Shimmies, Not ShamWows: Why Infomercial Pitches Don’t Belong in the Belly Dance World

Snuggies and ShamWows and PedEgg’s, oh my!  It seems like every time you turn on the tube, somebody’s pitching a new fix to your least pressing problems. After all, who doesn’t need a blanket with sleeves that doubles as a Jedi garment?

Just for fun, I thought I’d gather some of the most classic infomercial slogans and apply them to the business of belly dance.

I know what you’re thinking. Carrara has truly gone off the deep end this time. Where could she possibly be going with this? And why, pray tell, is she implying that my competition is just a mere blanket with sleeves?

The point of this exercise is to re-examine our advertising messages in a changing marketplace. Is your marketing strategy consistent with who you are as a dancer and what your dancing means to your consumers? Are you setting yourself up to book business not just now, but when the economy improves? Do you want your customers to think you’re a purchase or a partner? Bear in mind the Big Picture.

And don’t go away! First person to comment on this entry gets a free retractable booklight!

  • “Craaaaaaaazy low price of $19.99! (Shipping and handling may apply).”  – Have you ever wanted to destroy the integrity of your brand and make every dancer in your neighborhood hate your guts? Drop your rates. While some dancers give small discounts to friends of friends, charities, return customers and referrals, dancing for peanuts (or shawarma) will only backfire on your brand when the economy picks up and clients are willing to spend a little extra for quality. A better strategy is to offer VIP-quality customer service to every one of your clients, from the backyard bellygram to the slickest corporate event.
  • “Buy one, and we’ll throw in another for free!” – Some dancers, usually with the best intentions, will offer discounts to clients who book multiple dancers. Have you ever booked a show with one or more of your friends? If so, you’ll know how much time is spent coordinating costumes, set structure, music and possibly choreography. Therefore, it’s not unreasonable to ensure that every dancer gets a fair cut for her hard work.
  • “But wait! There’s more. Book now and get a free ShamWow!” – Free “stuff” isn’t exactly a bad thing, if the “stuff” is maybe a free class to incentivize students who referred you for a gig, or a complimentary hip scarf for the Bride to Be at a bachelorette party. Bonuses can be an awesome hook, but they should be useful and of minimal cost to you. On the other hand, additional sets, mini-lessons after a show, and other labor-intensive extras should be charged accordingly.
  • “It slices! It dices! It chops, juliennes and makes a perfect guacamole! All in less than 30 seconds!” – The Magic Bullet would seem to be the ultimate people pleaser. While you, too, should aim to please, there is a fine line between happily accomodating your customers’ requests within your scope and sacrificing valuable brand identity for the ineffective, unsexy (and yet too common) “All Things to All People” approach. Want to test this theory? First, determine who you are, as a dancer, an artist, a personality and an entepreneur. Be it, live it, and tell the world. Have a story, be larger than life, stand for something, and don’t be afraid to toot your own horn. Having a distinctive, well-rounded persona might cost you the occasional gig, but in the end, it’s the most efficient way to turn garden-variety customers (blah.) into Stark Raving Fans (yay!!!). I’m sure I will go into branding in more detail in further entries, so don’t go anywhere.
  • “Accept no imitations! Lady Shapoopie is the Only Authentic Belly Dancer in Pleasantville, USA!” Own a category (such as tribal fusion, baby showers, the nightclub scene) and prospects will admire your credibility. Own your entire region – or the dance as a whole – and people just might think you’re a whackadoo. Funny how that happens.
  • “Everybody needs a blanket with sleeves! Men, women, babies, even people who live in Arizona!”In an ideal world, every restaurant, nightclub and coffee shop would have a weekly belly dance show. Even Taco Bell would get in on the action. Trouble is, some belly dancers pitch weekly entertainment in some seemingly improbable venues (read: delis, sports bars, Chinese restaurants). How do you approach restaurant and club owners in a city without Middle Eastern restaurants or hookah lounges? Simple. Pitch a one-time-only Arabian Nights Party, or World Music Night, or something where a belly dancer would be a decent fit. Offer to help promote it. Emphasize the fact that you can help them draw traffic to their venue. If it goes well, then ask about doing it on a monthly basis. Never underestimate the power of starting small and remaining targeted.

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