As the Christmas holidays loom, it’s a great time to take stock of the year that was 2010, and to do some planning for 2011. Let’s face it, there’s only so much Wii you can play with the kids, and film re-runs you can watch, so make some use of the downtime and take stock. If running dating sites is your only means of income, it could be a good opportunity to discuss it with family & friends too – what do they think about it, and where do they think there are tricks you could be missing? Let’s face it, this business isn’t like you’re selling life insurance or banking products…it’s interesting, and EVERYONE always has an opinion about it. Listen to your friends and family and see what they think.
So in your downtime (if you’re not thinking like this already), try to get a vision together of where you want your dating business to get to, and by when. Is it something that just makes you a bit of extra money on the side? Is it something you want to grow and pass down (like an inheritance), or do you want to grow something that you’ll sell for a profit sometime down the road? Whatever your aim is, they all require a different implementation plan.
Then, assuming you are looking to grow your business, which direction do you want to take it in? Looking around the industry, there are many different models you can employ to achieve healthy growth. Let’s take a look at a few.

Different Niche Markets

There are those who focus on one brand, and driving all energies and marketing efforts into that. You may be a one man band at the moment, but taking this approach will mean having to build a team around you at some point to take the brand further than you could do alone. Experts in SEO, SEM, PR, online and offline marketing and brand management. No doubt, you know some or all of these disciplines already, but you will need a team that excels in each if you are to create a successful brand. Growth like this requires deep pockets, and before you embark on this, be clear on what you and your fellow shareholders want at the end of all the hard work. Also have a good long think about whether you believe in your brand. If you don’t, nor will your members and you’ll be caught out sooner or later. A brand has to stand for something, it needs a personality and that has to come from you as the founder – a lot of effort and enthusiasm.
Others choose to focus on a number of niche sites under a single umbrella brand. This will still require you to build a team around you, and still requires fairly deep pockets, but enables you to go further on the skills you already have. For example, if you’re an ace at PPC and you have one successful site, you can replicate those skills on a second or third site. So you’ve trebled your revenues…and if you’re smarter, you’ll be able to cross-promote your sites to each other, giving you some nice extra income. Once you’ve exhausted your skills (and niches!) , then it’s time to look at recruiting your team to take things further than you can do alone.
Others create a number of sites that address different niches, but which are seemingly unrelated and not held together under an umbrella brand. Easydate (now Cupid) is a great example of this. Multiple sites such as YouCanGetMe, DateTheUK, BeNaughty, Click&Flirt, DatingForParents, all under the Cupid brand but seemingly standalone. These guys cross-promote their sites brilliantly too. This approach again gives you a chance to make the most of the marketing skills that you have, adapting your skills to suit each particular niche and making it successful before moving onto the next. As you’re working on your eighth unrelated brand, just watch out for the schizophrenia kicking in as you try and switch your brain between brands at a moment’s notice!

What is YOUR strategy?

Then there’s the “multiple sites” approach taken to its logical conclusion. I know one very successful dating site owner who continues to create literally hundreds of sites, each very carefully targeted to specific niches both in the UK and overseas. The logic is excellent – have a vast amount of sites most of which bring in modest revenues, but with some “cash cows” and “rising stars” bringing in significant revenues, all cross-referenced and cross-promoting – but the planning and management has to be flawless.
So what’s your strategy going to be?  Step back – remember why you decided to set up a dating site in the first place, and stick to those principles. But remember too that you have to try and grow. If you plan to stay still, your business will definitely shrink.
So growth (or trying to grow) is inevitable. What’s inevitable too is that you’re going to reach the limits of your skills, time or interest (or all three if it’s a really bad day!) at some point, so now’s a good time to start thinking about when that’s likely to be and what your plan for dealing with it is.
Have a great Christmas and (with a little planning) a very Prosperous New Year!