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Inside The Online Dating Industry
by Joe Tracy, publisher of Online Dating Magazine

Online Dating Branding Brilliance

Welcome to the second installment of “Inside the Industry,” a weekly column that takes a closer look at the business of online dating.

It's All About Branding
One of the most vital components to running a successful business is how you brand that business. Branding is an art that, if ignored, can be the downfall of your company or service due to the inability of people to identify with you.

The last few weeks have been a rare time where we get a clear view of great branding from one major online dating service and not so great branding from another. Before getting into details, though, it’s first important to understand a little bit about branding.

Branding is about a person’s overall experience with your company every time they hear your company name or associate with your company. A person’s overall impression of your service is a testament to whether you’ve done a good job at branding your service or whether your efforts have fallen flatter than Paris Hilton’s stomach.

Branding is about knowing what message you want to deliver and building every aspect of your business around that message. Perceptions from consumers are the reality of your services because what they think you are is correct. Just remember, they formed their perceptions through your branding efforts, whether intentional or not.

An example of an excellent job a service has done at branding is They never refer to themselves as an “online dating service” but rather as a “relationship service”. They want people to go to who are serious about relationships and they have effectively branded themselves that way.

This month, added to the brilliance of their branding with three press releases, all tied around one theme - marriage:

1) The first press release was about a one-year study which showed that, on average, 90 people a day (who met on eHarmony) get married.

2) A second press release was on a study showing that eHarmony couples who marry are “happier” than other married couples.

3) The third press release was the introduction a new service to help married couples with their relationship.

This type of branding is priceless. has effectively positioned itself as the leading service for people who are marriage-minded. Very smart.

Unfortunately, isn’t perfect when it comes to branding. The top two services Online Dating Magazine receives the most complaints about, when it comes to customer service, are and True. Because customer service is an important part of branding, is far from perfecting its routine. But still outranks all other services in painting a clear branding message through all of its communication mediums. And this will only help them build their empire.

Unfortunately, this month also brought about a branding snafu for online dating service PerfectMatch. Until now, PerfectMatch had done a decent job of creating a message of it being an online dating service open to all dating ages. The service has a brilliant marketing team who secured deals to feature PerfectMatch in movies like "Must Love Dogs". The service is being featured in even more movies this year.

But PerfectMatch hit a branding snafu late last month when they put out a press release all about the increase and migration of people over the age of 50 doing online dating. They then provided tips to seniors. Via this press release, PerfectMatch has confused its users as to who the target audience is. From reading the release, you get the idea that PerfectMatch is going after an older group. For younger members, this type of publicity sends a mixed message. It’s not bad to address the 50+ market (after all it is one of the leading growing marketplaces of online daters), but you must do so without alienating any other consumers that are a part of who you are. Now if PerfectMatch is changing its whole branding to become a Baby Boomer / Senior dating site, then this whole example is void. As you can see, they’ve done a good job of confusing me too.

Define your branding message and make sure it is conveyed in every bit of communication you put out, no matter how big or how little. Always emphasize and build upon your message to achieve successful branding.

From Branding to Databases
As promised in last week's column, today will be my first in a series of tips to gain new users. In every column, I’ll include a tip and when they are all put together, you’ll see powerful results.

Tip #1: Offer a Lifetime Membership
Be prepared to lose a lot of money for up to a year or so when you start a new online dating service. Your most important goal should be to build your user database. People do not want to sign up with a service that only has 10, 100, 1000, or 10,000 members. They want to know that in their city they’ll have lots of people to select from. So when you open your service, open it with a free lifetime membership for the first 1,000 – 10,000 people that sign up. Consider these the pioneers of your project that are helping you build it. Their reward is that they get to forever use the service for free. Your reward is that you build your userbase.

Don’t offer wimpy “charter” subscriptions like True did when it opened as They advertised a free charter membership and set the expiration dates of everyone who signed up to the year 2059. I know, because I was one of them. Then a year later they “expired” all those memberships and claimed that if anyone wanted to continue their charter "lifetime" membership, they’d have to pay $99. It was very deceitful, dishonest, and a slap in the face of those who initially joined their service to help build the userbase.

One thing I like is the approach that a new service called PickMeQuick is taking. This new online dating service is offering 5,000 free lifetime memberships. And in the top right-hand corner of their page, they publicize how many are left to grab. Although unrelated, another thing I like about PickMeQuick is their approach. The developers know that people will read a profile most likely based on the picture. So their whole dating service is designed around your photo. If you don’t have a photo you can’t participate because your photo is the central aspect of how their service is designed. (Note: Several months after this column was originally published, PickMeQuick - like 99.9% of other new online online dating services - shut its doors. As a result, we have removed the links to the site that originally appeared in this paragraph).

Lifetime memberships alone won’t build your online dating service. That’s why in every Inside the Online Dating Industry column I’ll offer a new tip and as you apply them all together, you’ll create a powerful medium to help you succeed.

Good luck in all your endeavors. I look forward to our time together next week.

Joe Tracy is publisher of Online Dating Magazine and is often quoted by the media in relation to online dating topics. His Inside the Online Dating Industry column is published monthly.

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