New Startup Case Study: DateLincoln.com

I ran across an interesting post in the TechCrunch forums from a guy in Lincoln, Nebraska named Glenn Shriner.  Glenn started an online dating service called DateLincoln.com, and here’s his problem in his own words: 

“I cant seem to get internet traffic to flow to it I have registered it with Google and every other search engine and still my numbers are low I have been trying link exchanges and now I am asking this forum to maybe give me some Ideas to what am I doing wrong with my site?”

First piece of advice – dude, there’s a key with a little dot on it in the lower right hand side of your keyboard.  Use it.  Seriously, though, I give a ton of credit to Glenn.  He’s obviously poured a lot of time and money into this site, and it can’t be easy to admit in public to his fellow entrepeneurs that his site is not getting the traffic he hoped for.  But he did the right thing by asking for help.  He’s already gotten some great suggestions from the forum, and I definitely encourage you to check out Glenn’s site and post your own suggestions in the comments.  My biggest piece of advice I would give Glenn is this: you cannot take on the market leaders in this segment head on – you need to boldly differentiate your service or you will fail.  The good news is that you picked a huge and profitable segment to jump into, just getting a 1% market share will bring in enough to make a comfortable living.  Here are a few differentiating ideas I think might have a chance at appealing to at least 1% of the population.

ThreeMinuteSoulmate: The premise here is that people generally don’t want to invest much time in a new site.  Instead of requiring a lengthy sign-up form or just flipping through pictures based on age/sex/location, this site would let you find your soulmate in three minutes or less.  How?  By cutting out the most time-consuming part of online dating – flipping through page after page of doctored pictures followed by the same generic “I like to go out but am also up for a quiet night at home watching movies” profiles. 

The idea is two-fold: First, have the user take a short quiz to determine their personality type (such as this one).  Then, use the results to find only one person they are most compatible with.  If the user then wants to see additional matches, here’s where you get them to fill out a profile.  Limit the number of required fields, and make it as fun and easy as possible.

Why show only one match?  Because of a simple human truth: we want to believe that there is one person out there who is perfect for us, a soulmate.  We don’t want to find love by choosing the least undesirable person out of a list of 50, we want the cosmic power of the universe to step in an present us with that one perfect person.

WinkBlink – a dating site based on some compatibility theories outlined by Malcolm Gladwell in Blink (and elsewhere). The basic idea is instead of finding a soulmate by browsing photos and horoscope details, users could find matches based on their subconscious similarities.

Users would be shown a rapid series of pictures, text, music snippets, etc.. and would have to 5 seconds to give a knee-jerk love it/hate it response. After completing the test, users would be shown potential dates who gave the same responses. Users could also invite their friends to take the test and see what their “compatibility percentage” is. This is also simple enough to do via cell phone or as a viral MySpace widget as well.

NotMyNextEx – An opposite take on traditional dating sites.  Instead of searching based on traits you are looking for in a partner, why not search for things that you are not looking for?  This is great for people who have been dating for a while (which is why a lot of people turn to online dating in the first place) and have some dating horror stories that they don’t want to go through again. 

For example, instead of saying “I am looking for someone who is between 19 and 23” you could do “I am looking for someone not over the age of 25 AKA I am a college student and I’m tired of creepy old pervs trying to pick me up through online dating services”.  You could look for non-smokers, no criminal background, no kids, no tattoos, no bad dancers, etc..  You’d basically be eliminating any negative qualities that caused problems in your previous relationships that you don’t want to put up with again.

Another interesting feature you could add is a section where people could submit dating horror stories and the community can vote on the best ones.  The idea here is to channel all the negative energy around dating in general and use it to try to discover people who share your same frustrations, and therefore most likely your same positive aspects as well.

 All right, Glenn, there’s a few ideas to get you started.  Keep truckin’ buddy, best of luck with the new site.  The blogosphere is routing for you.  🙂

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12 responses to “New Startup Case Study: DateLincoln.com

  1. I went back to techcrunch to check out any new comments. Then I found yours including this blog. Very interesting ideas. Also I think it’s cool how there’s someone who’d take their time out to help out someone e.g. this blog! Cheers!

  2. Kevin,

    Thank you so much for taking an interest in my post on techcrunch. And for taking the time out of your busy schedule to write this blog about my site. I love the ideas that people have been kicking around to me. I have taken a few of them and ran with it. You have definitely touched on alot of things that I never took into consideration before. Such as, removing the member status on the front page. “Good Idea”, due to the fact there is not much to boost about with a hundred or so people registered. And, I am working on a forum at this point in time, and I’m going to add a worst date ever thread to it, as you have mentioned as an idea in your blog. I read on another forum some where that the only way to succeed in the online dating scene is to throw lots of money at it. I have found that to be some what true. But, lots of money is what I don’t have. And I know that there has got to be a way to reach out to the WWW and let them know DateLincoln.com is open for business. There is no one person out there who wants to admit to failure and I am one of them. So I’m taking every single approach that I can to make this a success story. And I want to thank everyone for all the support I have been getting and all the great ideas I have received. I do welcome any and all comments to be posted here on this blog about DateLincoln.com as I will be checking back here to see what people are thinking about this post. And no comment is to negative to me so keep it real! Thats the only way this site is going to make it.

    Thanks to all

    Glenn Shriner
    DateLincoln.com

  3. Pingback: Startup #5 - DateGlenn.com « A Startup A Day

  4. Hey wasn’t that my idea of not posting current member count? Hahahaha 😛

  5. Ha, I wasn’t going to say anything…come on, it’s a good idea! 🙂

    By the way, Glenn, thanks for the nice comments, totally made my day.

  6. Pingback: Startup #34 - Not My Next Ex « A Startup A Day

  7. Pingback: Startup #36 - Three Minute Soulmate « A Startup A Day

  8. Pingback: Startup #37 - Wink Blink « A Startup A Day

  9. wow it’s been three years! OK just a little update on DateLincoln.com.
    DateLincoln.com started out slow and was gradually growing in fact; the local newspaper did an article on us! But for all the wrong reasons! Let me explain why, The name DateLincoln.com was starting to spread like a virus and with that came a competor who started using the name LincolnDating.org they placed illegal signs threw out Lincoln and surrounding areas that read “SINGLE?” and under it read “LincolnDating.org” wow this blew my mind when I woke up to see the signs all over the place! At first I thought my buds went all out and spelled the name wrong doing it. so I started digging into this and the more I dug the more this became a problem for me. I found that by going to this website you were asked to fill out a form and they would call you back. And with that they asked for a huge sum of money to match you up. Now at that point in time people thought we were the same business. “Sigh…” so my first reaction was calling the mayor’s office and asking, what are they doing about the signs all over the place? The answer I got from them was, “we don’t know where they are coming from” So I decided to start pulling them up and throwing them away but they were back up faster then I or the city could take them down. There was no stopping this! So I decided to dig into this more and found out that a dating site called therightone.com was behind all this. So by now this big well known company had destroyed what I built up and there was no end in sight until I came up with a brilliant Idea! I thought hey why not go register the name with the State Of Nebraska and then they can no longer use LincolnDating as I own DateLincoln. So off to pay a few hundred dollars to try and save my little website from the domination of the big boys, the paper work was done the name was in the paper as a new business I was feeling good about this, until my phone rang, guess who? The Better Business Burial. They called to remind me that my business is doing well and that I need to make sure I have the proper paper work in place for taxes and what not and to remind me the dating signs we are putting out are illegal, and they have had some reports on them. So I paused for a minute and thought so they think they just cracked the case of the single sign bandits? I went on to explain how they got the wrong guy and I just registered the name to stop therightone from using it. And to be honest DateLincoln.com was no more than a registered domain name and business name and told them who was behind it all.
    So now with my name cleared with the BBB, I get another call, A reporter with the journalstar.com wanting to know about the signs and my dating site, so I went on to explain again this is not me and told them who was behind it all and they helped clear the air waves but the damage was done, and to finally get them to stop using the name I had to threaten them with a lawsuit for name infringement, I like to think that is what stopped the madness but the truth is, they prob got bored with me . Anyways here is a link to the story from our local paper. http://journalstar.com/entertainment/article_b3ca1ff5-0125-52c2-bc8e-2009e8edd0b5.html
    This took a while to blow over and now a few years have passed and I am back with the same question, how am I going to make this work?

  10. Glenn!!! Holy crap it’s great to hear from you again!

    First, congrats on getting the press, that was a nice write-up. But I gotta say, I’m really confused about the time, effort and money you spent fighting that battle against the sign dudes. Yeah, that sucked, but honestly I wish you had taken the time and energy spent with all that junk and instead used it to address the usability issues that the journalstar article pointed out. Even the time it took you to write up the story on my blog could have been spent A/B testing a new headline or trying to get some press from a real blogger instead of a hack like me! 🙂

    You asked for ideas on how to make it work, so here goes. First, you gotta solve the chicken-and-egg problem that all dating sites face. Since you’re targeting singles in Lincoln, I would put on a series of live events at local bars or clubs targeting singles, maybe host a speed dating night or something. In addition, you can use this as a way to get feedback from some of your target users. Ask what’s missing from online dating today, and try to fill those gaps.

    Second, try advertising on Facebook. You can run a targeted ad specifically for single people living in Lincoln, and run different ads for males vs. females. The ad can be simple, but it’s gotta have some pics (be careful about posting real pics, make sure you have a user’s explicit permission or they might be get real mad)

    And how are you going to pay for those ads? You have to change the business model. According to the article, you’re not charging for the site, so I’m assuming you’re going with ads. I don’t know how many single people there are in Lincoln, but if the overall population is 250K, let’s say that 50K are single and looking to date. Even if you get every single one of the 50,000 singles in Lincoln to visit your site once each month, and given a generous CPM of $10, you’re looking at a maximum revenue of $500 per month! This model absolutely will not work for a local dating site with very little advertising budget. You have to charge a per-user subscription fee, or change it to datelincoln.org because running ads is basically a sign that you’re doing this thing to help the needy singles of Lincoln, Nebraska.

    Hope this helps, look forward to hearing from you again in 2013.

  11. Kevin your an excellent writer,
    Thank you for the new Ideas, I just emailed are local paper to see if I can get some new coverage on DateLincoln.com, and as for “A/B testing a new headline or trying to get some press from a real blogger,”
    what do you mean by testing a new headline? and you are a real blogger. 😛
    how do I get other blogger’s to be interested in my story and website?
    any feed back would be great from Kevin and his readers.

    Thanks Kevin.
    Glenn

  12. Ok I’m about to call it quits! I need traffic to datelincoln.com and I am getting nowhere fast. The internet is a lot like the Da Vinci Code if you can figure it out it will work for you; unfortunately it has got me nowhere!

    What am I doing wrong, I know it’s another dating site and yes we have facebook and hundreds of dating sites. How in the heck did Plenty of Fish make it? This guy created a website on his free time launched it and it just took off I have been at this since 2004 “at least” and gone nowhere.
    If anyone reads this and can help me I hate to do it but I admit defeat and need help, please contact me.

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