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marketing lessons from a sex workshop

Soooo . . . I went to a sex workshop recently.

My colleague Jessica O’Reilly (pictured here) was in town from Toronto (where I do a lot of work) leading a workshop. She’d come to my event when I was in Toronto and I’d never seen her work so she invited me on down.

The workshop was brilliant but it also lifted up a big time marketing lesson that I know a lot of people struggle with: do you sell them what they want or what you think they need?

You want to help people. People who are stuck. And you’ve probably got a really clear point of view about why they’re so stuck. So you want to get at the root of the problem. So you offer up a product or service that really strikes at the root.

And then no one buys it.

An interview with Jessica follows. We explore themes of the irresistible offer and an unexpected take on being generous in marketing.


what is a sexologist?

A sexologist studies the cognitive, affective and behavioural aspects of sexuality and many sexologists work in education, research and clinical practice.

when did you start running workshops?

I’ve been running sexological workshops for four years on a number of topics ranging from HIV/AIDS to sexual pleasure techniques.

when we spoke you mentioned that your workshops seemed to fill faster than other workshops on Tantra. they’re both about sex but yours seem to attract more attention. why is that?

That’s true.

I’ve coordinated technique-based workshops as well as Tantra workshops and the former are far more popular.

It seems that more people are interested in the immediate take-home approach with regard to improving their sex life as opposed to long-term or broader scope topics which require more work and follow-through.

That’s not to say that there isn’t interest in Tantra or longer-term learning, but in my experience, there are more people interested in “quick fix” approaches to improving their sex lives. And that’s okay, because sometimes just attending a short workshop can help people to broaden their horizons and generate a meaningful dialogue about sex, communication and intimacy.

what are the titles of your workshops, how did you come up with them and how important do you think titles are?

I have a huge list of workshops (http://www.jessicaoreilly.com/m3.php — fun ones are at the bottom of the page) and I came up with the titles on my own. Titles are extremely important and I think I could actually use some help to make them a bit catchier — but I definitely want to ensure that the title accurately reflects the content, so that people know what they’re signing up for.

you’ve got these workshops called “Blow His Mind” and “Blow Her Mind”. I love those as titles. They short. Snappy. Sassy. But they also speak to the result you’re offering. were those the first titles you came up with?

Yes. They’re the first titles I came up with — I think sometimes your first instinct is the one to go with.

and what’s your understanding of why people come to a sex workshop? what are they REALLY wanting from it? Obviously to become better and more skilled lovers – but why? what’s in it for them do you think? and is it different between men and women why they come?


People come to my workshops because they want to be better in bed — for themselves and for their partners. They also want to boost their self-esteem. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I’ve learned a lot over the years and I remind clients that I can help them fill up their sexual tool box and then they can pick and choose according to their mood and their partners’ interests.

Both men and women want to learn specific techniques, but I do find there are more women interested in learning about their own bodies and their own sexual response. And overall, women seem to be more open to learning about sexual technique — at least in a group setting.

we spoke about how selling quick fix techniques vs. deeper solutions. what’s your take on this?

As a sexologist and as an entrepreneur, it’s my job to meet people where they are. What I believe as a professional is often less important than what a client believes — ultimately a client is the ultimate expert in his/herself.

So, even if I think that a workshop on communication skills would be of greatest benefit to a client’s sex life, if that person would rather learn some basic touching techniques, they’re likely going to benefit more from the latter since the buy-in is stronger. And when you give people what they want (as opposed to what you think will work), you’re building relationships and trust — in many cases, they’ll come back for more and be more receptive to your professional recommendations.

so you’re saying if you offer them what they WANT upfront (often based on the symptoms they’re experiencing and their sense of why they are experiencing them) then it’s easier to offer them what they need?

Tad here . . . Let me go smaller for a moment . . . this makes a lot of sense to me. if people think, ‘my sex life isn’t good because i’m lacking techniques’ – that’s a certain point of view. it’s their belief about why they’re struggling. and what i’m hearing here is that it’s better and easier (and maybe more loving) in the beginning to agree with this and give them that so you can build up the trust and credibility and even offer them a different world view that might be more accurate. but if you don’t get them in the door at all then there’s no chance to build trust at all. i wonder if too much marketing is trying to change people’s point of view (which is incredibly hard).

it has me think that a really important question in marketing is: ‘why do people you’re trying to reach THINK they have the problem they have?’ and then, ‘what’s an offering i could create that would align with that point of view?’.

it further strikes me that making an aligned offer isn’t the same as agreeing with them. it’s not saying, ‘your point of view is right’. it’s just saying, ‘okay. so you believe _______? wonderful. let’s start with that then.’

that feels really gracious but also way more effective. it’s speaking to where they’re at right now – but also what they BELIEVE about why they’re there.

any more thoughts on this Jessica?

I think you’ve hit the nail on the head.

You have to give people what they want first and address the issues/needs that they see as most pressing.

It’s not about what I think as an expert, but what they feel they need. I’m not in the business of changing people’s points of view. I do try to offer a broad perspective, so they can make empowered, informed decisions, but ultimately, if everyone shared the same point of view on sex, my job would quickly become obsolete.  When I think about any of the creative services I offer, I begin by posing the questions my clients might have. I ask myself, what are the three big questions people want answered with regard to a topic and then I build from there.


For more info on Jessica and her work you can go to: http://jessicaoreilly.com/


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