Tag Archives: adult pleasure products

INTERVIEW: Rachael Purnell, (not so) Innocent Sex Toys

An ‘Innocent’ erotic retailer selling luxury items that at first glance seem anything but? Meet the Founder of Innocent Sex Toys, Rachael Purnell.

We briefly talk about marketing, strategy, and highlight the importance of their events and fusion marketing activities to help get their products in front of their target audiences.

 

Innocent Sex Toys Rachael Purnell interview Lascivious Marketing
[Credit: Rob Stuart]
BRIAN GRAY: Okay, Rachael, let’s start from the top. What was your background before Innocent Sex Toys, and what was the motivation to launch the company?

RACHAEL PURNELL: We’ve come from a retailer background, mainly high end. The motivation behind Innocent was purely down initially to a lack of body-safe, well designed products being readily available. We got started as nothing decent was available without some serious searching.

Why and how did you decide on the name Innocent Sex Toys and the accompanying logo?
We chose Innocent as a bit of a play on words. Obviously most people don’t think of sex toys as innocent, but ours really are. The products we sell are body-safe so no phthalates etc., and the wings are simple yet effective like our website. We don’t stock hundreds of products. Our logo is black and white to reflect how simple our website is to shop. Simple, easy to shop and effective. It’s black and white!

Who is your typical buyer persona?
There is no such thing for us as a typical buyer. The only thing that is typical is our customers want quality. We would like to be perceived as straightforward and honest. The whole ethos behind Innocent is to offer products that can be enjoyed safely.

Business guru Michael Porter advocates three generic strategies for competing in a market: cost, focus, or differentiation. And no more than two of these to be adopted. Which of these have you plumped for and why?
For us it’s about differentiation. Our made-to-order option ensures we can offer something a little more unique to our customers, and allows them to not just shop off the peg. It adds to the luxury shopping experience having something made just for you.

Innocent Sex Toys launch interview Lascivious Marketing
[Credit: Rob Stuart]
Your launch event in Manchester was highlighted by trade publications and bloggers alike. What were your objectives behind the event and how did you measure its effectiveness?
The launch was great fun. It allowed us to bring together some of people that we had already worked with and build new relationships with people in the industry. Sometimes the industry can be perceived as faceless and coming from a retail background we fully understand the importance of business relationships, so wherever possible we like to meet the people we work with face to face.

We also wanted to launch our made-to-order options on the website, so the launch was a great chance to show some of the collections in the flesh and have some of the designers at the launch to give a fuller idea of what it is we are offering and our point of difference from some of our competitors.

And what – if any – useful learning points for future adult retailing events were there from the experience?
People enjoyed the fact that we had gone ‘black tie’. As we are a luxury brand we wanted that reflected in the feel of the event. I think with any event keeping people’s attention is challenging.

Innocent Sex Toys interview Lascivious Marketing Black Diamond pastes
[Credit: Rob Stuart]
There seems to be a trend for adult lifestyle events and sex toy retailers / manufacturers joining forces (Killing Kittens and LELO, for instance) in what Jay Conrad Levinson (author of ‘Guerrilla Marketing’) called ‘fusion marketing’. You’re doing something similar next month. Tell us more about it and what you think the key benefits are from this?
The fusion marketing that we do is of huge benefit to us, as we are currently an online store and due to the nature of what we sell marketing can sometimes be a little challenging using the normal online channels. Because our products are also so tactile working with other brands that use an event-based format for what they offer allows us to get our products in front of the right potential customers and allows them to touch and feel and to meet the faces behind Innocent. In the market we are in this has a huge impact on awareness of our brand.

You’re active on Twitter and there’s a blog on your website. What’s your overall approach to content marketing and social media, and how does this fit into your overall marketing activity?
We have tried to take more of a lifestyle approach with our marketing, as we want our brand to be marketed in a way where people think of us a luxury intimate accessories brand first, allowing our followers to be more  comfortable sharing us on social media platforms.

Good marketing is important for any company, not only to thrive but just to survive. What have been your key marketing learning points and observations so far?
We tried to focus our marketing as equally offline as online, Our key learnings have been that for us offline is proving invaluable to people’s understanding and perception of what we offer. Having come from a retail background we understand the effectiveness of selling  and marketing face to face.

Innocent Sex Toys interview Lascivious MarketingWhat has been your biggest marketing challenge so far, and what steps are you taking / have taken to overcome it?
The biggest challenge is creating or finding marketing opportunities offline. Often people’s perception of sex toys can still be way behind where the market currently is. We focus on luxury shopping events which to allow us to market our brand face to face and hopefully remove people’s inhibitions about what we do.

Innocent Sex Toys interview Lascivious MarketingAnd what does the next twelve months hold in store for Innocent Sex Toys?
The next year will be focusing on growing our made-to-order options, and a focus on finding new and exciting designers and brands to work with. It’s a focus this year to keep what we do fresh and exciting.

Finally, as any entrepreneur knows, it can be really challenging knowing when to down tools (or laptops) and step away from the business each day. The notion of work/life balance can be a laughable one. But how do you at least try to achieve this? What keeps you sane away from the business?!
I think any entrepreneur will tell you that its hard. Even when I’m not working on the business the ideas and opportunities keep popping up, and actually doing what I love means that I don’t see it as work most of the time, which is great.


Thanks Rachael! 

If you fancy giving Innocent Sex Toys a visit – especially if you’re planning on being, how should I put this, not so innocent! – you can find them at innocentsextoys.co.uk  Don’t forget to say hello on Twitter too, at @innocentsextoys


ARE YOU AN AMBITIOUS, MARKETING-LED, COMPANY IN THE SEX TOY, LINGERIE, FETISHWEAR AND EQUIPMENT OR DATING SECTOR?
If you’d like to be interviewed about your entrpreneurial journey and associated marketing issues that will be interesting to the Lascivious Marketing web fraternity, then get in touch!

Until next time!
Brian

PS. 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.

INTERVIEW: Martin King, Sinsins Boutique

The naughty wolf in sheep’s clothing? Meet Martin King from Sinsins Boutique, in Norwich.

Still going strong after nearly two decades in the adult retailing sector, Martin’s seen a lot, and learned a lot. Read on to get his thoughts on a variety of key business and marketing issues – and a healthy dose of reality for good measure.

 

BRIAN GRAY: First impressions count. From the pictures of your boutique, Sinsins is so untypical of an erotic or adult retailer. It’s not dark, it’s not trying to be edgy. It looks more like a nice artisan bakery or a gift shop. Are you the (naughty) wolf in sheep’s clothing?

Martin King, Sinsins Boutique, interview with Brian Gray, Lascivious Marketing
[Credit: Sinsins Boutique]
MARTIN KING: Your description of Sinsins is totally spot on. You’re absolutely right when you say first impressions count. In essence, Sinsins is a gift shop which sells sensually charged erotic gifts and treats for temptation, seduction and flirtation with decorum, integrity, subtlety and vivaciousness whether they be for yourself or your sweetheart.

Sinsins Boutique of Love, interview with Brian Gray, Lascivious Marketing
[Credit: Sinsins Boutque]
Many years ago I had the dubious privilege of venturing into a ‘sex shop’ which was part of a national chain. I went in as a lover and an explorer not as a wannabe hardcore porn star seeking blatant arousal and instant gratification. Hand on heart, it was the worst shopping experience of my life. It was at best functional, at worst grotesquely soulless. I was so incensed by this tawdry and sleazy debacle that I decided to create my own little independent Boutique of Love.

Sex shops sell blatant fantasy fodder with equally blatant, unrealistic imagery to match. Sinsins has done the opposite by shunning the gaudy and licentious. In a relationship love and sex are both pleasurably and immeasurably entwined… both elements are giddily special. ‘Naughty’ is in the eye or mind of the beholder, and the way Sinsins does ‘naughty’ is much more subtle, more thought provoking and intrinsically much deeper through its passion and captivation of the senses.

You’ve now been around for more than fifteen years. What do you think has been the key to surviving and thriving?
This is now our 18th year of trading, and I ask myself this question frequently. The only answers I can give with any degree of certainty, beyond refusing to sell tat, is having a strong rapport with our customers and a willingness to change with the times.

Sinsins Boutique, shop tag, interview Lascivious Marketing
[Credit: Sinsins Boutique]
In this time, you’ll have probably witnessed a fair few changes or developments within the adult retailing industry. Which ones most stand out?
In the old days, the majority of suppliers didn’t seem to care what they sold. I remember having a ‘heated’ argument with one over the fact that their product stated it required AA batteries to work. The only problem with this was that no standard brand of AA battery would fit their product. Their answer at that point was that their own brand fitted so what was my problem! Nine months after me providing them with an unequivocal direction in which they could go, they phoned me up out of the blue to tell me they had changed all their product motors because of me.

Product-wise (moving on in years) the biggest game changer for me and Sinsins was Lelo: elegant, luxurious, seductive…stunningly designed and beautifully presented. A real game-changer with a price tag to match. Almost everything about this brand matched perfectly with Sinsins’ ethos. It was also at this point I ended my ten plus years of self-inflicted single dad bachelor lifestyle and met a special lady, now my wife.

The other biggest change for me is the camaraderie within the industry. Maybe because I’ve been in it for so long now, maybe it was the beginning of the recession but there was a point when suddenly everything seemed to change. Suppliers started to care. Sales teams became not just good… but really good. There’s a large pool of awesome people out there in this industry who not only do a good job but they go out of their way to show they care.. even after moving companies.

If you were just starting from scratch in the adult retailing industry now but had all the knowledge and wisdom from your Sinsins years to call upon, how differently – if at all – would you go about it?
If I were starting from scratch?! I’m not getting any younger you know, time is passing me by way too quickly these days.

As a sole trader I wouldn’t. There’s a lot more to it than just buying stock from A, whacking it out on the shelf and selling it to the happy, non-demanding customer. Unless you’re a big player with tremendous cash deposit behind you, don’t do it. The sleepless nights, the cash flow worries, the sheer volume of work simply doesn’t stack up when it comes to immediate financial reward.

The majority of the consumers out there are more driven by online price comparison than by good old fashion face-to-face customer service, truthful sales knowledge and upfront expertise. We are lucky in that once our customers meet us they tend to remain loyal and we get to know them well.

Sinsins Boutique of Love, interior image, interview with Brian Gray, Lascivious Marketing
[Credit: Sinsins Boutique]
It’s not hard to imagine that there’ll be some people who will take umbrage at a sex shop located in their local shopping street. How have you engaged with both the NIMBY’s and other local communities (business, public), etc. ?
We have never considered ourselves as a sex shop. Eighteen years ago our first premises was a council owned building. The estates department were loving our concept, the licensing department were not so enthralled. Licensing even refused us advertising on a black cab at one point – they took exception to the strapline ‘gifts, goodies and gadgets’. Apparently ‘gadget’ was potentially offensive.

Sinsins Boutique, interview with Brian Gray, Lascivious Marketing
[Credit: Sinsins Boutique]
Sinsins has always operated without a need for a sex shop licence due to the balance of goods sold. We were lucky that Norwich Council decided to trust our concept before making the final licensing decision. We have earned their trust by hard graft and remaining apolitical.

Sinsins Boutique, interview with Brian Gray, Lascivious Marketing
[Credit: Sinsins Boutique]
Sinsins has never hidden behind the shutters, you’ve always been able to see through our windows. Bar three cheeky pre-planned occasions (for press coverage), we have always maintained delicate and subtle window displays.

Our approach is to deny the NIMBYs any fuel to their way of thinking… the subtle approach challenges their negativity and leaves them solely to their own imaginations…  We have no wish to upset or challenge anybody, that’s just offensive and pointless. Those NIMBYs who have ventured over our threshold have, by and large, left more with a more accepting and appreciative view of what we do once they realise the branding of our product ranges don’t overtly scream out SEX! We’ve never touched pornography in any way shape or form. The atmosphere within Sinsins has always been as normal as in any other high street shop.

Over the years I have been invited to do talks to Relate Counsellors, the Institute of Psychosexual Medicine, lots of health related charities, Gynecology Units at The Norfolk & Norwich hospital and Addenbrookes too. We’ve also been invited guests on TV & local radio too. In every situation these organisations have approached us, not the reverse. We have earned an awful lot of trust by many people and organisations locally… and rest assured this didn’t happen overnight! Discretion, subtlety and confidentiality are of paramount importance all round.

Another factor for us is that Norwich champions small independent businesses.. we are proud to be part of this, and we are active members of Norwich Lanes (a local organisation which does a absolutely fantastic job of promoting the diversity of local independent businesses).

Sinsins Boutique, corporate logo, interview Lascivious Marketing
[Credit: Sinsins Boutique]
Let’s talk about your name SinSins Boutique of Love. How did you come up with the name and what made you decide to use it?
The name Sinsins is a play on words…. literally meaning Without Sin.

Who do you think the ideal Sinsins customer is, and what three adjectives would you want your customers to associate with your brand?
The ideal Sinsins customer is one who is polite, smiley, respectful, non-judgemental and with a positively inquisitive mind. It’s a bit old fashioned but those customers who talk to us and ask questions are the ones who get the best shopping experience from us. As far as three adjectives go, I’ve let my customers answer this for me: romantically welcoming, discretely joyous and intimately confidential.
[That’s SIX, Martin, but I’ll let you off! – Brian]

The popular perception is that adult retailers will be busiest around Christmas and Valentine’s Day. Is this still the case, and what are the most popular products you sell at these times, and the rest of the year?
Without doubt Christmas is the big one for Sinsins. Valentine’s is our second bite at the annual cherry. If i had to pick one product range the lube is our best seller by far. The time of year doesn’t change the variety of items sold, but it does massively change the quantities sold.

Good marketing is important for any company, not only to thrive but just to survive. What have been your key marketing learning points and observations so far?
As a micro business the marketing budget is for want of a better phrase… shoestring. Sinsins relies heavily on social media and customer recommendation. Marketing is an organic thing which builds the brand and trust over time. My main learning point over the years has been to do a little but often. You can waste a lot of cash on ill-thought through marketing, been there, done that.

What has been your biggest marketing challenge so far, and what steps are you taking / have taken to overcome it?
The biggest marketing challenge…. I guess that would have to be marketing sinsins.com . SEO is a full time job all by itself. I want to get our online presence to a wider audience. Working on the website is time consuming for sure, but I do see this as the way forwards.

What are the most valuable things you’ve learned so far both about competing in the adult retailing industry, and as an entrepreneur?
The most valuable thing I’ve learned is cash flow. Cash flow is paramount. Building up a solid rapport and trust with suppliers can make life a hell of a lot easier too. Don’t try to compete, just build the uniqueness of your business… and never stop renewing and never lose sight of your bottom line.

And what does the next twelve months hold in store for Sinsins?
As of January 2017, Sinsins relocated within Norwich City Centre. The next 12 months is all about bedding in again, pushing sinsins.com and to keep evolving. The last Friday of every month we are looking to do late night shopping collaborations in store. We kick it off at the end of this month with the Hewson Group’s Women, Sex & Shopping research – ‘All About Lube’. Then in June we are looking forward to collaborating with a very talented local photographer Julia Holland and we will be running An Introduction to Julia’s Boudoir Portraits.

 


I’ll admit: before coming across Sinsins on Twitter, the only thing I associated with Norwich was a silver spinning horse and the accompanying voiceover announcing “From Norwich, It’s the quiz of the week!” before Sale of the Century graced our TV screens. That and Delia Smith’s legendary (and for her sake, best forgotten) half time ‘announcement’ to the Norwich City crowd.

Now, with Sinsins, there’s a far better reason. For anyone thinking about entering the adult retailing sector, Martin’s account of things is an extremely insightful one, bursting with realism. It’s all very easy for new entrepreneurs to forget about the basics of business finance and instead focus on the perceived sexier aspects. His highlighting of SEO and cash flow particularly should be well heeded.

Through their own sensible stewardship, and maintaining good relations with the council and other local businesses, there’s a lot to be said for their approach to running a business in this sector.

Something tells me one interview with Martin might not be enough…..

…but for the moment, thanks again, and keep up the good work!

If you’re around the Norwich area, there’s no excuse for not having a visit. Or visit them on t’interweb at sinsins.com  Don’t forget to say hello on Twitter too, at @sinsinsboutique

 


ARE YOU AN AMBITIOUS, MARKETING-LED, COMPANY IN THE SEX TOY, LINGERIE, FETISHWEAR AND EQUIPMENT OR DATING SECTOR?
If you’d like to be interviewed about your entrpreneurial journey and associated marketing issues that will be interesting to the Lascivious Marketing web fraternity, then get in touch!

Until next time!
Brian

PS. 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.

INTERVIEW: Velvet Fleurs. Feminine, sophisticated sexiness.

A website selling luxury sex toys and unintimidating in the process? Meet Velvet Fleurs.

Its Founder, a busy mum with a retailing background, who we’ll call ‘J’ *, answers the questions.

 

Fleurs, interview with Brian Gray, Lascivious Marketing
J, Leading from the top at Velvet Fleurs. Accompanied by serious ‘to-do’ list. [Credit: Velvet Fleurs]
BRIAN GRAY: I’ve likened starting a business or brand to having achild.  As you’ve got three already – children that is – how does it compare with reality?

J: Anyone who has kids will know that there are no two days the same, just when you think you are on top of things the little cherubs blind-side you! I suppose you’re right, running a business and having children do have similarities. You quickly learn planning is key, you have to be versatile and more than anything, expect the unexpected!

With three whippersnappers already to contend with, never mind Velvet Fleurs, how do you manage time?  What’s been the most valuable time management tip you’ve either read of been told about?
I believe good time-management is a trait that comes naturally to some and at the risk of sounding smug, it is something I don’t need to work at! My approach is to keep lists, I find them invaluable in all areas of my life; they keep me on top of things and focused on my goals.

Velvet Fleurs, interview with Brian Gray, Lascivious Marketing
[Credit: Velvet Fleurs]
Let’s talk branding.  Why VelvetFleurs and what process did you gothrough to arrive at that name?
My goal has always been for the brand to be both feminine and sophisticated, a message I wanted to portray through all aspects of the business, from the aesthetics of the site, the product choices, our social media approach and of course the name.  I felt the best approach to getting this right was to have a nod to the type of business without it being brash.

I’d settled on “Velvet” when the idea of setting up the business was little more than an “I would like to give it a go”. I added “Fleurs” after many sessions of brainstorming.  As soon as I heard the two words together I knew it was the one.

Who do you think the ideal Velvet Fleurs customer is and what three adjectives would you want your customers to associate with your brand?
Velvet Fleurs is for those who enjoy the exquisite pleasures in life, they like to experiment and push the boundaries in their sex lives whilst at the same time are willing to invest a little more in their pleasures and appreciate that things can be pleasing to the eye as well as functional.

When setting up the business the three main adjectives I kept coming back to were: feminine, unintimidating and unique.

Good marketing is important for any company, not only to thrive but just to survive.  What have been your key marketing learning points and observations so far?
With my background in retail, I’ve always appreciated that marketing is one of the key principles of a business, where you quickly realise how vital it has been if you no longer do it.  For Velvet Fleurs, the key marketing strategy has of course been social media.  In this day and age it is a critical medium when connecting with both your customers and your B2B partners.

What has been your biggest marketing challenge so far, and what steps are you taking / have taken to overcome it?
I’m originally from a bricks and mortar background so getting to grips with SEO has been the biggest marketing challenge so far. It was a steep learning curve, made all the more difficult with the amount of seemingly conflicting information out there about what you should and shouldn’t do, coupled with the fact the likes of Google seem to be constantly changing the rules.

Sifting through the right information on the Internet has helped me understand SEO, allowing me to at least begin to address a potentially crippling problem for any new start up, there is clearly a lot more to learn though.

What are the most valuable things you’ve learned so far both competing in the sex toy industry and as an entrepreneur?
At the risk of sounding clichéd; perseverance. It is important to give things a go and trust in your gut instincts!

From your own experiences, what do you think is the most important skill to possess when launching an adult retailing company?
I’m not sure there is any particular skill you need when launching a business within the adult sector over any other retail sectors, although it definitely helps if you are open minded.

I do believe though that when launching any business, the ‘must have’ skill is the ability to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. It is so important to keep your target customer at the forefront of all of your business decisions.

Whether at the beginning, or since then, what has been the most valuable marketing book you’ve read since Velvet Fleurs was conceived?
I would love to sound like I’m well versed in marketing literature but the truth is that the bulk of my knowledge and experience in marketing has evolved from the 20 years I’ve worked in retail.

Since the start of Velvet Fleurs I have of course read various blogs and online articles which have been very useful, but no books.

What has been the most enjoyable moment or experience with Velvet Fleurs that has made the blood, sweat and tears worthwhile?
The most enjoyable moment by far was when my first order came through.  It was a good number of weeks after I launched and a very nervy time – with each day that passed without a sale I really started to question some of the key decisions I had made up to that point.

The relief when that first order came through was immense. I’ll forever remember where I was, the time and what they ordered – great feeling!

And what does the next twelve months hold in store for Velvet Fleurs?  What do you have planned?
Plans for the next 12 months will be to expand the Velvet Fleurs “boutique” range, this is an area of the business which offers something unique – that ultimate of guilty pleasures.

This is by far the most popular area with my customers, which is great as I just love trying to find new and innovative suppliers to further broaden the range.

I obviously can’t divulge too much but rest assured there will be several more exciting brands to sit alongside the existing Fucking Sculptures, Persian Palm and Liberator – so watch this space!


Having originally come across Velvet Fleurs in their capacity as a stockist of Persian Palm ceramic sex toys (click here for the interview with Eva) it is great to see independent manufacturers and retailers striking up effective partnerships in which there is a genuine – and effective – brand ‘fit’ with one another.
Good luck, J!

So, if some plush pleasure products tickle your fancy then head to velvetfleurs.uk  and don’t forget to say hello on Twitter too, at @velvetfleurs

* When arranging the interview, J was a little wary about her full name being connected with an adult retailing company, while her children were still young. I’m happy to respect this and maintain some privacy!


ARE YOU AN AMBITIOUS, MARKETING-LED, COMPANY IN THE SEX TOY, LINGERIE, FETISHWEAR AND EQUIPMENT OR DATING SECTOR?
If you’d like to be interviewed about your entrpreneurial journey and associated marketing issues that will be interesting to the Lascivious Marketing web fraternity, then get in touch!

Until next time!
Brian

PS. 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.