When Internet Commerce Group (ICG) and XXXCash founder Sal Abbate announced the company's addition of Rainey Stricklin, formerly president of Detour Interactive, as sales director for XXXCash, he asserted, "We wanted to go full force, and hire people with proven skills in the adult industry. With Rainey on board, you'll be seeing a lot more of ICG; and we're confident we'll emerge as a leading revenue source for the industry."
Stricklin's knowledge of the adult industry comes, she offers (with her trademark straightforwardness and humility), from "a combination of excellent mentors, some traditional marketing background, and seven years of experience in trial and error.
"I've watched many people come into this industry," Stricklin says. "I've seen some succeed, and many more fail. I think the biggest weakness newbies have coming into our little world is that they want it to fit into a neat little mainstream box that follows mainstream rules and theories. It doesn't. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you can be on your way to learning how to succeed in the adult Internet world."
In 1996, Stricklin joined WebSideStory, operators of the HitBOX counter and ranking sites, such as Adult10000.com. "I managed their adult advertising and hosting sales, and eventually implemented their mainstream advertising program as well." Working closely with WebSideStory founders Blaise and Agnes Barrelet "gave me the opportunity to watch the adult industry grow and change," not to mention getting to know industry leaders. "I was the fifteenth employee when I joined WSS, and they employed over 150 when I left. It was an amazing experience to go from working sometimes 18-hour days in a cramped strip-mall office to working in a high-tech, high-rise building complete with a board of directors, investors, and a huge staff," Stricklin says.
When she left WSS in 2000, Stricklin founded Detour Interactive, an online sales and marketing agency.
"Detour was a great learning experience for me. There is so much more to running a business than most people think. I went from only having to focus on marketing and sales to dealing with taxes and payroll, employee benefits, accounting.... It's a lot to manage and still have time to take care of your core business." Stricklin attributes the help of good employees as key to Detour's success, including Poppy Gelvezon (now with Jupiter Hosting) and Danielle Simons (now the owner of Detour). "We remained profitable for about three years. As the industry changed and money got tighter, we started to take some hits. The beginning of ," Stricklin says, "I seemed to just take one hit after another.
"In June, I was introduced to Sal Abbate by YNOT Bob (of the YNOT Network). Sal was looking to build a sales program. The prospect was exciting to me, as he had little sales structure in place, and it would give me the opportunity to use some creativity, leverage my knowledge and contacts in the field, and get back to what I do best: sell."
The learning curve Stricklin describes sounds formidable. "My first goal was to get a thorough understanding of how the program was put together, how revenue was driven, what the strengths and weaknesses were and where the opportunities were. I needed to understand what our market was, how we stacked up against the competition, what we could improve right away and what we should strive for in the future." Stricklin seems to have mastered such an overview with aplomb - and with certain of her own beliefs intact.
"I don't believe, especially in this industry, that you can write out a sales strategy, then just blindly follow it indefinitely. A good sales strategy has to be adaptable. We're constantly being thrown curve balls in this business, and you have to be able to build on your successes, recover from your losses, and capitalize on opportunities."
Especially in the case of a company like ICG, only some of the interests of which are repped by XXXCash.com, Military Cash.com, and CelebrityCash.com, and features sites such as Strippers.com, FemaleStars.com, MaleStars.com, and NakedSoldier.com.
Stricklin feels that the most important element in a sales strategy is "relationship building. Know your competitors, know your affiliates, your members. Relationships can take you far in this industry, and they should be built on trust and ethics.
"Recently, I was elected to the board of directors for Women In Adult," Stricklin adds, "an organization dedicated to the empowerment and support of businesswomen in our industry. Mainstream industries generally offer networking groups for various segments, and the adult industry shouldn't be an exception.
"Any networking opportunities you can take advantage of will help you grow and prosper in this business." She says being a part of a networking group like WIA provides a platform through which she can get to know people with whom she may have worked side-by-side, but never before had the chance to really sit down and talk to.
As to adult Internet trends, Stricklin thinks that with "the current chargeback issues, we'll see the loss of some of our less ethical colleagues, stronger member support, and overall, better sites. The days of tricking customers for a quick buck are gone. We have to deliver what we promise, and be available to deal with customers' concerns.
"We have to come by sales and retention honestly; as a result, the consumer will end up with a better product," she says.
Stricklin accounts for XXXCash's success through diversified marketing efforts, among other things. If one tactic results in a "slow month, the others can make up for it.
"With a high-converting collection of sites backed up with solid technology," Stricklin says, "the company, our strategic partners, and our affiliates continually generate a strong recurring revenue stream. By the time this is published, we will have released several new Websites, a host of new marketing tools, and additional earning opportunities. We are constantly working to improve our program and sites, to ensure XXXCash and continues to grow and thrive."
Out-of-this-world - or maybe that should be out-of-their-minds - promos like "Throw Your Ass Out of a Plane," sponsored by XXXCash at the January 2004 Internext, prove that the company won't balk at nontraditional techniques. "Paul Nash, our director of marketing, came up [that]," Stricklin laughs. "We battled a little over whether or not affiliates would really be willing to jump out of a plane, but he proved me wrong! The interest [was] phenomenal. We'll certainly be running more contests in the future, so be on the look out."
Also in the future for XXXCash are launches of newer and better programs. "Our goal is to be the best at what we do, and we won't stop working on it until we get there," Stricklin says. "We'll continue to build new sites, offer innovative marketing tools, and prove ourselves to be honest and ethical in this business."
Stricklin herself anticipates, "I will continue to work in this industry as long as it will have me. There are so many areas of the business that I've yet to learn, and I look forward to the lessons that each day brings."