What is the founding story of Searchmate UK?
Searchmate UK started off in the Midlands eight years ago as a personal introduction agency. Two years later it turned into a model that was grown across the UK with 35 locations, and offering a range of services to people who like the idea of a very personalized service rather then other current methods of finding a partner.
What does Searchmate UK offer compared to other services, and how has it evolved?
We are absolutely intent on making sure that our clients are genuinely single and looking for a long-term relationship. We start off by interviewing clients for a couple of hours in their own home, as it’s more relaxing for them, while we extract the information needed to put together a meaningful profile of them. We check proof of identity, drivers license, passport, and proof of residence. From a secure standpoint, they see that anyone we introduce them to will have been through the same process.
It then gets down to the serious business of trying to find a partner for them. We have a team of people who handpick selected matches based on the criteria they’ve laid out. We can guarantee compatibility. What we can’t legislate for, and I don’t think that anybody can, is that all-important chemistry.
What do you check exactly, in regards to background checks?
We don’t do criminal records checks. But we go further than just matching against our existing clients, which a lot of agencies do. By providing a head hunting service, we scour those places where people are advertising themselves as single, and if we think we’ve found a good match for one of our clients, we’ll make contact. We also do life coaching. Our life coaches ask a series of confidential questions, and get to the heart of any issues. Typically one or two sessions are needed, but some go on to embark on a whole series. They’re a way of making sure that our clients are ready to move forward and understand the etiquette of dating in the 21st century.
How quickly has Searchmate UK been growing, and how does your growth compare to other matchmaking companies?
Searchmate UK has been growing fairly steadily in the early days but things have really taken off over the past 18 months. We’ve invested a lot in the technology to promote ourselves, and advertising has been very beneficial. The number of responses and leads that we get has gone up something like 1100% in the last year, and 33% in the last 3 months alone, which is quite interesting when everybody is talking about the credit crunch.
Almost a year ago, we acquired one of our competitors, who at the time had been the largest introduction agency in the UK. We’ve taken on board all of their marketing and acquired their members as well. So that’s really catapulted us into a different environment in terms of the size of the business.
The direction we’re looking to take is to grow the business through partnerships. We see a great synergy and complimentary mix in terms of the way online and offline agencies work. We’ve worked with a number of smaller online agencies that refer people to us and we’re also in the process of piloting with a national newspaper offering the offline service to compliment their online service. We can provide a truly white label service branded to the online agencies, but we can provide additional services they can’t offer.
Why haven’t other Internet dating companies tried to incorporate offline matchmaking?
I think the barrier to entry is the scale. We’ve grown steadily over seven years and are now nationwide. To be able to offer this personal service, you have to have people in place that can actually carry out the personal element of that service, which means someone who can visit them. Starting that network up on your own is very difficult, very time consuming and costly. The main thing is it takes time and you have to get the right people.
How can Internet dating companies partner with Searchmate UK?
Talk to us. We’re in the process of trying to approach people as well. We’re in an ideal position to partner with national organizations, whether they be publications or online agencies, because we’ve already got the infrastructure in place to provide them with support across the country. Whoever partners with us would potentially facilitate an introduction for someone who decided not to move further with their online agency, which can start up a whole new revenue stream for them, and indeed for us. And it costs them little or nothing to do as all revenue goes straight to their bottom line, as they’ve got no cost of service to deliver.
What do you see for the future of the company?
We’re seeing a very dramatic growth at the moment. Building our own brand, we see ourselves very much in partnerships with people with whom we can provide revenue to them whilst they can actually provide us with people who can become members. And we see this model to be expanded over the whole of Europe and possibly even wider. But at the moment, we’re still getting the UK fully populated.