“There are far too many clothing shops, shoppers just have too much choice. Whoever has been around the longest should get first dibs. I wish some of these other clothing retailers would shut down… except us of course!”
You couldn’t ever imagine someone saying this and being taken seriously in business, but it is an attitude that is quite common in the pole industry.
Pole studios have their ‘turf’, their area of operation, and a sense of ‘ownership’ over their catchment. Competition is fierce between studios. This can lead to a culture of under-cutting and gossip.
Is this because our industry is still quite young? Is it because it is so niche? Is it a cultural thing in pole?
I have thoughts on these questions, but what I want to look at today is what you as a studio owner can do to deal with these issues and concerns. Ways you can empower yourself to feel more confident in your business, and move forward with positivity and purpose.
I’m sure you’ve had these worries yourself. ‘Maybe an ex-student or instructor will set up next door and charge less? Maybe they will take all my students? Or, maybe it will be another pole dancer who I haven’t met, who doesn’t see me as a friend?’
I’m going to cover several mindset shifts that will help you to level up your business, and understand that another studio opening up down the road from you isn’t the end of the world.
Be More Than ‘The Only One’, Be ‘The Better One’
If a studio opens up near you and steals your students, the problem isn’t that they opened. That’s simply a part of business.
Understanding that it is within your power and ability to be more than ‘the only one’ is essential in helping you to push yourself in your business goals. If you want your studio to last through the expansion of the pole industry, you have to aim to be MORE.
Any instructor can open with the current model – pole fitness classes at a community centre for £7-10 per hour. They market based on fitness, novelty and learning cool pole tricks. The pictures you post on social media look the same, your prices are very close, and the classes you offer aren’t particularly different from each other. How is a consumer supposed to differentiate?
Worse still, if you are offering something that looks almost identical, but their classes are cheaper than yours, then can you blame your students for choosing them?
If you want to have longevity with increased ‘competition’ (I dislike this term, and will explain why) you must always be striving to be better or different. Use your creativity and skills to come up with new, unique approaches that are going to attract students on more than price.
Pole is Not a Commodity
Many businesses, and this applies to all industries, end up competing based on the same things:
An example for pole would be competing by:
- Price – Offering cheaper memberships
- Quality – Talking about your certifications
- Features – Expanding your apparatus offering – pole, hoop, silks etc
- Convenience – Offering the most flexible packages or class times
The problem is that this turns pole into a commodity – no longer a special or boutique leisure activity, but a product that people compare based on these factors alone, like buying a new car or sofa.
All of these things are easy for your other local studios to replicate. Everyone can copy your pricing, your certifications, your equipment, and your class schedule. You cannot stop them from copying all of those things. It becomes about supply and demand then. Guess what… if you’re all supplying the same thing, then the price goes down, that’s simple economics.
What can you do? You can move away from a model that focuses on these things, and changes the focus of your business to things that cannot be easily replicated. Make yourself stand out. Make yourself more than a pole studio.
Step Away From the Pole
Many people when they are struggling in their business panic – ‘What can I do to make more money? How can I attract more students?’
They are led by fear and anxiety, and the easy answer seems to be adding new apparatus, classes or services. They think ‘If I add a children’s class then I’ll add a whole new market!’ or ‘If I add a hoop class then all my students will increase their memberships!’.
The reality is often different. You spend £££ on certifications and training, only for it to make little or no difference to the amount of money you make. In fact, you may find it even has a negative impact on your business.
The kid’s class example is perfect for this. Many studios leapt on the chance to take training to offer classes for children, thinking they would automatically boost their income and be happier in their business. Although short term it may have offered an uplift in income, it may have been what I call ‘hard money’. Learning that you are effectively a baby sitter, and discovering that you don’t enjoy teaching children, can be a difficult lesson.
The same applies when adding any new market or apparatus to your business – maybe hen parties work for other people, maybe kids classes work for other people, maybe hoop classes work for other people, maybe exotic classes work for other people. Maybe people have made amazing money from these services. None of this means that these should necessarily be added to your business model!
Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Just because it worked for others, doesn’t mean it is right for you.
Understand that your studio should be more than the ‘features’ – it is more than the products and services. It is more than the price, or certifications, or timetable, or apparatus. Your studio is a community. It is the feeling that people get when they enter it. It is a BRAND.
If you wish to be around, even when 1, 2, 3 new studios open up in your area, then you need to develop your community. That is the part of your business that cannot be replicated easily.
You’re Not Unlucky
If you have been running a studio quite successfully without a focus on branding, then you were not ‘unlucky’ that another studio opened. You were lucky that you were the first in, and didn’t have competition. You were lucky that you didn’t have to think about branding, because you were the only option. You were lucky that you captured an audience looking for something novel and new.
But now… now you need to make your own luck. If you have other studios near you, you need to make sure that you are different, engaging, better. Pole isn’t so new or novel anymore either!
In business it is an unfortunate reality that no one is owed a successful studio. Whether they opened first, have the most certifications, or are the safest, does not figure into their market’s mind (besides, the last one is a basic necessity, not a sales pitch). If someone comes along and opens a studio that is branded better, marketed better, and offers a better or more unique service than them, and they didn’t change anything in response to that, then the blame does not lie with the new studio owner.
You can only control what YOU can control. So rather than thinking about your competition and what they do or don’t do, focus on your business and how you can elevate and improve what you are offering, and how you can create an amazing experience for your students.
You’re Not in Competition
Finally… understand that you are not in competition. To have a competitive mindset is to be preoccupied with what others are doing. It is viewing yourself against their standards and their actions. When we are preoccupied with competition we end up focusing more on what other studios are doing, than on the very clients and students we are serving.
Your students should always be the first thing on your mind in your business.
Your success mindset starts when you forget these other studios even exist. Be creative, brave and ambitious for YOUR CLIENTS. Always be evolving and pushing yourself and your business to offer your students something special and unique. Don’t even look at what the other local studios are doing, it shouldn’t matter. You are following YOUR truth, YOUR passion, and YOUR inspiration.
Now Apply It
What are you going to do to take your studio to the next level?
How are you going to differentiate yourself in this new market?
Is there one change you can make tomorrow to improve your student’s experience?
One thing you can implement immediately is a changing focus from apparatus to community. You can achieve this through better branding, marketing and products and services that are more authentic to you and your mission.
In my online branding course I teach you a step-by-step structure so you can develop a branding identity and plan that will help you do exactly this. In my training course, The Magic of Better Branding: Manifest a Pole Studio You Love, you will learn what you need to do to build a studio that is going to differentiate you in your local market, and grow your business into a thriving community.
Visit the Pole Royalty pole dancing instructor training website to find out more about what this course covers and how you can enrol.