Prior to starting eFlirt Expert, I was a marketing consultant. One of my major clients was affected by the Madoff scandal and discontinued my project. So I decided to brainstorm my hidden talents and see if I could come up with a new career focus. When a friend called to tell me he was moving in with his girlfriend, a light bulb switched on. I helped him meet her! I was a first adopter to online dating 10 years ago, when I was a mere 18 years old, and throughout the years always gave my friends the digital hookup as I ghostwrote their profiles and taught them how to date online. Now, I combine my experience in online dating with my marketing savvy to create the ultimate personal branding campaigns for singles. I strategize their dating life by considering their target market, key messages, length, skim-ability and a number of other components.
You started your business during the recession?! What was that like?
When I started researching the online dating space, I realized that online dating was one of the few industries booming during the recession. Singles were laid off with more time on their hands. Their jobs had been their lives, but now they were forced to breakup with their career. Priorities shifted and they began to reevaluate their lives. Do they want children and a wife? Well… it can’t hurt to see what’s out there! The online dating space is also constantly evolving. It’s not just about having a profile on a dating site any longer – you flirt on Facebook and might even use a location-based dating app to meet other singles. I wanted to not only help singles put their best foot forward online, but help them transition seamlessly to meaningful, in-person experiences.
Did you have startup capital or other resources?
I started my entire business with $50, which I spent on a domain and website. I got myself a Twitter account, Facebook fan page and blog and started putting myself out there. Soon, Twitter had proved to be my company’s main vehicle for growth. In 140 characters, I became credible, developed a buzz, converted clients, met press and ultimately became one of the “Twitter Top Ten to Follow For Dating Advice,” alongside @Match and @okcupid (two major dating sites). In the last year, I have been cited as a subject matter expert by several media outlets including The New York Times, Glamour and The Washington Post. The company has seen aggressive growth in year one and there are lots of exciting things for us on the horizon.
But, I’m sure it couldn’t have all been easy. What challenges did you face?
The biggest hurdle was a lack of awareness of my services. I was not only creating a new company but developing a new service in a relatively new industry. Sure, not having much competition had its advantages, but new ideas need a frame of reference. If your target market doesn’t know your company’s services or products exist or properly understand their value, they won’t buy them. This is the reason why awareness through social media worked particularly well for us. It lets online daters, the industry and the press know that advice and help existed for those flirting with technology. When I first started my business, people whom I introduced myself to at events would say “You do what?!” Now, more often I hear “Oh, I’ve heard about eFlirt Expert.”
And what have people heard?
They’ve usually been to our website or read an article I was quoted in and want to know more. People are often hesitant to involve a third party in their dating efforts, but feel more comfortable once they realize that their certified eFlirter is basically just like their best friend with expert knowledge. Since you can’t study to be a “digital dating coach” in college, establishing credibility is a challenge. The key for me was being consistent, getting my advice out there and letting it speak for itself.
What were the best ways of spreading the word?
Originally, I distinguished myself by tweeting one tip each day. Soon, tweeps started following @eFlirtExpert simply for the daily dating tip, then they’d retweet it and then it would become a discussion point in the community. Twitter experts say the half life of a tweet is 4 minutes. Some of my dating tips of the day have circled the real-time web for over 20 hours.
Since we couldn’t afford traditional advertising campaigns, I thought of other ways to reach my target audience through less expensive guerilla marketing. I had interns post flyers in coffee shops and circulate postcards on the subway. I started a Wednesday tradition called Free Flirt Advice where I sit at a bar with a little sign and give 10 minutes of complimentary advice – office hours for singles, if you will. Basically, it’s all about being creative.
We’ve gotten some good press coverage and have been proactive about outreach. Now, I also co-host a web TV show and regularly contribute to a few third-party columns. I’d say to other entrepreneurs that if this type of approach fits your brand and is something to which you can dedicate enough time to make it work, go for it!
Since social media has been so important to eFlirt Expert, what advice would you give to startups regarding social media?
Having a clear point of view that your followers can rely on is important as is adding that human touch by revealing interesting stories that are relatable. Getting involved in their lives and really helping on a one-on-one basis is what we’re all about, and we continue to do that through Twitter. I jump in on conversations and give encouragement about a follower’s latest date or answer their direct questions about their love lives. While I consider my tweet stream a resource for singles, it’s also a journey of a “day in the life” of a startup. My followers enjoy the dating advice they get, but also appreciate hearing about and discussing my latest events, speaking engagements, photo shoots, client milestones, articles and book news.
Here is some recent coverage from NBC – click here.