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What your business can learn from the porn industry?

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Gavin Hay is a successful entrepreneur and producer. He made millions in the 90s and became a porn star in retirement. He recently returned to the world of business and runs a successful post-production studio for clients in advertising, film and TV industry.

The adult entertainment industry is generally not the first-place people look for business inspiration, in fact it probably doesn’t make the top ten! It is far too easy to look at the adult industry as seedy and unprofessional, but it is hard to ignore the commercial success and the billions made in revenue every year. From subscription services to advertising and product tie ins, porn industry leaders know how to a grow and build successful businesses.

The porn industry has one of the most successful and proven business models and the underlying principles and tools could help any business flourish or even survive a recession.

There are six basic lessons all businesses can learn from the porn industry:

Keep it clean

Probably not a phrase that is likely associated with the porn industry, but with stringent legal processes, adult entertainment is actually one of the cleanest industries!

A mistake that is far too commonly made by businesses is that corners are cut, and they are not keeping on top of their competitors. All too often you hear about businesses failing because they have brought lawyers in too late. On the contrary, one thing you would have to say about the mainstream legitimate adult industry is that it knows its business.

It is often surprising just how heavily wrapped up in rigid legal boundaries the porn industry is. Production agencies must be on top of a swathe of legal documentation in order to lawfully operate. In the UK, all pornographic content that is produced is subject to strict regulation, before it can be duplicated and sold it must be verified by the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) much like any other film released.

This keeps the adult industry in the UK more responsible and honest, if you are preparing sale think about the porn companies – keep your books clean!

Make a statement

Possibly the least surprising, but one of the biggest lessons that can be learned from the adult industry is be bold and not timid. Innovation cannot exist without risk and it is those that are bold that are generally the most successful.

Porn is far ahead of many industries when it comes to issues of race, disability and gender*.  It can be seen as inclusive, catering to a wide range of disability for example.  Adult is creating accessibility, normalisation and empowerment – something mainstream media is, shockingly, still struggling with.

*Note: That said, the language used on some websites, such as PornHub, is concerning, and those running them need to check the use of language, descriptions or violence. 

Don’t get comfortable

Porn has always utilised the latest in technological advancements. From the earliest days of photography, to being one of the most important decision makers in the demise of Beta max and the uptake of VHS and now the introduction of virtual reality.  It continues to lead the revolution of the internet and its applications, both fiscal and in marketing methods.

Business leaders in porn have paved the way for online banking solutions, persuading its audience to part with their credit card details to create constant revenue streams, long before anyone else.  The marketing techniques used in the adult industry are emulated everywhere!

Know what your customers want

Customers are at the heart of any industry, and surprising or not, porn has one of the best customer relations records!  Porn is so personal, and we all have our own tastes and if you aren’t upfront and provide what your consumer wants, you’ll never be trusted.

The adult industry is also particularly good at is creating niche products – this is worth considering as it means you are less likely to be copied and you keep steering away from competition. You’re seen as innovative, establishing a strong brand around that offering and will build a loyal customer base.

That said, mistakes can be made, one failing of the adult industry is the proliferation of tube sites. These are developed without concern to the viewer, and are built solely on algorithms and rely on stealing other people’s content to be profitable. Ultimately, they aren’t listening to their market.  Greed and a clear lack of morality means people are reverting back to safer pay-to-view sites, where standards still exist.

Be data driven

Adult entertainment should not be underestimated, and while it is brushed aside as only useful for the evening, there is a powerful machine of intelligent professionals keeping things running behind the scenes.

The people behind the top studios are smart, meticulous and well organized. They are built from a team of experts that measure results, watch for shifts in trends and know exactly how to react to them. Being data aware keeps you fleet of foot, helping you to make quick decisions, plan ahead and operate successfully

Remember, what you see on screen is not the business, it is the product. The fact this is forgotten is a testament to the success of those running it!

Remember, it is more than just money

And finally, money should not be your only goal. While financial gratification is a big part of any career path, ultimately, what you do has to be fun, rewarding and honest.

Take a second to remember what makes your business original and human. Whether it is flying jets to help people travel and connect, creating fashion to keep people warm, or creating shows to help people relax – there should always be a human element. And what is more human than SEX?!



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