What Online Dating Services Can Teach Product Manager About Love

by drjim on May 17, 2010

What’s The Best Product For Finding Love Online?

What’s The Best Product For Finding Love Online?

Are you looking for love product manager? Even if you aren’t, there appear to be plenty of other folks out there who are and this has created a booming business in the Internet-based dating service business. Now if you think that your product management job is difficult and confusing, just imagine if you were trying to manage and market a product that promised to not just make your customer’s lives better, but to also help them find the love of their life…

Is There Really A Market For This Stuff?

Just in case you are a doubting Thomas about this market (many product managers don’t believe in love), Natasha Singer has been doing some research on it and she’s discovered that the online dating market is currently a $976 million dollar market in the United States alone according to estimates from Marketdata Enterprises, a company that studied things like this.

Two of the big names in the business are Match.com who has an estimated 1.2 million paid subscribers and an annual revenue of about $365 million, and Eharmony.com who has about 656,000 subscribers and revenue of about $216 million last year.

How Can A Product Manager’s Product Stand Out?

Ok, ok – so there’s a market for finding love on the Internet. The real question is what can we learn from the product managers who are locked in a fierce competition to win the hearts (sorry, I couldn’t resist) and minds of their lovelorn customers?

The first thing that these product managers are doing is realizing that not all people who are using online dating services are looking for the same thing. The real value lies in those who are looking for a relationship instead of just dating – they’ll be willing to pay more for the match making firm’s products.

Where things start to get interesting is if you are a product manager who’s product has fewer subscribers, but who are more likely to be looking for a real relationship, then you can charge more than a dating service with more subscribers that lists online personals.

But What About Brand Identity?

That’s a good way to start, but as every product manager knows, you’ve got to keep innovating with your product in order to stand out in a crowded marketplace. In the world of matchmaking, this means that you’ve got to convince your customers that you hold the key to helping them find their soul mate.

Say hello to science. Dating service web site product managers have discovered the world of using tests to find compatible mates for their customers. The idea is pretty simple: answer a long list of questions and your answers will be used to match you with someone else who answered the same set of questions.

How they go about doing this is how the product managers are distinguishing their products. Product managers at a company called ScientificMatch.com are using cheek swabbing to get customer’s DNA which is then used to match certain genetic markers for compatibility [charging a lifetime fee of $1,995.95 to perform this service].

Chemistry.com was started by the dating service Match.com to predict compatibility based on customer’s traits. This site charges about $50 / month vs. the $35 / month that Match.com charges.

These are variations on what EHarmoney.com has been doing all along – using a long questionnaire to match people based on similarities in sociological variables.

What Does All Of This Mean For You?

We all like to promise our customers that their lives will be better if they choose to use our products. However, the product managers at online dating services need to go a step further – they have to find love for their customers.

In this competitive market, online dating firms are struggling to forge a unique brand identity. One of the ways that they are doing it is by making their sites more selective about who can join – only serious customers. Then they are using scientific methods based on collected data to find compatible matches for their subscribers.

In the end, simply by self-selecting themselves and identifying themselves as looking for a life-mate, the subscribers to online dating services may find what they are looking for. This means that the online dating service product managers will have found what they are looking for also – product success!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Help

Question For You: If you were an online dating service product manager, would you focus on quality or quantity of subscribers?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

There is no shortage of job search advice out there on the Internet and otherwise. They’ve pretty much said all that there is to say about resumes, dressing nicely, researching the company, etc. How about if we talk about something different – how the company that you’ve applied to actually goes about filling their open positions?

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