There has been a lot of discussion lately on a listserv about competing based on price. The consensus is that you can’t compete with dancers who undercut. You know what? That’s right. You can’t. So why bother trying? The better strategy is to let your brand speak for you so that you can compete on value and service.
I can see you scratching your head and saying, “What the heck are you talking about, Taaj?” Let me explain. “Branding” is the sum total of what people think about you when they see your face and hear your name so you have to cultivate this carefully. If there is no image when your name is heard, that’s the first place to start. Let this be intentional, not haphazard.
Decide what is most important- the thing that absolutely sets you aside from your competition and cultivate that image. If there are other important things, let those things be secondary. For example, “Taaj, the belly dance trainer” is a teacher’s teacher. Why? Because the title says so. Because my website says so. I am the person you go to to be a better dancer and business woman. Why take my word for it? Because I have a gallery of 12 award winning students from 2002 to the present on my website. Because my website has scores of testimonials from raving fans saying how happy they are with my work.
“Taaj’s Tribe” is all about professionalism. We are in the highest profile venues. We are on time. I give the client exactly what they want and continue to check with them to make sure that they are happy. We deliver a quality product time after time and strive to make each performance special. We can do a variety of things in a variety of venues. The dancers have the highest level of training. We have the look that they are looking for so that they never feel compelled to look elsewhere. This gets us jobs. This keeps us jobs.
There truly is no competition for Taaj’s Tribe or Taaj, the belly dance trainer. If you want something else, you are going to go to someone else. If you want what I have to offer, you come here. THAT’S what your brand should say about you. It needs to be a strong, definitive statement.
It needs to set you apart in some way from your competition. It needs to compel your prospective client to say, “Yes, that’s what I want.”
Think about it. When “it positively has to be there overnight”, who do you call? The post office? No, it’s FedEx. What food is “finger lickin’ good?” What product would you spend extra for “because I’m worth it.” Which deodorant asks you to “raise your hand if you’re sure?” If you could identify slogans from Kentucky Fried Chicken, L’Oreal, and Sure, you are proof that the branding for these companies work.
So what does branding have to do with price? When you have a brand that is identifiable, sets you apart from the rest, tells your client what you have to offer, and there is a market for this product, you don’t have to work for low-ball prices. You don’t have to work as hard to get each client. You can charge MORE because you have a higher perceived value. The result is you make more money with each gig. You also don’t have to work as hard to get each client because a happy, high paying client is more likely to refer other high-paying clients to you.
Will there still be undercutting dancers out there trying to get your jobs? Of course, but they aren’t realistically in the same market as you. They aren’t competing for the same jobs. There will always be clients looking for cheap dancers, and dancers who are willing to dance cheaply. Like attracts like and those sorts tend to find each other. Don’t target that clientele because that’s not your market.
Those who want a low price want a low price. It doesn’t pay to lower your price or match theirs. Competing by price hurts everyone because there is always someone who will go even lower. This not only drives down price, but drives down the perceived value of what you do for the entire community.
Bottom line- consciously create a brand and compete on value and service, not price. Be patient. Building a brand takes time. There will be a lot of trial and error. It is built on your body of work and the effort you put into sculpting it into something that says, “This is who I am. This is what I can do for you. Here’s why you need look no further.” If you do this consciously, you will have a product for which there is no comparison. The cheap dancers of the world will NOT be able to compete with you in value or service. And that’s how you knock out the competition.