Domain names are notoriously hard to pin down.
Regulations are thin, ownership isn’t always public, and if you’re lucky enough to find the person behind your domain name, the price tag might just make you wish you hadn’t. (Five and six figure quotes aren’t unusual.)
Luckily there are people like domain specialist Bill Sweetman. Bill’s company Name Ninja has helped hundreds of entrepreneurs navigate the process of buying a domain. Here’s what he told us about getting the name you want.
#1 Think about buying a domain name in terms of buying a house.
They’re both highly mediated processes. You talk to your broker, and they find the owner, who often has their own broker, and do the work of negotiating for you. This is good. The less the seller knows about you, the less likely they are to form assumptions (often wrong) about the size of your company and what you can pay.
Protect your identity, hire a broker.
#2 Make sure your broker is working for you.
Much like in buying your first home, be warned: The selling broker is not your broker and does not have your interests at heart. People often realize too late that the broker they’ve been talking with is working for the other side.
Also: If you’re talking to an agent from an online marketplace, be cautious. The broker you’re connected with might very well be aligned with the seller. If you choose to move forward this way, do some research. Large clearinghouses like GoDaddy, for instance, might be ok. They often have teams that work specifically on mediating domain name transactions and *generally* maintain a neutral position.
It just takes you one human slip of the tongue to say something a little hot to the owner and the whole deal falls apart.”Bill Sweetman, Name Ninja
#3 Let your broker do the talking.
It’s easy for things to get out of hand. Money is at stake. Maybe your whole business. And on the other hand, domain names can sometimes be quite sentimental to the owner.
In Bill’s words: “It just takes you one human slip of the tongue to say something a little hot to the owner and the whole deal falls apart.”
#4 Be realistic about what your money will get you.
In Bill’s words: “If you’re paying $69 for broker services, what do you expect?”
There’s no harm in trying the cheaper option, but be fair about what you expect. If you decide to hire a broker, you’ll likely be charged somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of the cost of the domain name, according to Bill. His own company runs on a hybrid model where clients pay a small retainer upfront and, to incentivize negotiation, a “success fee” based on money saved. He also adjusts fees based on the size of the company.
Something else to know: You don’t necessarily have to pay for your domain name all at once. Domain buyer brokers can help you negotiate a payment plan on your domain name to lessen the sticker shock.
I try to encourage clients, whether you’re doing it in-house or working with a naming agency, get it down to five or 10 of your short-listed names.”Bill Sweetman, Name Ninja
#5 One-word domains are hard to find — and expensive to buy.
Everybody wants .coms. And they want the short ones.
The harsh truth, according to Bill: “Those assets are very rare and increasing in value. You can’t invent a new Park Avenue, you can’t make it out of thin air. I try to encourage clients, whether you’re doing it in-house or working with a naming agency, get it down to five or 10 of your short-listed names. Then go talk to your friendly neighborhood domain buyer broker. Have them give you perspective on the chances of each of those being acquired and what might be the ballpark budget.”
#6 For reference, here’s what a two-letter domain goes for.
Bill’s most expensive domain name acquisition came in at a whopping $1.7M. It was just two letters long. According to Bill, that’s kind of the way with double letter domains these days.
Where’d they all go? According to Bill, China. Entrepreneurs in China, looking for places to invest, have poured a lot of money into short .com domain names. So consider adding a letter, your wallet will thank you.
But what about social media handles? Global trends? Domains other than .com? Subscribe to The Startup Stack wherever you listen to podcasts and hear Bill’s episode when it goes live!