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How to Sell Like a Top Porn Star

It's unusual to look to the pornography industry for business wisdom, even though it's huge (larger than professional sports) and highly innovative. For example, technology pioneered by the porn business include the online subscriptions, affiliate marketing, paid web-conferencing, social networking, and user-created content.

Porn is also one of the most competitive industries in the world. It has a lower barrier of entry (no pun intended) which makes it very difficult to remain on top (no pun intended). As a result, people who are successful in the pornography business are often quite business savvy and are good at creating opportunities and, yes, selling their services and ideas.

I recently interviewed about a dozen of the most successful people in the porn industry about their business models. This post explains, in their own words, how five porn stars (including a couple of moguls) have remained consistently successful in such a highly competitive industry. While your job may not be as risque as theirs, their experience is applicable inside a wide range of businesses and industries.

Click for the first star: Actress Sasha Grey »


Porn Star #1: Sasha Grey
  • Her Secret: Refuse to accept limitations.
  • Her Story: Sasha Grey manages to remain active both as a porn star and in the mainstream entertainment business. Her awards for her porn performances include "Best Three Way Sex Scene" (2007) "Best Group Scene" (2007), "Female Performer of the Year" (2008) and "Best Oral Sex Scene" (2008). Her mainstream career includes staring in the film "The Girlfriend Experience" (directed by Steven Soderbergh), where she got generally good reviews. She's been featured in numerous music videos and fashion spreads, and recently cast as Vincent Chase's girlfriend in the popular TV show Entourage. She had her first book published last year and is working on a memoir of her years as teenage porn starlet.
  • What She Told Me: "The challenge is to craft yourself so that you're appropriate for what people want and need to see. It's very easy for people to assume that because I do pornography that I'm not intelligent or that I'm incapable of making good decisions. However, I never see myself that way and instead look upon my life in a more existentialist way, as a means of understanding why people are they way they are. When I'm approached with an idea, or approach someone else with an idea, I don't have preconceptions about what I'm capable of doing, but instead see the possibilities, even if it means changing my entire approach to the situation."
Click for the second star: Actor Ron Jeremy »

Porn Star #2: Ron Jeremy
  • His Secret: Hustle more than your competition.
  • His Story: Arguably the world's most recognizable male porn performer, he's been listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for "Most Appearances in Adult Films" and was ranked by AVN Magazine at #1 in their "100 Top Porn Stars of All Time" He's frequently had speaking rolls in numerous mainstream movies, starred in the second and ninth season of the reality series The Surreal Life, and published a well-received memoir "Ron Jeremy: The Hardest (Working) Man in Showbiz". That's an impressive list of credits for anybody working in the seamier side of show biz, but it's even more amazing when you consider that Ron Jeremy is (let's face it) not the most attractive man on the planet.
  • What He Told Me:"I am willing to spend as much time as it takes to get where I want to go. I didn't wait for the mainstream to come to me, I went out for auditions and pounded the pavements. Business is all about being in the right place in the right time, so you need to be as many places as possible as often as possible if you want to succeed. You can't become successful if you're not willing to give something else up. I have friends who quit the porn business and now have families and are really happy with their lives. I made the decision that I couldn't pursue my career and still be a good parent. I'm always ready to do what I can to help my friends. If I can help somebody connect up with somebody else, or give somebody I trust a reference, I'll do it in a heartbeat. I have a Rolodex that's longer than--my arm."
Click for the third star: Mogul Colin Rountree of Wasteland »

Porn Star #3: Colin Rowntree
  • His Secret: Build a social network but don't upsell.
  • His Story: In the early 1990's Colin Rowntree (no photo provided) started what would later become Wasteland.com, arguably the largest and most successful bondage and discipline website in the world. A frequent winner of AVN awards for his content and business practices, his site is famous for successfully capturing 1 percent of the world's web traffic at one point in the late 1990s, and has been featured on A&E, Fox, The BBC, and Showcase Cinema.
  • What He Told Me: "What really sets us apart from other sites is that we provide a service to the fetish and BDSM community. We have hundreds of sites, some free, some pay, which bring the surfer into a larger community of lifestyle fetish folks. Our community networking sites offer 100 percent free dating, blogging, video uploading, file sharing and all of the other features one would expect of Web 2.0 with no "premium member" upsells. These are simply a service to the community and, if anyone decides to purchase a Wasteland membership, that's a bonus. The sense of community is extremely important to "true" fetish sites [because] fetishists are social animals. They want to compare notes, explore new ideas, meet and greet other people. They like to go to parties, chat with each other, post to forums, and learn from each other."
Click for the fourth star: Actress Annie Sprinkle »

Porn Star #4: Annie Sprinkle
  • Her Secret: Create your own personal support group.
  • Her Story: Annie M. Sprinkle is a former prostitute, stripper, pornographic actress, cable television host, porn magazine editor, writer and sex film producer. She received a BFA in photography from the School of Visual Arts in 1986 and is the first porn star known to have earned a Ph.D. Her work, spanning more than three decades, is studied at many universities, in theater history, women's studies, and film studies courses.
  • What She Told Me: "The first inking I had that it would be possible to be innovative about sex and gender issues came from an informal support group that coalesced among female performers in the early years of the porn business. We started lobbying for rights, and that got us the attention of the mainstream press. At the same time, I found myself wondering about the deeper aspects of human sexuality and why it expresses itself in some many different ways. That's led to an entire career that's been far richer than I could possibly have imagined."
Click for the fifth star: Mogul Michael Klein of Hustler »

Porn Star #5: Michael H. Klein
  • His Secret: Make lifelong learning your top priority.
  • His Story: Michael H. Klein (no photo provided) is one of the most successful executives in the pornography business. He is the President of LFP Broadcasting LLC and LFP Internet Group LLC. According to CEO Larry Flynt, (aka the publisher of Hustler Magazine), "under Michael's direction, Hustler TV has become one of the fastest growing adult networks reaching 6 out of the top 10 multiple system operators in just the first year in the U.S. [His] exceptional understanding of the cable and telecommunications marketplace has allowed the creation of an outstanding product."
  • What He Told Me: "Even if you've got a good head on your shoulders, making deals and setting up relationships requires knowledge about how businesses work. The reason that I've been successful in selling the Hustler brand is that I'm constantly learning and growing in my understanding of the media world, what's working in the past, and what's working now. This allows me to make smart choices, connect with the right people and companies, and establish the track record of success that draws more success toward myself and my team."
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