Pick what kind of a service you want to operate. Is it going to be a social networking type of website that anyone can join for free, or a highly selective, highly filtered domain where users have to pay a monthly fee? Finding a niche is key. Are you going to tailor your site to everybody—all ethnicities, nationalities, sexual preferences—or rather target a specific group, perhaps in a specific country or region? Casting a wide net could get you more overall business, but it would pit you against the established heavyweights and their considerable bankrolls. As such, finding a smaller but highly specified market segment might allow you to customize your site and establish a loyal, durable relationship with a committed customer base, without the potentially crippling marketing war you might otherwise have to fight with majors like eHarmony.com and match.com.
Establish your revenue model. Is the business going to be supported by advertisement or solely subscriber-based? Or maybe a combination of the two? This ties in very heavily with step one. If you choose to do a broad-based service, you might be able to get enough customer traffic to support the site solely with ads. On the other hand, a highly specialized dating service with much smaller, specialized traffic might do better with a subscriber model. Always keep in mind customer experience. What kind of people are going to use your service? Would they feel more comfortable in an open, free-for-all environment, or a smaller, more intimate and customized online world?
Once you have your concept and revenue model defined, carefully calculate how much you think it will cost to develop your website, how much you think you’ll earn, and how long it will be before you’re profitable. Given the very extensive software development needed to build a customer database and compatibility algorithm for your dating service, as well as the high bandwidth costs associated with customers posting and messaging text and pictures back and forth, you’re going to need quite a bit of money to just get the website off the ground, let alone market it. If you don’t have that money yourself, you’ll either have to get a commercial loan or solicit investment from venture capital funds or wealthy individuals. Having a thorough, well thought out, realistic business plan is a must when presenting your idea to any of these potential sources of funding.
Attracting clients. Once your online dating service is up and running, you have to attract clients to it. The main ways to do that are advertisement and word of mouth. Word of mouth is very valuable because people tend to take it more seriously than advertising, but it doesn’t reach as many people as ads can. The internet is the most logical medium for advertising your business. Generic social networking sites, chat sites, gaming sites, and news sites all represent excellent venues for gaining exposure for your service, provided you familiarize yourself with your target demographic and build your promotional campaign in a way that’s most likely to resonate with them. Depending on your broader strategy and capitalization, you might even expand into print, radio, and TV advertising, although given the expense of these mediums, you really have to closely evaluate whether or not they’re worth it.
Limit liability. Make sure that you work closely with a law firm or carry competent legal counsel directly within your company. There are many legal issues that can arise for an online dating service, from dissatisfied customers to people claiming discrimination, to people claiming insufficient supervision in preventing minors from signing up. Irregardless of how dedicated you are to honestly and competently running your business, remember how litigious society is, and take appropriate measures to safeguard yourself and your company before issues arise.
- If you receive funding from an angel investor, venture capitalist, or other outside investor, make sure that you still retain operational control of the company.
- There’s a lot of competition, and whatever revenue model you settle upon might be insufficient to cover the considerable costs associated with development, marketing, and maintenance.