As a domain name buyer broker, I make my living tracking down the owners of domain names and convincing them to sell their domain names. I love the challenge and excitement of what my team at Name Ninja and I do, but I would be lying if I said we don’t face some major obstacles along the way.
The three biggest roadblocks to us acquiring a domain name are:
- Figuring out who the actual domain name owner is (if the ownership info is private).
- Contacting the domain owner.
- Getting the domain owner to respond.
Figuring out who the actual domain name owner is a fun exercise and requires investigative legwork and creative thinking. It’s one of my favourite parts of the assignment, especially that ‘ah-ha’ moment when we uncover the identity of the domain owner. It might take a while, but sooner or later my team and I will be able to piece together enough clues to figure out who owns the domain. This is usually a temporary hurdle and rarely a permanent roadblock.
Contacting the domain owner is pretty straightforward and simply requires having current and valid contact information (phone, email, business address, etc.) for them, or at least current and valid contact information for someone (a colleague or friend) that knows the domain owner. Social media can certainly help in this regard, but – to my great surprise – I’ve found that old-school communication channels like faxes and registered letters can be the most effective way to make contact.
Getting the domain owner to respond can be the toughest challenge and biggest wildcard of the whole endeavour. If we don’t get any responses to our emails or phone calls, my first inclination is to re-confirm that we have the correct contact information. Assuming that we do indeed have the correct contact information, we then ask ourselves a series of questions:
- Is the domain owner on a business trip or vacation at the moment? Are they in the military serving their country? Or have they recently passed away? Any number of these scenarios can be verified by using classic investigative techniques.
- Is the domain owner unable to understand our messages for some reason such as a language barrier? Additional research and sending messages in different languages or through a local intermediary can help to overcome this problem.
- Is the domain owner not receiving our messages due to a technical issue? Here is where we start to consider and explore if their voicemail system is not working or if our emails are mistakenly ending up in their junk folder, etc. Sometimes, however, the roadblock is a human one: the recipient’s emails are being ‘managed’ by a secretary or executive assistant and they are not passing our messages along to their boss. You’d be amazed by what a gift of chocolate or wine will do in situations like these!
- Last but not least, is the radio silence due to the domain owner deliberately choosing to ignore us? This can certainly happen, despite our best efforts and intentions. Of course I do realize the domain owner is not obligated to respond to us and nobody’s saying they have to sell their domain name. It's a free world and the domain owner can do (or not do) whatever the heck they want. Since I am extremely patient and persistent, we keep trying to make contact for as long as our timeline allows. That can be days, weeks, or months, every project is different.
By now you may be wondering where the $800,000 fits into all of this. Here’s how, and this is as close to me going off on a rant as you’re ever likely to see…
There’s no doubt in my mind that on a handful of the domain acquisition projects I’ve worked on the domain owner has deliberately chosen not to reply to us. They probably think this is a genius negotiation ‘strategy’ on their part – playing ‘hard to get’ – but I find this behaviour borderline passive-aggressive. I genuinely believe that the professional and courteous thing for them to do is reply (even if it’s just to say “I will never sell this domain.”) but I am aware that not everyone out there is professional or courteous and I certainly don’t take their behaviour personally.
Interestingly, I’ve never seen a domainer (domain speculator) pull this stunt; it’s always been a member of the general public. Nine times out of ten, I'd rather be trying to buy a domain off a domainer than a member of the general public because at least with a domainer they are inclined to sell and usually have some realistic sense of what the domain name is worth.
So for anyone reading this that thinks that ignoring repeated purchase inquiries for a domain name is a brilliant negotiation tactic, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: it’s probably not. One thing it is for sure is costly to some domain owners who’ve tried this behaviour with me. By my rough count, just based on the acquisition projects my team and I have been involved in to date, domain owners who’ve deliberately ignored repeated purchase inquiries from us have lost out on over $800,000 of domain sale deals.
To be clear, I’m not talking about domain owners with valuable one-word .com’s that they hope (and should hope) to sell one day for enough money to be able to retire on, I’m talking about domain owners with B and C-grade domains (typically two-word .com’s that can be easily substituted by another two-word .com) that have a relatively low fair market value and would normally sell in the four- and five-figure range tops.
Domain owners can go ahead and ignore purchase inquiries all they want. They should know that the cost and risk of maintaining radio silence is that eventually those prospective buyers (or their brokers) will find and buy a different domain name owned by someone that does have the courtesy to respond to serious purchase inquiries.
Buyer beware? I think not. This is a case of seller beware!
Domain name expert Bill Sweetman is the President & Lead Ninja of Name Ninja, a boutique domain name consulting firm that helps companies acquire, manage, protect, and profit from their domain names. Bill has provided strategic domain name advice to major companies around the world for over 20 years.
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