White Label Dating provides the computer back office fundamentals that have enabled Cliff, 61, to run many websites and corner the mature market, most notably with the SeniorDatingAgency.co.uk and OlderDatingOnline.com.
While Windsor-based White Label runs the computer infrastructure, member database, payments and customer support, Cliff handles the design, content and marketing for what is now an international business with sites in seven countries including Ireland, Canada, South Africa and Australia.
It is a relationship that has made millions since he became White Label’s first partner a decade ago, with year-on-year growth of around 50 per cent and a £2 million turnover for 2014.
Cliff explains: “I started with InstantFriends.co.uk and made about £1,000 in the first year.
“Initially scalability was a challenge but the White Label platform allowed me to do that quickly across multiple territories.
“Entering new markets outside the UK has allowed me to grow the portfolio thanks to the flexibility and support of White Label.
The revenue model is split fairly so they only make money when I do.”
A technophobe who only sent his first email in 2004, he got into online dating through his own search for romance.
By then he had run various businesses and worked in radio. The business opportunity struck him immediately.
“There was a lack of quality dating websites for people like me in their 40s and older who are wanting to meet like-minded singles.
This inspired me to fill the niche and create a dating website I wanted to use.”
Changing social and cultural attitudes have been on his side ever since.
Stereotypes have been smashed. Dating agencies have lost their stigma and a growing “forever young” though ageing population has more singles comfortable about using internet services.
“I keep ahead of the curve by constantly analysing sites and anticipating new trends.
As well as blogs and podcasts, I promote through my internet radio site LoveSongs247.com,” says Cliff.
Analyst Mintel’s latest Online Dating report in January finds that over-55s are still the least likely group to indulge in flirty, virtual interaction and date this way.
However, 77 per cent of UK consumers who have used a dating website or app now say they would be willing to meet up with someone they found online.
For the 45 to 54 age group this rises to 84 per cent and for over-55s it is 71 per cent.
Mintel research analyst Rebecca McGrath says: “Sites aiming to appeal to an older demographic should perhaps concentrate on emphasising the fun and sociable nature of online dating rather than the possibility of finding love.
“One way to appeal may rest in presenting more opportunities for immediate meet-ups. This brings about the face-to-face interaction that older people are more likely to be comfortable with.”
This chimes with Cliff’s approach, which is to keep his sites simple to use and full of practicaltips, while offering flexible short-term agreements and an emphasis on meeting up.
“It is better than meeting for the first time in a bar or club,” says one customer, while another couple, both widowed after 50 years of marriage, talk about the “loads of laughs” they have enjoyed since getting together.
Although his business is UK-based, Cliff mostly works from his holiday home, where the Spanish sun sorts out any arthritic twinges he has.
He is the only employee but indirectly generates work for many others through web design and White Label.
Investment, from profits, is around 50 per cent of turnover with Google a major recipient.
“The evolving nature of the online marketing is always demanding but Google is the biggest traffic driver,” Cliff explains.
And the mature market has much more to offer. “Customers are becoming more precise about what they want,” he says. “The demand for details opens up the opportunity for more niche sites for us both at home and internationally.”