The Internet is littered with failed dating sites. Every one of them was launched with a flash of enthusiasm, a spark of a good idea, a desire to be a part of the supposed ‘goldrush’ and – more often than not – a limited budget and little understanding of the dating market.
They burn brightly for a wondrously short space of time, die out and then drift, cluttering up cyberspace and grabbing the odd unsuspecting passer-by.
Many people over the past few years have seen the dating industry as a way to make a quick buck. Yes, there are many sites that are successful, and working with companies like the Dating Factory, it’s now easier than ever to get a complete dating site designed and launched.
But just like in any industry, there is no such thing as a quick buck.

Research the Market

If you want to succeed in the general dating market, you are going to need deep pockets. I just Googled “dating”, and was served up with 156m pages. That’s a lot of competition. To give you an idea, Google “car insurance” (another highly competitive industry) and you get just (!) 33.8m pages returned.
You are entering a competitive industry, no doubt about it, and it takes good marketing and planning to be heard above the noise.
Your first task has to be to do your market research, and to do it well. Do you really have the resources to take on the Match.coms and the meetic.coms of this world, or are there specific niches you feel qualified to target? Is there enough traffic in these niches for you to succeed, or are they just too small for you to find any traction? What are the other players in these niches, how are they regarded, and what are their strengths and weaknesses, in your opinion?
The dating industry has been well documented, so it’s fairly easy for you to pull together this market information and draw your own conclusions from it. In previous articles, I’ve pointed you in the direction of Google’s Keyword Tool and their Insights for Search Tool, which are excellent for giving you an idea of the traffic volumes& trends for the niche you may have in mind. There are also archives of articles at very good resources like Online Personals Watch ( and Online Dating Insider (, which will give you a very good idea of who’s doing what in the online dating industry –good resources for market and competitor research. There’s also iDate, the industry’s main conference, where you will get to meet online dating executives and learn plenty about the world of online dating.
Research is a crucial part of your business planning if you are going to position your site correctly and succeed where others have failed.

Work out your Marketing Budget

With your site design and build all taken care of with the Dating Factory, your main expense is going to be marketing. Unless you have innovative ways of marketing your service, your staple advertising expenses will be on PPC, SEO and PR.
In a sense, this makes your job all the easier. All you really need to do is establish how much money you can sensibly afford to invest in your new venture. And by that, it’s best to think of it in terms of “how much am I prepared to lose, if it all goes completely wrong for me?”
I know that sounds negative, but to plan properly it’s important that you plan with the worst case scenario in mind. Choose your investment, and stick with it. When things are going well, you can always begin to invest more, and by then the risks will be much less for you.

Develop a cashflow forecast you can live with

Even though you’ve done all the research, you’ve positioned your dating site well, and you know how much you can afford to invest, it doesn’t mean you’ll become rich overnight. This business is going to take time and a lot of hard work on your part, and the worst thing that can happen now is that you run out of money just as things are starting to look good!
You have to avoid this pitfall at all costs, and the only way to do that is to build a workable cashflow forecast for your business right from the outset. This forecast will help you build up a picture of how your revenue will grow over time, depending on the level of spend you are able to invest in advertising, and to flex it accordingly when things go worse or better than you expected.
On the revenue side, work with your partner manager to understand how your members are likely to behave on your site: what percentage of registrations will end up paying, what percentage will pay again the following month (and the month after etc), how long they are likely to stay as paying members of your site, and how much they’re like to spend during their lifetime with you.
On the costs side, take your experiences of Costs Per Registration and Costs Per Acquisition, and plug those in. Then start building in the ad budget you have available, and flex it accordingly to ensure you don’t run out of money at any point in the future.

The Final Countdown

Finally, run a number of ‘worst case scenarios’, to see how forces outside your control will affect your finances. What if your conversion rate is worse than you expected in the first few months? What if your marketing costs are higher than expected? Plug in the scenarios, and see what happens…
I generally build a 2 or 3 year cashflow forecast (depending on the business), but even a 12 month forecast will give you a great foundation, and give you control over your business and how to manage it.
Researching your market, positioning your service and planning your finances sounds like really obvious business practise, because it is. But I’m regularly surprised by the number of people I speak to (and not just in the dating market) who a) have not done enough research into the market they want to enter and b) do not have a financial forecast that they’ve created and are sticking to.
Without a unique selling proposition, it’s hard to see why someone would join your dating site over somebody else’s. Without a financial forecast, it is impossible to predict the future and all too easy to become disheartened when things are not working out well.
Fail to plan, and you plan to fail… It’s a very old adage, but it still holds true today. On the positive side, do your research, come up with an attractive dating offering and plan your finances carefully and you’re sure to succeed where others continue to fail.
To find out more about planning your business, contact Tim Taylor at