Rent.cc – A $4,000 Drop in the Bucket

Rentec Direct provides affordable property management software solutions to property managers and landlords. Other popular solutions offered by Rentec Direct include online tenant rent payments, professional websites and domain registration, tenant credit check services, and electronic lease signing.

Mike:  Nathan, tell me a little bit about your background.

Nathan:  I began my career in the internet industry as a partner in VISP.NET, an Oregon internet based business, growing it from a client base of less than 10 to the largest nationwide wholesale internet provider in the country.  As my real-estate portfolio grew I required a management platform designed for private landlords to manage the day-to-day operations of renting properties.  At the time nothing existed that was good enough and nothing was cost focused towards private landlords.  From my software development roots, I developed and founded Rentec Direct in 2009 which today provides property management software and tenant screening services to over 12,000 landlords and property managers.  Rentec Direct has quickly grown to be the third largest software platform within their market.

 

Mike:  You recently purchased the domain name rent.cc.  What are your intentions for this domain?  What can we expect to see once it’s developed?

Nathan:  We have big plans for rent.cc, with our primary intention of using it to assist our existing client base with growth.  Currently the market has many pay-per-lead services for property managers to buy prospective tenant leads, and most of these services just aren’t cost effective for smaller managers.  We plan on building rent.cc into the nations largest free tenant to property manager connection service.  We grow when our clients grow, so we’ll begin offering this service free to our existing clients followed by all other property managers nationwide.

 

Mike:  Can you share what you paid for the name and the process you went through to acquire it?

Nathan:  Initially we purchased the domain from a broker called NameJet; however, the sale fell through because their records were inaccurate and they did not possess the domain at the time of our purchase.  The domain had purchased by a Chinese based company from it’s previous owner (who listed it on NameJet) and subsequently listed on SEDO with a substantial markup.  We ended up paying $4,000 USD for it.  We anticipate this investment to be a drop in the bucket compared to the growth benefit our clients will receive from it.

 

Mike:  What are your thoughts on the .cc tld or any other non-dot-com tld?  How do they compare to dot com

Nathan:  Well, .com is clearly the leader and most recognizable TLD on the internet; however, it’s near impossible to register a single or double word .com these days since they are all taken.  A .com of the same wording and length can cost 1000% more than a .co or .cc domain.  Some of the more recent TLD such as .cc and .co have been gaining popularity and value every year.  The shorter the domain the easier it is to remember, so when a startup is choosing a domain or an existing company is getting online these .cc, .co and other popular TLDs are a very attractive option.

That said, .com is still king of the hill when it comes to domains and familiarity.  We have rentecdirect.com and rentec.co and we choose to still rely upon rentecdirect.com even though it’s longer just because there’s no question about the end of it.

 

Mike:  You also have a couple of other domains pointing to your main site at rentecdirect.com.  Those other domains are  propertymanage.biz, themanager.biz.   How much traffic do you gain from doing this or what advantage does this have?

Nathan:  propertymanage.biz and themanager.biz are for our clients so they can have professional websites hosted on our system.  We use these domains as generic hosting for property managers to give them a free and quick website to promote their business prior to hiring a professional web design firm.  An example is http://demo.propertymanage.biz.  Other domains such as rentec.co and rentec.biz were purchased to save words on the phone when somebody asks for our email or website.  I can just say “go to rentec.co” to see our products which can, at times, be easier than asking somebody to go to rentecdirect.com.  Aside from that, they do not provide us any additional value other than maintaining our brand and keeping our options open in the future if we ever wanted to re-brand as just “Rentec”.

 

Mike:  Do you plan on any other domain purchases in the future to supplement your business or start a new business?

Nathan:  I’m always on the lookout for short or meaningful domains that can benefit the property management industry; however, rent.cc was a very recent purchase and we’re just getting our development resources ramped up to jump on that project so I don’t have any new companies or domains in mind at the moment.  Give me a few months. 🙂

A domain sales email that worked!

A few months ago, I posted about my experience selling domains containing the names of local towns resulting in quick sales.  Since that time I have received quite a few emails from readers asking for the email text I use in those types of sales.  The beauty of it is, the email that has worked for me has been short and simple.

 

“Hello,

I’m an Algonquin resident. I also own the domain AlgonquinChiropractor.com. Algonquin Chiropractor is a top search term used when people are searching for a chiropractor in Algonquin. I’m looking to sell the domain name. Not at an outrageous amount, but for just $200. Let me know if you are interested. I will be contacting other Chiropractors in the area as well.

Thank You

Mike Sullivan

That’s it!  Nothing magical.  Just real. Not desperate, not pushy, not intrusive.  I picked up the “I will be contacting other <type of business> in the area as well…” from a post Elliot wrote back in the day.  I couldn’t find the original post, but I thought the hook was so good that it stuck with me.

Do you have any sample emails that have worked well for you?

Strategy of a domain sale

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had an interesting conversation with Spencer Yao of smallbusiness-domain.com, a provider of domain name, web hosting, and e-commerce reviews, rankings, comparisons, & coupons.  Spencer was telling me about a recent domain sale his company was involved in.  He walked me through the life cycle from the initial purchase to the sale.  Spencer’s scenario provides some good food for thought when buying domain names with the intent to sell and I asked him to summarize his experience to share with you.

Back in mid 2009, we were approached by a seller looking to quickly dispose of some premium domain names in the beauty and apparel vertical. The acquisition was opportunistic and serendipitous and we did not have much time to decide because the seller wanted to move fast.  Although we had no direct experience in this beauty/apparel category (our group had substantial technical and monetization experience), we purchased one of the better domains because we thought it was truly “premium”, had decent type-in traffic, mapped to a common search term with clear commercial intent, and at an adequate discount to mitigate the risk.  Unfortunately, we cannot disclose the name, but that does not change the content of this article.

Below is a summary of our strategies to maximize value and eventual exit for the domain.

  Description Upside Risks Results
Strategy 1 Build an ecommerce site similar to Diapers.com or Hammocks.com Highest potential reward and risk. Requires most technical & financial resources. We had no direct industry experience in this vertical. Industry was too low margin and fragmented to support such a business.
Strategy 2 Turnkey site based on shopping engine listings. Hope premium domain name helps in SEO results. Much less work and maintenance than Scenario 1. Use API to auto generate sub categories and pages. Development costs to properly access & publish API. Little to no original content. Hard to monetize. Parked domain generated more revenue even though site had hundreds of pages.
Strategy 3 Park, hold, and sell the domain. Little to no work involved Not adding any value to the domain. Hope we paid a low enough price to hold and wait for a buyer Last resort. Chose this scenario after exploring #1 and building #2.

We determined Strategy 1 was not feasible after 4-6 weeks of post purchase research – this sub-category within Beauty/Apparel was too low margin to support an ecommerce business like Diapers.com or Hammocks.com   It took us 4-6 months to build out and vet Strategy 2 – we determined that parking the domain generated more revenue with lower costs than the turnkey site.

Unfortunately, we were left with Strategy 3, which meant parking the domain and hoping for a buyer.  To try and garner as many buyers as possible we looked at the following services:

  • Domain Listing Services like Sedo and BuyDomains. We found these services provided little to no value even though they charged a substantial commission for listing a domain in their database.
  • Domain Brokers.  We retained several brokers who actively marketed the domain and emailed buyers on our behalf.  Through several cycles, we received a handful of offers for about 50% to 80% of our target price which did not include the 10%-15% commission the broker earned if the sale was completed.  The offers were from domain speculators who wanted to sit on the domain and flip it.  This meant it would be hard for us to achieve “full value” through a broker.
  • “For Sale” sign on the parked page.  This is how we eventually sold the domain at our target price to a buyer who wanted to develop it into a website.  The upside was that we received full price without having to pay a commission, but the downside was we held the domain for over 3 years before selling it.

In summary, we purchased the domain (for mid to low 5 figures) and sold it for 30%-35% more than we paid, not including the work we put into Strategies 1 & 2.  Comparing this to an investment benchmark such as the S&P 500 (which gained 39% over the same 3 year period), meant we were better off taking those funds and investing them in the market.  However, since we were forced into Strategy 3, we were happy to make a slight “profit”. We could have waited for a buyer willing to pay more, but that could have taken years to achieve.

Lessons Learned

If you are going to invest substantial dollars into a domain name, we learned the following valuable lessons: 1) Have a concrete development plan to turn the domain into a viable website. Direct industry experience is essential. 2) For maximum price, be prepared to sell the domain yourself and wait years for the right buyer. If you need liquidity in less than 6 months, use a domain broker and be willing to take 35 cents to 70 cents on the dollar.3) The market for premium domains seems to have peaked around 2007-2008 and has yet to recover to those levels. You have to consider this when looking at pre 2008 domain sales for comparison.

Take the risk out of domaining and boost your sales!

I have to admit, when I started domaining, I disregarded the advice of the pros and the veterans.  They all suggested saving my money and instead of buying a pile of worthless hand regs and low dollar domains, to instead save an buy a good  premium domain.  In hindsight, that would have been the way to go.  I wasted a great deal of time and money.  Initially, I thought it was too risky to put that much money into a domain.  However, it wasn’t a total loss.  While using the low end domains, I learned about contacting end users, what other domainers were interested in, and how to gauge the value of a domain name.

Another thing I learned was that people were hesitant to pay a premium for domains.  Not just me.  Sure, we all want to get a great deal and, at a minimum, not to get screwed in the process.

Think about how much more willing you would be to buy if you knew there was no risk.  Think about how much easier it would be to sell if you could assure your buyer that there was zero risk in the transaction for them.  How do you achieve that?   Well, you as the seller take on the risk.

Here’s what I mean.  I recently found myself in a situation where I was contacting end users on a particular domain.  There was a single company that responded and was interested.  With all the effort I put in and only had a single bite, I wanted to maximize the opportunity and make the sale.  After several conversations it became clear that the main contact was afraid to pull the trigger.  I got the sense that he was feeling he was taking a risk with the name… that it might not do for his business what he hoped it would and the investment would be lost.

Once I realized that, I decided to take a bold step.  I decided to offer him a risk free transaction.  I put in writing that if he was not satisfied with the name 90 days from the date of the transaction, I would purchase the name back at the same price.  BAM!  Risk removed.

Yes, there are some drawbacks to this approach.  Primarily, you might end up with the domain again and be starting from scratch.  But here’s my logic:

  • First, I don’t generally buy domains (anymore) that I don’t personally have an interest in myself.  So if it ends up back in my portfolio, I am comfortable with that.
  • Second, when I contact end users, I am setting the value on the domain that I am willing to sell at.  That said, this process helps ensure a fair prices, since I may end up re-purchasing the name.
  • Third, and most importantly, I am confident that they will find value in the name.

I’m not planning on using this approach in all situations.  For example:

  • I would not do this with a domain I did not find value in… which I shouldn’t be selling in the first place.
  • I would not knowingly offer this to a fellow domain investor who would likely look to resell at a profit and return to me if he was unsuccessful.

This approach has worked for me and I will continue to implement it where it makes sense.  There’s no reason it can’t work for you as well.

Lori Anne Wardi – Director at .CO Internet S.A.S.

do co domainsLori Anne Wardi is a Director at .CO Internet S.A.S.  Working closely with both agency partners and all the members of .CO team, Lori Anne is primarily responsible for overseeing the registry’s marketing strategy, business development, and global PR and communications efforts.

According to Lori Anne,  every achievement that .CO has enjoyed to date, without exception, has been the result of the combined efforts of an incredibly smart, creative and cohesive team.  While marketing may not be in everyone’s job title, Lori Anne believes it is a role that the entire .CO  team fully embraces — from the CEO onward — and recognizes to be an integral part of everyone’s job.

Mike: What is the goal and purpose of cointernet.co?

Lori: .COinternet.CO is the corporate website for .CO Internet, S.A.S., the registry responsible for managing, promoting and administering the .CO domain. From COinternet.CO, we have a platform to speak to the wide range of individuals, organizations and businesses who are interested in learning about .CO domain names — from domain registrars and resellers; to brand owners, domain investors, registrants and end-users; to members of the press and industry analysts.

The site is our corporate “home base” and where we keep the world updated about our plans, policies, auctions, events and upcoming opportunities. Our blog is, in particular, becoming an increasingly important element of COinternet.CO/blog – as it let’s us quickly and easily stay in touch with the .CO community.

The other website I want to point out is www.Opportunity.CO – this is where we showcase all the great things people are creating on .CO domain names.  I encourage anyone who has developed a site they are proud of on a .CO domain to submit it to our directory on Opportunity.CO for all to see!

Mike: Tell us about the goal and purpose of the .CO domain itself?

Lori:  These days no matter who you are, what you do or where you live, branding your online presence has never been more important.  At the most basic level, our aim is to offer people around the world the opportunity to brand their online presence with a truly global, recognizable, and credible domain name — the perfect web address they may have always wanted, but until now, thought they could never have.

Beyond branding, our goal is to build the premier global platform for opportunity online.  We want to inspire millions of people to stop wishing, hoping and thinking about those big dreams, innovative ideas, noble aspirations and lifelong goals they’ve been carrying around in their hearts forever — and to start turning them into realities.  With a .CO domain as a platform – the opportunities people can create for their lives and their livelihoods are truly endless.  Helping to bring these opportunities to life is what we are all about.

dot co

Mike: Tell me how .CO gained so much support?

Lori: Since our launch, we have experienced an extraordinary amount of support. So far, over 600,000 domain names have been registered and that number continues to grow — as does the number of fantastic developed web sites that are popping up every day.

I think there are a lot of reasons for the support, the most basic of which are hard work, good planning and careful industry engagement.

Before we tried to sell our first domain name, we did our best to ensure that our product would be world class – including a very strong policy framework.  From partnering with Neustar as our registry back end technology provider; to partnering with Deloitte to ensure that the rights of brand owners were protected throughout the process; to partnering with the world’s leading domain registrars and resellers to distribute .CO domains around the globe — we knew early on that we would need premium partners to create and maintain a premium product.

We also took a lot of care to understand our target market – and the broader competitive landscape. Domain names are not a commodity product – and in all of our marketing efforts we did our best to speak directly to the hearts and minds of the people who buy domain names – not to the industry itself.  I think this has definitely helped us to garner support.

We’re pretty inspired by what we are doing – and, hopefully, some of that comes through – and that gets translated in a way that makes marketers, bloggers, entrepreneurs, small business owners and others who buy domain names excited about doing the things that inspire them – on a .CO domain name!

Mike: What was Colombia’s motivation behind opening the TLD up globally, while other countries like to restrict registration to their own countries?

Lori:  While some countries do seek to restrict the registration of country code top-level domains, more and more countries are beginning to liberalize their domains.  Not only are more countries allowing foreign registration of domain names – but more are also actively promoting their domains internationally.

The decision of the Colombian government to liberalize its country code came as a result of nearly 10 years of debate and consideration.  Colombia had been approached countless times through the years by folks who recognized that .CO was a unique digital asset with broad global appeal – and requested that the domain be “opened up” globally.

The letters “CO” are meaningful, memorable and recognizable across countries, continents and languages.  Not only does “CO” literally mean “company” in many places, it is also the pre-fix that means “that which you do with another” (e.g., “COmmunicate,” “COllaborate,” “COnnect,” for example) – which helps to easily expand the viability of the .CO platform to a wide variety of purposes that go far beyond just business or commercial use.

After an intense public consultative process with the local Internet community, Colombia put in place the necessary legal and policy framework to ensure that .CO could be rolled out globally in a safe, secure and stable manner. Ultimately, this led to an intense government procurement process, where .CO Internet SAS was awarded the contract to manage, operate and promote the .CO domain.

Mike: It’s been said that .CO is treated similar to .COM, .NET and .ORG as far as search engines are concerned.  Is that true?  Could a good .CO out rank a .COM?

Google has said, specifically, that “we will rank .CO domains appropriately if the content  is globally targeted.”  Webmasters now have the functionality to be able to specify global use by using the geo-targeting options in the Webmaster Tools that Google provides.  The answer is that Google does treat .CO domains in the same way as it treats as other generic top level domain names – like .com, .net and .org.  There are many cases of .CO domains ranking well in the search engines – and they simply require that people build quality sites, focus on adding unique, relevant content, and gaining back links, etc.  All the same things that help any website rank will ensure that websites build on .CO domain names will rank as well.

Mike: What are some premium .CO names that have been developed?

There are tons of them and more coming every day.  You can see a variety on www.Opportunity.CO .  Some of my personal favorites are www.Angel.co , www.BZA.co, www.TMG.CO and www.Challenge.CO .  Also, in one of the most exciting developments for us, Overstock.com has rebranded all of its international sites to www.O.CO   — and have been using the domain in all of their national television advertisements.  I think that was our first “TV” debut!

Mike: How is .CO doing in the aftermarket?  Are the names reselling well?

Lori: The reports we are getting from the pros like Kathy Nielsen, VP of Sales at SEDO, is that .CO is doing very well on the secondary market, especially considering how soon after launch it is.  You can get a sense of just how well by visiting a site like www.NameBio.com and doing a targeted search for .CO domain sales.  There are a good deal of them – and the numbers are very strong.  This said, our focus right now is on the primary market and helping to inspire people to build their names.  As the market for developed sites becomes more active, the secondary market will only get stronger.

Mike: What statistics do you have on .CO in general?

Lori: To date, individuals, organizations and businesses in approximately 200 countries worldwide have registered over 600,000 .CO domains.  While these numbers shift from month to month to some degree, the following numbers are true as of today:

  • 90% of all .CO registrants have purchased only 1 or 2 .CO domain names each.
  • 99% of all .CO registrants have purchased 10 or less .CO domains each.
  • And only 1% of all registrants have purchased 11 or more .CO domain names.

These numbers are interesting and encouraging as they suggest that we were successful in our initial goal of attracting real end-users – and limiting those interested only in massive speculation.

Mike: What is the future of .CO for businesses?

Lori: We live by the statement that “Anything is possible in the .CO era.”
We see the .CO domain as a platform for opportunity online – and the possibilities for what you can create with a .CO domain name are endless.

In the next few years we hope and expect to see .CO grow to comprise a significant portion of the fabric of the Internet – loaded with small and growing businesses, thriving communities, aspiring entrepreneurs and people from around the world fulfilling their dreams and making their homes online on .CO domains.

Mike: Anything else you would like to add?

Lori:  Mike, thanks so much for the opportunity to speak to you and your readers.  Two last things: first) stay tuned for this year’s Super Bowl, when the hot new Go Daddy .CO Girl will be unveiled!  And second) i.CO will be up for auction in the coming  weeks. Talk about Hot!  Visit www.i.CO for all the details — and please, spread the word!