consistently in front of industry trends, especially as they relate to attracting today’s adult nightclub customer. David Boehm is the Executive Director of Club Consultant Pro, and boasts over 27 years of industry experience. Boehm has built his business on the ability to help clubs attract and retain new customers while refining their ability to provide the best in club hospitality.
The third speaker—Mark Franks, President & CEO of the Castle Megastore chain of erotic retail venues—is known as one of the most successful business owners in the adult entertainment realm. Franks, who has over 20 years of experience in the adult industry and even owned/operated adult clubs in Australia, has been an expert at attracting new customers on a daily basis to Castle stores across the U.S.
Here, we’ve printed the majority of the speakers’ EXPO comments.
Jeff StollerIn today’s adult nightclub industry, there are so many choices and so many specific interests that we really have to be aware that we can’t be everything to everyone. What I’m talking about is how you look at your audience and how you cater to your audience today.
There has been a general acceptance that there are two different kinds of audiences: the upscale and the blue collar. Well, because there are so many people interested in our business, and since our business has become mainstream, it is increasingly difficult to be everything to everyone.
What we want to do going forward is identify the specific audience we’re looking for and target them. These are two things that every club can do and apply to their business from here on in.
When you’re identifying your audience, one of the problem is trying to be everything to everybody. It simply doesn’t work. Trying to make everyone happy, in any endeavor, is hard to do. But because there are so many demographics in our industry, it makes more sense to be more specific and give your audience something a little more well defined.
Now you might say, “Well, what’s the harm in trying?” Well, it hurts your club when you combine elements that simply don’t work. For example, just imagine that you create an upscale facility because you’re trying to appeal to a certain audience. Now, because you also don’t want to alienate another group, you offer dollar beers. Now, you add rap music to your playlist. (Audience laughs). Now you’re laughing, because you know doesn’t work.
Be conscious of the choices you’re making and know that you can’t be everything to everybody. And going forward, I just think we need to be more aware of what our audience is looking for now because there are so many [entertainment] choices now.
What [Penthouse] does—and what any other club can do—to identify our audience is to ask these questions: Who are they? How old are they? How much disposable income do they have, and what do they want? We know that our audience wants something more upscale; we also know they expect that from us. These questions just don’t apply to Penthouse, though. They apply to clubs in any market. And if your club isn’t asking these questions, then your taking a lot for granted.
One of the messages I would like to convey is, don’t just do something because it was done before. That’s exactly what the old school is. It just doesn’t work anymore. Between the Internet and other means of communication, as well as access to entertainment, you have to do something more for your audience.
After you identify your audience, you want to target your audience. Where are they? How do you reach them? What messages motivate them? Most club ads we see in local newspapers nowadays say the same things; something about admissions or drink specials. Since many clubs use the art department from the newspaper, they all look the same, too. When you pick an audience a marketing strategy, do it intentionally.
When talking about today’s audience, we’re actually talking about two separate audiences: today’s audience and tomorrow’s audience.
Today’s audience includes, of course, the people who are already going to adult clubs. It is a known audience, but it is also a fairly small audience. If that’s all [Penthouse] looked for when we entered a market, then all we would be doing is cutting up the pie in smaller pieces and not adding growth. To find growth means attracting new people to go into the clubs.
For example, say that there are 15 clubs in a major market with an average of 1,000 guests per week. We know we have 15,000 people coming through the doors of all the clubs in this hypothetical major market. Now, take out 20 percent for repeat visitors; now you have 12,000 guests. Now, take away 2,000 who are tourists. That leaves you with 10,000 unique local guests. What does that mean? It means that all those clubs are potentially spending thousands of dollars to reach those same 10,000 customers week after week in this hypothetical city, which has a population of hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of people. Yet all of a club’s marketing dollars are focused on only 10,000 people. So what I’m suggesting is to look at that bigger market, because that bigger market is where the growth is.
As your markets get more and more competitive—not just with other clubs, but with other forms of entertainment—club owners should be able to reach those customers by their ability to offer a physical place where people can actually interact, rather than just looking at a computer or TV screen.
David BoehmI started in this business in 1979 as a barback in a club in upstate New York. I was brought up old school, and I believe that some old school philosophies still work. A mentor of mine is Mr. Duke Dearing [an industry veteran, inducted into the EXOTIC DANCER Hall of Fame in 2011—Ed.]. And Duke taught me the style of old-school operation, which is, it’s not the “customer”; it is the “guest.” We all need to take the word “customer” and stop using it. We need to treat these people as guests, and you need get your staff on board with that as well as your entertainers.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, all you have to do is polish the wheel. And it starts from within. For example, when was it okay to walk into a club and see half of the entertainers on their cell phones? Where is the seduction there? I want to walk into a club see a girl and think, “Wow, she is beautiful.”
"I went into a club last night and saw a room of at least 100 “Stepford” dancers; no personality, nothing. I say before we go new school vs. old school, we fix from within. We get the wheel to turn properly. It’s nothing extreme, really. But when did cell phones and nose piercings and smoking cigarettes on the floor become acceptable? I think we all dropped the ball."Or how about this: I’ll walk into a club and a girl comes up to me within the first five seconds and asks if I want a dance. And I say, “No thanks, I just walked in.” She says, “Fuck you.” Please excuse my language, but we have all heard it. Really? Is that what it has come to? But we don’t need to blame the entertainers; instead, we need to hold everyone accountable and make the standard of our industry higher.
For example, I went into a club last night and saw a room of at least 100 “Stepford” dancers; no personality, nothing. I say before we go new school vs. old school, we fix from within. We get the wheel to turn properly. It’s nothing extreme, really. But when did cell phones and nose piercings and smoking cigarettes on the floor become acceptable? I think we all dropped the ball. Club owners, GMs and downward, I just don’t think they care, because at the end of the night, all they want to do is count their cash. I say, if you bring the standard back up you’re going to have even more cash.
We need to reeducate our girls on what it means to be an “entertainer.” Many dancers nowadays don’t realize that the stage is their billboard. By showcasing themselves properly on stage, they’re going to make money ten-fold once they hit the floor. I see girls on stage now that look like they’re going through surgery. They hate it. Why do we make that acceptable now?
We have got to get the hospitality back. For example, if I’m a customer and I ask for a bottle of Pellegrino and you don’t have it but the store across the street does, why can’t you go get it? Your bartenders should know what is behind the bar at all times.
There is a lot the old school can teach these younger guys. Hospitality is truly a lost art form. The seduction aspect of the entertainers? Gone. They look at work as a party. Stuff like this means we need to reeducate ourselves to make all of us more successful.
With that being said, the young can teach the old about social media. I am a big believer in social media. You have got to get your staff accountable on Facebook and Twitter. Why aren’t they held accountable to bring in new business when they are pulling down a couple hundred dollars a night? I suggest that three times a day, every member of your staff should go on Twitter and mention a special. That’s a lot of exposure for your club online. People don’t look up at billboards anymore; they’re looking down at their iPhones.
But no matter what changes may come, the old school rocks, in my opinion. We need to get back to those successful roots in order to move forward with the industry.
mark FranksWell, I haven’t been in the club business since the mid-1990s—I owned a chain of clubs in Australia—but I’m still in the adult entertainment industry with the Castle Megastores, and there’s a lot going on today with our customers in adult retail which correlate to guests of adult clubs.
Similar to clubs, the customers coming into adult retail stores today are women and couples. The key thing about our business is, much of our business—and yours—is built off of what David Boehm said about seducing the guest with the fantasy element. Our industries are built on fantasy. We have customers now that are looking for trends and fantasies that weren’t discussed openly even five years ago. And continue to gain business from these new trends; for example the soft bondage trend now is explosive.
As retailers, we have to be consistently on top of the trends in our industry; I’m sure it’s the same for the club industry, too. If you’re not paying attention to what your customers are talking about, you’re probably missing out on a crucial revenue stream.
You have to decide when you have a business: “Who is it that I want to be?” How do you want people to perceive your brand? Every person has an identity, and so should every business. This includes who you are, what you are and what you’re capable of doing well. You might visit a colossal club and see something you could never be; but still, you might find something you can gleam from in order to target the customer you want more effectively.
At Castle, we spend an awful lot of money on employee training; we call it Castle University. We are constantly training our staff with different vendors to make sure they understand the products we offer to our customers. The other thing we do is making sure our staff knows exactly what their job is.
When I’m hearing comments like, “Entertainers nowadays don’t know how to interact with customers,” I can tell you those are training issues. Invest in [good training for staff and entertainers]. Lay down the money for them; I promise you it will be worth it. Put together a training program that outlines what you expect from your employees.
We operate our business with proper procedure. You can’t run a successful business with people who don’t understand what their job is. People, for the most part, want to do a good job. But as an employer, it must be put into writing what is expected of them. Then, it’s your responsibility to train them how to do it properly.