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6 Lessons Online Marketers can Learn from Online Dating

6 Lessons Online Marketers can Learn from Online Dating

Contemplating my navel the other day (actually reading stuff on my phone while I was in the bathroom) it occurred to me that there is a useful parallel between the experiences of online dating and online marketing.

As someone who met my current husband of three years online, and was in a previous two year relationship with another man I met online, I can write on the subject with some confidence.

The stories of many other women I have talked to about their dating experiences are also part of my inspiration.

So, combining my experiences and those of others looking for love, with five years or more of online marketing, I have come to the following conclusions:

1) Photos of certain body parts are like spam in your email inbox or untargeted ads in your Facebook feed – totally outside your sphere of interest and unasked for.

So don’t do it. No woman I have ever discussed this with actually wants to see your junk in her inbox.

We have the technology and the increasingly granular data to enable highly targeted advertising, but more importantly, we should also have the understanding that unless people opt into it in some way, they generally don’t want to be interrupted in their reading or viewing by your irrelevant-to-them sales messages.

They are far more likely to be receptive to relevant, useful content that comes from your brand however, so invest time and resource into creating some of that.

2) At some point all meaningful relationships need to be taken offline

There is little doubt that very few long distance relationships can actually be considered successful – particularly if they rarely or ever meet face to face. From a marketing perspective, if you run an e-commerce store like Amazon or, you will very rarely meet your customers, but if your product or service is of higher value and relies on offline delivery, you are going to have to meet up with your clients/customers at some point.

And when you do, success relies on there being no cognitive dissonance (nice phrase huh?) between what you sold them in your marketing materials, and what you actually deliver in the real world.

The experience needs to be consistent and the language needs to be consistent. The big boys in Silicon Valley worked this out a few years back and put in place programmes to ensure consistency of vocabulary and content right throughout their organisations. You can read about how IBM did it for yourself. Of course there is technology available to make this easier – just ask.

3) Don’t lie on your profile – you’ll be found out!

For some reason, there seem to be more than the usual number of shorter than average height men on dating sites – probably because they have a chance to make an impression before physical appearance becomes too much of a factor.

It never ceased to amaze me how consistently they lied when it came to listing their height (and sometimes other dimensions). It’s all very well putting up misleading information, but if you ever get to the point of ‘meeting up for a coffee’, of course your new prospect is going to work out you were fibbing. So what’s the point?

From a marketing perspective, this runs along similar lines to point 2 – make sure that you can deliver on your marketing promises when that client or customer finally chooses to engage with you.

Trying to get new clients by promising to ‘get them on the front page of Google’ is very rarely going to work for you – and if it does, not being able to deliver will ensure that relationship is a very brief one.

Overselling and under-delivering is the oldest fail in the book.

4) Some people are in it for a fun time not a long time – are they the ones you want to invest time and energy into?

You can tell pretty quickly which online daters are out for a one night stand – they want to meet up as soon as possible (‘no time wasters’ is a frequently repeated phrase) and they are usually looking for “fun”. That’s great if you are looking for the same thing, but if you want something more substantial, don’t waste your time.

From a marketing perspective, these people are like the bargain hunters who are always looking for a deal. The ones who will buy from the deal sites when your product is at half price, but never turn into loyal customers.

Once again, that’s fine if you have a pile of inventory to shift and you are not looking for anything ongoing, but if long term, high value relationships are what you want with your clients, steer clear of those who make cost their priority over everything else.

5) It’s a numbers game. You need to try before you buy.

Truth is, any kind of matching your needs and desires with someone else’s will always be a numbers game. If you are dating and you have kissed enough frogs, you will know immediately when you meet a prince. (I am living proof of this: my husband and I got engaged on our second date.)

If you are a customer who has worked with plenty of suppliers, the exceptional company who fits with your values and requirements will stand head and shoulders above the rest.

Sometimes you don’t know how much better a new relationship can be for you until you walk away from the one you are in right now.

And of course, sometimes you discover that what you already have is pretty damn exceptional.

6) No matter how out of whack the male to female ratio is, don’t overwhelm the newest members of the site!

Many women (and men on the outside) don’t realise that dating sites are populated with far more men than women. The result is often that when a woman goes onto a site for the first time, she almost always gets overwhelmed by too many messages from guys – many of which can escalate to aggression very quickly if they don’t get a reply.

And the result? Generally she will exit as rapidly as possible never to return, convinced that online dating is the worst thing she has ever done, or if she’s brave enough, go to ground for a few weeks until she has the courage to have another go.

The parallels with marketing? Over-aggressive sales people and electronic marketers sending numerous emails begging for attention and becoming less and less amenable if they don’t get a response. There might be more sales people out there than clients, and yes we know there’s been a recession and all that jazz, but stop it!

Harassing your prospects is the surest way to guarantee you will never get their business. No matter how many desperate follow up emails and phone calls you make. And if you keep doing it, you are likely to end up being a laughing stock!

And that’s it for now. I’m sure there are more analogies to be made – feel free to suggest them through our social media channels (I can always add more to this post).


About Karen Foreman-Brown

Karen Foreman-Brown is a digital strategist and online marketer with a particular interest in social media, content marketing and delivering spectacular outcomes for client organisations.
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