Anyone involved in online dating knows about all of the 'movers and shakers' in the industry - Match, eHarmony, Tinder, Bumble, and such. And while they certainly have a 'corner on the market,' there are plenty of smaller dating apps that have sprouted up in recent years trying to get their little 'piece of the pie.'
So, how do they compete with those 'big boys?' How do they attract users and grow their companies? Certainly, they do not have aspirations of being the next Match, but they do want to grow enough to be profitable and to serve a community of online dating users.
Here are nine ways for smaller dating apps to get themselves into the market and be competitive enough to not just survive, but thrive.
Be Better at Customer Relations and Support
The 'big boys' become impersonal because they have such a huge base of users. They use bots and 'canned' responses, rather than keeping up a truly personal relationship with their users. There are just too many. A smaller app, though, can focus on customer relations on a personal level. This is appreciated and certainly helps to retain existing users as well as to get good comments on your and their social media accounts. Their friends will take their 'advice' to use your app too.
And while it may be costly, it will be important to offer 24-hour customer support. Again, if you are responsive, you will retain and gain new users. Make sure you have the staff to keep it personal.
Choose Your Demographic
As a smaller company, you cannot be everything to everybody. You need to focus on a single demographic, at least in the beginning. This demographic may be just female millennials and Gen Zers, heterosexual or gay males in a specific age group, etc. Check out this awesome app, Taimi, that caters only to the LGBTQ community. You'll see how it caters only to this community with lots of features and resources, in addition to just dating matches. Once you have isolated your demographic, get to know it intimately and fashion your website/app for maximum appeal.
Offer Something Unique
What can you offer that the big boys don't? You need a special hook of some sort that will attract new users. Much of growing a small dating app will depend on digital 'word of mouth' and that can depend on something unique that you offer. The dating app Taimi, for example, offers a full social component, with public and private groups that can provide support, advice, and more to other users. Adding that social connection feature has made a huge difference in its growth. Get your team together and brainstorm how you can be unique, and use that uniqueness as a marketing tool.
Develop Partnerships and Affiliations
These should include influencers in the industry who are willing to provide positive reviews, as well as other and related for-profit companies. Set up mutually-advantageous partnerships that will promote each other on your respective sites. For example, if your app caters to millennial and Gen Z women, how about partnering with related clothing, jewelry, and beauty businesses?
Solicit Happy Users as Brand Ambassadors
Everyone loves a story, and if there are happy users who will tell their stories, these have several uses. They can be plastered all over the company's social media accounts, on their websites, and even used in paid online advertising that markets to the target demographic.
Offer the happy users incentives to become brand ambassadors, possibly premium subscriptions for free or discounts on products or services from partner companies.
Listen to Users
Most consumers who purchase products or services online receive surveys to complete about the product or the customer service. Large corporations do this but do not always listen and respond.
As a smaller business, surveys and other requests for feedback on their dating experiences and the app itself should happen often and regularly. This feedback must be used to improve user experiences whenever possible. It may involve upgrades to the app design, better matching processes, or additional features. Listening and responding will help to build the company's reputation.
Stay Current with New Trends
The online dating industry is constantly changing, as any industry does. Small companies that keep their 'ears' to the ground and pick up on emerging trends quickly. And these can be incorporated far quicker than the behemoths where decisions must often go through several layers of bureaucracy.
Keep Pricing Reasonable
All dating apps have free versions but offer premium subscriptions with more features. Smaller apps can improve their competitiveness by keeping prices on these subscriptions just a bit lower than the big boys. Offering a free trial of premium versions can also serve as an incentive to get users on board - they have nothing to lose, and, if the company has everything in place to give a great experience, chances are it will gain permanent users.
Keeping the Team Happy
Small companies have smaller teams and have the opportunity to develop more personal relationships with them. Keeping morale high means a far more productive team. Providing tangible incentives and rewards can help, if they are personalized. Who on the team is a sports fanatic? How about tickets? Who is a fitness buff? Maybe a gym membership. Add frequent praise to these, and there is a winning combination for a hard-working team willing to go above and beyond.
In the End, Compete on Your own Level
As a small dating app, you are not aspiring to compete head-on with big guys. What you want is to carve out your own market share that is profitable and continues to grow. This you can do if you remain focused on your piece of the pie and follow these 9 strategies