Retaining customers, the pole dancing way

Since I’ve arrived in Copenhagen I’ve started taking pole dancing classes.  Think twice before you laugh at a guy on a pole:

This post isn’t about the insane tricks that men can do on a pole though.  It is about getting your new customers to come back to your business.  I was talking with Karina (founder of the House of Pole) after class yesterday and she was telling me how the studio is expanding class difficulty levels from two to three.  This will let advanced students work on harder tricks and make space in the lower level classes for new students.  However, one of the best things about the studio is the camarderie students have with one another.  It is challenging enough to learn a new sport and Karina wants to make sure the new students feel as welcome as the old ones.

So we came up with two ideas that I think will be very helpful in retaining new students.

Level up!

Pole dancing has many tricks to learn, from easier ones like a spin to really hard ones (thanks Kristian Levedev).  The rewards  that come from learning harder skills are both tangible and regimented.

Just like trying to get your mile time down by 15 seconds or going from a 5.8 climb to a 5.9 (climbing ratings explained), or raising your batting average from a .279 to .285 (baseball explained for international readers), sports that clearly enumerate advancement are tailor made for keeping track of your progress.  The same works for pole.

What Karina wants to do is to expand the profile attached to each student (they already have one to book classes) to keep track of how many classes they’ve taken and where they should expect to be at any point in their training.  Especially for new students, she can tell them that after a month of classes they can expect to be at the level where they can get upside down and do a few fancy spins!  That’s pretty good incentive to come back after your first class for a few more tries.  And then you can look ahead and see after three months you’ll be doing a leg hang.

Buddy up!

Since student camaraderie is such an important part of the studio, it would be good to get the new students more involved with the old students from the beginning.  The challenge is that the new students don’t take classes with the advanced ones!  And so it is harder to get as integrated.

Our solution is to use a buddy system, inspired by Pro-Amateur events.  Golf tournaments have professionals paired with amateurs quite frequently.  And closer to my own life, swing dance events pair amateurs with professionals for competition.

Karina is thinking about having an event called “midnight pole”.  On a weekend night, she’ll invite House of Pole students to come by the studio and work on moves with a buddy.  She’ll pair up experienced people with less experienced people.  And after a good workout she’ll have drinks and snacks so everyone can hang out.  (Drinking before pole dancing would add an extra degree of difficulty…)

Keeping your new customers

Making sure the new folks who walk through your door are happy and keep coming back is a central challenge for any business.  Anything you can do to reward people returning to your business and showing them the progress they make will make it more likely your new customers will return.  How might you apply leveling up and buddying up to your business?

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