Women in Domaining: Kate Buckley, Buckley Media GroupMike Sullivan
This is the first article in what I am looking to add as a weekly series highlighting women in the domain industry. This week kicks off with Kate Buckley. Kate was kind enough to share information on her business, philosophy, and the topic of women in the industry.
Kate Buckley is the founder and CEO of Buckley Media Group. Kate has 23 years in marketing and business development, with deep experience in global domains, brand development, naming, creative strategy, storytelling, and social media. Her background includes large branding agencies (Gray and Landor) as well as 20 years experience with premium domains (CCIN/The Castello Brothers). She is an expert at premium domain consulting and representation, specializing in ultra-premium .COMs. She had two of the 20 biggest domain sales reported in 2016 and three of the top 25 sales in 2017 (led by Refi.com at $500,000). Most recently, she sold inspection.com for $335,000. Kate holds a BA in Advertising/PR, an MFA in Creative Writing, and is a Certified Professional Coach (LCIOC) and Public Speaker (AMA). She is also an award-winning poet, writer and artist (KateBuckley.com).
Mike: It seems your company, Buckley Media Group, does much more than domain sales. Can you tell us more about what you bring to the market?
Kate: I’m a student of human nature, and convinced that the keys to success include not only intelligence, intuition, hard work and tenacity, but a genuine curiosity and a willingness to remain teachable and open. I’m continually evolving my understanding and iterating my processes in order to better serve my client base. To that end, I believe a holistic branding platform better serves companies. Buckley Media Group offers services such as naming, brand story and strategy, visual brand identity, and, of course, premium domain representation—both acquisition and divestiture.
Mike: I notice you have writers and directors on your staff, which led me to The Story Corp. Is that a distinct and separate business?
Kate: The Story Corp (and I was thrilled to land the exact match .COM) is a vertical of Buckley Media Group, concentrating on brand story. Let’s face it, with the increasing implementation of AI, computers do math better than people and digital marketing is essentially math. What differentiates a marketer or brand? Storytelling. A good brand story that connects with the end user on a meaningful basis. Which is exactly what a premium domain does—tells a story about the brand that utilizes it—its culture, values (think: leadership and longevity) and investment in consumer trust and ease of use.
Mike: As a female business owner, what do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?
Kate: Not being taken seriously. Misogyny and mansplaining is alive and well. I’ve been referred to derogatorily (by a known domainer and entrepreneur) as “that girl from Buckley Media Group.” Can you imagine referring to a 43-year-old male CEO as “that boy from Company X”? Another male domainer on a public forum, in reference to one of my larger reported sales, opined that my success could be ascribed to my gender and appearance. There are many attractive women and men in business (and domaining!), but without expertise, emotional intelligence, strategy, and skill, it’s really just “Congratulations on your face.”
However, there’s a bright side to being underestimated; one might even call it a woman’s greatest advantage in business—you’ll never see us coming till we’re already over the ramparts. Come from a place of confidence, passion, and strength, don’t give energy to detractors and you will win every single time.
Mike: Do you feel, in your experience, that there are a good mix of males and females in the domain name industry?
Kate: It’s getting better. Back in the day, I was often the only woman at industry events save wives. At the most recent NamesCon, I was delighted to observe many women in attendance, and turning out in full force for the Women in Domaining dinner. It was also fun to catch up with female colleagues—comparing notes and best practices, and supporting one another’s success. Yet, I was recently at an industry event in which a male domain veteran yanked open the back of my dress and peered down my back asking if I had a “tramp stamp.” It took every ounce of my finishing school training not to practice my martial arts. We’ve come a long way, but not far enough.
There are tremendous opportunities for talented women to stake their claim in the domain name industry, and—happily—there are many wonderful and supportive colleagues, both male and female, ready to welcome them to the ranks.
Mike: You’ve been in the industry for some time. Tell me what it was like in the early days, working with the Castello Brothers.
Kate: Fun. I was recruited by David and Michael Castello in 1998 to help them take PalmSprings.com to the next level (David had done the initial launch in 1997). It was a thrilling time—the wild west of our industry—David and I would literally stay up all night researching and registering domain names! I learned a lot from David and Michael—they are both visionaries; respect them tremendously, and am very proud of our track record. At one point, with just David and myself monetizing PalmSprings.com, we had the homepage alone doing $1M a year (which was unheard of at the time). We then went on to launch LagunaBeach.com together, which I later sold for the Castello Brothers for $600K. Not a bad ROI.
It’s been fascinating to watch the industry mature, and to watch the public perception catch up with what we’ve known all along—quality .COMs are a critical and indispensable business driver, not merely a novelty.
Mike: Is there still room for new players in the domain industry, or is it saturated? What is your advice to someone looking to start a career in the industry, regardless of gender?
Kate: There’s always room for someone smart, hungry, tenacious and strategic. Combine that with integrity, compassion and emotional intelligence, and the cream will always rise to the top.
Read widely and agnostically. Avail yourself of the tremendous industry resources out there. There are so many generous people in our industry who regularly share their time, knowledge and expertise—Ron Jackson, Elliott Silver, Andrew Alleman, Michael Cyger and yourself, just to name a few. Figure out what works and then add your own unique spin to it—iterate as you evolve, and and don’t be afraid to pivot. There’s never a one-size-fits-all approach. Solve interesting problems and lead. Be generous. And above all, if you’re not passionate about this industry, quit. The top performers are those who are curious, passionate and confident in their abilities.
Mike: What is the best piece of business advice you have been given and why?
Kate: “Listen more than you speak. Seek first to understand, last to be understood. Life is for service.” —B. F. Buckley IV (AKA my dad)
If I am not listening, if I am not curious, do not come to the table with humility and teachability, I cannot effectively solve problems for my clients (and for the companies to whom I sell) because I won’t have truly understood their pain points. Success is a byproduct of having solved a problem that no one else has been able to solve before. You can’t do that if you already believe you have all the answers.
Mike: Finally, you have a powerful quote on your website that reads, “Not having a dot-com Signals weakness.” –PAUL GRAHAM, FOUNDER OF Y COMBINATOR.” What does that mean for what we are still calling the “new” gTLDs?
Kate: New gtlds are fine for B2B or bootstrapped startups that later plan to upgrade to a .COM. Premium domains are for companies who want their brands to be taken seriously, even revered; who want to achieve brand notoriety—woven into the fabric of the culture for decades to come.