14. February 2012–
Professional interest and curiosity have made me trying out over a dozen dating websites in the last six weeks. It's reported that there are over 2,400 dating sites in Germany, with over 10 million Germans having tried them and almost a third of people between 20 and 35 having some experience of online dating. I receive a couple of new dating business concepts every week. So I thought, it would be time to gain some market insights...
Generating "dating traffic"
I read several blogs, asked women about tips, read “the game” by Neil Strauss and went to a photographer to receive a new set of approved pictures. Nothing cheap, but also nothing with a tie. Next step was identifying the right portals for a field test. I didn't want to try out anything with casual dating or a pure matchmaking agency. At the end I chose a good mixture between expensive, local and dating sites with many members.
Next step was to measure the success rate on each portal. My plan was to generate as much as traffic as possible, convert it into leads and then count the final contacts. Over the last six weeks, I filled out exactly thirteen profiles. Some took me half an hour, others half day. I was asked from something banal like: “What is your favorite animal”” to “Are you against abortion?”. Some portals just wanted written words, others asked for hundreds of “scientific” questions.
By the end I thought, they would know me better than my mama does. I filled out everything very honestly and tried to give everywhere the same answers. I also used the same set of pictures, ages, heights and description on every portal.
If you want to write to someone most portals ask you for a premium account. So I bought several and started contacting women to generate traffic. I always chose the same kind of target audience: 20-29, female, living in Berlin, academic background (student or working), preferable non-smoker, no kids, no ex-husband, at least one picture, looking cute.
The next nights I spend generating traffic. So I wrote to every woman that fitted the profile and who had been on in the last three days. This could be a couple of hundreds or just few dozen. I figured out pretty fast, that every portal has a different kind of person.
Converting to leads (or "pitching for a date")
The next step was to optimize the conversion to some leads. Leads where at least one written answer. At this moment I did not separate between good and bad leads – we will come to that a bit later. Online dating means this: man writes to woman. Woman gets >30 messages a day and has to choose who they want to answer. Asking several people, reading books I came up with a set of pitches, which should increase my conversion.
Pitch “impulse” didn’t work at all. Means, I just wrote the lady, that we had some shares interests and asked a few nice questions. Pitch “nice guy” was also difficult. Writing some nice stuff about a woman does not get her attention. Pitching “arrogant” and telling how great someone is, gets some answers, but mostly bad leads. Pitch “new guy” included, telling I am new to Berlin didn't work either.
The most entertaining one was my “bitchy” pitch, where I just wrote one or two lines of unpleasant things. Interestingly, the was pretty good. I had a high conversion with the pitch “mistake”, when I pretended to have mistaken the addressee. 20 per cent of women answered to this, but I count most of them as bad leads.
At the end I optimized for the pitch “sale”. It included the golden rules: Create interest, urgency and desire. I briefly explained, that I just try out this portal for 7 days, mentioned some common interests, asked one nice question and some provocative one and a few words about me. Additional I did follow-ups with every woman, who did not answer within 48h. Follow-ups really helped, because you can use a standard text, just send it out again and it would increase you conversion be a couple of percentages.
But let’s leave out all these details and come to the results. At the beginning I had a conversion smaller than five per cent – it was frustrating. I tested several pitches and after two weeks I stuck with the “sale” pitch. It had a conversion of 50 per cent and at the end I come to a total of over 100 leads in four weeks. About a third of them were bad leads, the rest were good. Each good lead had more than two response, providing name and contacts details for potential offline follow-up.
Acquisition and conversion (or "getting a date")
However what is conversion, if we do not consider the costs of acquisition? Every Lead has to play along the rules: CAC (Customer Acquisition Costs) < CAC (Customer Lifetime Value). I can not tell you the CAC yet, but the goal was to identify the channel with the lowest CAC and highest conversion.
So, which portals can I recommend?
friendscout24.de is the largest. You can find anything there. But there is also a lot of competition. Women are spammed by horny boys. I improved my conversion up to 30 per cent there, but it took me over four intensive weeks. Usability is terrible, backend is old, premium is expensive, features are boring. This portal has not been updated for years IMO. Here you get the most traffic, but much of it is bad quality.
berlinersingles.de was one of my favorites. Only Berlin people are there, and there's a large fit with my target group. But traffic is limited. I was able to contact roughly 60 women maximum. Several answered, but only eight leads were good. Backend is not the newest, but therefore premium is very cheap. So here CAC are very good.
okcupid.com, I guess it my other favorite at the end. CAC are pretty low, and there are many free features. Conversion was medium, but the people are pretty interesting. Mostly English-speaking women, who are new to the city. If this is your target group, go for it.
meetone.com, I don’t like this one, when it is about usability or UX. However monetization here is smarter (no premium needed) and I had a conversion of over 50 per cent. Don’t ask my why.
There are many others I’ve tried, but do not want to mention all of them. elitepartner.de only works, if you are male over 30, and earning good money. kissnofrog.com felt more like kindergarten. vivaladate.de has a great concept, but doesn’t work at all. Content is low, conversion was 0%.
What I learned – the time is ripe for new dating sites
First, @Founders: make a dating site. Find a partner to get the reach and just do it. You can earn money for nothing. Also most portals are so old, have terrible payment features, lack of trust and could be way better.
Second, @Singles: If you want to go for low effort, cheap traffic than take portals like friendscout. If you want to have a good conversion, but also the time to pick the right profiles, than chose a smaller portal. It does not matter how many millions members are on the site. Only your city counts at the end.
third, @me: I won't do this again. I have seen enough and will go back to the old-school for now. Not everything has to be online. I guess,I will be back at bars, dancing Salsa and taking the subway to work. I invested in average two to three hours every evening for these sites. From my perspective, it wasn’t worth the time, but I gained much insights and experiences.
So what's next? Let me know if there's anything else I need to try out?