Laurie Davis received a phone call last spring from a friend saying he was moving in with his girlfriend, whom he had met with Davis’ help. Overjoyed and inspired, Davis, who was strapped for cash due to the collapse of the economy, saw this as the opportunity she had been looking for. That April she created eFlirt Expert, an online dating service that makes heavy use of social media.
“I’m really passionate about it,” she said. “Once I realized that I was doing this, I wanted to help more people. Love it, love my job.”
Davis refers to herself as an expert purely because of her experience both with online dating and professional experience in marketing. “I have been there and done that,” she said. Davis has been dating online for nine years, and over time has learned what works and what does not. Throughout this time, she has also seen how online dating has changed.
Davis offers her clients a variety of services in a menu format. “I wanted to make it fun to order up your online dating help, so we created a ‘menu,’” she said. On the “house wine” side, clients can find a la carte services like an “eMakeover,” which focuses on the online dating profile or smaller items like email response service or dating advice. On the “specialty cocktail” sides, clients are given a more complete experience by encompassing many different “house wines.”
The dating world has continued to evolve throughout the years. At one point, parents set up arranged marriages for their children, and now people meet random strangers online. Online dating is becoming a valuable source to people looking for romance. With time, this mode of finding love has become more socially acceptable. There are a variety of different dating sites out there, each with their own niche.
According to OnlineSchools.org, 52.4 percent of online dating users are male and 47.6 percent are female. The average age of someone on these dating sites in the United States is 48 years old. The online dating industry is a larger industry than the porn industry and worth $1.049 billion per year. The average user spends $239 a year on online dating sites. In February 2009, PC World looked at the matching algorithms and the business models behind some of the more popular dating sites. They found that with the paid dating sites the average user stayed for less than three months.
When Davis began eFlirt Expert, all she had was a Go Daddy template website, a Facebook Fan page, a Twitter handle and lots of guerrilla marketing. She created fliers and handed them out all around both Boston and New York. Davis made postcards to give out on the subway and networked.
Social media was a huge vehicle in her success, especially Twitter. “What I learned is people would follow me over time and watch me for awhile,” she said. “They would see what I had to say, what advice I had to give, see me evolve and then start using my services.” Two months in, she had interviews with the Boston Globe and the Washington Post, which is what all founders hope for. “Press is a fueling element, client-wise,” Davis said. “It has helped legitimize what I do and my business.”
One year later, Davis still says social media are key to finding new clients. An even larger majority of her clients come from Twitter now than they did a year ago. Word of mouth is also starting to spread. “Old clients are referring people, and people are looking at the press I’ve received and saying ‘Ok, I want you to help me or my friend,’” Davis said. She has a blog where she gives advice and discusses issues clients are having. She uses this blog in two ways: first, to respond to comments from Facebook or Twitter and, second, to direct her clients to resources.
When Davis began this business, she knew she had to do something to set herself apart from the other dating experts out there. She decided to tweet a daily dating tip, and also posts it on Facebook.
Located in both Boston and New York, she has a large number of clients she meets with in person on a regular basis. In other cities she also has clients, but helps them via phone and e-mail. She hopes to have eFlirters all around the country one day.
Davis is not the only eFlirter in the company. In December, Davis hired Jessica Hartman, a former eFlirt Expert intern. Davis refers to Hartman as her “Jill of all Trades,” because she helps Davis with everything from setting up meetings, helping her with her wardrobe, writing profiles, and meeting with clients. “This job isn’t boring, that’s for sure,” Hartman said. She met her boyfriend on Match.com, and has been giving dating advice to her friends since she was young. “We have experience doing this, we don’t claim to be doctors or therapists, just friends who can help you,” Hartman said. She believes the sky is the limit with eFlirt Expert, and has high expectations for the future.
Late last year Davis met Thomas Edwards, a dating and lifestyle strategist who works with both men and women on enhancing their dating and social lives. Davis and Edwards started an online dating show called “Love Nation,” which brings attention to emerging trends in the dating world. They discuss these trends, ranging from interracial marriage, college dropouts, and office romances. They then give advice to the people involved in the trends.
Edwards sees the two businesses growing together in the future, because they work so well together. “Her system at how she helps people get together is flawless,” he said. “I’m personally proud of what she’s done.”
Davis said she has had more than 150 clients since she began a year ago. Each comes in with different goals. Some want to get married and others just want to have fun and meet a lot of people. “I help ease your worries, but that doesn’t mean you’re not going to get discouraged,” she said. “Discouragement is a natural part of online dating and dating in general, and I think that’s important for people to know. Don’t get discouraged by discouragement, got to keep going.”
An anonymous blogger who blogs about dating in New York City and goes by the name SingleCityGuy is no longer single thanks to Davis. “Not only would I recommend others to use Laurie, but I highly endorse Laurie/eFlirt Expert’s services,” he said. “There isn’t much to lose while working with her.”
“Without the economic downturn, I’m not sure I would have been inspired by this hidden talent of mine,” Davis said. “I certainly didn’t grow up thinking I’d be a dating coach.”