The dating business is a hustle.
And the biggest challenge for my dating events club Social Concierge has always been: How to get men dating OFFLINE . You know, the old fashioned way.
When I launched the club in 2011 the dating scene in London was already flooded. But now, the app scene is dominant and growing, with Once, Bumble and soon-to-be relaunched TrueView showing strong competition.
What I wanted to do with our club was tap into the social aspect of dating, organising private events for handpicked singles and copying the members' club model to create a lifestyle business.
And the single women FLOCKED.
These were successful and driven singles who liked the idea of networking for love. They seemed to enjoy the service as is, without tech.
But male engagement, this was our challenge.
As every matchmaker knows, eligible bachelors can be thin on the ground when it comes to singles events. As a result, most events in London tend to be 80% female - and a bit of a nightmare.
With this club, I was determined not to compromise on the 50:50 gender split. However, that meant hustling like a maniac to get men to our events - whether dishing out free tickets, scouting them at friend's dinner parties or offering complimentary memberships.
It worked in terms of getting them there but it didn't work as a business model.
The second we'd invite a bachelor to join the club for £40pcm he would ask, 'Join for what? I know you'll send me invites anyway.'
And he wasn't wrong.
So we decided to men about what they wanted from the club. What would they pay for?
The overwhelming response: a tech product.
Knowing they were in high demand, the bachelors I spoke to pointed out that they'd need something tangible to buy into: in short, a product in exchange for their subscription.
Our focus group highlighted that men date very differently to women.
While women are natural socialisers - and therefore happy to pay for parties - men would engage with the events only if they saw a secondary value. They wanted parties AND a product. They wanted more bang for their buck. And they wanted a way to engage with the club 24/7, rather than waiting for invitations to hit their inbox.
They wanted an app. And their conviction was unanimous.
So we came up with the cash and invested in creating a private RSVP app that would list our parties as well as offer lifestyle benefits to be redeemed through the app. We included a virtual members card, a membership to a Soho members club and discounts in bars on top of the dating element.
And we turned a (male) corner.
In January the product went on the market and in 7 months our male paid subscriptions went from 20% of the club to 45%.
We paid for Instagram ads, flyered the city with app download cards, and finally saw the dynamic of our club completely change. It opened up the possibility that we could become the scalable business that we needed to be and speed up our growth.
The challenge now is how to move the whole club online without going against our principles of getting people offline to events.
We're never going to be a Tinder, but to grow it's become clear that our product is the app and that's a new financial and business burden to bear.
So watch this space.
And if you'd like to check out the app you can download it here: http://bit.ly/Social-Concierge-App
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