HOW DATING INDUSTRY WORKS: Interview with an Owner of a Large International Dating Portal
We are to continue the interviews with owners/representatives of different online businesses. Today we will talk about the modern dating industry with the owner of a large international dating portal. As always, we do not disclose the name and portal information in order to avoid counter-advertising or publicity.
A: Hi. Tell us a bit about yourself, how long are you in this business and why you decided to do exactly this business and not others?
B: I am almost 30. Online business always attracted me from the moment when I realized that it is possible to make money without leaving home. Having said that, sometimes, it means a lot of money. I started working seriously on the dating projects since 2007. At that time, there were not so many dating agencies as today, but it was already clear that this industry is very promising and suggests good earnings. It all started when I was introduced to the partners from Ukraine who had similar experience and, most importantly, they had contact information of Ukrainian girls who wanted to marry Americans.
A: Are American men the target customers? Which other countries do men consider for dating?
B: Yes, Americans, perhaps, are the most active dating users. There are also Australians, Norwegians, and French. The Germans are not keen on international dating, as well as Japanese. Japan has its own dating projects where Japanese get acquainted mainly with Japanese. The Americans are extremely keen on girls from Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and China.
A: Who are the girls seeking their destiny through dating agencies in the United States and Western Europe?
B: As a rule, it is the poor populations mostly from Eastern Europe, North Africa and China. Many of them simply make money and, in fact, they are not interested to marry the foreigners. It is a kind of hobby. Men pay for communication with women, and women, in response, create an illusion that they are very interested in these men. Simultaneously, many of them clearly understand this. I will say even more – 95% of western men who use dating websites do not plan to get married through Internet dating services. They need attention and endearment that they lack at home. And they are willing to pay for it.
A: And what about the visits and dating girls at home? I know that some men visit Eastern Europe after months of correspondence with the girls.
B: The percentage of men who are ready to visit the countries of the chosen ones is quite small. Hardly a few men make up their minds, if to consider the ratio of men who get acquainted via chats or emails at the dating websites and those who manage to meet their chosen ones in person. The reason is still the same – for the vast majority of men, dating is an entertainment or similar to visiting a psychologist, but much more effective. Unless the problem is in the lack of female attention and similar complexes created on this basis.
A: Ok. And what is the purpose of such trips? And how many of them result in weddings and a happy end?
B: Very little. Only 2 or 3 visitors out of several hundred decide to get married. It is just dating. You have no idea what kind of men come. There are mostly aged men and those who had negative relationship experience at home. Imagine a man sitting at a table somewhere in Odessa restaurant and a beautiful girl sitting next to him. She is very attractive, well-groomed and 30 years younger. This poor fellow has butterflies in his stomach to talk to her – not that he would ask her to marry him. At home in the United States even less beautiful and young women don’t even pay attention to him – and here the real beauties find him interesting and he is entirely in the center of their attention. There are many men of this kind. Those who travel not the first time are more confident. They often get acquainted with several girls during one trip. They make gifts, go to the restaurants, and take care of them in any possible way, and so on. It is very similar to sex tourism but the girls are not prostitutes, and sex does not always happen in such relationships.
A: Meaning men only court women and that’s all?
B: There are girls who have sex with men, get them emotionally involved, and then swindle them out of money and gifts. But it is no longer dating in the classic sense. If a man is willing to pay and gift his chosen one, and she agrees for sex with him – it is their own business. But, as I said, it is beyond conventional dating.
A: What kind of presents do they make? How exactly does this happen?
B: Usually, they buy flowers in the online store that operates at our dating portal. A man pays for the selected bouquet and we deliver it to the girl. The customers do not know that girls usually prefer money instead of flowers; therefore, a girl makes a photo with a bouquet for a client and returns it to the store, that’s it; a man and a woman are satisfied. After all, she does not need so many flowers, but she always needs money. This does not happen when they gift perfumes, cell phones and jewelry since the client receives not only a photo but also a receipt from the store.
A: But it is a scam. Do you support such practice?
B: Yes and No. It makes no difference to me as the owner of a dating portal. It is a business for me. You have to understand that girls cannot just go to my website and sign up. Everything happens through partners. The partners often represent local dating agencies that already have their girls. The affiliates receive a commission for inviting the girls and also ensure they fulfill the desires of male clients. If a man presents a gift to his chosen one, the partner who invited the girl to the website will ensure she receives the gift; it is not managed by the dating portal. In turn, my team ensures the partners do not violate the basic rules, and it is their own business whether the partner will gift a bunch of flowers to a girl or simply gives her money. We do not interfere as long as the client is satisfied and the rules are respected. In my experience there was a case where the unscrupulous partners did not bother themselves to take pictures of girls with bouquets; instead, they simply used Photoshop to assemble the required bouquet in the hands of the right girl. Certainly, we quickly finished working with such partners. Satisfied customers are the foundation of a successful business for our company. Everything else is not so important.
A: Are you saying that girls get paid from their agencies for communicating with clients on your dating website?
B: It is true in most cases. Previously, the percentage of girls who really wanted to get acquainted and marry men was considerably higher; today, they consider it merely as a job. They communicate and get paid. But as I said before, men are also not interested in the loving relationships. They do not need to communicate in person, get acquainted with parents of the bride, have a wedding, children, and everything else. They are interested mainly in correspondence, video chat, photos and a new image that they have created.
A: “… so that the partners did not violate basic rules” – what exactly are the rules?
B: First of all, there should be no erotica. All the pictures that the girls send to men are moderated, which happens automatically, and thus takes almost no time. The photos that seem to have any erotica are checked manually by the representatives of a dating portal. If erotica took place, a partner whose girl sent this photo will be penalized for the first time. In case this happens again, we simply stop working with such partners and his girls.
A: But light erotica can attract more customers to your website. Did you think about this?
B: No, it is not true. First of all, it spoils our reputation. We are in the dating business and not sex video chats. Erotica costs a lot more money compared to the conventional dating and we are not going to become a budget version of erotic websites. Besides, I know that the time a client spends in sex chats is much shorter than in usual chats… I think you understand what I mean. Therefore, it is necessary to choose whether to do an erotic dating and charge a lot more money or a classic dating and make sure there is no erotica. We have chosen the second option.
A: It makes sense. Let us go back to the rules.
B: Second – there should be no fraud on the part of girls. It is forbidden to swindle the customers out of money and gifts. The girls are also not allowed to write them in chat that the mother is ill and she needs money to pay for her treatment, or that there are no money to pay for education, apartment and phone calls, etc. We strictly prevent and punish such fraudulent extortions. The client, suspecting fraud could be disappointed that the interest to him was not real and make a chargeback for several months of communicating with this girl. Such tricks of girls can be very costly for us. Therefore, we are constantly struggling with this.
A: But there are a lot of clients and chats – how do you manage to track all the correspondence?
B: Our portal has a complex and functional engine, which allows us to keep track of thousands of chats simultaneously using stop words and other techniques. The tricks that we do not notice are rather rare.
A: Amazing. What else?
B: The girls should use their own photos in the inquiry forms. We also check this by communicating with each girl in Skype and comparing her appearance with the photo. So, all our girls are real. And they are also very beautiful; there are more beautiful than unattractive girls in Eastern Europe. We also check that all the girls were not married, which could be verified by passport. We are interested that the male customers were satisfied with communication on our dating site. Satisfied customers return again and again. It is much easier and more profitable to keep an old customer than attract a new one.
A: How do you attract customers? What exactly do you do?
B: There are no problems with clients but the girls and the partners who invite them to our website. They are always not enough. Despite the number of girls on the website, we will always find men willing to communicate. We use social networks and AdSense to attract men. We also use social networks and personal contacts to attract the partners. In particular, Instagram turns out to be very efficient. Many partners willing to work with us come through Instagram.
A: What about the search traffic from Google? Do you use SEO to attract users?
B: Not now since there is no return on investment. In addition, there is no guarantee that we will be able to surpass our competitors in the search results – dating keywords have a very tough competition on Google. It is much more profitable to buy contextual advertising or promote public groups in social networks. This is exactly what we do.
A: What affects the success of attracting partners? As far as I understand, this is an important element of your business.
B: The percentage of an affiliate commission since they are the affiliate partners. The more we are ready to pay to our partners – the more they are willing to work with us and comply with our terms and conditions. The second is our ability to attract a lot of male clients to the website. But we are quite an old project and we have no problems with men.
A: I see you firmly draw the line between men and women. If this is a man, one should be willing to pay for communication. Does it happen vice versa?
B: Sometimes it happens that men get acquainted with men. But gay dating costs a lot more money and there are not many of them. We offer such dating services, but it is not our major focus.
A: To what extent are they more expensive? What are the pay rates for the dating communication today?
B: The classic dating, where a man gets acquainted with a woman is worth $1-2 per minute of chat. The letters are paid separately. In gay dating, a minute will cost $10-20 and even more.
A: The next question will be interesting for those who plan to establish a dating business. Which platform did you use to create your dating website?
B: We have our own team of programmers who developed a great dating portal for us. However, the meaning of “developed” is not quite correct. We are constantly working on improving the capabilities of our website. After all, the more it is convenient for our customers, the more opportunities they have and the more our business becomes successful.
A: Today, there are many ready-made solutions for the dating business – online website builders, dating software and other platforms. Did you use them?
B: Yes, in the beginning we used one of these dating platforms, but then we decided to create our own custom portal. The dating website builders you are talking about are a great solution for the beginners. Later, as the business grows, they are not able to meet the business requirements.
A: That is very interesting. Can you provide more details? What exactly became ineffective in the dating platform?
B: When our customer base was not sufficient – it worked relatively well. But when the number of customers was in thousands – the website started working rather slowly. The greater customer base we had, the slower was the website. The other significant drawback is an insufficient functionality of the ready-made solutions. For example, we needed more extensive opportunities for moderating the pictures that the girls sent to the customers. The ready-made solutions did not offer such functionality and we turned to support, but an hour of support for the custom work on refining software costs around $100. It is very expensive as well as the support does not always have proper qualifications and skills to help us. We also did not have a financial statistics on the affiliate program. Therefore, one day we decided that it would be more advantageous to develop our own platform that will fully meet our needs.
A: What are the major difficulties in this business?
B: The first is, perhaps, the constant search for new partners to invite the girls. The second is the need in a strict control of any fraud from the position of girls, the match of pictures and their actual appearance. The third is the chargebacks. They do not only spoil our reputation, but can also lead to serious losses. In the dating business, we bring people together and make their communication comfortable and mutually interesting or beneficial, if I may say so. Therefore, my team uses a variety of methods to minimize the number of unsatisfied customers.
A: The last question to you – what do you recommend for the new players in this business? How to start and what to pay attention to in the first place?
B: The first and most important rule is not to pursue profit, when you just start taking the first steps in the dating business. Make your efforts to guarantee high quality services. Over time, satisfied customers will talk about how well they spent time on your website, which will bring you more customers and your customer base will continue to grow. But if you trick them, sooner or later, it will become public and will hinder the attraction of new customers.
Bet on social networks in marketing, grow your public groups, fill them with an interesting content, proceed with discussions, make photo contests, etc. Be generous with your recurring affiliate partners, motivate them to work better and attract more people.
In the beginning, it is not necessary to develop your own dating website – it will be quite enough to use one of the popular dating website builders. Over time, if you decide to expand your business and develop your own website, you will be able to relocate your database from a website builder. It will save you a lot of money, which in turn would be more reasonable to invest in promoting a new project.