What can business leaders learn from the porn industry?

Employment & Skills | Leisure & Tourism | Reports

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 (CherryCherry VFX) for clients in the advertising, film and TV industry.

It is way too easy to think of the adult industry as seedy, poor, unprofessional and only useful for five minutes in the morning…or evening!

Well, think again.

What if you were to judge the perfume industry in the same way based on seeing someone selling bottles out of a shabby suitcase on Oxford Street; cheap, tacky and ‘senseless’. Well, that’s the sort of judgement often made of the adult industry. Actually, it is an industry just like any other, with imitators, rip-offs, cheats and thieves. It is not the shabby suitcase one may be lead to believe it is.

On the contrary, 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.

These models and tools are as wide and varied as the genres within the adult world.  So, the next time someone catches you with an adult film on your screen, you can proudly tell them that you are researching how porn introduced multiple interrelated web sites, cross marketing, targeting, pop-ups and encouraged online financial security.

Beyond that, there are six basic lessons all businesses can learn from the porn industry:

Know Your Shit

It’s not uncommon to hear about businesses failing because they brought in lawyers far too late. One thing you would have to say about the mainstream legitimate adult industry is that it knows its business.

I was personally surprised to discover just quite how rigidly it has to know its legal boundaries and to be on top of a swathe of legal documentation in detail. In the UK, for example, all pornography produced is subject to strict regulation, and before it can be duplicated and sold, it has to be ratified by the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification), just the same way as any Film released.

In my opinion, this keeps the UK adult industry more honest and responsible than the majority of financial institutions! So, if you are preparing sale think about the porn companies and make sure your books are meticulously clean and not dirty!

Be Data Driven

Don’t underestimate Adult just because it might make you blush or giggle, or feel uncomfortable. Those running professional studios are smart, meticulous and well organized.  They are expert at measuring results, watching for shifts in trends and how to react to them. Data allows you to make quick decisions, be fleet of foot and operate successfully.

Remember, what you see on screen is not the business, it is the product. The ones behind the scenes are often brilliant, smart people.  PornHub, for example, has recruited more top programmers than possibly Nasa in the last 5 years (don’t quote me on that but you get the gist).

Jump on Digital Innovation

Porn has always pioneered technology. 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.  Now it continues to lead the revolution of the internet and its applications, both fiscal and in marketing methods.

Adult entrepreneurs basically 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.  Their marketing techniques are emulated everywhere.

Really Think About What Customers Want

Customers, need to be cared for, and interestingly porn has one of the best customer relations records – it has to! Porn is so personal and we all have quite unique tastes. If you hide behind a smokescreen, you will never be trusted.

What the adult industry has been 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 direct competition. It also allows you to be seen as innovative, establish a strong brand around that offering and build a loyal customer base.

Although, mistakes can be made. One thing that is failing in the adult world right now is the proliferation of tube sites.  Developed without concern to the viewer, built only on algorithms and dependent on revenues acquired by stealing other people’s content to create their critical mass. Ultimately, they aren’t listening to their market.  Being greedy, avoiding and bending legality, means people are looking to revert to safer content paysites, where standards still exist.

Be Bold

Maybe the biggest lesson we can learn from adult industry is to be bold and not timid. The old adage pushing the envelope… I am not saying man would never have gone to the moon without Porn of course, but it is the bravest and boldest that make leaps and bounds.

Porn is obviously streets ahead on issues of race, disability and gender.  There is no room for discrimination here*.  It can be seen as inclusive, catering to a wide range of disability for example. Adult entertainment is creating accessibility, normalisation and empowerment – something the mainstream is still struggling with.

Note: Although having said that, I am growing concerned about how Porn Hub and associated sites are not checking the use of language, descriptions or violence, and where that may lead to.

Remember, It’s Not All About the Money

And finally, don’t make it all about money. Ultimately, what we all do has to be fun, rewarding and honest.

Take a second to remember what the original human service is that your company provides. Whether it is flying jets to help people travel and connect, creating fashion to keep people warm, or creating shows to help people relax, ultimately there is a human element. And what is more human than sex?

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