PR WEB - Aug 29 - Great Expectations was the first to introduce video-dating to the matchmaking process, offer events, activities and travel to their clients, integrate offline dating online, conduct background checks on clients, and they are now offering an all-inclusive concierge service. The concierge will allow clients to request everything for their dating needs, including dinner reservations, event tickets, limos and flowers.
PR WEB - Jun 22 - Great Expectations Phoenix is opening up their doors to all potential members, and hosting their first Open House. Singles can check out what Great Expectations has to offer with making any committment. The open house will be held July 7th from 9am to 4pm at the Great Expectations Phoenix center.
PR WEB - Apr 18 - The year was 1976, America was celebrating the bicentennial, gas was only 59c, the first Apple computer was created and the modern day matchmaker was born. On February 14, 1976, Great Expectations opened their doors for the first time. The idea for video dating came about when founder, Jeffery Ullman, was at a dinner party and ran into an old college friend. She was telling him some of her recent blind-date horror stories. Great Expectations started out as a small family business and has now grown into a multimarket dating service. In the late 90s they created GE Online, a private website accessible only to GE members to view profiles, watch video interviews, and make their selections.
STAR TRIBUNE - Oct 29 - A Burnsville woman wants Great Expectations to return the $2,705 she forked over to find Mr. Right. They say she's "being dishonest." In Washington, the state attorney general took action after reviewing nearly 60 complaints about the service. Among the company's alleged misrepresentations: significantly overstating the number of eligible members. In 2010, Great Expectations agreed to a settlement that provided partial refunds to some customers and restricted the way the company markets its services in Washington.
SEATTLE PI - June 18 - They came in search of love, and Great Expectations told them it had thousands of potential mates just waiting to meet them. So the lonelyhearts shelled out thousands of dollars. Then they waited for love that never came. That's the story reported by KIRO, which helped prompt an investigation by the state Attorney General's office. That led to a complaint filed Tuesday that the Bellevue-based dating service had been overpromising its goods with high-pressure sales pitches. The local affiliate of Great Expectations - a company called DMZ Group, also signed a settlement in which it agreed to restrict its marketing practices and give partial refunds to unsatisfied customers. FULL ARTICLE @ SEATTLE PI
BUSINESS WIRE - Dec 1 - With 50% of U.S. marriages ending in divorce, and 75% of America’s 168M spouses identifying themselves as ‘unhappy’ after only ten years of marriage, a new website HappierCouples.com seeks to stem the rising tide of unhappy marriages. Created by matchmaker Jeff Ullman – founder of Great Expectations, HappierCouples.com provides couples with access to the long-overdue tools and services necessary to breathe new life back into their partnership. FULL ARTICLE @ SYS CON
June 2009 OPW News Summary from Mark Brooks.
This is actually the news for June. We're playing catch up. July and August are in process. Here's the news we covered for June.
- eHarmony survey finds 51% of single parents believe that they and their children are better off emotionally when the parent is in a committed relationship
- Match and eHarmony success rates.
- Spark Networks revenue down
- DatingTrail.co.uk launches
- Virtual goods startups raise $69 million funding in Q1
- Great Expectations complaints
- PlentyOfFish.com and rapper Flo Rida team up
- McGinn vs Match.com lawsuit
- ChristianCafe.com and Single Christian Network combines
- IAC completes transaction with Meetic
- Meetic signs partnership with MSN for distribution in 12 European countries
-meetMoi location based mobile dating partners with ClearSky
- Virtual Greats and Viximo partner
- Attivio’s Active Intelligence Engine selected to power Deutsche Telekom’s FriendScout24
OPW -- July 7 -- The Wisconsin Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Great Expectations (GE) alleging that the Milwaukee-area branch of the national dating service engaged in “deceptive and illegal sales practices,” according to the Chicago Tribune. The Wisconsin DoJ suit specifically accuses the GE office of distorting its fees, embellishing its number of member marriages and defying the state’s no-call policy, according to the Tribune.
The Right One and Together Dating are competitors to GE and CEO Paul Falzone and owner Brad Megahan wrote in a June 25 memo “The Right One/Together Dating has always and will always conduct its business in an ethical manner.” Falzone and Megahan referenced the GE lawsuit: “Also mentioned in the investigation were high pressure sales tactics, such as holding onto a perspective member’s driver’s license and credit cards to prolong interview. We will not tolerate these practices at The Right One and Together Dating.” The pair went on to instruct all employees to review The Right One/Together Dating training curriculum, which details the organization’s ethics policies and proper business guidelines. They also reminded staff never to quote membership statistics, due to the constantly changing makeup of the company’s clientele.
ASSOCIATED PRESS -- June 23 -- The Milwaukee-area office of Great Expectations has violated Wisconsin's no-call law, exaggerated the number of participants' marriages and misrepresented its prices, according to a lawsuit filed by the state Justice Department.
The full article was originally published at Chicago Tribune, but is no longer available.
MERCURY NEWS -- Apr 9 -- Engage.com (free, 200k members) is founded on the premise that online dating needs to be more like offline dating. Members are encouraged to seek out matchmakers who have volunteered to act as yentas…and invite friends to join and to vouch for them. The site's old-fashioned approach to courtship is one answer to the disappointment reported by online daters. A 2005 JupiterResearch survey found one in three online daters as "somewhat satisfied." Mark Brooks, editor of Onlinepersonalswatch.com and an Internet dating consultant, said Engage addresses one weakness of the most popular dating sites, the ability to involve one's friends in a budding romance. Brooks said the chance of hooking up with a friend of a friend is one of the keys to the success of social networking sites like MySpace or Facebook. People can avoid the awkwardness of actually declaring they are single, but don't want to be. "I love what they are doing, but it's going to take them awhile to be successful," Brooks said. Some of Engage's features are specifically designed to turn off would-be "players" who populate other sites. For example, Engage encourages its members to rate one another on "responsiveness," "politeness" and whether a person is "true" to his or her profile. Mike Murrow has been chronicling his online dating misadventures and said Engage's matchmaker process sounded good but required friends who were extremely committed. "My friends have their own lives; they are not going to scan through the profiles." FULL ARTICLE @ MERCURY NEWS
Mark Brooks: I think the industry is doing a better job of setting expectations these days. Online dating takes time. The matchmaking industry is doing well because many people don't want to spend time. They just want dates, and they'll pay for them. There's an opportunity in there somewhere. ;) The clever people at Match are working to meld the yenta and online dating worlds together, but I think it will be a little tougher than they think. I think Match will need to offer a money back guarantee to safeguard their brand, and encourage word-of-mouth, and compete with $3000+ services like Great Expectations, Together Dating/The Right One, and Table For Six.
OPW INTERVIEW -- Feb 9, 2007 -- The online dating industry is working towards offering higher end matchmaking services. Match.com is developing a VIP service. The company that owns Vintacom is buying The Right One/Together Dating. LoveAccess has a matchmaking service. Here’s an interview with Julie Ferman of CupidsCoach.com. She is a crème de la crème, gorgeous, charismatic, A-list, Los Angeles matchmaker. Julie brings the personal touch to the personals business. – Mark Brooks
What’s your background?
I married the guy who sold me my dating service membership at Great Expectations back in 1990. That was 16 years ago and his name was and is Gil Ferman. So first he took my $1,450, maxed out both of my credit cards and then 2 weeks later I asked him out on a date and 5 weeks later we got engaged and 5 months later we were married, and shortly thereafter, 8 months pregnant with our first child, and I started working for my husband.
Gil and I owned and operated two of the Great Expectation video dating services, the ones in St. Louis and Kansas City and I always loved this business. I think I fell in love with the business at the same time that I fell in love with Gil Ferman. I ended up being Jeffery Ullman’s National Director of Events and Promotions for Great Expectations and later I was the Executive Director of the Great Expectations Licensee Association.
We sold our two Great Expectation centers when we moved to California and then I launched Cupid’s Coach in 2000. It really wasn’t intended initially to be a matchmaking company. I was going to be producing a lot of events and writing a lot of books and doing a lot of media and speaking appearances. But everybody was asking me, “Julie who do you know? Who do you know? Who can you introduce me to?” So my web developer and I began privately inventorying all of my favorite single friends, members, clients, students and I was delighted to discover how inexpensive it was to do so. I also consulted on the Greater Relations project with Jeffery Ullman right before I started Cupid’s Coach. That project was really the first hybrid. People would go into a bricks and mortar office, buy a membership and then they would access the membership online privately.
Greater Relations didn’t make it for the same reason a lot of these companies don’t make it. They typically start out big without thoroughly testing the sales, service, and technology concepts first. So when Greater Relations failed, I launched Cupid’s Coach and it just kept growing organically into what is now the largest and fastest growing personal introduction service probably in the country.
How does your service help singles meet their mates? How do you assess people?
Anybody can register with me, it’s free, it’s private to be registered and nobody can be browsed. I really like working with people who are highly desirable and highly selective. People I can naturally relate to. I know what it feels like to be that great girl who can’t seem to find the right guy. So whereas there are other services which are really good for people who are struggling with dating, they might not have a competitive edge visually, or they might be somewhat challenged from a social skills perspective, the system I’ve developed works particularly well for people who feel they really have a lot to offer, who want to be really selective, and who are uncomfortable posting themselves online for all to see.
How much do you charge?
I inventory my members privately and the people for whom I’m working actively, my clients, pay me fees ranging from $495, for a consultation and one active search, and then $500 increments all the way up to about $6,800. That’s about as much as I like to charge. I only want to work with somebody for 3 to 6 months on an active search. I present the candidates to my clients; I typically refer my top 5 candidates. We use detailed resumes with current, flattering face and body photos. I spent $27,000 last year on photography. Photos matter a lot. I like to have as few surprises on the first date as possible.
I present the candidates to my clients privately, so they have a log in and they get to see which candidates I personally selected for them to study. A simple search works like Great Expectations where Jack picks Jill, Jill studies Jack, they both decide if they’re interested and attracted. When they are both interested and attracted then the system instantly reveals last name, email address and phone number.
At a higher service level, which costs twice at much, the client lets me know who he or she is interested in. I then pick up the phone and call and say, “Okay Jack, stop everything and run, don’t walk to your computer; there is somebody I want to talk to you about.” It doesn’t guarantee that the secondary person will be interested and attracted but we run two to three times the match rate on that program.
Where do you find people?
Everywhere. I have a big lasso and I use it all the time. This week, I’ll have over 100 new people filter into my system because I’m producing a big Valentine party. I’m teaching a class for the Learning Annex at night and 1 in 10 people from my classes become clients. Rather than roping everybody in for a big appointment and trying to get a credit card out of their wallet, I would rather book them for a small program first; a $495 in person consultation with me and then I’ll up sell the appropriate people.
I turn away a lot of people after $495, they’re just not the right clients for me and my service might not be the best place for them to invest significant dollars. At a higher level I provide concierge service. I run a search for them, and give them five candidates. They tell me who they’re interested in and when they’re available and don’t hear from me again until I call and say, “That lady Jackie that you want to meet, fabulous, she wants to meet you too and she’s free on Tuesday night. I booked your reservation at 7pm at Ivy, and, don’t be late. Wear that good looking blue tie that I like you in.”
Match.com and other dating services are introducing high end matchmaking services. What will be their major challenges?
They’re going to have tons of challenges. One major challenge is that Match.com does not specialize in telemarketing. If you’re going to sell $1,500 programs, you better do some pretty serious telemarketing. Great Expectations, Together Dating, It’s Just Lunch… these folks have been doing this type of sale for a really long time. They’re good at it but they’ve been getting thousands of dollars from people in person, in consultations in an office and it takes an awful lot of telemarketing to make that happen. So that’s the first challenge.
The second challenge is they’re only able to work with the people who the client can already find on their own. Today I met somebody at Starbucks and I think this guy is fabulous. Whether he’s paying me or not I want him in my community so I can introduce him to my clients. Anybody can do a search on Match.com and look for the best candidates within a 20 mile radius of where they live. Getting Jack to say yes to Jill and to do all the right things. I think that every one in the industry underestimates what it takes to not only get both people to say yes to each other, but so many matches fall apart at the email or phone call stage. I deal with that all the time. I have people on my staff who do nothing but make sure people are responding and make sure that Jack knows to pick up the phone and call Jill and not interview her, not grill her to death but invite the woman out on a date. And who should pay for the date and how do you behave and where to you meet, and all that coaching.
It’s Just Lunch clients complain to me all the time that they don’t get any feedback, they don’t get any coaching, and they don’t get any guidance. That’s part of what my clients are paying a lot of money for. If they have a 3 month program with me or a 6 month program with me, they’re typically getting unlimited email and phone coaching and that’s no small thing.
What are your goals for 2007?
Keep making money, baby! And also I will continue to evolve my software system. I am really excited about the industry and doing this thing we call converging. I think it’s really exciting that the chasm that existed in previous years between the online dating and offline dating companies is beginning to be bridged. And what excites me more than anything is that it’s being bridged by people who really care about the end user.
The people who are alive and doing well in this industry right now, the Paul Falzones of the world, the Paul Ziters of the world, the reason they’re still healthy and strong, running concepts which really you might have thought as being archaic a couple of years ago, the reason they’re still doing well, and in many cases better then ever, is because these guys actually care about their members having a good experience. They have discovered that it’s good business to let your heart be engaged in the process of selling and serving the customer.
My business is strong and healthy enough and growing that if somebody wanted to have me working side by side with them consulting on their project they would most likely not be able to afford me. I would have to charge an amount of money that would not make any sense for them to pay. Cupid’s Coach is really strong in Los Angeles and this model could be developed throughout the country. That notion, I would entertain, with the right partnership.
IT BUSINESS -- Jan 5 -- Vintacom is a subsidiary of Think Partnership Inc. and develops online dating software and social networking applications. Properties include DreamMates.com, PassionatePersonals.com, FlirtOverFifty.com, CocktailConnection.com and MeetForCoffee.com. It also has partnerships with more than 150 other properties, including American Greetings, Great Expectations, Intermix, dating.com and Canwest Interactive. With its technology refresh, the company has consolidated four systems down to one cluster. FULL ARTICLE @ IT BUSINESS
BUSINESS WEEK -- Oct 5 -- Skype's co-founders are preparing to unveil a video web site that combines professionally produced TV and video. theveniceproject.com will be available for download by the end of the year. The Venice Project is currently trying to convince media and TV companies to place their full-length, professionally produced content on the network, and advertisers that could place video ads on the network.
The full article was originally published at BusinessWeek, but is no longer available.
Mark Brooks: Great Expectations allows members to view profile videos and charges thousands of dollars for membership. It's time for internet dating services to revisit video (and 'authenticate' users). There will be a significant paradigm shift around the meaning of 'TV' over the next two years as projects like Venice Project come online. Netflix/Blockbuster will offer streaming video. The 'tube' will be extinct within five years.