How would you approach dating as if it were your job?
June 21, 2010 11:46 PM   Subscribe

How would you approach dating, online and off, as a business problem? If you had to consider sales, marketing, consumer research -- what would you be doing to sell the product (i.e., the single you)? What are creative approaches to helping a girl find a guy?

I have a group of female friends who are all in a similar situation. They are all late 20s/early 30s and are in the dating scene but are having a hard time finding somebody serious. They are interested in getting married within the next 5 years and want to meet someone, preferably someone Jewish. I'm fascinated by this problem as a product guy so I'm meeting with one of them this week to work through the options.

This was inspired by another friend who set up 5 dates in one night on an online dating site and decided to pick the best of the bunch. They've been together for 3 years now and I thought that was a fantastic, business-like approach to the problem that solves a lot of the psychological problems towards dealing with the problems of choice. The OkCupid blog has lots of neat data analysis as well. I'm looking for some additional anecdotal evidence to round out this forthcoming experiment. Considering what you know about online dating and the variables you can control (profile, pics, messages, etc.) and the ones you can't, do you have any similar, creative approaches?
posted by AmitinLA to Human Relations (22 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Tip #1: Avoid the myspace angle. Or anything that even kinda looks like it. It's immediately assumed that if your only photos online are of your face and your cleavage, then you're probably about three times more enormous than you really are.

If a 'client' is fit or athletic, she should be sure to include pictures showing that (tastefully). Even if she's of a bigger persuasion, she should include good headshots, but also at least consider including photos showing her figure--preferably when she's well-dressed and glammed up.

There are plenty of dudes out there who like 'em anywhere from curvy on up to full-figured and thick. But, the number of people who'll date somebody morbidly obese is significantly smaller. By using the myspace angles, you're robbing yourself.

Tip #2: Don't forget the copy. The more descriptive a profile, the better. Don't ramble on, keep it in list and bullet form. But, describe what you're into, as many different interests as they can think of. You're trying to create the opening for conversation. You're giving a large enough list that somebody can come along and find two or three things they can strike up a conversation about.

It always amuses me when I find a profile that lists a handful of bands, a couple hobbies, some weird sport, and "movies", and then also has a note saying "don't message me if you can't think of anything real to talk about." They don't get messages from interesting folks, because they don't provide enough data for a conversation.

Tip #3: If you do OkCupid, or similar high-volume sites, don't lie on the questionnaires. There's no reason to. They have enough people in the system that, even if you're really fucking weird and only into like yoga, yogurt, and group sex, there's probably somebody who'll match with you algorithmically. Thing is, if you lie, you'll match on the algorithm and then not actually get along out here in the real world.
posted by Netzapper at 12:16 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

If these were my clients I'd capitalise on the "online dating is not working" thing and do something different, or at least attention-grabbing.

Register something like, find a web designer with a sense of fun, and do profiles for each of the women and a unique Boyfriend Application for each other them. Run Google adwords for your geographic location to generate interest but more importantly to catch local attention. Send out a really good, quirky, funny press release. Do local radio, TV and the local news. Do a run for Jewish press as well. Blog the whole thing.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:44 AM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]

On reflection, I would approach it as a marketing problem, rather than a business problem.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:45 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Whoa, that "myspace angle" article is pretty cool. I actually would not normally approach someone who looks like the "before" picture but would be more interested in someone who looks like many of the "after" pictures do. So if it's true it's informative. But that is probably not of any help to you AmitinLA because my tastes are undoubtedly outliers and I'm not such a great catch myself.
posted by XMLicious at 12:52 AM on June 22, 2010

Tip #1: Avoid the myspace angle.

Actually, OKcupid data says the exact opposite.

"In terms of getting new messages, the MySpace Shot is the single most effective photo type for women. We at first thought this was just because, typically, you can kind of see down the girl’s shirt with the camera at that angle—indeed, that seems to be the point of shot in the first place—so we excluded all cleavage-showing shots from the pool and ran the numbers again. No change: it’s still the best shot; better, in fact, than straight-up boob pics (more on those later).

At least from the perspective of online-dating, and perhaps social media in general, the MySpace Shot might be the best way for a woman to take a picture."

posted by Menthol at 12:55 AM on June 22, 2010 [4 favorites]

The problem has me intrigued... completely disregarding ethics, could you pre-process incoming leads by engaging other women who are less interested in long-term relationships to qualify prospective leads by pursuing short-term relationships with the prospects and referring them to your clients just before dumping them? Hmmm, that sounds a bit like the plot of an eighties movie.

Or under resources constraints you could do an online equivalent like in "To Catch A Predator" and have a big dragnet of people online-chatting and texting the prospects with evaluative interactions.

How about a fake reality show or fake reality show auditions for qualifying the leads? With the expectations people would have for a reality show it seems like you could probably get away with putting them through some pretty rigorous psychological testing to see how they would react to different situations.

On one hand it seems like what you need is some way to let an individual woman cast a wider net and "outsource" her own evaluation and selection process so that she can evaluate many times the number of leads she would be able to on her own, hence only having to personally deal with a smaller stream of high-quality leads. Then at the same time, once you have a guy in the qualification pipeline you have the opportunity to expose him to much harder sales tactics than online photos and tidbits.

Wow, this could get pretty Kafkaesque, I have written and deleted a number of even more ethically questionable approaches... but some of the women I've known looking for partners at that stage play some serious, serious hardball and might well approve. All is fair, et cetera.
posted by XMLicious at 1:42 AM on June 22, 2010

I'd look at the market for these women, and what I'd consider their primary problem in finding a husband: a very small pool of acceptable suitors. That's because of two factors.

The first is that they'd like to find Jewish guys. There's nothing wrong with that, except only about one in fifty American men is Jewish - so their potential pool of suitors is only about 2% as big as it would be for those who don't care about the ethnicity / religion of potential husbands.

The second is that around half of the Jewish population in America intermarries. And worse, Jewish men are somewhat more open to marrying outside the faith than Jewish women. In other words, more than half their suitor pool is not imposing a similar limitation on a potential spouse. So they're competing with the 98% of American women who aren't Jewish for half the Jewish guys.

So . . . assuming that these women are smart, beautiful, kind, charming and well-to-do, their fundamental problem is that only about 1% of all the men out there meet this initial restriction, and that's before you start eliminating idiots / bores / alcoholics / addicts / the shiftless / those of radically different ages, educational levels and socioeconomic backgrounds / the unattractive / people with whom one feels no connection / etc. That 1% has now shrunk to .1%. Bad odds!

So from a business point of view, there are two things to do. Market heavily to the pool of Jewish men who are seeking a Jewish wife (these are far more likely to be observant and conservative Jews, who intermarry less frequently) by making your "product" more attractive to this particular demographic. I don't know how you'd do that exactly. Or, by making your product available in less exclusive outlets, which is to say, by opening the door more widely to non-Jewish guys. I can appreciate the problem here - I have several utterly groovy Jewish girl friends who face this same dilemma and who are reaching the limits of their reproductive age and starting to freak out. The Jewish guys I know are less bothered by this issue, and most of them have found non-Jewish wives. The statistically troublesome desire of these women for a Jewish husband may have allowed otherwise fine candidates to fall by the wayside in the past; they may want to rethink that if they're starting to impose time limits on themselves.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 2:24 AM on June 22, 2010 [5 favorites]

My number one piece of dating advice for anyone, anywhere, is always "be authentic."

So this "commercial" approach... I can't see how it will end well.
posted by rokusan at 2:28 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

I am a man, so this may be irrelevant. However, I have been pretty successful in meeting women. I have a pretty good approach I think most everyone could gain from. It involves putting one foot in front of the other and when you are close (three feet is good) saying "Hi, my name is [your name] and I think you are really cute." Wha-la!
posted by parmanparman at 2:44 AM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]

Some ideas...

- Funnel problem: As Dee Xtrovert mentions, it's a small market to begin with. Expand the funnel as much as possible - geographically, for instance - do they friends have networks in different cities? Meet people while traveling, join groups where desirable demographics might belong, etc. Look internationally, particularly in places where demographics are in favor of women. Dating sites are a small piece of the "scene."

- Case studies: Take lessons from cultures where arranged marriage is common. Enlist family to play matchmaker, or get the help of surrogate family. Surely there are aunties out there who know everyone and would just love to match up some younger acquaintances.

- Product definition: They may say they're looking for love, but love is chaotic, unruly, and doesn't lend itself to "seriousness" or 5-year plans. They're really looking for business partners. Don't pitch the partner (the woman), pitch the business (the marriage.) Where would they want to live, how many children, pets what kind of careers, vacations, social life? Create a glossy brochure of the lifestyle, and put THAT in the dating profile. Men attracted by the idea might make better matches than men attracted by the woman. And then you get your channels: venues where people working toward that lifestyle might gather. Professional groups but also interest groups, religious groups, etc.
posted by jetsetlag at 2:55 AM on June 22, 2010 [4 favorites]

My number one piece of dating advice for anyone, anywhere, is always "be authentic."

Yes. Never wear makeup for example, hamburger.

I agree that a commercial approach to this has potential for a range of unsatisfying and possibly horrifying outcomes, but doesn't dating in general already have that potential in spades? There's already so much artificiality and superficiality pervading human relationships and sexuality and pervading relationship advice even folksy or cultural or other non-commercial sources of advice that it hardly seems to me like it would make a material difference, especially for someone who is already driven enough to start cutting corners to meet a deadline.
posted by XMLicious at 3:01 AM on June 22, 2010

I think jetselag has a few good insights.

I was going to say:

1, Raise awareness / brand recognition. Expand your social circle by taking part in as many social activities in your target demographic as possible.

2, Target a specific demographic segment. When I say expand your social circle, I don't necessarily mean bars etc., but things where you can meet men that you are interested in (golf club? tennis club? local church or charity? free verse society?). Do this online (facebook, Twitter,...) as well as offline.

3, Position yourself. It's no use trying to change who you are - people will see through it. You need to accept the material that you're working with, but it can help to emphasize the positive aspects of your personality.

4, Be energetic. Like small business, it will only succeed if you put many, many hours in it.
posted by NekulturnY at 3:05 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Part of the problem is that once you put ethics and social norms aside in order to emphasize functionality, you sometimes get some unsavory solutions. For example, one of the easiest ways to preselect for heterosexual, marriage-minded men is to date already married men -- it's a time-tested solution to the demographic problem Dee X identifies, but one that your friends may not be comfortable with.

I agree with DarlingBri that it is a marketing issue first. And following that, I think it is a selection issue. So I'd suggest drawing first on what marketing research has been applied to dating (eg the OK Cupid blog you mentioned), and second on the research describing functioning marriages. First they have to find candidates, and second they have to make good choices from those.
posted by Forktine at 4:47 AM on June 22, 2010

There's actually a dating book that was written by a woman in sales, applying sales techniques to dating: You Lost Him at Hello: A Saleswoman's Secrets to Closing the Deal with Any Guy You Want
posted by unannihilated at 5:37 AM on June 22, 2010

Are they aware of the website, 'I saw you at Sinai?'

My understanding of the site is limited, but it's how my boss met her husband. It sounds like there's a real person taking the profiles and matching them up...

So my marketing suggestion would be, make sure you're advertising in all the relevant locations.
posted by bilabial at 5:57 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Bah, ethics and social norms... you heard the man, we have to take that hill and failure is not an option. It's like a hormone spill in the Gulf. No retreat, no surrender. Dating married guys is just the equivalent of a merger or hostile takeover.

How about divorcées? That could provide the selection factors of married men without the ethical qualms.

Okay, how about this: could you take the analysis methods described on the OkCupid blog or possibly the secret-combination-of-spices matching methods of commercial dating sites if you can get a hold of any, and instead apply them to some other population of guys, like all of the men with marital status single listed in a credit reports database? Match that up with any state driver's license database if that's available and you can even get photos. If you can work out a way to trim out the majority of false positives (guys who are dating, not really single, or who don't match the other criteria) and you can work out a sufficiently non-stalkerish "cold calling script" to let the ladies contact them by email or text message you can offer your clients leads that aren't available through the dating sites and possibly be first to market in the market of the men who aren't currently or aren't yet on dating sites.
posted by XMLicious at 6:01 AM on June 22, 2010

And worse, Jewish men are somewhat more open to marrying outside the faith than Jewish women.

This this this. This is increasingly making me re-evaluate the way I think about the entire issue.

Anyway, one little thing that struck me about your question is that you didn't mention JDate. Since that's usually the first thing people suggest for solving this problem, I think the reasons why your friends either haven't tried it, or it hasn't worked out for them, have to go into your analysis. (If they haven't already.)
posted by DestinationUnknown at 6:26 AM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]

You might want to look over the series of OKCupid articles (linked above). They tackle online dating from a business / statistical perspective and come to some interesting conclusions.

Much of what they say is geared towards men seeking women, as they make up the majority of "buyers" in what amounts to a "sellers market." I.e., if you are a woman and put up even a halfassed profile, you will get messages from men without doing anything. Many men won't get responses back, so a lot of their advice is about increasing the response rate. But there's no reason you can't take the proactive role -- it just seems to be the case that many women on OKC take a passive strategy and men take an active one. (There's a whole soc thesis paper in there somewhere.) The advantage of this to you is that your response rate will be very high. You could ignore all unsolicited messages if you want and just contact guys that you find interesting, and my guess is that you'd probably have a very high (90+%) response rate, just due to the demographics.

But fundamentally, dating is a numbers game. Online dating may allow you to screen potential partners, and increase the pool of potential partners, better than hanging around in a bar would, but a lot -- both for men and for women -- comes down to exposing yourself to the greatest number of potentially-interested single people in a way that lets them get to know you, and going on as many dates as possible. This can be draining if you're not naturally an extrovert, and might lead you down a lot of messy paths if you're not the sort of person who finds it easy to break something off with someone you're not crazy about, but it seems to be the guaranteed path. If you're going to go on a lot of dates you need to get pretty good about letting people down.

That said, although I've had some interesting dates and met some cool people as a result of OKC, all my successful relationships have been as a result of just 'randomly' meeting people via social occasions or at work. (I put 'randomly' in scare quotes because it's not really random at all -- the lifestyle you lead, your occupation, activities, etc., all act as a sieve and do a pretty good job of steering you towards compatible, or at least similar, partners. Or at least that has been my experience.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:17 AM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]

I've often wondered what I would do if I were single at this point in my life. I don't have an ethnic-specific requirement, but I'm picky in other ways. Being picky means its less likely that the best out of 5 blind dates will be good enough. So my suggestion is more long-term.

Where do the age appropriate Jewish men in your community hang out? Where does the rest of the Jewish community tend to work, eat, place, take their kids to school, etc?
You could target this specifically to occupation (is there a Jewish law firm? with a popular lunch spot nearby?) or your friends' hobbies (movies, art, sports), or general physical proximity to where lots of Jewish people might be (Hebrew school?). They should patronize the same businesses and hang out at the same restaurants and bars and theaters. If they can swing a part-time job or volunteer gig at such a location, they might have ample opportunity to meet their types of men. If they are religious, they can get involved in synagogue. Or hang out near a seminary. Or take a class. If they're not religious, maybe they could get involved in some type of Jewish heritage or historical society.
Some cities have lists of Jewish business owners. Do market research.

Then they will have a broad network. You never know whose wife's cousin's son is going to be Mr. Right. Tell your friends to make themselves likable to everyone, not just eligible men. It's like job hunting. Every Jewish person they make friends with probably knows/is related to an eligible man (even if he's in another city). Many people love to play matchmaker and help out those that they like.

These observations stem from a job I had a couple of years ago in a historically Jewish community. I worked at a store owned by a guy who matches your friends' requirements. I noticed that a LOT of Jewish families patronized his business and they seemed to all be pretty tight. Then again, the owner was in a relationship with a non-Jewish woman (but he was also on JDate).
posted by funfetti at 7:44 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

First off: I'm mid-20s, male, Jewish, living in Philadelphia - a city with a pretty sizable Jewish population. I've dated fellow Jews a few times, though never "intentionally" - ie, I'm not seeking Jewish girls in particular. In fact, I'm entirely nonreligious. On more than one date, this has come up, and the Jewish lass in question has pretty much immediately and clearly become very uninterested. The reason I mention this is that it's very, very important for you to consider whether your ladies want a guy who's "merely" culturally Jewish, or specifically one who's observant to some extent. If the former, I have no useful advice to give - non-observant/non-religious Jewish men aren't going to live lives meaningfully different from those of their non-observant culturally-Christian peers, so the only way to find them is to date at random and hope, real hard, that you run into them.

As for the advice I can offer:

1) JDate. You don't mention this, and I have to wonder why, because nearly every single single Jew I know who specifically wants a Jewish mate fires up JDate on a regular basis.
2) You don't mention where your single Jewish girls are living, though from your username I could guess LA. Are there even a lot of other Jews around? If so, where in the city are they? For example, one of the notable patterns in my dating has been that I've gone out with a lot of students/graduates of Penn - which is known as a Jew-heavy Ivy League school; the result is that I've dated a lot more Jewish girls than I otherwise would have.
3) Be Jewish. And by this I mean that you need to do things that are Jewish-focused or Jew-targeted or just plain Jewish. Are they going to Shul every week? Because basically the entire population of young Jews I know (by which I mean "actively cares about having a Jewish life") goes to Synagogue very consistently, as much for social reasons as anything else. They volunteer not just anywhere, but in one of the many volunteering groups directly targeted at young Jews. They go to events hosted by Jewish community groups; they go to Purim parties and Hanukkah-related events and big community Seders.

In other words, if you want a Jewish mate, you need to seek them out very specifically, because a big chunk of the population doesn't care about finding a Jew in particular. So you need to find other Jews-seeking-Jews. Just as people doing geeky hobbies will meet geeks, and people who join sports leagues will meet other athletic folks, the way to find a Jew is to be aggressively Jewish.

Basically, every Jew I know who's dating other Jews meets them either in Shul, through a Jewish organization's event ("Singles trip to New York!") or on JDate.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:25 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks! These are all fantastic, great ideas. I should have mentioned that these girls have tried JDate, but have had limited success with it. But it's something that they're willing to try again. They also do go to events hosted by Jewish community groups in Los Angeles and haven't had much luck there as well. I'm going to try to narrow down exactly what went wrong with those two options, because I do agree that those are the best areas to meet Jews, though JDate in particular has a somewhat negative image among many of my Jewish friends for reasons I don't fully understand.

I'm intrigued by DarlingBri's idea of setting up a website and running an AdWords campaign, but I'm wondering if that could be seen as too desperate -- any other opinions?

Also, I like jetsetlag's idea of marketing the lifestyle they're looking for. Is OkCupid an appropriate venue for this? I get the vague sense from my own guy friends on OkCupid as well as what I've heard that it tends towards the omega male. Obvs this is a huge generalization, but I'm open to looking at Match, eHarmony, plentyoffish, etc. Also, do you think shotgunning your profile on multiple dating sites worth the increased cost?

Thanks to bilabial for the SawYouAtSinai link. I wasn't aware of that site before.
posted by AmitinLA at 8:57 AM on June 22, 2010

I think the most important thing is frequency. So many people get frustrated and give up and don't keep trying to meet someone new. If your most important goal in life is meeting someone and getting married, then you have to treat it like a job. You have to meet as many single men as you possibly can. In an urban center, this really shouldn't be that difficult to do. E.g., Monday and Wednesday I go on dates, saturday I go hiking with a co-ed hiking group, friday I speed date, Sunday I volunteer with single volunteers.

It can be time consuming and awkward and humiliating, but I think by increasing the number of single men you meet every week, you are increasing your chances. And it can be fun. You can make a game out of it. How many men can I meet this week. Who among this group of friends met the most men this week or got the most business cards? Also, if you join enough groups and meet enough people you will make friends too (an added bonus) and those friends may introduce you to someone. You can also create opportunities to meet someone. Like host a party and tell everyone you know to bring one single friend.

When I was single, I tried this. I joined an outdoor club which had a lot of male members who were all single. I joined a single volunteer group. I joined a ski club for people in their 20s and 30s who were all single. I went to a singles dinner where they put me at a table with men who were my opposites. The process was painful and awkward at times (I had a lot of awkward conversations and bad dates), but after three months of this, I eventually found my husband sitting at the other end of a table at a single volunteer dinner.
posted by bananafish at 11:21 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

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