Bart Visser is Director of Brand Marketing at EliteSingles and one of the excellent speakers appearing at the Festival of Marketing, October 4-5 in London.

I caught up with him to ask a few qeustions about marketing a dating service and he provided some fascinating insights. Before you start reading, a reminder that you can buy your Festival tickets and view the agenda here.

Econsultancy: What constraints are there on creativity when marketing EliteSingles?

Bart Visser: EliteSingles is a premium dating product aimed at a slightly older, more affluent audience than most well-known casual dating apps. This clear positioning is the strength of the product and like all products out there, the creative expressions need to adhere to this positioning in order to build a strong and recognizable brand.

To give an easy example: you wouldn’t see EliteSingles marketing material that promotes nudity and highly sexual topics. Our designers are constantly searching for new creatives that are usable both globally and locally to promote the brand in the appropriate way.

The nature of the product also dictates which marketing channels we are able to leverage. A good example is direct mail marketing. The success of a direct mail campaign is largely dependent on the offer you have (usually a discount voucher), but being a premium product we do not promote such discounts through our user acquisition campaigns. Therefore, direct mail as a channel is not useable. This means the marketing teams need to find creative ways to drive growth through other channels.

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E: Is customer acquisition characterised by paid search? How does content and offline come into the mix?

BV: The two main drivers behind our customer acquisition are affiliate marketing and TV advertising. Content marketing as a channel shows great potential and we are looking to scale this channel further over the coming months. 

E: What metrics do you look at when judging success? Is it all about new members or are matches important?

BV: The number of new member signups is certainly an important metric as it signifies product liquidity – something that is essential for a product that aims to bring people together. If there aren’t enough members in your area, you will quickly run out of matches, which would of course be disappointing with an online dating product. Our main aim is therefore to ensure we have a large pool of highly-educated singles looking for a relationship with a like-minded single.

The engagement rate (essentially the number of messages sent) is another important metric we use to assess the quality of the pool and the resulting matches. We’re continuously coming up with creative new ways to boost these metrics, such as: offering free communication weekends, suggesting opening lines to break the ice and introducing open search as a new product feature. 

E: With privacy so important, are there any channels you don’t use to communicate with customers?

BV: In terms of support, we are available for our customers 24/7 via email and/or phone. As more private communication channels, these lend themselves perfectly for support around personal matters. We’re not currently very active on social media, but when a customer is comfortable enough to reach out to us on a public channel, we always aim to respond as quickly as possible, taking personal information into consideration. 

E: What does the future hold for the online dating experience, now that mobile is so well established, what’s next?

BV: We have seen an evident shift to mobile and I believe there is still plenty of opportunity for growth within the mobile experience. There is a constant flow of new dating products and features that aim to improve the user experience and help to spark conversation between two people.

Video chat and hyperlocal location matching are cool features, but in the long run, I believe the key to success is in improving the quality of the profiles each user sees. The winners will be those who are able to learn from user preferences and act on them, all while offering a product packaged up in the most appealing way. It will be exciting to see how both new and established companies will solve this as the industry evolves.

You can hear more from EliteSingles at the Festival of Marketing in London on October 4/5.