4 Things Online Dating Has Taught Me about Personalized Marketing

In the words of the great Beyoncé, “All the single marketers (All the single marketers). Now put your hands up!”

When I got out of my last relationship, my boss suggested that the best thing I could do was throw myself into my work. Be careful what you wish for… I don’t think a blog on what online dating has taught me about personalized marketing was what he had in mind, but here we are.

As a veteran of dating apps Tinder, Hinge, Coffee Meets Bagel, and Happn, I have learned a thing or two about building relationships. Or—maybe most importantly—what NOT to do when trying to build a relationship.

So, I thought, maybe my swiping/liking/super liking/charming/favoriting experience will help some savvy and perhaps not-so-single marketers out there rethink the way they’re shaping their campaigns. And if not, at least it will provide some entertainment.

So, here it is—4 things that online dating has taught me about personalized marketing:

1. Your Channel Affects Your Plan of Attack

That sounds more aggressive than is appropriate, but love is a battlefield, right? And on this battlefield, each online dating platform requires a different strategy.

First, let me break down the stereotypes of the apps that I’m most familiar with. Tinder and Grinder are for “casual” relationships. Hinge leans more on the “let’s date” end of things. Coffee Meets Bagel heads even further down that spectrum, while services like OKCupid are allegedly for those looking for more committed relationships because the buy-in is higher (more in-depth profile, sophisticated lead–er–match scoring, etc). Then you also have The League, which boasts quality over quantity, while Bumble emphasizes the idea of women leading the charge. Note that the last two are currently only available to iOS users, which means that I’m restricted to my current three platforms (#DroidForLife). I’ll let you do your own research about other dating sites like JDate, FarmersOnly.com, Cougar Life, and the list goes on.

That being said, I’ve heard of all types of relationships resulting from every type of platform, regardless of said “purpose” or stigma. I realize that each app is in and of itself a different marketing channel. For instance, what works for mobile may not work for social, and thus what allows you to connect on Tinder won’t likely cut it on Coffee Meets Bagel. I’m looking at you, guy who posted five pictures of himself planking—but with no bit of insight into who you are beyond that.

The key difference is that in marketing, different channels must live in beautiful harmony. While your interaction in online dating will likely start in one app and never evolve to another, in marketing you must keep the context the same across mobile, email, social, digital, and beyond. Online dating teaches us to know the capabilities of your channels and execute on them, understanding what your audience expects. While in marketing, you must make sure that you approach the interaction holistically.

2. Nurture with Humans in Mind

At the end of every demand gen campaign/nurture stream/marketing message is one thing and one thing only: another human. It doesn’t matter if it’s B2B, B2C, the auto industry, SaaS, or just some girl trying not to live alone with cats for the rest of her life (this may or may not be me); at the end of the day, ALL marketing is a human-to-human interaction.

Dating is quite possibly the most humanist of all the relationship realms out there. It is not a place for batch-and-blast, robo messages (yes, spam exists within online dating), or conversations that just “die.” And your marketing shouldn’t be either!

What do I think when I get a message on online dating that has clearly been copied and pasted to the same prospective mate over and over again? (HINT: It’s NOT, “DANG, I can’t wait to get me some coffee with YOU!”). I think that this person clearly doesn’t care, doesn’t actually have any interest in getting to know me, and frankly, is an idiot. Your audience will probably think the same thing, too, if you approach them this way.

Likewise, cadence is key. What’s a surefire way to lose a prospect? Bombard them with 19,000 messages across all their channels. What’s another surefire way? Stop engaging when all of the signs tell you that your target wants to interact more. Dating world example? See guy who took me on four dates, didn’t talk to me for three weeks, and still thought our relationship was “maturing.” Yes, maturing to an early death. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

3. Avoid the “Dory” Effect

The boss I previously mentioned likes to use the example of Dory, the fish from “Finding Nemo,” as what marketers should NOT do when communicating with customers and prospects. Imagine if you walked into a date and kept starting the conversation over again, with complete disregard for any previous interaction. Here’s a less extreme example: I matched with a guy across multiple dating platforms, and set up time for us to grab a drink. The date started off fine, but about halfway through, he brought up my past trip to Vietnam. This would have been fine, except I have never been to Vietnam. That was a different chick. Kthanxbai.

Admittedly, when balancing multiple dating profiles and chatting up multiple potential suitors, it’s easy to get confused about what you said to who and when. Heck, I’m lucky I remember to put pants on in the morning. But I still wouldn’t cut him some slack.

But you, as a digitally innovative marketer, have all the tools out there to help you keep track of your progress, so there is no excuse for hitting the same people with the same, generic messages over and over again. Don’t be Dory. And don’t be that guy who couldn’t keep his dates straight.

4. Your Marketing Is Not “<Insert Fairytale Name Here>”

I really MUST stop leaving one shoe at bars before the clock strikes midnight. Sure, I’ve heard of the occasional modern day fairytale, but as of yet I personally have not lived happily ever after with someone I’ve known for five minutes.

So it is in online dating. If your chat opener is over-the-top compliments or professions of love, I will likely be suspicious of your intentions.

And in this case, the same thing goes for marketing; you need to get to know your customers and prospects. What do they need specifically? How can YOU help THEM to succeed? Do they want you to tell them how many new customers you can get for them when their problem is really install-base retention? No. Are they dying for you to share content on aligning sales and marketing when they have a historically B2C business model? Nope. Do they want you to come at them with a diamond ring and talk about how exciting your life will be together when they barely know your name? Absolutely not.

Marketing is a “help me help you” situation just like real relationships. It should be based on trust and support and will likely not involve true love’s kiss.

So What Have We Learned?

One: Be mindful of your channel, but think of every interaction as part of a continuous relationship.

Two: At the end of the day, marketing is reaching out to another human, regardless of industry, company, or role.

Three: Remember your conversations and keep the cadence.

Four: Don’t come on too strong. Think about how YOU can help THEM be better.

Five: The online dating world is full of men who fish and take photos of themselves holding said fish. Fishmongers apparently walk among us, and they are all 27-to-33-year-old singles in the San Francisco Bay Area. (This has no relation to marketing whatsoever, but I’m just trying to share my knowledge).

Happy marketing!