(Note: This story appears in the July 2021 issue of ED Magazine)
Remaining successful in a challenging environment doesn’t just mean staying competitive with fellow gentlemen’s club operators. EXPO Keynote speaker David Avrin explained it means realizing who your “real” competition is, and understanding exactly what your customers can and will expect from your club in the coming months and years.
David Avrin opened his Keynote Address with a gift: not taking off his clothes. “You’re not used to cheering for guys getting up on stage not taking off their clothes,” Avrin said. “So thank you for that great opportunity.”
Avrin’s speech focused on how being “remarkably accommodating” creates customer experiences that beat the competition. And that’s something the whole industry could afford to take stock in as it rebounds from a year-plus of COVID shutdowns and ramifications.
“I want to talk about the changing business and what’s happening to the industry, much of which started before the pandemic. But what have we learned during this time? How do we emerge? This is not a COVID-19 presentation,” Avrin said.
He pointed to a successful EXPO as evidence the industry had, at least, survived. “The question is, what world are we emerging into?” he continued. “What is different today? What have we learned about us in the interim?”
He proceeded to frame the importance of serving up experience. It was 1976 and Avrin, his dog Max, and his friends would ride to the Burger King on Saturday mornings and Avrin would spend his weekly allowance on those food trips.
“I wasn’t spending it on food — what I was spending it on was the experience,” Avrin recalled. “Burger King had nothing to do with me except they looked the other way when Max was under the table. But I spent more because I wanted to spend it on laughter and silliness and friendship and Coke coming out of our nose, feeding Max French fries under the table.”
As Avrin explained, “choice” is at the heart of the majority of our transactions, including the customers that have started to repopulate gentlemen’s clubs. “The question is why are (patrons) going to choose you?” he asked. “We know why they chose you before, but what’s different about the world today? What other choices do we have? That’s what I want to talk about.”
“It is an amazing time to be a consumer,” Avrin said. And who could argue? From the ease-of-access of long-distance Zoom calls, to same-day delivery (on pretty much anything), to the prevalence of instant notifications, it’s never been easier to be a consumer.
Avrin also had a stark warning for those waiting for a return to pre-pandemic normal: “Those who are biding their time waiting for the world to come back, it’s not coming back,” he said. “It will come back to an extent, but it’s a different world. Call it the new normal, the new next, the touch-less tomorrow — in many ways, COVID has accelerated what has long been predicted about how we’re going to do business.”
That change has trickled down to consumers and consumer behavior, as well as to those that provide services, goods, etc. “Look at some of the capital investment that some of the major companies are making,” Avrin observed, pointing to KFC, which unveiled a new prototype for its locations, including separate bays for online ordering, curbside delivery, and more. “They’re making a 40-year bet that this is the way it’s going to be.”
If this summer is any indication, the economy is picking up in large thanks to revenge spending, or, this notion of getting out and injecting back into the economy after months of shuttered-in living.
“We’re craving the opportunity to go out with our friends with our buddies,” says Avrin. “And go to a club and enjoy a time and get some great eye candy, a great conversation and food and drink. It’s time. It is your time. But the question once again is what’s different about this time?”
Your competitor today, Avrin noted, is Top Golf, Netflix, Buffalo Wild Wings — opportunities to gather. He mentioned taking a walk down to a marketplace about a half-mile from the InterContinental Hotel where EXPO took place and seeing the horde of people out and about, rejoicing.
“People are loving, reconnecting and enjoying being out with each other, and talking and laughing and catching up,” he continued. “You are one of those options today.”
The value of disruption
The origins of the word “disruption” can be traced back to Latin’s disrumpere “break apart, split, shatter, break to pieces.” Avrin has a much more pleasant definition of that word: Disruption, he says, occurs when someone rethinks a current challenge or dilemma.
He uses Uber and Lyft as examples of disrupters — now taken as invaluable commodities — that drastically altered how roads are used and shared by the general populace through ride sharing.
“Disruption says if we were going to start over, how would we do it differently,” says Avrin. “So, here’s my challenge for you: You’re going to open a brand new club and you’re fully funded. You’re not bound by any legacy rent, leases, staff technology, you are going to open a new club today from scratch. Money’s not an issue. How would you do it differently? What would you do differently in terms of your space and your flow and the technology to access it? What would you do differently in terms of your sound system or your food offerings?”
“Can we find a way to say yes? And if you can’t, here’s the magic phrase: ‘Let me tell you what I can do.’ That alone creates such a sense of respect and accommodation, and much more likely that they’re going to come back.” — David Avrin, EXPO Keynote speaker
Known by another word, common at the EXPO, disruption can be known as “innovation,” which tends to happen when the industry bonds together, coming up with and collectively sharing creative ideas.
Avrin then rattled off a list of questions that could help to lead to innovation:
• How do we integrate?
• How do we find a way for people to follow their favorite entertainers and know where they’re going to be?
• How do we engage in conversation and connection over social media and integrate that with our clubs?
“When we understand our customers on a deeper level — what they want, what they need, what they fear, what they would love — then we make those modifications,” Avrin said. “We are entering an age that will require an extraordinary level of accommodation. So many times we say ‘No’ simply because it’s easier.”
He tasked attendees to have a conversation centered around things that are commonly asked about that gets a “no” response.
“Can we find a way to say yes? And if you can’t, here’s the magic phrase: ‘Let me tell you what I can do,’” Avrin said. “That alone creates such a sense of respect and accommodation, and much more likely that they’re going to come back.”
It circles back to fostering a positive, memorable, enjoyable experience. “The great experience isn’t necessarily dictated by how hot the girl was, it isn’t necessarily dictated by whether or not they can get that great seat. It’s everything that transpired from the moment they decided to come in to the moment they left,” he said.
“The point is that today, the ramifications of under- performance are profound, and they can be deadly for business,” he said. “And the internet is forever. It never goes away. There is no truth detector on the internet. The greatest source of lost revenue for your business is the customer you never knew about and never got to interact with.”