3 Marketing Tips Small Business Can Learn from Online Dating

Image source: PhotoDune

There's more to learn from online dating than just the fine art of swiping left or right. Perennially popular online dating apps like Tinder, Flirt, Benaughty and Coffee Meets Bagel, all offer a crash course in digital marketing. Of course, when you're busy swiping between profiles, dodging creepers, and hoping for at least one decent coffee date, savvy marketing is unlikely to be top of mind. But applying tried-and-true marketing principles to online dating - and vice versa - could help you be more successful building relationships, whether your next coffee date is with a potential romantic partner or a B2B client.

Recently, I sat down with a friend who had spent the last 12 months wading through the world of online dating, and listened to him share his experiences, I immediately began thinking about marketing channels, lead nurturing, and the very tough (but essential) challenge of building trust with virtual strangers. These are the same problems I face every day when helping my clients build successful digital marketing strategies.

Identifying leads, nurturing leads through the sales funnel, and converting leads into clients is a bit like online dating. There's a huge pool of potential customers, identifying the right the can be tricky, and building the relationship that leads to a sale won't happen overnight. Are your leads getting stuck in the sales funnel? Here are three marketing lessons to learn from the world of online dating:
  1. Know your channel. In the world of online dating, apps and websites matter. A site like Flirt, for example, is geared towards hook-ups (all you need is a photo to get started) while a site like Okay Cupid has a reputation for long-term relationships since the site has a lengthy questionnaire and profile requirements. While it's not unusual for users to have profiles on multiple dating sites, users may spend more time on one site versus another depending on their needs.The same goes for marketing via social media. Your target customers may have profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and LinkedIn, but that doesn't mean they are active or engaged users with each of these sites. For example, smartphone users check Facebook on average 14 times per day, according to a 2013 study. But many of these "checks" may be mindlessly scrolling through their Facebook feed while in line for coffee or waiting for the bus. Usage does not equal quality engagement. You may have much better luck targeting your B2B leads by publishing a single long-form piece on LinkedIn Pulse once a week than with frequent Facebook updates. Pick the channel that will put you in front of the right audience.
  2. Personalize your message to your audience's needs. Sure, if you have an active profile on an online dating app, you're probably looking to go on a date. But you're unlikely to do so with the person who sends a generic note like, "Hey, you're hot, let's get drinks." Yikes!The same goes for online marketing. Sending out generic emails to your entire audience advertising a new product, for example, does a huge disservice to your business. Every business has different needs and will have different reasons for using your product. Company A may use it to reduce overhead costs, Company B may choose it because of your company's industry expertise, and Company C may already be a customer so using another product within your ecosystem just makes sense.Case in point: MailChimp scanned their system for users who employed a list segmentation tool in email marketing. They found that list segmentation resulted in 14.45% higher open rates and an epic 63.71% more clicks than non-segmented campaigns.
Good new: whether it's online dating or B2B clients, you already have a wealth of data about audience. Segment your audience and messaging accordingly!
  • Be a human, not a spam machine. At the end of the day, all marketing is human-to-human interaction. Would you go on a date with someone who bombarded you with ten messages in 2 hours about getting together? Probably not- in fact, you'd probably block this person's profile so they could never contact you again!The same principle applies to B2B marketing. Sending out the same message over and over and over again - and hoping someone on your email list responds - is pointless. Instead of bombarding leads with information they don't need at a time they certainly don't want it, instead, focus on delivering the right message at the right moment. One surefire way to get a leg up on this? Social listening, defined by Sprout Social as, "the process of tracking conversations around specific phrases, words or brands, and then leveraging these mentions to discover opportunities or create content for those audiences."Resist the urge to always broadcast information and instead take the time to listen to what your leads are saying about your business, your industry, and their needs. Then, when they moment is right, you can present them with information that's useful and timely.
  • Bottom line:

    A few simple lessons from online dating: pick the right channel that aligns with your needs, personalize your message to your audience's needs (and segment accordingly!), and don't be a spam machine. While following these tips may not guarantee a perfect online date or business client, they will get you a lot closer towards building the right relationship, be that for work or pleasure.

    As for my friend, I'm happy to report that one of those (many) coffee dates ultimately led to a great relationship. It looks like the only marketing tips he will need are for event planning- wedding bells are in the future!