Tag - domain interview

Condom.com

You can never be too safe.  Bob Ramstad, CEO and Founder of Condom Country, shared with me about about his domain, Condom.com and a bit about his success.

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.

Can you give a little background on your business?  How long you’ve been in business, number of employees, how long you’ve had your site online, etc.

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.)

Has has owning the domain condom.com impacted your business?

I think it’s both a central marketing point for our company, as it makes people immediately recognize that we’re legitimate.

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.

Do you have any other online marketing strategies that you follow (google ads, seo, banners on other sites, etc.?)

We’ve tried a number of things over the years, but have found that there are no shortcuts.

Did you have another domain for your site before  condom.com?

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.

What type of growth have you seen in traffic to the site, sales, etc.

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.

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?

No, we registered it with the registrars directly, and I believe in 1994 it was $40 for two years.

Has the domain been worth the cost for you?

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.

Has the hyphen in t-shirts.com been an issue for you or does it fit the domain name well?

Cut and paste error, I think…  We don’t like hyphens in domain names.  In this particular case, I can see using it, as the words are commonly hyphenated.

Any advice for start ups, small business, or business of any size for that matter on choosing the right domain name?

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.

What do you think your competitors think of your domain?  What do your customers think?

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.

Do you think you would be willing to sell your domain at any point?  Have you ever received any unsolicited offers?

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.)

Any other information you’d like to share?

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.

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Monster’s View – Part II, Portable Identity

In the first part of this article with Rob Monster of Epik.com, we learned of Rob’s vision of the Internet.  We learned that Epik is taking an “Internet by Design” approach to creating a more user centric evolution.

In this part, Rob tells us how individual sites can compete against giants like Amazon and how our identity and reputation needs to be portable from site to site.  Be sure to read Part III next.

Mike:  Rob, in theory, it sounds great to move to a more focused level from a consumer standpoint.  But does this add a layer of complexity for the consumer dealing with multiple site?

Rob:  Yes, we have to make it easier for the user to navigate from site to site.  The walls have to come down around the siloed approach we have seen historically.  Early on in the development of Epik, we embraced the idea of portable identity and portable reputation as users go from site to site.  Single sign-on is a start but that is only one piece.

Another important piece follows the lines of you are an important contributor on site “A”.  Now you go to site “B”, “C”, or “D” but nobody knows you.   How can you benefit from all the effort you have put into developing a reputation on site “A” when you register on site “B”, “C”, “D”?  A real life example is if you have spent a decade building up your seller reputation on eBay, and now you want to create a different auction framework.   Good luck taking your reputation with you.  That creates a barrier to movement.  It makes it impossible to take your reputation and identity with you as you go from site to site.

We have been working on a way to do this.  Sites like Questions.com, Comments.com, Chat-Rooms.com are in development, built on the  assumptions that we will have horizontal components in the the architecture.

Mike:  How do you tie this back with your city planning metaphor?

Rob:   So just like the surface of a city, you have buildings.  But underneath the city you have sewer, water and electric that are architectured in a common way and are used in a common way by all the people who are building on the surface.  The same principle can apply to the Internet where we can have some common components that by designing them for shared use, everybody benefits.

Mike:   Obviously this architecture will exist within the Epik network, but what about sites beyond the network?

Rob:  Yes, this will be within the Epik network but we will open it beyond.  For example, the Comments.com framework will be opened up to sites that want to use that framework.  So now if you go to Comments.com/sully, there you would find all of your comments in one place.

Mike:  This sort of crosses into social networking, with people following comments of an individual, correct?

Rob:  If you think about how the web works today, if I want to “follow” you as people speak of Twitter, how would I follow you?  There is no convenient way to follow all of your thought provoking comments across the web.

One way to solve that is to take an aggregation approach.  Not just aggregating post fact, as some people are doing, aggregating by design.  The fact that there is single sign-on from site to site makes it possible for these comments to be automatically attributed to the person  who owns them.   I should be able to go to Comments.com/sully to find all of Sully’s comments but I should also be able to Identity.net/sully and be able to see everything that is known about Mike Sullivan that he wants me to know.

This is a very ambitious work in progress, but in the next evolution of the Internet, we have to make it more user centric and more intuitive.  The best way I know to do that is by starting with the who/what domain names and being able to map content to domain names in a way that is intuitive.

Mike:  How close do you think you are to making this model a reality?

Rob:  It’s a continual process.  We have already developed and launched these various components.  If you go to, for example, Dining.com and you review a restaurant or leave a comment about a restaurant, the comment is now visible on Comments.com in abstract form.  That’s useful for creating a back link,  but also for creating an essential way to discover comments made about certain topics.  The user handle you create on Dining.com or Comments.com is the same across any website in the network.

So architecturally,  it’s already happening.  We are now releasing our first major upgrade of our product portal platform, the first upgrade in four months, a major front end upgrade.  There, you will see evidence of portable identity and the portable commenting framework will show up in a whole class of site that didn’t initially have community.   The foundation has been laid in parallel to developing stronger foundation of shared developing components.   We are also building more of what I call “sky scrapers on Main street” as well as lesser  structures for situations that don’t require massive developments on the scale of say, Dining.com.


Mike:  What is your screening process when someone comes to you with a portfolio or domain they would like to get into the network?

Rob:  We really have an appreciation for names that have a high exact search volume.  It’s a great start having names with 1,000 plus exact searches, although we have had success developing with as little as 300.   Another good filtering is looking for CPC of greater than $1 as a further indication that there is enough margin in that category to justify developing.

At the end of the day, our objective is to make our clients money.  If we take a domain for development, there is a burden of responsibility on us to make an evaluative call on whether or not this is a domain we can make into a profitable domain.

There are two elements of profit.  One element is the operating income from the ongoing revenue of the site.  The second, which in many cases is even more valuable, is the increase in capital value, the resale value of the developed site vs. the value of an undeveloped domain.

When we look at a domain, we look at it as an uncut diamond.  What can we do with this?  We look at the business model or the value proposition that could be developed around this domain name in as cost effective manner as possible.

There will be a part III (the final chapter) to this article where Rob talks about the platform of the Epik sites, the revenue model and the promotion of the sites.

Chat-Rooms.com
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Monster’s View of the Internet

I had a great conversation with Rob Monster of Epik.com a couple of days ago.  I ended up with so many scribbled notes from that call that this is going to end up being a multi-post interview.  I’m just not sure yet if it will be two parts or three.  I hate to cut anything out of this one.  Rob has a strong background and a vision for the future.  Talking to him gave me a sense of his passion for his vision.

Mike:  Can you tell me a little bit about your background?  Who is Rob Monster?

Rob:  I’m Dutch-American, based in Seattle.  I grew up in the Netherlands and in Philadelphia.  I spent the summer time with my mother’s family.  They were all farmers.  I received my undergrad and MBA at Cornell.  Then I went to work for Proctor and Gamble  in Germany for 4 years and 5 years in Japan.  I moved to Seattle in 1999 to start my first company, Global Marketing Insite (GMI) and it grew about 100% per year for seven straight years.  I raised $48 million in private equity as part of that enterprise and remain a large shareholder and director.

In 2007 I spent a couple of years angel investing and started domaining as a hobbyist.  Then in March, 2009, I came up with the concept of Epik, based on creating something really game changing in the in the domaining/developing world.

Mike:  What is your overall vision for Epik?

Rob:  Two levels, one element is empowering domain developers and a new generation of Internet entrepreneurs to be able to build income producing websites that they can operate without having a deep technical background.  It should be possible for a generation of Internet entrepreneurs to be able to build online businesses but not have to master the subtleties of DNS and PHP.

The second aspect is a bit more audacious.  That is to play a significant role in capitalizing the rearchitecture  of the internet.  Not to talk so much publicly about web 3.0 or semantic web, but a big portion of what we are setting up to do in building this network of developed domains is also applying certain elements of the unified architecture to every new domain that we develop.

Mike:  How do you decide which submitted domains will be developed?

Rob:  I approve every name that goes onto the network.  The idea being, with each new site, where does this fit into the larger ecosystem.  Just as in designing a city, you might have some design assumptions on where should city hall be, the numbering system for streets, where should the airport be relative to down town…  When you get to a city that works, it’s pretty obvious it’s well designed.

Mike:  How does that vision compare to the Internet we know today?

Rob:  The Internet, in its origins, is very much like the wild west.  Things just happened organically, bit by bit.  The structure has kind of evolved, but not with an eye toward architecture or design planning.  As a result, to some extent, the internet has become overwhelming to a lot of people.

Mike:  How does Epik fit into this picture?

Rob:  Part of what we are doing with Epik is taking an architectural approach to finding what pieces go with what pieces and to create a more intuitive, more useful, and more user centric version of the Internet that can take things to the next level.

Mike:  I have seen some of the Epik portal sites.  What is the concept supporting these?

Rob:  What we are essentially talking about here is federating or distributing Amazon.  The person looking for a particular type of goods may not be the same person looking for housewares.  You can federate the web and have  different types of information on different domains as opposed to having everything residing in one massive repository.  It’s implausible that any one company is going to be best of breed at everything.

At some point, the Amazon model with cease to scale because there will be subject matter experts that can tell you detailed minutia about scuba diving gear and they don’t work for Amazon.  The degree to which we can bring together  content, community, and commerce into these federated sites, we are building a framework of a web that works better.

Mike:  How does this apply to other types of sites?

Rob:  The same principle applies to, for example, directory portals.  Just as we have yellow pages, it is possible to federate yellow pages so that there is a yellow pages for a metro area, a yellow pages for people looking for a certain type of service provider.  By creating these segmented sites that cater to a particular audience, we are creating the ability for content, community, and commerce to converge.

Look for part 2 of this interview in the coming days where Rob explains how multiple sites can compete with a giant like Amazon and how the silo version of sites we know today will need to change.

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Domain Magic

Like most kids, I was fascinated with magic tricks when I was growing up.  I would save my money and make weekly visits to our local trick shop.  I’d buy some little gadgets and practice for hours in preparation to amaze the other kids in my neighborhood.  I have to admit, I’m still a fan of magic tricks today.  Jackie Monticup of MagicTricks.com is living my dream and sharing the experience with us.

Mike:  Can you give a little background on your business?
MagicTricks.com has been in business online since 1997. Peter Monticup, a professional magician since the age of seven, opened the website as an extension of his brick-and-mortar magic shop in Charlottesville, Virginia called, appropriately, Magic Tricks. Peter has owned a string of magic shops since 1971, first in upstate New York and later in Virginia. The name “Magic Tricks” was chosen because Peter realized that previous “clever” names for his shops (including The House of Magic and The Old Curiosity Shop) didn’t always make it clear what he was selling. When he opened the Virginia shop in 1994, he decided to be direct and call the shop simply “Magic Tricks”. It worked well.

Mike:  Did you purchase the name from someone else that owned it?  What was the process you went through?  Will you share what you paid for the name MagicTricks.com?
When we decided to launch the website, we used the same philosophy, and opened “MagicTricks.com“. Fortunately, the previous owner of the name was not using it, and was letting it expire. Literally the second “MagicTricks.com” became available, we snatched it up, paying only the yearly registration fee.

Mike:  Has has owning the domain MagicTricks.com impacted your business?
Obviously, the name clearly spells out what we sell, and that helps. Also, having the keywords “magic tricks” in the domain name has helped with SEO.

Mike:  Do you have any other online marketing strategies that you follow?

Over the years, we have tried most of the popular marketing strategies. Google ads are beneficial if you have a specific strategy in mind (for example, if you know that customers are looking for a specific product, and you want to come up on the first page of the search for that exact product, you can buy your way onto the first results page). Since the beginning, though, we’ve concentrated on good basic website practices- building an easy-to-use site that offers frequently updated pages. Fresh content is very, very important.

Mike:  Did you have another domain for your site before MagicTricks.com?
Yes. When we first decided to go online, MagicTricks.com was not available, so we chose MagicSupplies.com. Even when we chose that first name, we felt that domains made from keywords were the way to go. We operated as MagicSupplies.com for a few months before obtaining the MagicTricks.com name.

Mike:  What type of growth have you seen in traffic to the site, sales, etc.
In 1997, our business was totally brick-and-mortar. By early 2000, we closed the storefront and operated totally online. It was that quick. In the last ten years, we’ve seen steady continued growth, due in part to the fact that people are becoming used to online shopping. It’s a part of our culture now.

Mike:  Has the domain been worth the cost for you?
Absolutely! All it has cost is the yearly fee.

Mike:  Any advice for start ups, small business, or business of any size for that matter on choosing the right domain name?
DO consider using keywords as your domain name, or adding keywords to your personal or business name. If your exact name is not available (if your name is Bill Smith, for example), try adding a descriptive word to your name, like BillSmithPhotographer.com

There are still great names available, so don’t be discouraged when your first few name ideas are already taken. Brainstorm with your friends, and you’ll be amazed at the flow of good ideas.

DO use keywords in your domain name. Blissful is a company that sells body lotions, so bodylotions.com or blissfulbodylotions.com or even calmingbodylotions.com would be good choices. DON’T use hyphens. When you verbally communicate your domain name, it’s awkward. “Good-times.com” becomes “Good dash times dot com” over the phone.

DO look carefully at how your domain name looks in print. Sometimes it spells something other than what you intended. If you sell 50’s classic music on CD, you might consider using the keywords “oldies” and “hits”. But probably not as oldieshits.com.

DON’T use words that are hard to spell. If you use the English spelling for “color” and spell it “colour”, then people will probably misspell your domain name “ColourVisions.com” and not find your site.

Similarly, DON’T use cute or alternative spellings, such as “Books4U”.

DO use only the .COM domain. Customers think “.com”. Make it easy for them to find you. It also looks the most professional.

Mike: What do your customers think of your domain?
Our customers find our name very easy to remember, and very clear in meaning. The name is an advertisement in itself.

Mike:  Do you think you would be willing to sell your domain at any point?  Have you ever received any unsolicited offers?
To sell the domain name, we’d have to sell the whole business. We do receive unsolicited offers every few months or so, but we are enjoying operating MagicTricks.com too much to sell it right now.

Mike:  Any other information you’d like to share?
Thanks, Mike, for asking us to share our experience with you!

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Contributing to MO.com

I have some news to share.  I’ve officially signed on as a writer with MO.com.  I’m very excited to be apart of this group of talented individuals.  MO.com was founded by Brian Null, and entrepreneur himself, and climbs into the minds of entrepreneurs to learn about them and their business strategies.  Here is a description from the site itself:

MO.com interviews entrepreneurs from all walks, across all industries, and from around the world. We focus on their habits and methods; what makes them tick. The primary focus of MO.com is entrepreneurship.

M.O. is the abbreviation for Modus Operandi or Method of Operating and we interview entrepreneurs to learn about their methods and to share their strategies and business philosophies with our readers.

We’re entrepreneurs ourselves and we get energized talking with others that have traveled down the same path of launching a new business or folks that are just about to embark on the adventure of starting a business.

This is right up my alley and I’m looking forward to contributing.  How will this impact my blog?  The plan is that it won’t impact it at all.  I’ll continue writing and posting interviews on my blog as well.  Now you’ll just have two places you can find me.  Once specific to domains, and the other specific to entrepreneurs.

I highly encourage you to visit the site and read through the interviews there.  There is much to be gained from doing so.

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Domains That Will Float Your Boat

I first reached out to Mike Gallucci to discuss Boating.com, but soon learned there was more than meets the eye.  Mike Gallucci is Director of Marketing at Triton Web Properties, owners of Boating.com and other quality names.  To avoid confusion with the same first names, I’ll be using last names in this interview.

Sullivan:  Can you tell me a little bit about Triton Web Properties?

Gallucci:  Triton Web Properties was created with the realization that our existing e-commerce strategy that operated SportsMemorabilia.com had huge potential to be a blueprint for new ventures.  Triton as a parent company is only a few months old but the basic principles and platform all stem from SportsMemorabilia.com which we acquired and redesigned in 2006.  The initial team that supported the first functional year of Triton’s first property included 4 guys; and currently, throughout all properties, it has turned into a 50 person operation.

The realization came when our numbers from Sportsmemorabilia.com were just rocking.  We saw huge increases in our year over year and now we are hovering around a 70% yoy increase for 2010 with impressive EBIT numbers that continue to rise as well.  The increase is contributed to a unique blend of team members from our marketing team to phone agents, building on what we learn from analytics and reporting every day, and great leadership from our c-suite executives.  That being said, the application of our platform to our other properties has been successful and we are already seeing positive results.  We’re really excited about the future of Triton.

Sullivan:  Among your properties are Boating.com, Yachting.com, Biking.com, Barbecuing.com, Skiers.com and SportsMemorabilia.com.  How have these domains positively impacted your business?

Gallucci:  The strong domain names that lend themselves so easily to branding are huge impacts.  Their names are easy to remember and not only support an efficient natural organic search strategy but type-in traffic as well.  Besides customer-centric branding, the domains attract attention from some of the largest and most well known industry leaders for obvious reasons.  If you are a vendor of ski gear it makes perfect sense to partner up with “Skiers.com”, and if you are a top barbecue manufacturer “Barbecuing.com” should definitely be on your radar as well.  The same can be said for all of our other properties.

As the offline world starts to understand the importance of partnering with companies who own prime time real estate online as well as know how to market online, our potential as a corporation to do some really special things increases.  Let me also say there are still challenges to this practice.  If we didn’t have the revenue numbers and analytics from our previous ventures made of the same mold, it would be much more of a frustrating process to find partners for product/services.  For example, when I pitched Boating.com to the major companies we have already partnered with, if I lacked a strong foundation of WHY we make sense as a partner besides our domain, I would have a frustrating time getting their attention.

If you want to stick your foot in the door of big time partners to talk about site development you better have your track record on hand and not just be taking shelter under your domain name.  So, it’s fair to say the premium domain is not necessarily the “secret sauce”, but it is part of the equation for our success.

Sullivan:  Does Triton own any other premium keyword domains?

Gallucci:  The Triton line up includes: SportsMemorabilia.com, Boating.com, Yachting.com, Biking.com, Barbecuing.com, Skiers.com, BabyFormulas.com, HollywoodMemorabilia.com, and CigarMarket.com.

Sullivan:  What type of marketing strategy does the company use?

Gallucci:  If you play around with various memorabilia search terms on Google you will find there is no secret that SEO is a big part of our strategy.  Thankfully we train and operate our SEO strategy in house.  The bill SEO firms hand over when they take on strategies like ours are extremely high and can run you into the ground if you aren’t careful.

It’s almost advantageous if our competitors seek outside SEO companies for help because chances are it drains their marketing budget while never actually getting them to a point they need to be at to compete.  This is the reason most partners choose to work with Tirton – they know our capabilities of mastering the search game in their industry and they often don’t have the time or want to spend their budget testing SEO firms.  We cover all other aspects of internet marketing but our complete strategy is obviously something that we keep safely inside the doors of our office.

Sullivan:  Can you provide the volume of traffic that any given site in your portfolio receives?

Gallucci:  We’re still a privately held corporation so we currently don’t release traffic numbers.  I can tell you currently SportsMemorabilia.com receives the most traffic from any sports memorabilia site on the net according to Alexa’s traffic rankings.  Our other properties are still new in our hands but we’re successfully growing traffic exponentially on all sites.

Sullivan:  What is the main source of traffic to your sites?

Gallucci:  Google is king in our world but it can’t end there.  Traffic flows in from a host of different places including type-in and shopping channels.

Sullivan:  How did you go about acquiring these names?  Can you share the process you went through with one of them?  Will you share what you paid for any of the names?

Gallucci:  The initial consideration comes from Triton’s CEO Jesse Stein, who has been the mastermind behind acquiring these high profile names.  Once he gets the initial batch of domains available, our EVP Stefan Tesoriero jumps in to add to the brainstorm.  It’s a lethal combo of minds that takes it to the next level.  They decide which of those domains mesh nicely with our model while researching our competition to find an opportunity in a market.

Companies or individuals can have a great domain name but if the potential to build the platform and strategy isn’t there then you are just a one sided player, which we aren’t.  Basically, you can look good in the uniform but if you can’t play the game then you’re not a valuable player.  The strong domains are just a facet of our game.  Some of the domains carried a high price tag, I can tell you the Boating.com & Biking.com properties were among our larger domain investments.

Sullivan:  Are you still acquiring quality domains or are you focusing on the ones you have at the moment?

Gallucci:   Jesse is a serial entrepreneur, his wheels are always spinning.  You never known when you’ll come into the office and hear about a new domain or strategy we’ve been commissioned to build out.  For the sanity of the Triton programming team I’ll say we are currently focusing on the ones we currently own.  In any event, Triton Web Properties is an exciting company to be a part of and everyone in our office is always up to the challenge of a new venture.

Sullivan:  Are you involved in any partnerships / joint ventures or do you own all of the domains outright?  If not, would you consider this?

Gallucci:  All are owned and operated by Triton Web Properties, Inc.  If someone comes along and wants Triton to be a part of their build out of a premium domain it’s possible.  But right now we’re doing very well on our own.  We consider anything, we enjoy hard work and success.

Mike:  Any advice for start ups, small business, or business of any size for that matter on choosing the right domain name?
Gallucci:   Like I mentioned before, it’s all about what you can handle.  Choosing the domain is a big step, especially if the domain is premium, but just know there is a lot going on behind scenes to make it actually work.  I think most people have these grand ideas of what they want to do but end up spending a ton of money on programming and design without knowing what actually generates the revenue.  In the end it’s the marketing that sells your product so make sure you have the right team and a smart strategy ready before spending your capital on a domain.  If you don’t, appropriate capital elsewhere.

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The Domain That Ties It Up

In a continuing series on keyword generic domains, Omar Sayyed, the COO behind Ties.comNeckTies.com, and WildTies.com provides some insight on the company, their business philosophies, and some great domain names.

Mike:  Can you give a little background on your business?
Omar:  As a business, we have been operating since 1998 in the ecommerce space. As an organization our primary function is to develop and provide high-value men’s formal-wear accessories, always keeping Ties.com at the leading edge of fashion and representing those products and services through avant-garde electronic/ digital means. A great deal of our success can be directly attributed to our amazing team. They are the ones who keep the wheels turning. Certain members of our core team have been part of the organization since the doors opened. We strongly believe that as an organization when we take care of our employees, they in turn will take care of our clients who of course take care of our company.

Mike:  How has owning these domains impacted your business?
Omar:  I will be the first one to admit that owning Ties.com comes with responsibilities. We view it as a privilege to operate a “one-word” domain and aspire to do great things. Certainly there are inherent advantages to owning such a “juiced” domain. It gives us the ability to brand ourselves in much more powerful ways.

Mike:  The sites, Ties.com, NeckTies.com, and WildTies.com all seem to operate independently. Is that the case or are they all tied together (no pun intended).
Omar:  Very funny ;). Yes, the sites are operating independently because they each have their unique niche in the marketplace. Ties.com (TC) is our flagship store and it is, what we consider “America’s premier tie store”. TC’s main demographic ranges greatly from mid-twenties to beyond and aims to serve the trendy to the conservative. NeckTies.com, conversely is built to serve more price conscious shoppers who are seeking the latest styles but also want quality neckwear. WildTies.com (WT) is our oldest website. Like any proud parent, I can tell you we have a special place in our hearts for WildTies.com. WT is what put us on the map and continues to a viable force. WT has a dedicated and highly appreciated client base who have a deep sense of brand dedication.

Mike:  What is the volume of traffic that your sites receive?
Omar:  So I should preface that we are a privately held company hence don’t discuss our figures publicly. Our visitorship is impressive and continues to grow exponentially given our talented marketing team.

Mike:  Do you have any other online marketing strategies that you follow (google ads, seo, banners on other sites, etc.?) What results have you seen from these?
Omar:  Your question reminds me of a great quote from Abraham Lincoln I recently heard. He said, “If I had 8 hours to chop down a tree, I would spend 6 hours sharpening the blade.” Preparation, research, and authenticity are what we aim for at Ties.com when we look at any marketing platform. We are a very data driven group. While I can’t discuss exact strategies, I can advise everyone (if I may) to think strategically about marketing decisions. As a CMO or Director of Marketing, I am sure you have a plethora of options vis-a-vis where and how you can spend your budget. Maximizing your budget and meeting your ROI is only part of your challenge. Understanding what works for you and why it works for you, should also be something that you concentrate on. Not every platform or solution will be right for you. Understanding the idiosyncrasies of every marketing outlet will be the key to your successes.

Mike:  Do you have other premium keyword domains?
Omar:  Aside from Ties.com and NeckTies.com, we don’t have any other “premium” domains. Again, it would be remiss if I did not to emphasize to your readers that premium domains are only part of the equation. The marketing arm that drives that vehicle of sales ought to be your main focus. Finding the right vehicle (if I can stay with the analogy) will be anyone’s biggest challenge.

Mike:  What is the main source of traffic to your site? (ie. Google searches, links from other sites, type in traffic, etc.)
Omar:  Most of our traffic comes from organic searches through Google and Yahoo. Marketing strategies are cards we keep pretty close to our chest, so I can’t share exact figures… but some basic research can reveal a lot of information.

Mike:  What type of growth have you seen in traffic to the site, sales, etc.
Omar:  As mentioned before, our traffic continues to grow (almost) exponentially. We have an incredibly dedicated and loyal team who are extremely creative to say the least. We definitely view customer service as an absolute priority, which I feel has a direct correlation with our continued success. Our CEO would give the shirt off of his back if it meant making the end-user experience more friendly.

Not to go off on a tangent, but during a time when many companies are cutting back and customer service has been eroding as an idea, companies who have dedicated customer service response teams will flourish. On a personal note, I am dealing with a company that has failed to deliver what I have paid for. While widgetsRus.com is very nice about fixing the problem, their solutions caused more problems and seem to be hurried. This brings me to my next point. In college, my favorite philosophy professor would say, “practice doesn’t make perfect… perfect practice makes perfect.” Offering a solution to your client’s problem is (again) part of the solution. Offering the right solution is what you (as a company) ought to be aiming for.

Mike:  Did you purchase the names from someone else that owned it? If so, what was the process you went through?
Omar:  We did purchase our domains from other individuals. The process of acquiring domains can be very simple to more complex, depending on the asking price and the people involved. We have never released the prices we have paid over the years for domains, but some were very affordable and others have been astronomically high.

Mike:  Have the domains been worth the cost for you?
Omar:  Sure. It does however depend on what you mean by “worth”. Since we are absolutely passionate about neckties and consider ourselves evangelists for men’s accessories, we wanted a domain that best described our passion and product. While you have to amortize the cost of such purchases, cost-effectiveness is something that I am very sensitive about. Before even a penny is spent (especially for big ticket items) the right analytics (un-skewed and completely objective) have to support those decisions.

Mike:  Any advice for start ups, small business, or business of any size for that matter on choosing the right domain name?
Omar:  Good luck!! I personally know people who, during the early stages of the internet bubble, were writing programs to snatch up words. It can be a daunting task trying to find a domain that describes you, your company, and more importantly your product, etc.

Mike:  What do your competitors think of your domain? What do your customers think?
Omar:  For the most part, I think our competitors like our name. If for nothing at all, our branding for Ties.com, helps the industry that they are in. Our customers LOVE our domains. Our domains are short and very descriptive. Again, with each respective site having its own niche, it allows us to focus on and cater to different demographics accordingly.

Mike:  Do you think you would be willing to sell your domain at any point? Have you ever received any unsolicited offers?
Omar:  Our exit goals are sensitive topics, primarily because we feel very passionate about our company, our customers, our product, our employees, and our corporate culture. We regularly get unsolicited offers, but nothing we would ever seriously consider. Not to sound like Tony Hsieh, the former CEO of Zappos, but we know we have a sense of responsibility to our employee and their families and more importantly to our clients and their experiences.

Mike:  Any other information you’d like to share?

Omar:  Two things… 1) Set goals, and chase them… unconditionally. Don’t continuously change your goals. When you are aiming at a moving target, it makes it difficult to hit the bull’s-eye. 2) Perhaps more importantly, don’t be married to your ideas. Often we come up with what we think is a great idea and we get tunnel vision. We don’t hear or see criticisms, suggestions, or opportunities.

As a thank you to your readers, we have engaged Sullyblog10 as a 10% off of all of our neckties, tie racks, cufflinks, cummerbunds, and other accessories on Ties.com. Enjoy!!

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