Stand And Deliver
"No matter how clever or widespread your marketing efforts, if you can't deliver the goods, it doesn't matter," Sheila Fox of VS Media, parent company of Flirt4Free.com, told XBiz. "When you run a smooth operation, you attract customers, stars and affiliates. And that's worth more than any marketing campaign or tactic."
The pros understand that a brand grows organically out of everything they do, from market research, product development and pricing to packaging, shipping and customer service. It is an ongoing process of establishing an image and, more importantly, building a lasting connection with customers.
"When it comes to branding, the reputation of your company is far more important than the overall look of your ads, your logo or anything else," Lurid's Weiss told XBiz. "It's a matter of consistency. People want to know what they can expect."
"The most successful affiliate programs are the ones with the strongest brands," added Lensman of RealityCash.com.
Lensman should know; his company owns the domain that defines the entire category, Adult.com. But he also stressed that branding an affiliate program encompasses much more than a catchy URL or an attention-grabbing logo. It means paying commissions on time every month, being immediately available every time their affiliates have questions and offering "extras" such as free hosted galleries and customized graphics.
As for paysites, Jay Conrad Levinson, author of the "Guerilla Marketing" series of books, advises, "Think of your website not as a thing but as a session."
This advice is especially appropriate in the adult world, where interaction is crucial to a user's satisfaction with the product.
The same is true of production studios, which run the risk of losing customers fast if their products aren't packed with the exact content viewers want — and plenty of it.
"When customers bring a video home, it better be everything they expect and more," said No Boundaries' Jordan. "That's what makes your brand."
In other words, your product must constantly delight customers. And here, Levinson says, is where most novice marketers go wrong by spending too much time, money and effort chasing down new customers rather than making sure existing customers can't wait to buy from them again. The problem, he contends, is that many companies don't really understand their markets.
According to Levinson, adult entertainment companies have three markets: the universe at large — every web surfer and video store browser; prospects who fit their customer profile but haven't previously purchased from them; and their customers.
Smart marketers spend no more than 10 percent of their time and money trying to reach the universe at large, around 30 percent trying to nudge prospects to become customers and 60 percent marketing to their existing customers, according to Levinson. Why? Because existing customers produce the most profits and cost the least to reach.
While the numbers may not be exact, Levinson's 10/30/60 approach seems to be a philosophy many successful adult companies take to heart.
"I made the choice to temporarily back away from a lot of large-scale advertising in order to work with our current affiliates and clients on developing a more feature-rich network," RealBigCash's Groth told XBiz. "That was a tough choice, but I totally stand behind it, and it has been worth it."
There is also a subtle message hidden within Levinson's 10/30/60 rule: Since marketers should spend a majority of their time focused on retaining and upselling existing customers, they also must be extremely efficient at finding and converting new customers. And closing sales quickly and cost-effectively requires them to know where their best prospects are and what makes them tick.
Know Your Audience
When Playboy decided to take its business online, it had every advantage in the world, with a huge library of photos and one of the most-recognized brands on the planet, thanks to the trademark bunny and iconic, pajama-wearing, pipe-toting founder.
But when the company brought the much ballyhooed Playboy lifestyle to the Internet, its site just wasn't pulling in members. What Playboy had failed to grasp was that surfers weren't looking for a lifestyle portal. They didn't want in-depth articles, car reviews and glimpses inside Hef's private world. They wanted hardcore sex.
Playboy's site simply didn't target surfers with the content they wanted (though the company has since turned the situation around with the help of Adult.com).
"Whether you're selling books or porn or Scotch tape dispensers, you have to identify and aim for a specific market," Weiss noted.
Or, as Rob Frankel, author of the book, "The Revenge of Brand X," puts it: "The more you niche, the better you'll do." This is a concept adult webmasters know perhaps better than any other marketers because it's simply too expensive not to niche.
"If you're not careful, you can attract a lot of bad traffic — people who aren't going to buy what you're selling, no matter what," CECash's Mike B. told XBiz. "For example, say you have a wife-home alone paysite. You have to be very specific when you list it on pay-per-click [search engines] because it's easy to spend a lot of money on surfers looking for something else, like big boobs."
Fortunately, marketing is a measurable science.
Companies can test in small quantities and analyze their results before rolling out full campaigns. For example, webmasters can concentrate on niche TGPs, which may generate less traffic but are sure to convert better, meaning they can spend less per sign-up and waste less bandwidth on lookie-loos.
But it's also important to remember that targeting customers isn't a simple matter of numbers and demographics. It requires thinking of prospects as individuals and learning as much as you can about the way they live, what turns them on and how they hope others will perceive them.
"Something [we design] for a bottom will look very different than something designed for a top," Jon Duede, a product designer at Topco, told XBiz. "I ask myself, 'What other kinds of products does this person buy, and what do they look like?' The end result is a product that says we understand your specific, unique needs, and we have created something just for you."
Those last few words are especially important. Because if you can make customers feel as though your products were created just for them, and you can do it consistently, your products will sell themselves.