Tuesday, October 11th, 2016 | 12 min read
As a kid I often tested myself to see if I had special powers. Can I walk on water? No, but I still tried 100+ times. Can I talk to animals? Two months of attempts and intense eye contact with the dog proved inconclusive.
As I grew up, my experiments shifted away from special powers, and toward optimizing my quality of life. Does polyphasic sleep make me more productive? Yes, but I feel like a zombie. Does intermittent fasting make me healthier? Not really, but I feel like a medieval king when ingesting 2,000 calories at once. After how many beers am I best at darts or pool? Two quick ones, and then one per hour.
The last time I was single, my scientific streak emerged yet again, and I decided to bring the same level of testing to my dating life. I thought that if I tried to run my Tinder profile like a marketing campaign, I could achieve the most ideal state of app dating.
Thus began the Great Tinder Project of 2015, from which I learned many lessons about setting goals, generating demand, providing top-notch customer experience, the importance of packaging, being lonely, the buying process, proper segmentation, being less lonely, win/loss analysis, and knowing my audience. Here are the key takeaways.
In a marketing (and a Tinder) campaign, you have to start by asking yourself: Am I trying to acquire as many customers as possible, or just one really nice, smart, down to earth, kind of nerdy customer?
It’s important to establish goals because they will determine your strategy, the metrics that matter to you, and ultimately allow you to measure success. Without clear goals, you can end up executing random tactics and wind up unsure whether you were successful or not (spaghetti meet wall).
My first goal was something like: “Since I just got out of a serious relationship, I want to go on dates with 5-10 interesting people. I’m not looking to get back in a relationship but I also don’t want to just hook up with “Rando Calrissian.”
As I worked toward meeting my 5-10 person goal, however, I found 3 people that I wanted to get to know better. My goal to meet a certain amount of new people became less important, and I was able to focus more of my time on shepherding existing relationships. The return (happiness) on my investment (time) improved as I honed my goals throughout the process. So, I learned early that as you find out new information about your customers, your goals can and should be revised in real time.
In marketing, metrics and customer feedback are the two “canaries in the coal mine” that show what’s working, what isn’t working, and whether you’re meeting your goals.
Once my initial dating goal was established, I needed to decide what metrics to track to ensure my Tinder campaign was the best it could be.
Since I value my free time, I wanted to track how efficiently I was using the app. A marketing corollary is cost per lead, which I’ll discuss in more detail below. To be as efficient as possible, I decided to test the health of my “marketing funnel” and start by improving the areas that needed it most.
I also wanted to determine the stage of the “marketing funnel” at which prospects were falling out. Instead of the normal marketing funnel, mine looked something like this:
1. Match in app
2. Scott generally sends first message
3. Girl generally responds
4. Very witty banter ensues
5. Two parties meet up for coffee/alcoholic beverage to ensure neither party is a creepy old man
6. Switch conversation to SMS
7. Go on first real date (maybe smooch)
Go on next date, etc, etc.
I measured factors such as the percentage of matches who didn’t respond to my first message, and how many times I met someone for a first date but not a second date.
In marketing and dating, identifying where people are leaving the funnel can arm you with the knowledge to troubleshoot the issue. For me, it was as simple as putting a cuter animal in my profile image because initially, I wasn’t getting as good of a response rate as I wanted. For marketers, that could mean crafting a better subject line for your emails or, well, putting a cuter animal in your instagram ads.
Identifying weaknesses at every customer touchpoint will create better, more holistic experiences for customers and ultimately drive more conversions, or in this case, romantic dinner dates.
Once you match with someone on Tinder, the next major hurdle is crafting the perfect opening message. It’s the first chance to make a connection, similar to the first email in a marketing or sales nurture program.
The three types of first messages I saw on Tinder are:
2. Boilerplate (a templated response that you send to everyone)
3. Custom (based on their photo and profile)
To gauge the success of these opening message types, I considered the four types of customer feedback on Tinder:
1. No response (silence speaks volumes)
2. A response (yay!)
3. Your match unmatching you (ouch), and
4. Your match reporting you (you may not know about this unless you get banned, in which case I recommend that you stop being the worst).
I wanted to determine an opening message strategy that would optimize response rate and conversation quality. As a marketer, I knew that “Sup” wasn’t an option. Not only is it lazy and insulting, it’s also just not a successful way to interact with customers.
That left me with option 2. Boilerplate, and option 3. Custom. The former saves time, and the latter increases the likelihood of response, but depending on how much it increases response rate, may not be worth it.
To figure out which to use, I ran an A/B test with 10 people in each group. I sent Group A a generic question about their next Halloween costume, while I posed to Group B a custom question based on its members’ respective profiles and interests.
Group A had a 40% response rate while group B had a 60% rate. This presented an important question: is that 20% extra response rate worth the additional time it takes to craft a tailored message for your audience? In my case, the answer was yes. For every ten people I reached out to, that was an additional two with whom I’d have a conversation. It was the right option for me, but for would-be Cyranos and other marketers, the answer will differ based on your own business, resources, and goals for your marketing campaigns.
Although templates and boilerplates are useful because they save time, they can create a negative customer experience that you may not be able to recover from. While many people may just ignore you (and you’ll have a lower success rate, like I indicated above), some may be offended by your lack of effort, and won’t be afraid to call you out for it.
At one point I was using a very long boilerplate first message. It was full of fun facts about myself and it ended with a question for the other party. The fun facts ranged from how George Lopez starred in a movie about a part of my life, to how I once worked in a lab teaching rats to control robots with their minds (both true).
The message initially worked ok but some people can smell templated messages from a mile away. One recipient called me out by saying, “How dare you send me that weak a** boilerplate message?”
That made it pretty clear that custom messages were a much safer (and more effective) approach.
After a few weeks on Tinder, I learned a valuable lesson about the customer journey. My profile photo (below) gave people an easy first step on their “customer journey.” It was a picture of me and a goat.
60+% of people who messaged me first, and 30% of people that responded second said something along the lines of “Are you sure you’re not a goat?” or “I thought I was messaging a goat.” I realized that having the goat in the photo made for a smooth first step in the customer/cute girl journey. That made me consider what might spur even more people to send a message.
That’s when I changed my profile description to, “I am not the goat.” Goat-related first messages increased to 80% for received opening messages, and 40% for responses. (By the way, the goat’s name is Frodo and he will try to eat your shirt).
As marketers, we should always think about the customer journey — the action we want a customer to take, or the idea we want them to have. How do we increase the likelihood of achieving those goals?
Before sending an email to a prospect or publishing a piece of content, it’s wise to think about what you hope your reader will do next. Then you need to figure out how to optimize the delivery, or the content itself, to make the action more likely.
Some classic examples include giving new customers discount codes, or offering people a discount if they recommend your service to a friend. Lately, I’ve seen marketers tailor the customer experience by sending handwritten thank you notes and including strange nicknames or quotes in their email signature to spark a conversation. I haven’t seen any goat-based email campaigns yet, but they may only be a matter of time.
While I learned a lot from these experiments (and conducted many other Tinder experiments which may be revisited in future posts based on reader demand, hint hint) they sort of made me feel like a detached observer of my own life.
Running your dating life like a marketing campaign may cause you to miss out on the spontaneous human connections that are so crucial to life, and frankly, I don’t recommend that anybody try my strategy.
So the real lesson here is that, if anything, we should strive to make our marketing campaigns more like our dating lives by genuinely connecting with people over shared values and mutual appreciation.
What if you treated every customer like someone you were about to go on a date with, and put your best foot forward, just for them? What if you were excited to meet all of the customers out there, and when they reached out to you, you eagerly responded and worked to get to know them better?
If we could infuse the brand-customer relationship with that same excitement, spontaneity, and personalization, the world would certainly be a happier place.