Marketing Phone Sex

This is a post about the importance of having a rapport with the customer.

A number of years ago I knew someone, D, who was dyslexic, MIT smart, a phone hacker, and a cross dresser.  He was straight, and that’s important for the story, but wanted to live his life as a woman.

This was back in the day when people like that tended to stay in the closet. Yet he yearned to be able to talk to others with similar interests.  He had an idea.

Being a phone hacker he went and bought around a dozen phones, wired them together so multiple people could call in and talk to each other, and put a small ad in the back of a local paper saying people who wanted to talk about cross dressing could call this number and chat with others of a similar bent.

Well he was swamped and added more phones, and fast forward, he wound up making all sorts of money, buying a used MCI phone switch (that means a large room full of tiny wires) that let him become a phone company in his own right.

He’d expanded his chat lines to include other interests of his, such as a foot fetish and a love of overweight women.  (That line was called Large and Lovely.)

His ads, his positioning, everything grew his business.  The point is, he wasn’t exploitive, but rather someone who genuinely was interested in the service he was providing, a place to meet and talk with others interested in things that weren’t openly discussed at the time.

As he grew his company, a gay man got involved in the business and tried to help him grow into those markets.  He started all sorts of gay chat lines, but they didn’t catch on.  The two wound up having a parting of the ways, and the gay man went on and built his own company.

That second company became successful in the gay markets, where the first one hadn’t.  D simply wasn’t gay. He didn’t know how to connect to gay customers.


There’s a sort of funny, maybe for software people, aside to this story.  I actually knew D through my wife at the time.  She was a brilliant programmer and did consulting for D’s company maintaining their billing system, which was quite complex.

I enjoyed telling people my wife worked in phone sex, and, here’s the funny part.  She was a very open person and had no problem being associated with a phone sex company, but was most embarrassed by the fact that the programming she did for them was in Basic, a simple programming language that no respectable programmer would want to be caught dead using.

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