OPW INTERVIEW -- Sep 22, 2006 -- Evan Marc Katz is the author of “I Can’t Believe I’m Buying This Book - The Common Sense Guide to Successful Internet Dating” and has been the CEO of profile makeover service e-Cyrano for 3 years. His candid, no b.s. approach is refreshing and hits home with his audience. - His audience is YOUR audience, online dating users.
What are the top 3 mistakes users make when they’re putting their profile together?
I think online dating users undervalue their profile. The perception that nobody reads these things is simply not true, especially when you’re talking about people who are looking for relationships. Just the perception that the profile doesn’t matter leads people to doing a half-assed job and then wondering why things aren’t working for them.
Secondly, most people write generic profiles. The only way to have success online is to have a profile that doesn’t sound like anybody else in the world could possibly write it. Yet the vast majority uses lists of adjectives and activities that you’ve seen in a million other profiles – none of which has any currency if everybody lists the same things.
Finally, people don’t consider their audience. They use their profile for personal statements or confessionals and either write about their philosophy of life, write about how they want someone tall and rich and good looking, or write about how they’ve been burned by people in the past. People say all these things that are just not appropriate for personal ads. They should be aware that profiles are just advertisements. And if they’re writing for an audience, it’s in their best interests to think of what people want to hear.
If you had the power to change one thing in the online dating industry, what would it be?
If I were running one of these sites I would devote myself fully to enhancing the customers’ chances of success by giving users the tools they need to succeed. Unfortunately, because this is ‘online dating’ and technology is involved, companies focus on the shiny new toys. Text messaging, avatar chat, all these other things that are not really the core of online dating. The core is a vast database of people, all of whom are single and looking for connection…and have no idea why this isn’t working for them. Dating sites need to listen to their users and give them what they’re requesting. There is such a tremendous state of user dissatisfaction within our industry. You want to run a top-notch online dating site? Work on giving your members the tools they need, and help them feel good about the online dating process. This is what I do for a living.
Basically, I’m the ultimate online dating optimist. I help people believe that they have control in making online dating work for them, no matter who they are and no matter what their circumstances. I show my clients how to use these sites and I provide them with photos, essays and coaching. Just imagine if a leading dating site would provide all of those things to their users; they’d raise the tide for their entire population and have a site that’s genuinely different from other sites because everybody there would ‘get it.’
Evan, you’re on the front line. You’re talking to online dating customers every day who are prepared to spend significantly more then $20 or $30 a month. You’re talking to the premium customers. What are you hearing from them that they’re dissatisfied about? What should the industry do to make them satisfied?
Dating sites actually can provide services to people that make them feel taken care of, instead of making their online daters feel like just another number. And, truthfully, you could charge whatever you want for such services. People will pay anything for results. This is their love life - the most important thing in the world, okay? You don’t need critical masses of people. If 1,000 people pay you $1,000 for premium services, you just made a million dollars.
I often entertain the idea of teaching a whole bunch of other people to do what I do. I’ve got training manuals, I’ve got employees, I’ve taught other people how to do this kind of stuff. But for an online dating site, it requires a little bit of investment and a bit of a push. But the more sites that offer tools to help their members succeed, the more people will succeed and feel brand loyalty to the companies that are providing those tools. Users just want to know that a site is committed to seeing them fall in love. And when they do, you can be sure they’ll tell their friends and then the site gets great word-of-mouth. There are millions of lonely people out there who are looking for relationships and assistance, who have no idea that there are services designed to help them fall in love. If you can convince them that online dating CAN work for them, it WILL work for them.
Do you advise many clients that are listing their profiles not only online dating sites but on social networks?
Very few. Ultimately you get what you pay for. Can you fall in love on MySpace? Yeah, of course you can, but in most places where you meet for free, people aren’t that serious. And that’s why I don’t think online dating is going to die as social networking sites become more popular. There’s always going to be a need, and a massive need, for online dating.
But the bloom is off the rose and people are pretty disillusioned with the process, the frustration, the people who don’t represent themselves properly. Online dating sites should empower people to represent themselves properly. This is what e-Cyrano does. We get them to talk to us and we put it together in such a way that it’s an accurate representation of the person, in their own words. We get them to talk to us, we take what they’re saying and we put it together in such a way that it’s really a great and accurate representation of the person, in their own words. So the whole thing has integrity. And just imagine, you have a whole site of people who are differentiated and interesting and have integrity. Doesn’t everybody look better? Doesn’t that seem like a site you would want to be a part of?
How do you want to work with online dating sites? How does the business relationship work?
We create a skin that looks like your dating site. Your color scheme, your brand and your logo. So it’s jdate.ecyrano.com or cupid.e-cyrano.com. Your company gets 20% of the take or a 20% discount off our retail prices. But since 20% of $129 is not going to make people rich, again, it’s really not about money, it’s about customer satisfaction. By actively integrating our services onto your website – putting links in the profile section, sending out blast emails, putting up banner ads – you’re helping people who would otherwise quit in a couple of months. Those people then stick around for as long as it takes to fall in love, whether that’s a year, or two years. That’s a lot of added revenue. So it’s not so much about the revenue sharing as much as it is about the long-term customer satisfaction.
Mark Brooks: If you’re interested in offering internet dating profile improvement services, email me and I’ll send you contacts for Evan at e-Cyrano.com, Merav and Dave at LookBetterOnline.com, Eric at ProfileHelper.com and Dr John Gray’s business development manager. firstname.lastname@example.org