Mike: Can you give a little background on your business?
Bob: We’ve been in business since 1994 and have been online since September 1994. This is before Amazon, eBay, Yahoo existed. (For the curious, I’ve testified in court cases involving e-commerce patents, as Condom Country was one of the first, and is considered prior art in the field.)
Mike: Has has owning the domain condom.com impacted your business?
Bob: I think it’s both a central marketing point for our company, as it makes people immediately recognize that we’re legitimate.
Mike: Can you share the volume of traffic that your site receives?
I don’t feel comfortable disclosing precise numbers, but we’re consistently in the top five for condom related stores.
Mike: Do you have any other online marketing strategies that you follow?
Bob: We’ve tried a number of things over the years, but have found that there are no shortcuts.
Mike: Did you have another domain for your site before condom.com?
Bob: Not really. The corporate parent is The Access Group and so for a while the site was at www.ag.com/Condom/Country but that was in the very early days.
Mike: What type of growth have you seen in traffic to the site, sales, etc.
Bob: It’s been up and down, over the years. In the early days, there weren’t that many people on the Internet, but there weren’t that many places to go. When Condom Country was launched, we were one of perhaps three places online where you could buy something with a credit card and have it shipped to you. As a result, there wasn’t a lot of Internet traffic, but pretty much everyone online in 1994 checked us out, and we were very visible as a result. Over time, the number of people on the Internet has jumped massively, but there are many many many sites competing for the attention of surfers… and of course, there are other sites selling condoms, where we had been the only one on the Internet for probably four years after we launched.
Mike: Did you purchase the name from someone else that owned it? If so, what was the process you went through? Will you share what you paid for the name?
Bob: No, we registered it with the registrars directly, and I believe in 1994 it was $40 for two years.
Mike: Has the domain been worth the cost for you?
Bob: Kind of laughable question actually, yes, of course. Many millions of dollars of revenue over the 16 years can be directly attributed to the domain name.
Mike: Any advice for start ups, small business, or business of any size for that matter on choosing the right domain name?
Bob: Well, it’s important, but I suspect that people who use logic, and a bit of cleverness, can find something workable. Don’t just assume you need the most obvious term… that would be my opinion. Think about both the product or service that is sold, and also think about what problem(s) you are solving… there may not be any obvious product or service related names available, but maybe there’s a problem solving name that is easily acquired.
Mike: What do you think your competitors think of your domain? What do your customers think?
Bob: I know competitors see condom.com as our major asset, and they are right, the domain and our established customer base are the two things that drive our sales and create most of the value for our company.
Our customers know that they are dealing with a reputable legitimate company because of the domain, and given the intensely personal nature of our merchandise, and the desire to buy quality product, it makes sense to do business with a market leader. IMHO, no one wants “cheap condoms” — they may want something inexpensive, but not “cheap”. We have good prices, every day, and back that up with great customer service. Every condom we sell is purchased directly from the US manufacturer representative or from one of the two largest condom distributors in the country. Every condom we sell has been FDA approved for sale in the United States.
Mike: Do you think you would be willing to sell your domain at any point? Have you ever received any unsolicited offers?
Bob: As an entrepreneur I have always believed that you have to have a price in mind for everything… We do own condomcountry.com and a handful of other domains, so we could relaunch under a new domain if we had to. If someone came along with $2 million USD in cash, we’d gladly sell condom.com through an escrow process.
We get a couple of unsolicited offers every month, and most of them are just silly, frankly, people offering a few tens of thousands of dollars. Considering that our yearly sales are substantially north of a half million dollars, that kind of number is laughable.
(For the curious, given the difficulties of relaunching under a different URL, we’d sell the entire business, including inventory, related intellectual property and Condom Country itself, along with the domain, for $3 million.)
Mike: Any other information you’d like to share?
Bob: I do think we were in the right place at the right time for our niche. There are still niches out there that can be profitable, but with some of the larger companies acting as category killers (Amazon, NewEgg), it becomes more and more important to think about what you can sell beyond putting something in a box. Customer service, advice, editorial viewpoint — these are all very important additions. Anyone can put a widget in a box.
Thanks Bob and continued success with Condom.com.