‘The best guarantee of high-quality Argentine tango, at a price that is so low, almost anyone can afford it’. It seemed like an appropriate mission statement, for our Amsterdam milonga, until it dawned on us that IKEA had one just like it! So, what would be an appropriate mission for a milonga: Don’t worry, just party? Before going into that, you have to understand that when I visit milongas, I can’t help calculating the average revenue and cost level, evaluate the business model, profile the customer base, and look at the growth potential. Baby, I was born this way.
As an excuse for my compulsive behavior I offer the fact that I was trained by a fine business school, and that I know my marketing P’s: Place, Product, Price, Promotion, and – let’s not forget! – Personnel. I also know, how to analyse strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and how to conduct a competitive market assessment. You would expect, that with all this know-how, it shouldn’t be too difficult to create a milonga that outperforms other milongas. This would be so, if tango would be a market like any other, and tango dancers would behave rationally. It isn’t, and they don’t. And by the way, most businesses believe this about their clients, until a marketing specialist sets them straight.
Sure, there are basics for a milonga: the standard product is: ’likelihood to meet compatible dance partners’ and the place needs to be somewhat special, easily accessible, have a spacy, fit-for-purpose dance floor and seating. Forget it, if you don’t have those right. Promotion simply means getting out the correct dates and location and providing the target audience with reasons to get off their asses and take their bikes through the rain. There are milongas out there that don’t know, that Facebook has a high tolerance for fake news. You have the right personnel if you have a warm hosting team taking care of the visitors. Sounds simple, but really it isn’t. And price? Well, price elasticity is very high, meaning that tango dancers will easily pay double for fairly similar experiences. Our €5 ticket is pretty good value in the market, however if there is a popular monthly €12 milonga on Sunday, with many dancers from other cities and free parking, they drop us like a stone. Apparently, these milongas operate in a different segment, where one dancing hour equals 2,4 of ours.
Now back to the mission – I don’t want to leave you with another cliffhanger. Tango dancers have limited time, energy and spending money, which leads to a bleak vision of a struggle for ‘dancer-share’. Based on this, tango looks much like a displacement market, in which competitors can only grow at each other’s expense. We see this differently. We believe there are thousands of latent tango dancers out there who long to join us. So, we love it when events, organised by others, are good – they grow the market – and we hate it when they are not. This is because ‘we want to be a milonga that contributes to the growth of tango in the world and makes dancers feel alive and appreciated.’ Don’t remember seeing anything like that in an IKEA catalogue. Complete global market domination would be nice, of course, but we don’t want to get carried away.