MIXERGY - Sep 25 - Ross Williams is the founder and CEO of Global Personals, the company behind WhiteLabelDating.com.
Q: How many active members do you have now?
A: ~4M that are spread to the UK, Ireland, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and growing to the U. S. at the moment.
Q: Could you give me an example of one company that launched using your service?
A: We work with media publishers and entrepreneurs. So, on the media side we do the dating site for “FHM Magazine,” “Maxim,” “Men’s Health,” “Cosmopolitan,” and others. On the entrepreneurs side is PlentyMoreFish.com for example.
Q: Do you feel comfortable revealing your revenues?
A: We’re doing about 20M pounds revenue/year.
Q: What percentage do you own?
Q: One of the reasons that companies work with you is because it’s hard to get the first few users. You did that, though. How were you able to do it in the early days?
A: We were quite lucky with our timing.
Q: Where did you get the idea to do this?
A: You see it in other industries. So, sometimes I will describe it very much as making the Tesco corn flakes or the Wal-Mart flakes. It’s just taking an existing model and applying it to a different industry.
Q: What was your connection to the dating industry at all?
A: I think being single and using other dating sites helps.
Q: What were you doing just before this?
A: I set up my first business Rawnet, which is a digital media agency, in 1997. Then in 2002 I took on my first employee. In 2003 I set up Global Personals. This is a digital agency. They do web design. So, we put them to use to build WhiteLabelDating.
Q: What’s your split with the dating site that uses you guys?
A: We typically work on a 50-50 basis.
Q: What did you start off offering the very first company that was partnering up with you, back before you had any leverage?
A: We worked on a 50-50 basis then. We just had a simple membership fee. At the time it was a fixed fee of 15 pounds a month. Now we can charge someone 5 to 40 pounds a month. It’s about perceived value, and a lot of that comes through the brands. So, some brands will charge higher than others. Over time, about two-three years ago, we added credits.
Q: How many active members did you have before you started soliciting WhiteLabel clients?
A: ~250K members.
Q: Were you profitable by then?
A: The consumer paid from day one. So, although we had to go to the critical mass, there was the point where people started paying.
Q: What did you do specifically that helped you increase conversions, for example?
A: We experimented with certain things like astrology. We felt the women would enjoy it. So, if we got the women on board, we thought the guys would follow. We started sending people an email when someone looked at their profile which now is fairly commonplace, but it wasn’t then. We started sending them an email if someone winked at them, added them as a favorite, any excuse to send them an email because that gets them onto our site. And it’s only when they’re on the site that we can monetize it.
Q: Mark Brooks told a story in his interview about how fraud actually helps a little in this industry and how it helped you guys. It reduced your revenue for a while when you filed fraud and how it came back up.
A: We made the decision in November or December to eliminate scammers from our database. Scammers could send hundreds of messages as an attractive girl. You then have hundreds of guys to read their message and correspond with them. The dating industry makes money from it in the short term. In the long-term, however, if you get messages from scammers you’re not going to come back. You probably might not complain. You’ll just let your membership lapse and never return. That’s when we decided to eliminate scammers.
Q: And when you did, you lost a little bit of revenue.
A: Lost a lot, so what? All of our pay sites have recovered, and now people are converting at a high rate because they know the profiles are genuine and they’re staying for longer because on that they’re corresponding with real people. Revenue to me is the last thing I look at at the end of the day. When I wake up in the morning, my Key Performance Indicator, my business has net change. So, how many more or less paying customers do we have today than we had yesterday? As long as it’s positive and we get more paying customers, then everything else will fall in.
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