Bill Sweetman – Still perfecting his “Domain Name Karate” moves

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Hi everyone,

It is my pleasure to introduce to you a gentleman that I’ve had  the pleasure of meeting about 5 or 6 conferences ago, a family man, a company man and of course one of us, Bill Sweetman.

Bill Sweetman is the General Manager of YummyNames (http://www.yummynames.com), a unique service from Tucows that offers marketers the ability to purchase or lease premium domain names.A self-confessed domain name fanatic, Bill registered his very first domain in 1994 and has been perfecting his “Domain Name Karate” moves ever since. Bill has provided strategic domain name advice to major companies around the world, and he has overseen the buying and selling of millions of dollars of domain names.  Bill is also one of the Internet marketing industry’s most respected authorities and his innovative work over the last 16 years has been recognized by numerous awards, including the prestigious Internet World Impact Award for Communications.  Bill has overseen hundreds of Internet marketing campaigns for companies such as Alliance Atlantis Communications, Bell Mobility, CBC, Dupont, General Motors, Harlequin Enterprises, Hewlett-Packard, Pfizer, and RBC Royal Bank.  Bill is a regular contributor to various trade publications and blogs, including his own acclaimed Internet marketing blog, Sweetmantra, located at http://www.sweetmantra.com/. I’ve compiled a few question for Bill so lets see how he answers them…..

Bill, I can see that you are in the industry since 1994, how many domains do you own?

I’ve bought and sold a few domains over the years, but the portfolio that I focus on these days is the awesome one that I manage for Tucows, and that consists of tens of thousands of domains.

Being the General Manager for YummyNames, can you tell us a little bit what YummyNames is all about and how long are you with them. And who came up with the name YummyNames?

YummyNames is a service from Tucows that allows marketers, advertisers (and anyone else who appreciates the value of a good domain name) to purchase or lease a premium domain name from the Tucows Domain Portfolio. From a business point-of-view, YummyNames is the consumer or ‘end user’ brand for the sale of premium domain names owned by Tucows, although it is just one of many retail channels we use every day to sell domains from our portfolio.

I joined Tucows in August of 2007 as the General Manager of the Tucows Domain Portfolio, and at the time we did not have a public ‘brand’ for the portfolio. In fact, we were rather coy about the fact we had this amazing collection of premium domain names. In early 2008, we started to talk publicly about the quality and size of the Tucows portfolio, and in October 2008 we launched the YummyNames brand.

As for the origin of the name, I have a long history of coming up with names for products and companies, and it is something I am passionate about. Not surprisingly, it was my responsibility and privilege to develop the name for what would become YummyNames, and this was a process that spanned several months. The name was chosen to appeal specifically to the marketing and advertising community, and it is meant to be fun, friendly, non-technical, and – of course – memorable. Feedback on the name from the target market has been overwhelmingly positive. You may be amused to learn that some of the other names considered, but ultimately rejected, were JuicyNames and HeavyNames.

Bill, Congratulations on all the awards, can you tell us what Internet World Impact Award for Communications is all about?

That’s an oldie but a goodie, dating back to 1997 when Internet World was the leading Internet magazine and also a series of popular Internet conferences. At the time, I was a partner in one of the first Internet public relations firms, and we won this award for an online marketing stunt we orchestrated for the fictitious Canadian Internet Licensing Board (CILB). This was a viral marketing campaign before anyone used the term “viral marketing” and it generated headlines across Canada and got a lot of people talking about the topic of government regulation of the Internet. Sadly, 13 years later, governments around the world are still trying to regulate the Internet. Good luck with that!

One thing that I was never able to understand was leasing domains, I just don’t see a need for that. As we know YummyNames provides both selling and leasing of premium domains, please elaborate on the benefits of leasing a domain name.

We sell way more domains than we lease, but not everyone can afford to pay five or six figures for a premium domain name, and they may not even need to use that domain name for more than a few months or a few years. Leasing allows a customer to obtain use of a premium domain name for a finite period of time, like a seasonal marketing campaign at Christmas, or “try before you buy” a premium domain name. It’s just like leasing a car; as long as you make your payments, you have exclusive use of the domain. And if you don’t want to use the domain any more, you can simply end the lease. Of course, you also have the option of buying the name outright at any time. We’ve found leasing to be very popular with startups that want a killer domain name but can’t afford to buy it outright from day one.

Bill, I see you at the live domain name auctions raising your paddle, are you buying domains for your own interest or for YummyNames?

I love attending the live auctions – we always have some of our names up for sale – but I don’t bid on that many domains, and certainly not ours. When I do bid on domains, it is either to acquire them for YummyNames or clients of YummyNames who have asked us to help them discretely get a domain name.

I looked over the YummyNames portfolio and it seems that you guys have an excellent collection of generic domain names. Now were these domains purchased aftermarket or are they from the Tucows expired domain stream?

The tens of thousands of premium domains that YummyNames sells and leases come from various sources. Many of the ultra-premium domains (which we refer to as our “Gems”) were obtained when Tucows acquired companies (like NetIdentity) that owned their own portfolio of domains. The balance of the domains were acquired from the Tucows expired domain stream by my team, although on rare occasions we have purchased domains from individual sellers, dropcatching services, and other marketplaces. I am way more focused on selling domains that buying them!

I personally remember buying domains through Domain Direct and now that portfolio is being managed by Hover, can you talk about this a bit and also why did Tucows stop that auction platform?

Domain Direct was a successful yet fairly ‘traditional’ consumer-facing domain reseller that Tucows operated for many years. Its operations were rolled into Hover (http://www.hover.com), which launched last year. Hover is also a consumer-facing domain reseller operated by Tucows, however it represents a fresh, new approach to the business with its emphasis on ease of use, simplicity, and customer service. Hover is a different breed of domain reseller, and I am excited to see how it is evolving.

In regards to that auction platform, Tucows did use to operate its own expired domain auction, however only a handful of domainers knew about it, and it never lived up to its potential. Shutting it down and outsourcing our expired domain auction (Tucows expired domains now flow to NameJet) was one of the first things I did when I started in my role at Tucows.

What would be typical day for Bill Sweetman?

There is no typical day for me, and that’s what I love about my job. That being said, some of the things I might do during the day would include helping negotiate the sale of some of our domains, brokering the purchase of a domain for a client, analyzing lists of domains, reviewing various reports, planning and overseeing special projects, talking to partners and vendors, conducting research, managing my team, and networking. I am lucky because I don’t spend a lot of my time in meetings, and the day just flies by, in part because my team and I have a lot of fun together and we’re always learning new things.

Being from Canada, do you work together with other domainers? (Locally)

I’ve met and gotten to know a lot of the Canadian domainers – many of us are members of the Domain Owners Association of Canada (DOAC) (http://www.doac.ca) and/or attend the lively Domainer Dinner (http://www.domainerdinner.com) that Frank Michlick organizes – but I don’t do a lot of business with any of them, other than the occasional domain sale. The funny thing is that I am more likely to run into ‘Team Canada’ at a domainer conference in the United States than back at home. Also, most of the domains that YummyNames sells are to end users or large holding companies, not domainers.

Any advice to a beginner domainer?

I’d recommend focusing on the .com TLD and building a portfolio around several vertical niches that you are knowledgeable and excited about. This could be one of your hobbies or a topic that you’re keen on. Since the vast majority of domains in your portfolio will never generate much parking revenue, I’d encourage you to develop the domains using some of the excellent development platforms that are out there, such as DevHub, WhyPark, and SmartName. This will lead to more organic traffic, increase the perceived value of the domain, and boost the number of sales leads. If you are hoping to sell your domains, you must include a prominent “for sale” message on your landing page, and I would also encourage you to list your domains for sale with a buy-it-now price in the leading marketplaces, such as Afternic and Sedo.

If there is one that thing that you can change about our industry what would that be?

Domain investing is a very legitimate and exciting growth industry, but we still have an image problem because a tiny percentage of the players behave as if the laws don’t apply to them, and this continues to tarnish the reputation of the rest of us. We need to get the message across to the general public that domain investing and cybersquatting are two very different things, and we need to distance ourselves from the ‘bad apples’.

And that raps it up with Bill Sweetman, I want to thank Bill for taking the time to due this interview with me. Not only did I learn something but I’m sure my readers will too, thanks Bill.

Till next time – over and out.


Comments

8 Responses to “Bill Sweetman – Still perfecting his “Domain Name Karate” moves”
  1. Having a memorable domain name is crucial. A company with existing web sites or new company start up could use a .Tel to be branded and remembered by. As the company grows and adds web sites affiliates and so on the memorable .Tel would be a great gateway to the company’s links, contacts, customer service and so on.

  2. Some great content for the beginner and expert Domainer alike.
    It’s good to see things becoming easier for the consumer market, and non-technical business market.

    And the maturity of outlook and transparency, bodes well I think for the long run.

    Great article, keep them coming.
    S

  3. Tony C says:

    Thanks again Steve for another interesting article.
    I too am a big believer in the Leasing aspect of Domains.
    I believe that Leasing will grow more and more as both, inventory recedes and the need increases.
    Remember my words it a few years.

    PS – John Y, no plug intended.

  4. Steve says:

    @ Tony

    Thanks Tony, I see you are a strong believer in leasing domains, perhaps when I think of leasing domains I imagine spending money for advertising and marketing the domain and after the lease term is over I hand back the domain, just doesn’t sit well with me. I know the option to buy is there but not all companies offer that option ( I believe that LeaseThis.com is one of those companies). I would rather finance the domain and know that at the end the domain is all mine with no lien…..

  5. Steve says:

    @ Simon

    thanks, I will keep them coming……….

  6. Steve says:

    @ Rashid

    you are right about that……dot Tel would be a great gateway to the company’s links, contacts and customer service..

    thanks for your insights, keep them coming

  7. Tony C says:

    Maybe, but LeaseOur.com gives the end user the Option to Buy.

  8. NetJohn says:

    How Sweet it is !

    Domain Name Karate .. Chop-Chop at the Cyber DoJo …..Ay ?