So there is no delicate way to talk about this topic, but I’m going to bring it up anyway. As product managers, we’re often not above using sex appeal to motive potential customers to buy our product. However, what happens if the product that we’re trying to sell is sex itself?
Welcome To The World Of Cams And “Tips”
Matt Richtel wrote a story for the New York Times talking about this new market where (primarily) women with video cameras are offering services over the Internet to (primarily) men. It doesn’t take a product development definition to get set up – just a laptop and a video camera. Once these have been secured, the next step is for the women to set up an account on a hub web site such as YourFreeCam or Live Jasmine.
Once that’s been taken care of, the women are then free to put on their own one-woman shows. Web surfers can then drop by their video feed. If a surfer likes what they see, then they can “tip” the model which transfers money from the surfer’s account with the hub site to the model. It appears as though the model gets roughly half of the tip, the hub site keeps the other half.
What caught my attention in Matt’s story is that at any time in the day, he reported that there were over 1,000 of these cam models online. Wow – talk about competition! If this was a product that you were offering, you’d be hard pressed to distinguish your product offering.
Let’s think about this for a minute. You have over 1,000 women all competing for the attention of a limited number of web surfers. You would expect each women to start to specialize (fetishes anyone?) However, even if you did that, there could easily be 100+ other women who had decided to specialize in the same area that you had selected. What’s a cam model to do?
How You Could Do A Better Job Of Marketing Yourself
Although I suspect that none of us are currently working in the cam model business (however, if you are, then welcome), it’s a good product manager exercise to give some thought about how you’d handle this situation even if you’re not going to be adding it to your product manager resume. How could you get more surfers to (1) visit your video feed and (2) tip you more?
The first problem is what is it going to take to get traffic? Step one would be to brand yourself. It probably doesn’t matter what name or tag line you use, just pick one – that will distinguish you from most of the other 1,000 women that you are competing against.
You will have surfers who will organically drop by your video channel. You need to come up with a way to get them to stay, and then to become repeat customers. One way to make this happen would be to “schedule” shows. Tell everyone that something is going to happen on a given date at a given time. When you reach the end of a show, inform your viewers when the next show will be and why they would want to plan on attending. This is almost like what TV shows do with the trailers they have for the next episode.
Finally, you are going to want to maximize your viewer’s tipping. A great way of making this happen would be to use tipping as a communication vehicle. I believe that tipping levels are shown in real time to the cam models. This means that you could ask your viewers what they wanted you to do: A or B. Have them tip for A, then have them tip for B, then whichever tip pool turned out to be larger, perform that action. This way your viewers feel involved and you get to keep all of the tips!
What All Of This Means For You
Although we may not spend a lot of time thinking about it, one of the most profitable products that the Internet is used to sell is sex in all of its wonderful different forms. The recent arrival of self-produced cam shows has opened the door to a flood of new products on this market of Internet sex. The problem is that most of the products all look (pretty much) the same.
From a product manager’s point of view this is a market with low barriers to entry, a lot of unbranded suppliers, and customers who can easily switch suppliers. Clearly this would be an undesirable market to enter if only it wasn’t such a potentially huge and profitable market. Product management skills have to be used to make each performer different from the others. Niche markets have to identified, performers have to create their own brand, and repeat purchases have to be encouraged and rewarded. This is exactly the kind of stuff that shows up in a product manager job description.
No, this may not be the most enjoyable topic to discuss depending on your outlook on life. However, it is clearly a unique market that has a desperate need for the types of skills that product managers can provide. As product managers we need to evaluate these types of market conditions in order to improve how we evaluate challenging product management situations and improve our decision making skills.