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Virtual Velvet Ropes

Virtual Velvet Ropes

October 23, 2004
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" The 'Change Machine' was a metaphor for 1995. For 2005, I'm going to use 'Virtual Velvet Ropes.' "

The times they are a changing, and with them, our ways and means of dealing with visitors to our sites. Here's a quick glimpse into a thought process that took a decade to crystallize. See if it helps you with your own site...

A Change In The Weather
Long ago and far away I developed a metaphor for my view of how to handle, and "filter," traffic. That metaphor was the coin counting machine commonly used by banks to separate customer's change into its respective denominations. You know the deal: the bank teller dumps the contents of your piggy bank into a hopper which swirls the coins round and round; all the while dropping quarters into one slot, dimes into another, nickles and pennies into their own separate places, too.

It made sense that I saw my traffic, er, "customers" that way. Running a site that offered "something for everyone," I had visitors coming in from everywhere (search engines, link trades, top lists, link lists, TGPs, etc.), and looking for everything when they got there. Trying to make some order out of this chaos was vital, and since some surfers were worth more than others – but all were worth at least a penny – the coin machine metaphor fit. But with a modification.

Instead of seeing folks as bits of change, I looked at them based on their desires. This was when I first developed the concept of filtering traffic by niche, and applied it to my site. One mechanism that I used was simple: a row of text links. "Teens" – "Asians" – "Ebony" – "Latinas" - "Amateurs" – you get the idea. These links were not formatted as "ads" but appeared to be navigational links on my site. I sent incoming traffic straight to targeted sponsors without worrying if they saw my own site or not, and I converted pretty well in doing so. It was the same process as the coin machine used: put the target where it fits...

While this was, and still is, an effective strategy for maximizing the revenue you generate from a given quantity of traffic, today's surfer is ever more savvy than his predecessor, and indeed, may now have a decade of porn surfing experience behind him. Given this, a move away from thinking of prospects as "traffic" and treating them as an impersonal, bulk commodity, is in order. The "Change Machine" was a metaphor for 1995. For 2005, I'm going to use "Virtual Velvet Ropes."

A Kinder, Gentler Approach
I'm currently drawing up a new adult business and marketing plan, which takes 2005's realities into account. While my old plan was pretty formidable, it was written in 1995 and tailored for that time, and that audience. This is leading me to look at not only my market's current demographics, but their psychographics and emotional "buttons" as well.

While the bulk of today's surfers can still be treated like cattle (being deadbeats who refuse to pay for porn, they shouldn't expect any better), the profitable prospect needs to be handled with kid gloves. He doesn't want to be bombarded with pop ups and misleading links, or promised something that isn't delivered – he (or she) wants quality erotica that satisfies his (or her) desires without time wasted on circle jerks and Trojan-dropping TGP galleries. Give these customers what they want, and they'll be willing to pay.

Showing these potentially paying customers what you have that will satisfy their needs, regardless of the niche they desire, the language that they speak, or the platform they wish to view your offer on, now requires a more delicate touch. Instead of tossing them into a great swirling bin, guide them into your empire's "lobby" where they can be gently separated by "Virtual Velvet Ropes."

Think about the airport: Travelers going from here to there, all arrive in one location (your site), from which they will depart to many distant locations (your trades and sponsors). Upon arrival at the check in counter (your home page), they are separated into distinct groups, such as "First Class," "General Boarding," and "E-Tickets." Velvet ropes keep them in line, but do so gently, and in a way that transcends barriers of language and culture.

By "showing mercy" in the way you (at least initially) treat visitors to your site, you not only enhance the overall surfing experience and help elevate the legitimate consumer's opinion of our industry, but increase your profit potential as well. While less productive prospects may still be handled more aggressively than they at times would like, it's best today to at least at first, guide everyone through your site with the sophistication of Virtual Velvet Ropes. Think "today!" ~ Stephen


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