8 Marketing Lessons to Learn From Online Dating

by Ana Gotter November 1, 2017

Like most Millennials, I’ve done my fair share of online dating. I’ve checked out several apps and I see people making the same mistakes across the board. It is, to say the least, a pretty dismal sight more often than not.

“What’s wrong with these people?” I’ve asked myself more than once. “Don’t they realize they’re supposed to be marketing themselves?”

And then I realized that online dating can teach us a lot about online marketing, and vice versa. These people either weren’t getting dates or weren’t keeping them because their profiles were failing them in some way, much like many businesses’ marketing efforts.

There’s a lot to be learned here, so let’s take a look at the 7 most important marketing lessons you can learn from online dating (we’ll assume here that you’re looking for an actual business relationship with your customers, not just a one night stand…).

1. You Need to Look Good

Yup, we mean this quite literally. It’s shallow, but it’s the very first thing people judge you by when they’re clicking through profiles on dating sites. It’s also the first thing that potential customers will notice about your business when they’re looking at the sites of you and your competitors, deciding who to go with.

lessons online dating can teach us about online marketing

This photo simultaneously manages to hide the user’s face and give off a serial killer/dementor vibe. He might get clicks from Ringwraiths or Death Eaters, but most girls will steer clear!

Just as you’d be unlikely to reach out to someone whose pictures are blurry, unflattering, and cutting off half their faces, you wouldn’t want to hire a company whose site looked less than stellar. Have high quality, professionally-taken pictures on your site, and hire a quality site designer to create a gorgeous, custom website for your business.

marketing lessons from online dating

A high quality site with simple design and gorgeous pictures will help you make the right first impression.

Trust me, customers will notice. You want people to be wowed when they visit your site and feel the need to get in touch with you right away. That will only happen if your site looks good.

2. Only Focus On Who You’re Compatible With

Most dating sites have a section where you can list what you want and what you’re looking for. You’ll find people looking for everything from a serious monogamous relationship to someone looking for a third wheel in their polyamorous relationship.

Most people out what they want…and then completely ignore looking at what the other person says they want. They spread their net too wide, trying to woo everyone they think is moderately attractive instead of focusing on who they’re actually compatible with.

marketing lessons from online dating

Whole Foods is “America’s Healthiest Grocery Store.” Their audience is people who want organic, fresh food, not those who want it cheap.

Online marketing is no different. Your campaigns should be focused on connecting with your exact target audience.

Your marketing is going to get you much better leads when you focus on the exact target audience you want to serve. Trying to do everything for everyone will just make you mediocre and prevent you from connecting with the kind of customers you really want to work with. It’s why the best restaurants have a small, focused menu that all fit within one cuisine instead of a small book like the Cheesecake Factory.

Do what you do really well, and focus on the people who are actively looking for that instead of the people who are only kind of sort of a fit.

3. Don’t Hide the “Fine Print”…but Don’t Lead with It

Last year, I went on a date with someone who turned out not to be a physical therapist and living downtown like it said on his profile, but was unemployed, lived with his parents and barely looked like his pictures. In the dating world, we call this catfishing.

Catfishing is bad when you’re dating, but it’s even worse in business where people’s money and/or livelihood is on the line.

If your social media marketing package is $1300 monthly but you charge a $500 additional upfront fee to set up the profiles, don’t leave that out when you’re discussing fees with a client (only to bring it up at the last minute). Customers don’t like it, and advertisers don’t like it, either. Facebook will actually suspend or ban your ad account if they find out you’re pulling a bait-and-switch on people.

marketing lessons you can learn from online dating

That being said, it’s rarely a good idea to lead with your fine print. There are legitimately people who talk about how their ex cheated on them (and they aren’t over it), how they’re broke, and how they have a tendency to make bad choices on their profile. It’s like putting a “Do not date this person” sign on their profile!

Similarly, you don’t want to sell a potential on your business’s flaws before you sell them on what you have to offer. For example, if you’re a brand new business, don’t lead with “We may not have much experience, but…”. Instead, start by talking about your years of education, your passion and your dedication to customers.

4. Don’t Expect People to Immediately Commit

This is just the way it goes. Online daters typically talk to plenty of people at once and may even have several dates scheduled for the same week the same way leads are actively researching your competitors.

No one is going to commit until they meet you, see what you really have to offer and form that connection with you.

marketing lessons you can learn from online dating

Leads will be fickle and shallow. They could be wooed by the lower price points of your competitor, even if your quality is much higher. It’s up to you to show them what you have to offer and put effort into the business relationship to win them over. This is where learning about their exact needs and showing them how you can fill them will get you that conversion.

6. Test to See What Works Best

Maybe it’s because I’ve been working in marketing too long, but I have absolutely run split testing experiments on my dating profiles. I’ve changed profile pictures to see which get more hits, and I’ve reworked copy to highlight different aspects of my personality. What if I listed the Office before Game of Thrones as my favorite TV show?

I’ve also tested different apps, purely out of curiosity. Was one platform capable of getting me better results (IE, less “hey ur cute wat u doing l8r”) than the others?

You should do the same with all of your online marketing efforts. Check out different platforms to see what sends you not only the most traffic, but the most qualified traffic. Try highlighting different services first on your landing pages.

marketing lessons you can learn from online dating

Tools like Google Analytics can help you track the results of your tests.

Similarly, test different offers and ad campaigns to see what your target audience finds most attractive. It will take more time and effort, but it will absolutely be worth it.

7. Show, Don’t Tell

In online dating, smart women run away from self-proclaimed nice guys, who are just so nice no one wants to date them. Instead, we look for nice-guy traits in potential candidates (“good listener”, “love kids”, etc).

Similarly, it doesn’t do much good to tell someone that you’re smart or that your business has the best product ever. You have to prove it, and the best way to do this is to show someone instead of telling them.

marketing lessons you can learn from online dating

This company lists specific ways they can offer a better education instead of just saying “we’re the best.”

Does your insurance company actually offer the best coverage? Detail the extensive coverage on your site. If you think that your small bookstore has the best antique collections around, prove it by giving some examples.

8. Put Effort In

This should go without saying, but apparently I need to go ahead and say it anyways. The communication between you and another person—whether they’re a potential customer or a potential date—is crucial.

marketing lessons you can learn from online dating

Lack of effort from you means a lack of interest from them.

If you’re reaching out to people, make it clear that you’re interested in them and that you believe you’re compatible. Customize your messages if possible, and as you continue the conversation offer olive branches that can be used to build more personal relationships.

A quick “I see that you went to University of Virginia, my sister is there now! Small world” can show that you’ve put effort into the conversation and build that connection.

You should also make it about them instead of you. Treat it like a date (a platonic, professional date, but still, you get the idea). Learn about what they need and how you can help. It’s never just about you getting the sale, it’s about you providing a product or service for them.

Final Thoughts

Digital marketing and online dating have a lot in common, which makes sense since online dating is really nothing more than marketing yourself. Both revolve around attracting and building authentic, valuable relationships with the type of people you actively want to connect with.

By keeping these marketing lessons from online dating mind, you can improve your campaigns and focus more on the most important part of the equation: the people.

What do you think? Which marketing lessons from online dating do you think is most important for your business? Leave us a comment and let us know what you think! 

  • Marketing

Ana Gotter

Ana Gotter is a freelance writer specializing in social media and content marketing, though she writes on a variety of other niches and subjects. She can be contacted at anagotter.com.

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