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

So... You Wanna Start an Online Dating Service


One of the awesome aspects of my job is that I get to regularly interact with online daters, people within the online dating industry, and people thinking of starting an online dating service. Of course, when someone approaches me about wanting to start an online dating service, I first direct them to my debut Inside the Online Dating Industry column - Back to Reality. Then we chat.

I had the opportunity yesterday to interact with someone via email who is looking to start a new online dating service. But there was something different about this gentleman. He had all of his t's crossed and i's dotted. He has a background in marketing and it showed in his email because he was listing specific marketing concepts he had to make his service work. Then he asked me for my brutal honest opinion. I gave it. And it was a positive response, despite our estimation that 99% of new online dating services fail.

The gentleman's concept is only in the "research the idea" phase and already he's been outlining marketing techniques and seeking advice from experts. Instead of jumping off the high-dive belly first, he is taking time to perfect his routine in order to win the gold.

Here's how several people I've run into have started their online dating service:

1) They go to eBay and buy an online dating template for $1.99 (or even up to $6)!

2) They receive the template and wonder what to do with it since it isn't programmed to handle profiles.

3) They buy software (much more expensive than the $1.99 template) and after time get it to interact with their template.

4) They sign up for a $4.99 a month Web hosting plan (with two months free for paying a year in advance).

5) They open up their service and get all 7 of their single friends to sign up for a profile.

6) They wait for people to come and sign up. No one comes.

7) They see a new template on eBay for selling gift baskets so they abandon the online dating idea and start over, ready to master the gift basket marketplace.

There are about 99 ingredients missing from the above situation in order to make the venture succeed. Here's a more ideal scenario:

1) They do in-depth research on online dating services, statistics, the marketplace, and what users are dissatisfied with so that they can make it a strength.

2) After analyzing the marketplace and deciding to move forward, they create a business plan, marketing plan, strategic Web marketing plan, public relations plan, and branding plan.

3) They attend Website success seminars and online dating expos. There they interact with others and start to form vital connections.

4) They read everything they can on the online dating industry. They visit daily updated online dating industry blogs like the Online Dating Industry Journal. They regularly read informational insight material, like that found in Online Dating Magazine's Online Dating Industry section. They read interviews with others who have done it, visit future competitors and find ways to correct mistakes that other online dating services make.

5) They secure financing for their idea, realizing they will lose money for quite awhile before they begin to turn a profit.

6) They form a winning team and, if they can afford it, hire expert consultants. They look to fulfill vital executive positions like CEO, IT, marketing, public relations, finance, and customer service.

7) They form a "Success Alliance" which is a group of key people in the online dating industry who meet together to brainstorm and are given a stock position in the company.

8) They make sure that they have a redundant server so that if their main site goes down, the service doesn't go offline.

9) They start out offering a free service (with lifetime memberships) and when the time is right, they convert it to a paid service and immediately establish a rewarding affiliate program through one of the top two affiliate companies: Commission Junction or Linkshare. They realize that affiliates are vital sales people for their business.

10) They work long hours and are passionate about success.

And that's just a few of the things they do!

I was once offered a CEO position for an online dating service upstart that was already successfully raising millions in venture capital money. I must admit, it was very tempting. However, I love Oregon (didn't want to move) and the ability to provide independent insight to online daters through Online Dating Magazine. The key here is that the upstart was doing things right. They were raising the funds, trying to form a winning team, and addressing all the right areas before opening the service to the public. If you are an upstart, you must do the same.

If you are thinking of starting an online dating service, you may feel deflated when reading about how many services fail and how hard it is to successfully break into the industry. Yet if you have three key ingredients - passion, drive, and wisdom - you may just make it even without venture capital funding.

My hero, growing up, was Walt Disney. I studied his life in great detail. The man was simply amazing. He had great ideas for new concepts and never let anything stop him. When he was producing the first ever full-length animated feature film, Snow White, everyone thought he was crazy. Who would go see a feature length movie that was completely animated? They said it would fail. It succeeded. When Walt was building Disneyland everyone thought he was crazy again. Who would want to go to a huge theme park aimed at families instead of thrill seekers? They said it would fail. It succeeded.

The key here is to see your project through and prove the naysayers wrong. Find a unique way to enter the market, present your service, and see it through to success. And in the words of the captain in the movie Galaxy Quest: "Never Give Up, Never Surrender."

Tip of the Week
This week I'm providing another tip to increase traffic to your online dating service. Last week we discussed writing content for another Website. This week it is all about the press release.

Tip #6: Regularly Publish Press Releases
Before advancing further, it's important to debunk a myth about press releases. Many people believe that putting out a press release will bring them instant media attention and widespread media coverage. That's simply not true. The fact is that there are tens of thousands of press releases put out every single day! Most reporters don't even bother visiting press release distribution sites (or reading releases sent to them) because there simply isn't time and most are... well... boring and self serving.

So if this is the case, why do I recommend it as a traffic-driving technique? The reason is because producing a good and news-worthy press release could get you mentioned on several Websites. And those Websites will link to your site. And search engines will see those links. The more people that link to you, the more important a search engine thinks you are and your rankings rise. Links are one of the vital aspects of marketing your Website (shameless plug - this link leads to my Joe Tracy Visioneering site where I provide Web marketing services). Getting your content on other Websites (which helps your recognition, branding, link establishment and sometimes your traffic) is also of vital importance.

The first thing you have to do is find something interesting enough to warrant a press release. A release on "My Dating Service Subscriptions Just Reached 10!" won't cut it. You need to find something with a twist like, "______ Releases Report on 10 Steps to Dating Safely Online."

Once you've finished a clever press release, you want to get it out on a service that Google News and Yahoo! News indexes, if possible. If you have money to throw away, that would be PRNewswire or Businesswire. If you're tight on money, try a cheaper service like PR Web. Do your research. Don't be afraid to do additional submissions to other free press release distribution services. And remember, one press release won't cut it. You need to regularly publish interesting press releases. This maximizes your exposure.

More importantly, personally send your release to key places like Online Dating Magazine and the Online Dating Industry Journal. Target online dating sites that provide news to readers. Write a personalized introduction to the editor and attach your release. Remember, this is not only your opportunity to gain publicity, but to also form a connection.

Until next week, I continue to wish you much success,

Joe Tracy

Related Links:
» Online Dating Software

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 every Friday.

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