Category Archives: Marketing

Read All About It! Monthly marketing column in EAN

Brian Gray from Lascivious Marketing writes a monthly marketing column for European erotic trade publication, EAN.

Here are the links to each article, where marketing tips and advice as well as informed opinion on key industry topics are provided. Enjoy!

 

Brian Gray from erotic marketing agency Lascivious Marketing marketing column in EAN publication March 2018 text (c) Brian Gray design image (c) EAN16th March 2018
IT’S TIME TO GET UN-POLITICAL

In this month’s edition, I take to task the brands and retailers who just can’t resist getting all political on their social media timelines.

When – if at all – is it worthwhile to get political while selling your wares? Perhaps never? Or is that just wishful thinking on my part?

In an industry geared towards generating smiles, tingles, and other giddy sensations among one’s customers, why are some manufacturers and retailers spoiling the party by spouting their own (or just retweeting somebody else’s) political views or prejudices online? Aren’t we already drowning in a sea of social media virtue-signalling, ignorance and self-validation?

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Lingerie, sex toy customer research. Brian Gray from erotic marketing agency Lascivious Marketing marketing column in EAN publication Feb 2018 text (c) Brian Gray design image (c) EAN16th February 2018
GETTING PERSONAL – PART 2
Following from last month’s column on the many reasons for surveying your customers, this month it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty of asking the right questions in the right way.

Hopefully your customer database has swelled to very healthy proportions. Now it’s time to take advantage of this. Properly designed customer surveys provide a treasure trove of data and subsequent insight. While I can’t provide a full guide to all the elements of a customer research project within a few pages here, I can at least give you some very helpful – and crucial – pointers so you ask the right questions in the right way. Get this wrong or go about it in a slapdash fashion, and you’ll suffer the consequences accordingly.

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Why erotic retailers should survey their customers. Brian Gray from erotic marketing agency Lascivious Marketing marketing column in EAN erotic retail magazine Jan 2018 text (c) Lascivious Marketing image design (c) EAN22nd January 2018
GETTING PERSONAL WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS
With the busy period from Christmas to Valentine’s Day in full swing, it’s the best time to be preparing to get into the minds of your customers to help your erotic retailing business.

By the time you’re reading this, Christmas and New Year have come and gone. I hope you all had great times with your friends and loved ones, and made some great New Year’s Resolutions. I hope one of these was to increase your profitability. I hope another – closely related to the previous one – is to know more about your customers. The two are, afterall, inextricably linked.

If you’re an online retailer, your customer database will hopefully be swelling from all those transactions over the festive period. And you’ve still got Valentine’s Day to go. It’s the perfect opportunity to really get to grips with your customers. Their minds, that is.

With a well-designed, well executed customer research survey, you’ll have a wealth of real insight to help your subsequent marketing decision making. Need further convincing? Shame on you! So here’s why I’m giving you not one but twelve – yes, you read right – reasons why you should be surveying your customers.

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Mission statements for lingerie and sex toy companies. Brian Gray from erotic marketing agency Lascivious Marketing marketing column in EAN erotic retail magazine Dec 2017 text (c) Lascivious Marketing, image design (c) EAN15th December 2017
WORK: WHY BOTHER?
In this month’s edition, it’s the turn of corporate mission statements to come under the spotlight. Waste of time? Meaningless corporate claptrap? You’d be wrong.

Forgive what may initially appear to be a flippant question addressed to fellow members of the erotic industry. But seriously: aside from a regular paycheck and all the subsequent benefits– at least, if you’re working for one of the bigger players – why do you turn up each day to the office, factory, or warehouse? Take a minute right now, to ponder this. What is your organisation’s common purpose that binds you and your colleagues, and determines the collective effort and direction?

Alternatively, if you’re working for yourself in this industry – I call them “Risqué-takers” – or you’re part of a small- or micro-business, you’re probably more acutely aware of your company’s mission.

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Why buy a sex robot? Brian Gray from erotic marketing agency Lascivious Marketing marketing column in EAN erotic retail magazine Nov 2017 text (c) Lascivious Marketing, image design (c) EAN20th November 2017

SEX ROBOTS: WHY BUY ONE?
This month I’m playing Devil’s Advocate to the sex robot detractors. And this is an article NOT recommended for easily triggered ‘snowflakes’, or anyone lacking realistic critical thinking skills!

Oscar Wilde famously opined that he could resist everything but temptation. Opinion pieces with questionable arguments have the same effect on me. The British newspaper The Guardian published an article on Monday 25th September written by “robotics expert” Jenny Kleeman, titled “Should we ban sex robots while we have the chance?” The sub-heading posits: “AI sex dolls are on their way, with potentially sinister social consequences. So before they hit the market, we must ask whether they should.”

…So why indeed would a man buy an adult AI sex robot? As a married man, I can’t imagine comparing a synthetic robot with my other half, for a gamut of reasons. But as Kleeman herself has shied away from proffering any reasons, Yours Truly will dutifully step up to the plate to highlight a few possible factors which could drive demand.”

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Dangers to customers using connected sex toys. Brian Gray from erotic marketing agency Lascivious Marketing marketing column in EAN erotic retail magazine Oct 2017 text (c) Lascivious Marketing, image design (c) EAN25th October 2017
THE INTERNET OF (SEXY) THINGS…AND NIGHTMARES?
Back in August I’d waxed lyrical about issues concerning AI sex robots…but in this article, I elaborate and highlight the dangers to those using connected sex toys and other sex tech, and the responsibilities bestowed upon manufacturers to address these key issues.

…And while most marketers won’t personally be involved in implementing or testing the security of their connected products, they had better be aware of the issues concerning them and how they are perceived by their most important audience – customers.

Admittedly, for some company creators, safety and security doesn’t make them tingle with excitement. Let’s be honest: an entrepreneur starting up an airline doesn’t go into business with the ultimate mission of making air travel the safest it could ever be. They do so to make money. But, without acknowledging the importance of (and spending money on) safety and security, they’re going to have empty planes. It’s a must-have requirement. Without it, there’s no trust. Without trust, there’s no sale. Without sales….you get the picture.

And with the rise of ‘connected’ sex toys and AI dolls, the adult retailing sector has to be similarly minded.

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Celebrity sex robots, branding and licensing sex toys. Brian Gray from erotic marketing agency Lascivious Marketing marketing column in EAN erotic retail magazine Aug 2017 text (c) Lascivious Marketing, image design (c) EAN21st August 2017
SEX, DOLLS, AND ROCK N’ ROLL
In the summer that saw mainstream media get their knickers in a twist about sex robots, this was the first article of mine that looked at the topic. Coupled with a look at celebrity sex toy branding and licensing, it’s quite the erudite and provocative quick read.

This past month, mainstream media outlets have been talking about the report published by the Foundation for Responsible Robotics, titled “Our Sexual Future with Robots”. Unsurprisingly, there was no shortage of both writers commenting on the subject, and readers wanting to know what the hubbub was all about.

The subject of sex robots and teledildonics comes with its own set of dilemmas and debates from various perspectives. Some of these are more well-founded than others, it has to be said. But looking at things purely from a marketing perspective, there are several points to ponder.

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Business relationships in the erotic retail business. Brian Gray from erotic marketing agency Lascivious Marketing marketing column in EAN erotic retail magazine July 2017 text (c) Lascivious Marketing, image design (c) EAN28th July 2017
IT’S GOOD TO TALK
My inaugural article highlights the importance of dialogue with your B2B contacts, as well as the dangers of relying too much on website analytics instead of gathering genuine customer marketing data.

In the 1990’s British Telecom ran a number of memorable television commercials with legendary actor Bob Hoskins (who featured in classic films such as The Long Good Friday, Mona Lisa, Who Framed Roger Rabbit) uttering the strapline, “It’s good to talk.”

One of the truest sentences ever to be uttered. Especially in business. And the adult retailing industry is certainly no exception.

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Leading insight-based erotic marketing agency, Lascivious Marketing. Founder, Brian Gray, interviewed in EAN erotic retail magazine May 2017 text (c) Lascivious Marketing, image design (c) EAN24th May 2017
“LASCIVIOUS MARKETING OFFERS CLIENTS CLARITY, DIRECTION, AND FOCUS.”
EAN magazine’s original interview, following the launch of Lascivious Marketing.

Marketing has become one of the key elements of any kind of entrepreneurial activity. Libraries worth of literature, countless seminars, and hordes of experts are dedicated to the art of making products and services palatable to the consumers. Brian Gray feels that the adult industry is sadly lagging behind the rest of the field in this respect. Which is one of the reasons why he started a marketing agency called Lascivious Marketing, geared specifically to the needs and requirements of the adult industry. In our interview, the marketing expert outlines modern strategies and talks about ways to create effective marketing for adult-oriented products.

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As each new column comes out I’ll update this post accordingly.

AND THAT’S NOT ALL…
As of April, I’ll also be waxing lyrical on marketing in the lingerie, sex toy, pleasure products sectors in XBIZ World, the specialist erotic retailing publication from the LA-based XBIZ publishing stable.

Brian

 

Stop the Social Media Stupidity! part 1

Stop clogging up lingerie or sex toy social media timelines by pushing irrelevant content. It’s not big, it’s not clever and does nothing to help your business.

How about providing blog posts that actually reinforce what you’re about instead?

There’s a plethora of instantly forgettable, and completely irrelevant topics being posted by #sexySME brands on social media. All sectors are afflicted: lingerie, sex toys, latex, fetishwear, the whole shebang. You’ll have probably seen them for yourself:-

  • Instagram video segments featuring mundane activities that add nothing to the brand’s story or propositions but succeed in boring and/or annoying followers.
  • Blog posts that have nothing to do with the products being sold, purely to add content in the hope of remaining on the radar of prospects and customers.

Listen, I know the pressures that a small business owner faces. You’re constantly juggling myriad tasks. And let’s not pull any punches here: creating and producing good content and then spreading it out on social media and your own blog is a full-time job in itself. Don’t kid yourself otherwise. And when everyone else and their dog is relentlessly churning out stuff you’ll naturally feel pressured to follow suit and tweet or post anything and everything in a vain effort to maintain visibility. The problem is that this more often than not comes at the expense of relevance.

Let’s take the example of lingerie (or whatever) sellers who are pushing out blog posts on travel destinations or yoga or nightclubs. Yes, I know, some of you are immediately thinking ‘What the hell does this directly have to do with skimpies?’ Quite. But let’s deconstruct this in a bit more detail for the rest who don’t quite see what the fuss is about.

Tell me: if you’re interested in travel, is there more than a slight chance you’re going to follow dedicated travel journalists, travel media publications, travel bloggers and the like? Of course! Secondly, whose knowledge and opinion are you going to value more – the actual travel specialist, or the skimpie-seller or sex toy retailer?  Exactly. And just how on earth is blogging about travel destinations helping you achieve your marketing objectives? I’m waiting…

Truth be told, if you regularly have to resort to filler material like this the harsh reality is either:

  • your brand is boring
  • your products are boring
  • your company is boring
  • maybe even you’re boring too (in which case you’ve got much bigger problems: ‘boring’ isn’t really a sought after attribute in the business of love and lust)
  • you’re lazy

Let’s step out of the business of love and lust for a moment. I visited the Ford website. Yep, cars. Lots and lots of nice shiny automobiles. Did it by any chance contain articles about supermarkets, travel, gardening, or yoga? No. Why do you think that is?

But wait…..won’t there be Ford owners around the world that use their car to drive to their local supermarkets, or do some gardening, or drive to their yoga class? Absolutely. But that’s not a compelling reason per se to highlight these things in their web content.

I know what you’re thinking though. Perhaps if you’re thinking about just a fleeting mention of your brand in amongst talking about your top 5 travel destinations to be sexy in, or the best restaurants in town, then it will be permissible, or there will be some rub-off, associated, connection.

Don’t be daft.

Or perhaps you’re thinking that you’re “providing value” to your customers. Yes, you are. You’ve now got them thinking about travel – and NOT your wares. Wave them goodbye as instead of browsing around your site, they’ve now hot-footed it to flight comparison websites, or Airbnb or TripAdvisor. That’s pretty moronic, n’est-ce pas?

Focus, dammit.

By now you’ll know my appreciation of content marketing and in particular the book Content Inc. I recommend it thoroughly. Its author (and Founder of the Content Marketing Institute), Joe Pulizzi cites the case of US company River Pools & Spas, who were in a bit of a pickle. The only way the owner thought he could turn things around was by stealing market share from his rivals. Within two years the company had done so and was doing fabulously well as a result. How was this achieved?

He thought about all the possible questions that his customers might or could ask. He then proceeded to answer each one on the company website. Great for customer support, great for content marketing, and great for SEO. Great all round, really.

So what’s stopping you from doing exactly the same? Absolutely nothing.  And no disrespect intended to River Pools & Spas, but lingerie, sex toys or fetishwear seem a heck of a lot more interesting than fibreglass pools.

Let’s say you’re a lingerie designer or seller. Grab a sheet of A4 and scribble down all the questions your customers could conceivably ask. Some of them will be obvious, others less so. But that’s the joy of all this. You’re in this for the long haul, right? So there’s plenty of opportunity for you to look at things from all sorts of angles and produce a steady stream of content that’s not going to run out anytime soon. Get your friends, colleagues onboard too. The more heads and perspectives the merrier. The only common denominator to be enforced is that it must be directly related to your brand or your products or your organisation.

Fancy a quick win? Look up the interviews I’ve conducted with other brands. There’s enough questions there for you to swipe and then elaborate accordingly as it applies to your own brand, products or company.

Need more ammo? Be sneaky. Go to another brand’s website. What do you see? What do you like? What do you dislike? What piques your curiosity? What do you wish you could ask the owner, and why?  Now redirect those questions back to yourself. Boom: another clutch of easy questions identified.

Also, think about your photo shoots. Whether you’ve got just one or a dozen photo shoots under your belt showcasing your collections, these lend themselves perfectly.

  • What look were you trying to achieve?
  • What moods were you wanting to convey?
  • What influenced your choice of model?
  • Why did you choose that particular location to shoot?
  • What was most memorable about the day and why?
  • What were the challenges faced and how did you overcome them?

There: another half-dozen questions you can wax lyrical on and inform, educate, and perhaps entertain your customers, prospects and peers with. You could do worse than check out Latvian lingerie brand Flash You and Me whose blog posts include some great background notes with some stunning imagery (many of them taken by founder Liva, interviewed here). At the bottom of the site there are handy links to all the items featured. And why not?

Don’t forget some frameworks – why not use your marketing mix? Price, Product, Promotion, Place for starters. There’s a plethora of topics and questions you can identify in each one.

Let’s face it, it’s got to be better than tenuously linked travel blog posts.

A final word about length. How long should your blog posts be? The slightly glib immediate answer is ‘as long as it should be to cover the topic in the required detail and to put the required points across.’ That probably doesn’t help much. It turns out that when you try to find out what the pros think, they don’t have a slam-dunk answer either  – there are too many variables.

In general, I aim for 1000 words, around two sides of typed A4. And if it’s a bit more, all the better.

That’s it for now. And yes, the eagle-eyed among you will have seen that this is only part 1. There’s more social media stupidity to be thwarted!

 

Brian

Get Serious About Your Erotic Retailing Business

Attention all lingerie designers, sex toy sellers, and fetishwear creators: just how serious are you about your erotic retailing business?

Are you in the erotic retailing business for ego or for profit? Make your mind up. For everyone’s sake.

In short, there’s a few reasons as to why you’d want to be in the erotic retailing industry. Some of these are more notable – and noble – than others. Talking of the ‘others’….

  • Is it just a hobby for when you’re bored?
  • Is it something for you to do just so you can brag and gain social proof by exclaiming “I sell sex toys! I design lingerie!”
  • Perhaps it’s something you want to shock your stuffy relatives with over the dinner table, and no more.
  • Maybe you think it’s something which will excite potential boy- or girlfriends.

Perhaps you’re spending more time posing for and uploading self-validating images to Instagram rather than actually getting down to the hard graft.

Or perhaps you’ve established a drop shipping account to sell sex toys, and set up a cheap looking website that’s devoid of any personality or distinctive identity. I’ve seen so many of these without any identity, enthusiasm or personality that it’s almost enough to make a marketer weep. And that’s never a pretty sight.

Let’s not pull any punches here. If you’re going to be lackadaisical about not only your marketing but the way you run your entire business, don’t be surprised if your (lack of) effort results in equally lacklustre revenue and profits. Why the hell should prospects give a damn, never mind their credit card details, if you can’t even be bothered to introduce yourselves to them or engage with them to any meaningful degree?

Running a successful business isn’t easy, otherwise any damn fool would be in this game. That said, it could be argued that – through no fault of their own – sex toy drop shipping enterprises and online marketplaces such as Etsy have done exactly that: opened the doors and facilitated the proliferation of erotic industry ‘wannabes’: whether dreamy lingerie designers who are wonderfully creative but lack the necessary grit and business acumen, or the stack ‘em high (or dropship) and sell ‘em cheap sex toy tat peddlers.

Because, make no mistake, with non-existent entry barriers, there are plenty, and I mean PLENTY, of new ambitious, #sexySME entrepreneurs – I also like to call them Risqué-takers – who HAVE entered the industry. There’s also the hard grafters who’ve been in the industry for years who’re still surviving through blood, sweat, tears and acquired industry nous. You’ve come across both types in my interviews. And they mean business. They’ll also be laughing at (your?) vapid social media posts or personality-free websites while they’re slogging away, slowly but surely building traction, following a plan and standing out from the crowd for all the right reasons.

Let’s sort out the men and women from the boys and girls, shall we? Question time:

  • Do you have a clearly defined mission specifying why you’re in this business and what you hope to achieve?
  • What are your marketing and overall business objectives for the next 3 / 6 / 12 months?
  • Where are your efforts to be concentrated upon to achieve these objectives?

Lascivious-Marketing-Give-A-Damn-Ometer [credit: Lascivious Marketing]
Time to make your mind up: Where do you lie in the erotic retailing business? [credit: Lascivious Marketing]
If you can’t answer these questions reasonably quickly, then you have to ask yourself with brutal honesty where exactly you sit on the wonderful Give-A-Damn-Ometer™. Is this a mere hobby for you or something that directly determines whether you have food on the table and your bills are paid each month?

Think about the time and effort and money spent on developing a website or even a bricks and mortar store. How can you not be trying to recoup the investment, and meet your sales targets without the requisite marketing effort ?

If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well, n’est-ce pas?

You get out of this what you put into it. So if you are indeed serious about surviving and thriving in this industry, then act like it.

Don’t procrastinate. Answer these questions right now:

  • Where are you now?
  • Where do want to go?
  • How will you get there?
  • How will you know you’ve arrived?

Sure, these are baby steps when it comes to marketing your lingerie, sex toy or fetishwear business. But if you’re reading this and haven’t even thought about these questions before let alone answered them, then it’s imperative to walk before you try running.

You’ve only got one life. Make it count. If you’re not serious about being in the erotic retailing business, then get out of it. Don’t waste another second of your time. Take up a new hobby, follow your passion. Life is too short by half to be dedicating your precious time and effort and possibly money to something that doesn’t captivate you and make you lose track of time when you’re doing it (even the boring admin).

For the rest of us, you’re also doing us a favour by bowing out (preferably as soon as possible). And before you metaphorically turn off the light and close the door behind you, do please deactivate your business social media accounts as well so you’re not clogging up our ‘who to follow’ lists years after you’ve shuffled off. Twitter is awash with the ‘bodies’ (lapsed accounts) of failed erotic retailers. We don’t want yet another one to add to the heap.

So what’s it to be? Are you going to get serious about sexy, and give it your all? Or is it time to call it quits on your time-consuming hobby, and use your time more passionately and productively on something else?

Tick tock….

And if you’d like to not only stay in the industry, but get some help so you can survive and thrive, well, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s how we can help.

SIX reasons branding matters for adult retailers

What’s more important to your adult retailing business? The products you’re selling or the brands themselves?

It’s a question that stirs up discussion in marketing land across multiple industries. And it’s easy to see why the brand vs product debate will also run among adult retailing and marketing professionals. So here we are !

The ‘product’ camp will highlight that goods have to be built well, be of sufficient quality and satisfy wants through specific features which will bring certain benefits to the end-user. Most people can see the logic in that. Afterall, you wouldn’t want a pair of knickers disintegrating after one wash, or battery issues with a dildo (ask Martin from Sinsins about that!).

Meanwhile, the brand camp will emphasise the emotional connection that exists between a brand and consumers. Good products can be provided by a brand, but if there’s a non-existent emotional bond between brand and buyer, then the utility of the product is meaningless – it won’t be purchased.

If you’ve read Al Ries’ brilliant (and concise, and very easy to read for non-marketers) book “The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding” you might have an idea as to which camp Ries certainly belongs to.

I’m not attempting in this blog post to decisively answer the question once and for all. Like a lot of things, I think the truth is to be found in the murkier waters between both extremes.

Are lingerie buyers purely driven by product features alone? Hardly. They’re looking for brands they can identify with, resonate with, and grow with.

But there’s no denying that concentrating purely on products and product quality is not a good thing to do. That emotional connection, that personal psychological bond between consumer and brand is one that has to be forged, embraced and worked on. Yep, you guessed it, just like the relationships we create with one another.

But before we risk descending into group hugs and all that malarkey, let’s concentrate on the matter at hand – your business. Your brand is vital to your business success. Furthermore, a brand that’s in rude health will bring several benefits to your company.

So, here we go. Short and to the point.

Standing out from the crowd
When you have a clearly differentiated identity and values from others, you stand out from the competition. A strong brand has higher visibility in a category: think of this when you are seeking new customers. You can charge more than undifferentiated rivals, especially if you are perceived to be of higher quality (this can be achieved through, yes, superior product quality, COMBINED WITH the words and images utilised in your marcoms, website etc.). Greater share of wallet is also likely.

Defending market share
If you were thinking of entering a new market, would you think twice knowing there’s a brand giant ready to stomp on you? Furthermore, how difficult do you think it will be to steal their customers away who are loyal to that brand? A strong brand is one that will be hard to beat in a category knife fight.

Brand Elasticity
This is a big ace in the hand of the ‘brand’ camp. A strong brand can be ‘elastic’; able to enter new categories or geographic territories based on the inherent transferable brand values and strengths – and not product excellence. Think of Virgin (credit cards to space travel), or in a similar rock n’ roll vein, the mega-selling rock band KISS (condoms to coffins!).

How easy would it be for a company that concentrates purely on product development and excellence in one particular sector, to easily diversify or enter new categories at the drop of a hat? Not very. There’s an uphill battle to be won convincing a potentially cynical prospect base.

Goodwill
Loyal customers have a ‘goodwill bank’ allowing a company to recover easier from a crisis or a negative service encounter. Customers with a strong emotional connection to a brand – reinforced from previously consistent positive experiences – may well give the company the benefit of the doubt and be less harsh in their response to that company than they would with other brands they are less favourably disposed towards.

And let’s not forget – if the situation has been successfully resolved, there’s a very good chance customers will become even more evangelical towards the brand. And they’ll tell others.

Balance Sheet bonus
Strong brands possess their own monetary value or equity. From the 1980’s onwards major companies have listed their brands on the company balance sheet and placed a monetary value on them. Indeed, one major UK household food and drink brand fought off a major hostile takeover in the late 1980’s when it listed the value of its brand on its balance sheet.

Another warning sign? You’d better believe it. Build your brand to protect you in choppy waters.

Comfort blanket during tough times
Finally, let’s not forget just how challenging the current business and economic environment is. While mainstream media like to tell you that things are rosy, the reality is something different. There’s been a ‘lost decade’ of wage growth; indeed forecasts from the Institute of Fiscal Studies predict that by the year 2022, UK average earnings will be similar to what they were back in 2007. Add to that proposed big welfare cuts on the way. That’s sobering – and pretty depressing – reading.

So when times are tough and spending (household or corporate) is heavily scrutinised, customers tend to stay loyal to strong and dependable brands. It’s not really a time for trying out new alternatives. And while customers want quality and value, that doesn’t simply equate to cheaper prices. Don’t be tempted to slash prices during tough times.

Conclusion
So, in a nutshell, give a damn about the lingerie, sex toy or fetishwear brands you own, or those from other companies you sell.

And if you own your own adult brand: nurture it, build it, love and cherish it like a real loved one (almost).

Do it well, and it will show its worth in many ways back – including, financially.
Until next time!
Brian

PS. Want to talk more about branding and how Lascivious Marketing can help your adult retailing business? Get in touch now!

PPS. And don’t forget to sign up to receive SIX OF THE BEST – our free weekly email containing key weblinks covering the sex toy and adult retailing world AND hot marketing tips for your business.

Sex toy survey errors: avoid these major mistakes!

Bad marketing is worse than no marketing. The same holds true for market research. Learn from the mistakes made in a recent sex toy survey so your own research will fare much better AND give you worthwhile data.

Alternative blog post title: Your sex toy survey sucks: here’s why.

Last month I came across a sex toy survey concerning vibrator usage and preferences from a well-known Californian sex toy retailer. They’d announced it on Twitter and provided the link to Survey Monkey.

I won’t bore you with the details, but while no doubt well-intentioned, it was badly executed: full of the errors that will mean nothing to anyone untrained, but well known to even the newest of trainee researchers starting out their MR career.

With years spent at the marketing research coalface, seeing this made me…. weep? No, that would be overly dramatic. I just got frustrated.  And for the record, after I’d looked at the survey I reached out to the retailer on Twitter asking them if they wanted to know how their data could have been improved with just a few tweaks. They never replied. Fair enough.

WHY IT SUCKED
In a nutshell, there was no introductory message, no thank you for participating, no explanation of how the results were going to be used. In short, no building up of rapport AT ALL. None, zip, nada.

And given how cack-handed they started, it was pretty obvious it wasn’t going to get better. There were the ropey response options to consider. One question asked about frequency of vibrator usage. The options included such precise terms as ‘often’.

Tell me sports fans, what is ‘often’? Once an hour, once a day, a week or perhaps a month? You tell me. And I’ll bet your definition will vary from the next person.

It’s a relative term and open to interpretation.

How many lingerie sales do you think you’d get if you just told your customers: “Buy this bra, it’s for curvy women,” without giving them any size and cup dimensions.

Or, more appropriately, given the nature of the retailer’s wares on sale, how would you feel if you were told “Ah, here’s the dildo you want if you really want filled up.

First things first, we’re not all identically sized (apologies if you did indeed attend biology class at school). Then, it’s again relative as one person may feel….ahem…filled with a different number of inches (length and circumference) from the next person.

What would a pilot on final approach in fog say if Air Traffic Control told him his required altitude was “just a bit more now” ?

What if you asked your bank manager what your balance was, and they replied “Well, it’s in the region of this much.”

Do I need to go on?
BE PRECISE, DAMN IT!

 

Keep your eyes peeled! Voodoo sex toy surveys are all around.

WATCH OUT FOR THE SEX TOY SURVEY JU JU MEN AND WOMEN!
Or in other words, beware of voodoo polling. Yes, the term is well known in the research world. And has been for decades.

When a survey is sent out willy-nilly with no control over who completes it (‘self-selected’ surveys), then it’s exposed to all sorts of issues. Think of those little poll graphics you see in your newspaper over BREXIT; dog fouling on the streets; closing of bingo halls, you name it. Do you really think they’re at all accurate or representative? Think again. They’re completed by those who are obsessed by the subject, or have an axe to grind. Anything but a representative sample of the local population.

The free Survey Monkey plan allows for IP tracking and email address gathering. But are you really telling me that the creator of this rank amateur sex toy survey is really going to give a damn about who is participating? At best it could be people who have no interest or desire in your wares or indeed your company. At worst, it could be a business rival doing their best to stiff the competition any which way. In this case, by having them think they’re getting ‘valuable insight’.  It’s not hard to create a bunch of fake email addresses or get some mates to all fill in a few questionnaires, with orders to respond as randomly as possible, so there’s no sense at all to be made of their responses. Result? Once again, dodgy data.

And that’s before I even mention the stats stuff.

THE STATS STUFF
Survey Monkey’s free survey plan allows for 100 responses. Consider how many people use vibrators in the same locale, let alone the world (we have to assume other people from who knows where also filled in the survey, given there are no quotas or filters on the free plan).

So, in a nutshell there’s a badly designed survey, with subsequent data that could be fairly described as ‘potentially worthless’. Add to this that there’s only one hundred responses, and no controls over who completes it.

Who thinks that one hundred people’s opinions – especially given the absence of any screening – is representative of sex toy users in that locale? And then there’s our old faithful stats friend – margin of error – which alone makes a sample size of 100 hardly worth the time and effort writing and launching the survey.

All in all this survey was a bit of a joke. Thank the stars that when I checked last night, it was no longer up.

*** UPDATE 30/5/17: The survey results were revealed and apparently 375 responses were obtained. While the number of completions is healthier, the complete lack of any respondent screening still makes it pretty worthless from a business and statistical perspective.

If you give a damn about your business to the last penny, then why be so godawfully lacking in detail when it comes to your sex toy survey research? Or maybe many lingerie or adult retailing businesses are just more of a side-hobby, rather than a real bona-fide business where people’s livelihoods are on the line if things aren’t going well? You tell me.

DON’T BLAME THE MONKEY.
Now when all said and done, don’t think for one minute that I’m giving Survey Monkey a hard time in all of this.

Far from it.

The plethora of online survey applications now available is great for small and growing adult retailers wishing to cost-effectively conduct a sex toy survey, ideally among their own customer base with already possessed email addresses that have been verified and are good to go. It’s a far cry from the days when you’d have to commission an agency to do the fieldwork for you.

So I’m not – and I don’t recommend you do, either – shooting the survey apps. Let’s get one thing straight: if the questions are atrocious to begin with, it’s a lost cause.  Or in cruder parlance: “Put sh*t in, get sh*t out.

When splurging out a little for the paid Plans from Survey Monkey and the like, there’s a lot to be said for them. You’ll get higher response limits and some decent bells and whistles included at all stages of the survey process. Add to the equation some well thought out – and written – questions (arising from proper research objectives and specified information needs) and it’s a powerful combination indeed that can really help your business. Trust me on this.

Sadly, crap surveys are something I see time and time again. Why do people think that just because the survey app is available AND they can ask some questions, there’s going to be worthwhile usable data?

Using the same logic, how likely is it that if I am given some paint and a brush I’m going to be immediately capable of creating something like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel?  I’ve been given the same tools as Michelangelo, so surely there’s no problem, right?

There’s just one. I can’t paint for toffee. Even if my life depended on it. Entrusting me with a tin of Dulux, a brush and a bare wall – or ceiling – is a pretty risky move.

The same principle applies to those given access to online survey platforms. Those untrained in marketing research can write questions in the same way that I can hold a paint brush. The tools – namely the brush, the paint – and the online survey platform – are all there. There’s just one thing missing – the knowhow.

LASCIVIOUS MARKETING TO THE RESCUE!
I couldn’t just leave you hanging there after dismembering an awful survey, could I ?

Of course not.

So, let’s learn something from all of this, using a real-life example I found many years ago on a similarly depressing website visitor survey on a UK-based adult retailing website.

Do you know if your partner owns a vibrator?
Yes

No
Don’t know

Those who responded ‘Yes’ were then immediately asked further questions concerning vibrators. So what’s wrong with it?

It’s misleading. Think about the subsequent findings:
X% of those questioned know if their partner owns a vibrator or not.

It’s hard to believe the purpose of the question was to really ask respondents if they know whether their partner owns a vibrator. The question in this guise is asking for respondents’ knowledge, rather than ownership per se – the latter of which is much more important to retailers.

While the question writer most likely wanted the survey to be friendly and engaging, in doing so they potentially ruined the data.

You MUST ensure questions are without ambiguity, otherwise the survey – and the subsequent data – is now open to response error, and being rendered useless for the purpose it was designed for.

The question should therefore be phrased simply as follows:-

Does your partner own a vibrator?
Yes
No
Don’t know

Ta-da!
Simples. All bases covered.

BUT THERE’S MORE…
Consider possible respondent groups and sub-groups when designing your questions. Give serious consideration to how the research can be used to identify different respondent segments.

Let’s consider the question above once more. Rather than simply asking a ‘Yes/No’ question, why not offer several response options allowing respondents to answer the question, AND potentially identify some new user segments? Change the question to:-

How many vibrators does your partner own?
None
1
2
3
4
5 or more
Don’t know

By rewording the question and providing these options, the original question is still being answered, but now there is the opportunity to gain much greater insight. At the analysis stage the responses can be netted to provide (for instance) the following ownership segments: None, Light (1-2), Medium (3-4), and Heavy (5 or more).

[These numbers are illustrative, by the way. Feel free to change them to something more representative if your own customer knowledge suggests otherwise!]

Can you see how invaluable this is, especially when analysing the rest of the data? You can now look at responses to all the other questions based on levels of vibrator ownership, and see whether any key findings are found along these lines. How do heavy owners/users differ from light ones? The data could be extremely revealing, depending on what other questions make up the survey.

This is one of the key reasons for thinking carefully about the questionnaire design process and not rushing things. The question needs to be phrased properly to avoid response error and confusion and so on, but consideration must also be given to how the responses can be used to add to the analysis.

Remember to get the most bang for your buck when it comes to your research!

Lesson over!

PS: I’ve got some more things to say on adult retailing market research in my recent interview with European adult retail publication EAN. And watch out for more adult retailing research matters coming soon!

And of course, if you need EXPERT help with your own market or customer research requirements, you know who to contact!

 

Welcome to the Lascivious Party

First things first, hello and welcome to the Lascivious Marketing website. And to the first of many blog posts, featuring various utterings (or smutterings, ooh la la) that will either amuse, educate, interest and maybe even intrigue you. Perhaps all in one go!

And while this is the first blog post, it’s rather apt to spend a few minutes talking about planning.

You see, I planned to have the website completely er…completed before saying hello to the big wide, naughty world. There’s still some webpages that aren’t uploaded for your viewing pleasure, but will be. That by the way is my none-too-subtle way of impressing upon you the need to come back for more and not be just a one-visit stand.

Besides, you’ll have already formed an opinion within the first few seconds of landing on this here website whether it a) piques your interest and b) reassures you that behind the ‘shop window’ of what you see before you, there’s professionalism and competence by the bucketload.

Therefore, when there’s a few pages missing, you’ll have already decided to come back regularly to see what’s new. I salute you!

But if you’re running a small business, or heading up a marketing function in an SME, you’ll be well aware that a balance has to be found between planning and action.

Whereas the perfectionist would agonise over this, in business there’s no time for that trait. There are phrases aplenty highlighting this. ‘A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow,’ gets top marks. In short, if you’re about 80-85% of the way there, crack on. Don’t delay in taking action. Work on the remaining bits after if needbe.

Why?

Because there’s another well-used maxim, courtesy of Helmuth von Moltke, head of the Prussian army from back in the nineteenth century. “No battle plan ever survives first contact with the enemy.” Once you’re on the battlefield – or in your case, the marketplace – it’s a bit of a crap shoot, in all honesty. Yes I know: Debretts will be so aghast at my saucy vernacular.

But is that to say that plans are useless? Far from it. Sure, I realise that I’m going up against some big hitters here. Apparently Google has never had a business plan (although they do have a set of guiding principles). Are they doing badly? Hardly.

Scottish beer mavericks BrewDog aren’t fans of business plans either. While I don’t agree with all their principles or attitudes to business or marketing, it’s blindingly obvious that not having a business plan hasn’t stopped them doing fabulous things. Especially producing 5AM Saint, my favourite from the BrewDog kennel. Yum, indeed.

Now before you start derisively sticking fingers up at marketing books, or guides you’ve received from your local small business support organisation, there’s room for compromise here. Once again we head back to the military. And to a chap called Ike. Ike knew a thing or two about fighting – and winning – wars.

“In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable.”
General Dwight D Eisenhower
(Yep, Ike. And he later became US President too.)

Have you ever heard of a modern war that was fought without a plan? Exactly.

On balance, I think this is the closest to summing up the required marketing mindset for the smaller company with their eyes on the prize and a desire to go up in the world.

At its most basic, marketing planning is all about answering four key questions.

  • Where are you now?
  • Where do you want to be?
  • How do you get there?
  • And how will you know you’ve arrived?

Simple enough, but in order to get somewhere, you need to have a plan, and in order to have a plan, you need to know your current situation. Your circumstances may be markedly different from a competitor who on the surface looks quite similar. The best marketing plans also play to a company’s strengths. How do you know these strengths in the absence of a decent bit of self-examination – a marketing audit?

So, going back to Ike’s words of wisdom. In order to win, he had to know his own strengths and weaknesses – as well as his adversary’s – in order to create a plan offering the best chance of success. ‘Makes sense now, doesn’t it?

But he also was savvy enough – and you should be too – to know that unexpected things happen, whether in war or in business. New rivals, with equally new products, and/or marketing weapons can put a spanner in the works. Does that mean that a shiny marketing plan may be rendered irrelevant? Not necessarily. A lot of the work – and insight – spent creating it will still be more than valid. It might just require a bit of tweaking here and there.

So don’t you be shirking from evaluating your company and your external environment. You’d better know your strengths and weaknesses inside out. And while you’re at it, get a handle on external opportunities and threats coming your way.
(If you’re a marketing novice, I just stealthily introduced you to the not-so-humble SWOT Analysis. Sneaky, huh?)

But before I momentarily say toodle-pip until the next time, one final point.

Yes, a good plan is normally more than enough, and that a perfect plan should not come at the expense of getting in the thick of it sooner. But don’t think that ditching the perfectionism means getting away with half-assed work. If you’re an up and coming lingerie designer and seller, while your marketing plan doesn’t have to be as sharp as a razor in all the elements to get you on your way, you’d still better know how to make damn good bras. That means attention to detail in the dimensions, the stitching, etc etc. There’s no room for error or having a lackadaisical attitude towards product quality.

See the difference? Great.

And that holds true from my side as well. For instance, merely being able to ask questions does not equate to being able to design a great customer research survey (although I’m sure there are some people out there who’ll probably think so). Attention to detail and accuracy are as paramount to myself and Lascivious as they are to the hard-working lingerie designer. Trust me on this: I’m a professional.

Anyway, I digress. Thanks for reading and hopefully I’ll hear from you either on Twitter, or if you like, by emailing me, or picking up the phone to talk about your upcoming marketing project you think we might be able to assist you with.

Look out for the next post full of words (definitely) and wisdom (probably) and perhaps some good marketing advice as well.
Carpe diem, you naughty boys and girls!

Brian