Exploring Hidden Markets in Ballroom Dancing


We just had to go on Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee, the place was known for great blues music. We stopped at one of the famous blues hotspots on this strip. We were directed to our seats; the house was packed with people. The band was playing with great passion. My wife and I walked in the room to celebrate with others the love of good music. The music was carried across the room slowly as blues music permeated the atmosphere like smoke covers a house on fire. Everyone was excited. People were all over the dance floor. These folks were no amateurs to blues. Interesting enough, my wife and I were the only black couple in this crowded location. Blacks created the blues. Yet, many blacks have either abandoned this genre or have forgotten the roots of this music. I hope that dance in America will not falter like this.

As my wife and I have danced ballroom in various states and different dance studios, we have not seen many black people doing ballroom dancing. African-Americans have made significant contributions in all walks of life, dance is no exception. Black History Month gives us a time to remember the pioneers of dance, including Josephine Baker and the Dance Theatre of Harlem and glance at the future. When you start talking about ballroom dancing, everyone thinks about the ABC’s hit show, Dancing With the Stars, that pairs up celebrities with professional dance partners in an intense ballroom competition. There are a few African Americans involved with ballroom dancing in the nation. In this session, we will examine how dance studios can better target African American communities by reaching an untapped market.

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Of course, effective organizations target the right customers. We call this target marketing. Companies can waste a lot of time and money with an all strategy where they target all buyers regardless of their product interest or ability to buy. Targeting is the process of identifying customers for whom the company will optimize its offerings.

Alexander Chernev, author of Strategic Marketing Management, notes “understanding customer needs and identifying market opportunities is the starting point in formulating a company’s marketing strategy. The cornerstone of developing a viable strategy is deciding which customers to target and how to reach those customers in an effective and cost-efficient manner.” Thus, pinning down the right target marketing takes time and consideration.

John Jantsch, author of Duct Tape Marketing, argues that most small businesses do not put in the necessary energy into marketing. They copy marketing ideas from other businesses (i.e. Copycat Marketing) with little regards to their internal competencies or specific target market. Jantsch explains, “I challenge you to pick up any business phone directory you like, flip open to any category and see if you can differentiate one business from another… the fact that the majority of people don’t respond to most marketing that small businesses put out there makes them Copycat Marketing, a surefire way to guarantee that your marketing will fail. Dance studios need to seriously target minority communities if they are to be successful in this endeavor.

Ballroom dance studios should spend time in effective target marketing in the black community. According to estimates, there are over 15,000 dance instruction studios in the United States, generating over 1.4 billion dollars. On average, most dance studios have annual sales of $100,000. The best-known dance studios are Arthur Murray International, with 190 franchised studios worldwide and Fred Astaire Dance Studios, with 110 United States dance studios, according to IBIS World Inc. reports.

In reality, most of the dance studios in this country are relatively the same size, offer similar services, have comparable pricing and can easily be substituted with other entertainment options. Therefore, identifying differentiating services among dance studios is often difficult for customers. Thus, dance studios are very vulnerable to market changes. Competition is fierce due to the many substitutes available as alternatives to ballroom dancing. Therefore, an enterprising dance studio needs to develop a targeted program to solicit minorities in the community as new customers.


Consequently, finding more fertile markets is vital for sustainable growth for dance studios. Sadly, most dance studios have overlooked marketing to a more diverse clientele. Surprisingly, the majority of the dance studios lack diversity and a clear understanding of how to be attractive to a more diverse clientele. In fact, some dance studios generally overlook minority interest due to a lack of knowledge or interest. The conventional wisdom is that most Blacks and Hispanics would not be interested in ballroom dancing. Below are some strategies to pursue:

1. Understand the diversity culture: a studio needs to do the necessary homework on reaching out to a customer base. The minority population is no exception.

2. Eliminate any stereotypical assumptions: some owners feel that minorities would not be interested in learning ballroom dancing because they already know how to perform contemporary dances such as Salsa or Hip Hop.

3. Create an atmosphere of inclusion at the dance studio.

4. Ask current customers for assistance in reaching out to new customers.

5. Recruit more diverse dance instructors, if necessary.

6. Provide marketing material that promotes diversity. In fact, tailor the marketing strategy for greater effectiveness, each demographic is different.

7. Develop strategic alliances in minority segments of the community.
Ballroom dancing is a great opportunity to connect with others and build long lasting relationships. Blacks in this country have made a rich contribution to the arts, especially dance and music. When we all come together like in dancing, there are mutual benefits of these interactions. Let’s pray that it is not too late to discover the joy of ballroom dancing for others.

© 2017 by Daryl D. Green


16 thoughts on “Exploring Hidden Markets in Ballroom Dancing

  1. Dr. Green,

    I really enjoyed your blog post. But it is such a disappointment that dance passion and interest is dying in African-American communities. Your description of the blues club on Beale Street makes me want to go to one of these places sometime and experience something I am not used to.

    I read Duct Tape Marketing for my Small Business Marketing class last year, and it really stressed making your marketing original and specific to the customer. One way to do this is through creating a website or having unique content on a blog like yours. According to Matt Bailey, “Building a successful website is about strategic planning, understanding your market, and concentrating on a specific message” (2011), so he agrees as well. The only way to target your marketing to a specific demographic is by making it unlike anything else they have ever seen.


    Bailey, M. (2011). Internet Marketing. Indianapolis: Wiley.

    • Hello Mr. Denton, I couldn’t agree more that when marketing your efforts must be original and unlike anything your clients have seen. In Duct Tape Marketing (Dr. Green referenced this in the article), having an original marketing plan sets you apart from others. One example from the book is a small heating and air company.

      The owner of the company wanted to get more people in the door knowing that once they met him he could win them over with his winning personality, and communication skills. His idea was to hold a contest for having the oldest wood fire stove in the town. the winner would receive a free house inspection and installation of proper insulation. The contest was a success and brought many new customers to the company.

    • Parker,
      I completely agree. It is a shame that this art is fading in communities. The passion Dr. Green has to bring back the liveliness of dance he describes on Beale Street is inspiring. I too think that it is important to market to your specific target and allow them to feel an open invitation. Inviting millennials and minorities to studios will help eliminate stereotyping and allow them to experience dance like they have never seen.
      It is pretty neat to see this art come alive and flourish within the the University and community. The results of applying specified marketing have shown to be successful through the local program.
      Kadrian Shelton

      Green, D. (2017, February 17).EXPLORING HIDDEN MARKETS IN BALLROOM DANCING. https://nuleadership.com/2017/02/13/exploring-hidden-markets-in-ballroom-dancing/#comments

  2. Dr. Green,
    I agree that there has been a great disparity between minority groups and ballroom dancing. There are numerous reasons that can attribute to the growing separation between the groups. As you stated, targeted marketing is essential when attempting to attract a new demographic. The current ballroom marketing seems to be aimed, predominantly, at older, white couples. I would like to add another aspect to your list of strategies. I think age is equally important as race when approaching a new group. Generations been exposed to modern dances and become devoted to those genres. Ballroom dancing is lacking in appeal to the younger generation. If the demographic is to grow, it will need to begin early to create more effectiveness in later generations. To do this, it will need to market the features of dance that align with their values. Currently, the focal values of the younger generation are health and nutrition. This is a useful quality, per a USA today article about the health benefits of ballroom dancing. The article states that the ballroom dancing can serve as a light exercise that varies with skill level. Making a connection between the two will be essential to creating responsiveness.

    Klass, Kym (2014, March) Ballroom dancing builds strength in movement. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/03/28/ballroom-dancing-exercise/7036089/

    • Hello Jordan,
      Thanks for your depth in the discussion! You are correct. Ballroom studios will need to address the generational gap with the concept. How do you make ballroom dancing ‘cool’ or appealing to this generation?

      That is the critical questions for ballroom dance studio owners.
      Professor Green

    • Jordan,

      I agree it will be tough to market ballroom dancing to a younger generation when the current marketing is geared toward older white couples. But like you said, ballroom dancing can serve as a light exercise that varies with skill level, and our generation seems to really enjoy working out and staying in shape.

      In my opinion, dancing could be making a comeback among millennials. I recently saw La La Land with Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, and I gotta say, it was fantastic. I really think they were trying to reach a younger target audience and get us to go to jazz clubs, because that is exactly what I wanted to do after the movie. The Denver Post writes of the choreographer, “Moore would love it if the film inspires viewers to discover their inner Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers – ‘Ballroom dance is very accessible to people who aren’t dancers.’”

      So I think with marketing like this, the ballroom dance industry just might get more twenty-somethings to get moving.

      Cohen, S. (2016). Secrets behind the dazzling dances of “La La Land” told by choreographer Mandy Moore, who started dancing in Colorado. The Denver Post.

      • Hey Parker,

        I have not seen La La Land yet, but I saw it was the big winner at the Golden Globes earlier this year. Which did you like more, the dancing or the story? It is possible you liked both. I guess a better question is: Why did you want to go to a jazz club after watching the movie? Was it because of the dancing or the story? Your answer could help dance studio owners discover the best way to market to young people.

        Doing some research I found that La La Land has indeed impacted the dance studio industry. Rory Cubbin, a dance tutor in London, says: “Our beginners’ classes have got really popular this year, tap has suddenly skyrocketed into the forefront. People used to want to be Fred and Ginger, now they come to class and say they want to be Ryan and Emma” (2017).

        It is pretty cool to realize that people in other parts of the world also felt the way you felt.


        Khomami, N. (2017). Dance studios tap into the La La Land phenomenon. The Guardian.

  3. Dr. Green,

    One of my favorite chapters from Duct Tape Marketing is Chapter 2 because John Jantsch highlights the importance of defining a core marketing message. The line that blew me away was: “Insurance sales folks don’t sell insurance; they sell peace of mind” (2011). It was then that I understood the power of a core message.

    The decreased popularity of ballroom dancing probably suggests that businesses offering this service may have failed to discover an appropriate core marketing message, and therefore have failed to appeal to the ideal client. Why would anyone want to learn ballroom dancing? Why? Answers to this question will help us define a core marketing message for ballroom dancing.

    To solve this problem, I would do as Jantsch says. First, I would have the ideal client consist of high school students. I think this demographic is appropriate because high school students are already accustomed to prom culture. To make ballroom dancing appealing to high school students, I would use the following core marketing message: I wanna dance with you.

    This short sentence is powerful when it comes from the girl/guy you have a crush on. What if you’ve never danced before? What will you do? Miss this incredible opportunity? No! Of course not! You will learn ballroom dancing!

    Selling ballroom dancing by itself clearly does not sell. There needs to be something else. I keep thinking of the 2004 movie “Shall We Dance?” starring Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez. At first sight, this movie is about ballroom dancing. After watching it, one realizes that the movie focuses on the human emotions associated with dancing rather than on the dancing itself. In order to sell ballroom dancing, we must not sell ballroom dancing; we must sell the feelings.


    Jantsch, J. (2011). Duct Tape Marketing. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

    • Carlos,

      You made a great point in your response. I also believe that the marketing message needs to be as, or more, relevant than the product. The message will give the first impression of your product to new customers. This can either bring in qualified prospects or drive away business. When creating a message, it is important to convey to the features and benefits of the products. It may also be helpful to relate those attributes to fields that are held to your target market.

      It is essential to create consistency in your marketing strategy. The small business resource center currently has a post that introduces guidelines to help create a consistent strategy. With the growing avenues, it is becoming harder to align all the processes in creating a strategy. A paramount process that needs to happen is the research. If the research is done correctly, it will make it easier to present the product to the consumer. The manage the various avenues, it is recommended to have a monitor to ensure all channels are consistent. The culmination of the efficient processes will create a potent strategy.

      Campbell, J. Susan (2016) Marketing the Consistent Message. Retrieved from “http://stjosephsmallbusiness.com/marketing-the-consistent-message/”

  4. What an interesting way to being this post! It was very visual in detail and gave a true idea of what was happening. From there it was great how you incorporated that experience and dance into an ideal marketing strategy that you can really apply to any type of business. You look at all of the negatives or potential barriers studios and dance owners face and figured out a way to combat these. It is interesting how you tell to focus on diversity even in marketing materials and I think it is a wise move, especially given the history that you discussed.

    I have read in an article, “Ballroom Dance as A Commodity”, that ballroom dance in certain areas of society in America is classified as a commodity, and therefore is seen as necessary skill. This is derived from a feeling of needing a certain public image. This is something that could be added to your plan stated above, as you can easily play off of this idea that it is a needed skill in the 21st century. Very good post and very interesting perspective.

    Myers, E. Ballroom Dance As a Commodity: An Anthropological Viewpoint.

  5. Dr. Green I have always believed that to create a movement that people will follow someone must have passion for what they do. When you came to OBU I doubt it was to bring back a resurgence of ballroom dance to College aged students. Seeing the turn out from the classes you lead is remarkable, I didn’t think Baptists could carry rhythm. This is because of your dynamic teaching and understanding of your market. As you stated” Targeting is the process of identifying customers for whom the company will optimize its offerings.” In your article you stated the importance of targeting minorities and the importance of creating an inclusive environment that dancing can thrive in, I believe you can take this a step further. For Ballroom dancing to truly make a comeback there must be a culture shift.”Fifty-year-old baby boomers prefer rock ‘n’ roll to Geritol; 30-year-olds may still be living with their parents. People now repeat stages and recycle their lives.” (Target Market) In the same way that people recycle portions of there lives so does society, old fads return. It will be a marketers job to work with these fads.


    • Hello Jacob, thanks for your well crafted points! In fact, you provoked in a new thought in my mind. Sometimes, novel ideas come from a passion. As you stated, it was not my intention to come to OBU to teach ballroom dancing. I came to teach business. Yet, when you are able to integrate two separate entities (i.e. ballroom dancing, teaching management/marketing), you are often able to create some unique offerings. Thus, innovation is built from passion and imagination.
      Let’s go deeper.
      Dr. Green

  6. Dr. Green,
    It is a shame that the art of dance has been abandoned or forgotten. I appreciate your efforts to bring this art back to millennials and other surrounding community members. You mentioned that some studio owners feel that minorities may not be interested in their business, and that is a shame in itself. You quoted Alexander Chernev in which he stated, “understanding customer needs and identifying market opportunities is the starting point in formulating a company’s marketing strategy. The cornerstone of developing a viable strategy is deciding which customers to target and how to reach those customers in an effective and cost-efficient manner.” Choosing a target market and opening the invitation to all is important, especially if the competition between dance studios is fierce. Your passion to bring this art alive is inspiring.
    Kadrian Shelton
    Green, D. (2017, February 17).EXPLORING HIDDEN MARKETS IN BALLROOM DANCING.https://nuleadership.com/2017/02/13/exploring-hidden-markets-in-ballroom-dancing/#comments.

    • Kadrian,
      I think it is great that you focused on Dr. Green’s emphasis on the importance of a target market. Without a direct focus how can a company know what it is doing and where it is headed in the future? According to Ralph Heibutzki there are 4 things a company should focus upon, especially in regards to the target market. These are having a clear focus, prioritizing resources, precision planning, and relevance to lenders. Once a company is tuned in to these four things, identifying and focusing upon their target customers and formulating a strategy will be much easier and a much smoother process.

      Interestingly, I found an article on Forbes that lays out steps on how to identify your target market most effectively. It touches on finding data and manipulating and utilizing this data in order to learn about your customers and what they would like you to focus on. Knowing simply if somebody would use a product is an easy way to discover, if you simply look at those around you in your personal life. Overall, diversity in your tactics will give you an edge that will likely boost you above the competition in the eyes of your target markets.

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