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Market Yourself Online Like A Pro


In our ongoing quest to deliver great online dating advice, we consulted some top ad and media execs on the art of selling the ultimate product: You!

By Julie Taylor

osting your profile is, in essence, an attempt to market a precious commodity (you) to the right consumers (great dates). Advertise yourself well, and you may very well hit the romantic jackpot. This got us to wondering: Do advertising and marketing executives know a tactic or two that could help online daters in their quest for love? A few phone calls to some of the nation’s top gurus convinced us: Absolutely! Here, marketing pros reveal their top tactics.

Market-yourself move #1: Make your copy count
“Be artful in your word choice. When my company was creating a marketing campaign for a client that sells swimming pools, we studied what words the competition was using: Beautiful, glamorous, family fun. Everyone says that, so we knew we had to be different. It took us a long time to search for the right word, but we finally found it: Timeless. It was compelling and no one else was saying it. And that helped our client stand out.”
—Mark Stevens, president of the marketing firm MSCO and author of Your Marketing Sucks

How to use this tip: When writing your profile, go beyond the usual descriptions like “fun-loving” or “easy-going” and find phrases that are more unique to you. Describe how you’re fun-loving (“Will stage one-on-one karaoke competitions if we get stuck in traffic”) or throw in a well-known line from your favorite film. These specifics will help you stand out from the crowd—and attract like-minded folks who share your sensibilities.
“Packaging is always important—and in this case, that means you need a great photo.”


Market-yourself move #2: Perfect your packaging
“With all products, eye-catching packaging is essential. Internet dating is a very visual medium, so the photo you post must be your absolute best. I recommend having a professional photo taken for your primary photo, and using more casual pics for your secondary tier so people know what you look like during more everyday moments. And no red eyes!”
—Rachel Greenwald, author of Find a Husband After 35 Using What I Learned at Harvard Business School

How to use this tip: We’ve all heard it before but it definitely bears repeating: When shopping profiles online, most people will check out your photos first—and if they’re blurry, dated or unflattering, will move on before they’ve read the fine print. So even if you don’t want to invest in a professional photo, you shouldn’t just slap up any old pics. Have a friend take a bunch of photos on a day you’re looking your best (maybe you’re on your way to a party) and ask your pal’s opinion on which ones are best—having an objective opinion will help immensely. Use a close-up of your face for your main photo and include a full-body shot in your secondary photos so potential dates can get a realistic idea of what you look like.

Market-yourself move #3: Keep it cool
“Advertising has changed. Cool brands like Target use advertising that is subtle, tongue-in-cheek. You want to be a cool brand, don't you? Wouldn’t you rather be Target than Sears? Then don't sell yourself too hard, don't use cliché phrases, be relaxed. 1950's-style advertising is out on TV, so don't let it show up in your profile.”
—Adam Hanft, CEO, Hanft Unlimited

How to use this tip: Avoid writing really long lists of adjectives describing who you are (“classy, gorgeous, funny” and so forth) and who you are looking to date (“Must be a quality man with good values, steady job, clean-shaven; absolutely no smokers” etc.). Don’t get caught up in the hype of selling yourself; that’ll sound like a hard-sell infomercial and scare people off. Instead, let your sense of humor and unusual qualities shine through. Have you seen every Seinfeld episode out there? Let the world know. Would you like some company to next month’s jazz festival? Say so. Those kinds of low-key clues about you will do a better job of bringing in good matches than any list of adjectives.

Market-yourself move #4: Build a well-rounded campaign
“With any good marketing plan, you don’t just do print [magazine and newspaper] ads and that’s it. You do a little bit of print and a little TV, plus you include the brand in events and integrate it into film/TV. When you apply that theory to dating, that means you need to make all aspects of your campaign pop—your profile, emails, pictures, phone rapport, dating skills. You can’t just focus on one and not the others.”
—Rick Ruzutto, senior partner and CEO, RPR Marketing Solutions

How to use this tip: Is there a weak link in your online dating campaign? Find out by examining your past attempts and asking yourself: Were there points when you felt
“Don’t try to be all things to all people. Better to attract fewer people with more intensity.”
uncomfortable or when dates tended to turn cold—say, the email rapport was fantastic but things turned awkward when you got them on the phone? Or when dates met you, did they say, “You’re much funnier/better-looking in person than your profile lets on?” Once you’ve pinpointed an area that’s less than stellar, focus your energies on improving it. If your profile is the problem, invest in another round of photos or revamp your copy (using the advice above), or, if phone or face-to-face interactions get you tongue-tied, jot down a list of five questions for your date or tidbits about yourself that you’d like to share. Improve your weak points, and your entire dating life will improve.

Market-yourself move #5: Personalize your approach
"In marketing, the more customized your message is, the more the consumer will respond. So always deliver a one-on-one message to your online dates rather than sending out something generic."
—Damian Bazadona, president of Situation Marketing, LLC

How to use this tip: It’s pretty much a given that online dates want to feel special, so make it clear you’re into them as an individual from the get-go by personalizing your initial email. Phrases like “I really liked you profile” won’t cut it, since it could apply to anyone. Instead, mention something specific about their profile that you liked, whether that’s “I’m amazed you run marathons” or “Wow, a fellow Red Sox fan; I’m in heaven!” By making it clear they stood out from the crowd, you’ll stand out, too.

Market-yourself move #6: Think targeted, not mass-market
“In your correspondence with other online daters, don’t try to be too many things to too many people. Do you want to be any old coffee shop or Starbucks? In marketing, when you narrow the breadth of appeal, you increase intensity of appeal. Really focus on who you are and what you're looking for.”
—Steve McKee, president of McKee Wallwork Henderson Advertising

How to use this tip: If you’re craving some dating success, you may think it’s wise to smooth over your rough edges and play up just how compatible you are with everyone. You might use phrases like “happy to go out or stay in” in your profile, or email dates, “I like all types of cuisine, why don’t you pick the restaurant?” or tell them, “American Idol’s a pretty good show” even though you can’t stand it. But being easygoing can actually put you at a disadvantage since dates never get a handle on who you really are. So go ahead and say, “Nothing beats a night of Chinese takeout and a kung-fu movie marathon” in your profile, or feel free to tell your date, “American Idol actually drives me nuts; what’s your opinion on why it’s so popular?” Your strong viewpoints may drive some suitors away, but you’ll also be attracting people who truly dig your sensibilities.


Julie Taylor loves advertising so much, she never even fast-forwards through the commercials on her Tivo.
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