Monday, January 26, 2009

Article on escorting in the recession :)

Struggling businesses can learn a lot from the sex industry, especially when it comes to pampering clients, says the former "Mayflower Madam," Sydney Biddle Barrows.

Even customers who have been smacked by the current downturn can be prodded to spend if you treat them the right way, says Barrows.

"People are now really careful about how they spend their money," she said recently in a telephone interview.

"They are out there looking for the best value, and value does not necessarily have to do with paying the least amount of money. It's about making a customer feel special."

Barrows, whose two books are part of the curriculum at Harvard Business School, ran New York City's most exclusive and expensive escort service during the major market meltdown of the 1980s. Her first book Mayflower Madam: The Secret Life of Sydney Biddle Barrows, was named as one of the 10 best business books of 1989 by Fortune magazine.

She said despite the difficult economic climate at the time, she was able to charge two times more than her competitors and business boomed. By distinguishing herself she was able to keep customers and charge whatever she deemed fit.

The secret to her success was keeping things simple and ensuring the happiness of her existing client base.

"You have to make sure you have loyal customers and repeat customers and that they refer you," she said.

Surviving a downturn is all about getting existing customers to spend more, she said.

"People are spending money with people they know and they trust," she said. "There are all sorts of things you can do to stay in touch with your customers."

In order to keep your existing customer base happy and informed, Barrows suggests regular mailings updating former clients about potential deals, and thank-you cards for recent purchases. And always be willing to put on a show.

While running the escort service Cachet in New York City between 1979 and 1984, she hired two out-of-work stage actresses to answer phones from callers looking for companionship. The actresses were instructed to act while on the phone. Customers were greeted with enthusiasm, and in many cases personal details were kept about each caller.

Barrows said it was all part of the plan to make the customers feel more comfortable and therefore more likely to spend money on her women.

"If you have to hire extra people, do it," Barrows said. "It's not about customer service, it's about making the customer feel special. Form an emotional connection with the customer. You will sell more. It will be worth it, it will pay for itself."

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