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Marketing lessons from a Singapore Prostitute - Surviving superior foreign competition

Prostitute. Marketing. Competition, Foreign, Singapore

I rather amused to watch the news about how PR’s and foreign workers will soon have the health care subsidies slashed and how this is being presented as a way to help lower income Singaporeans ‘compete’ in the job market. Perhaps it’s just me, but does the government think we can’t compete with foreigners?

As much as Singaporeans may grumble about competition, I believe that we can compete and the person who can offer us a guide on how to live with competition is my friend Nancy, a 24-year old prostitute working in Geylang.

Her story is typical of many of Geylang’s workers. She left school with a few N-levels, found a simple job and was retrenched in the 2001 recession. Left with no alternative, she turned to Geylang and has been working there for the past three years.

What makes Nancy unique is the fact that she has managed to survive in a profession dominated by foreigners with many more advantages than her. Geylang’s prostitutes are good looking, well groomed and hungry girls from China, Indonesia and Thailand. Nancy by contrast is so fat that she waddles instead of walks. Yet, this Singaporean lady has survived and developed a niche for herself. How does she do it and what can we learn from it?

Nancy’s most striking characteristic is the fact that she’s self-confident in spite of her many disadvantages. Her confidence is based on knowing what she has to offer the market and she takes pride in what she offers. A friend of mine asked her what was it that made her attractive to her customers? She replied that it was her “Service.” A business person who understands his or her strengths and weaknesses can develop a confidence to survive no matter how fierce the competition. Such confidence can annoy the competition. A friend of mine who is currently studying for his PhD declared, “That girl has no right to be so confident.”

Confidence in your product enables you to stay true to your pricing. Nancy proudly declares that she’s maintained her pricing for the past three-years in spite of growing competition. She argues that cutting price will only result in the cutting of services. People, she argues want fair pricing rather than cheap pricing.

Adaptability is also an important aspect of Nancy’s business. Not only does she offer straight sex, but she also offers a massage service and a strip service for various prices. She says, “You need to offer many services in order to offer your customers good value for their money.” Judging by the number of companies in various industries offering ‘one-stop’ or ‘all-round’ solutions to their customers, the girl is definitely on the right approach.

Being adaptable also applies to relationship management with competitors. Nancy remains unassuming. She makes no attempt to grab customers off the street and she makes it a point of being friendly with everyone. She’s widely known as “The Small Fat Girl,” whom everyone can talk to and squeeze from time to time. From time to time she even passes customers to the other girls. This has created a situation where by nobody can accuse her of trying to kill their market and she’s even positioned herself as someone who is willing to help others and thus in turn she is helped. Imagine how much easier Singaporean businesses would find entering markets if they took more unassuming and civic minded approach?

Competition, as we have been reminded, is a fact of life and it is increasing. Instead of looking to the government to help us compete, isn’t it time we looked to someone like Nancy and asked ourselves how they survive the competition and remain true to themselves?
Published: 2007-03-31
Author: Li Tang

About the author or the publisher
I am a Singapore-based PR consultant and writer. Have been writing for the past 5-years in the Singapore media and in the Saudi Media for the past three. I write mainly on the advertising and marketing business as well as socio-political commentaries.

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