iDate-logo.pngIt’s that time of year again. iDate, the only online dating industry conference in the US, hosts it’s annual Miami Beach event Wednesday 1/27 – Friday 1/29.   

I’ll be in Miami working on something super secret during iDate but I’m not attending the show. If you want to connect while I’m in town, let me know and we can set up a time to meet.

The iDate agenda is ready for review. I like to weigh in with my thoughts about the show and I’ve continued the practice this year. Hopefully they will be helpful as attendees plan your time in Miami and for the iDate staff as well. Here’s to hoping it warms up in time, last year was freezing!

Wednesday January 27: The day before the real show starts. Matchmakers get together to catch up since the Matchmaker conference in NJ a few months ago. Julie Ferman, Paul Falzone, Patrick Perrine, Jerome Chasques and other matchmakers will be holding court.

A prominent dating coach recently said to me, “I go to iDate for business, I go to Matchmaker conferences to spend time with my friends” really struck home with me. Matchmaking is so much more comfortable and human, whereas online dating is all about scalability and margins and churn. Both have serious perception issues that are holding each other back. Here’s to hoping the two sides of the aisle can make something happen together in 2010.

Elsewhere, companies trying to sell dating sites will stand around awkwardly like at a high school dance trying to impress buyers. When the first guy stands up and says his lesbian left-handed volleyball player niche dating website is worth $1,000,000, everyone snickers, then goes home and starts a competing site.

Google will be talking about Google webmaster tools and search (I hope more about tool than search), which was an impromptu topic at the closing session at iDate LA last summer which devolved quickly. I ended up shouting out loud to move on, to much applause. Glad to see this is a Day 1 item and not a closing session topic.

Speaking of the basics, Mark Brooks is running a session introducing people to the online dating business. Hopefully Mark will give a complete rundown of the tools that dating sites needs to use and how they all should tie into the Analytics dashboard. Anything less than a live demo is a mis-use of people’s time (not sure how much of this is a workshop vs. presentation format).

If you have $250,000, by all means start a dating site. If you can’t write that check, you’re probably going to fail or limp along in obscurity and should seriously consider that perhaps there is another area of interest on the Internet you would be better suited for. Being a dating site affiliate is a great way to learn the ropes.

Starting a well-funded dating site run by people that aren’t Internet marketing aces with a solid tech and management team is a guaranteed recipe for failure. I know because I get these calls all the time. It’s heartbreaking to hear that someone took out a second mortgage to start a dating site that has zero chances of succeeding, but that’s being an entrepreneur for you. Private/white label solutions actually aggravate the situation IMHO.

Feel free to prove me wrong, seriously. I love to get emails that say “You are an idiot I made a million dollars and your advice had nothing to do with it.” Markus at PlentyofFish is the only person I’ve heard that from and I smile every time he says that because POF is the result of a perfect storm of monumental proportions.

I help companies make more money all the time just by turning them on to Google webmaster tools (along with much more powerful systems) and can’t stress how important A/B testing, optimization and analytics are to dating sites. This should be a top priority in 2010. It’s crazy that dating sites are wasting hundreds of millions of dollars every year on their marketing campaigns. There is a lot of slack to pick up here and I can’t wait to see dating sites improve their marketing efficiency.

I also run an online dating industry startup bootcamp. I’ve put scores of companies through it and have been refining it for several years. Companies have made millions of dollars based on my bootcamps and I’m more than happy to share my program with you if we are a good fit.

Day two agenda highlights coming tomorrow.