You Can Be The Master of Your Domain (Name)

You’ve come up with a business name (maybe you’ve downloaded our 7 Steps to a New Name guide), and you look up your perfect domain name, and…

One of three things happens. Scenario one? The domain is already taken and active. Scenario two is when your domain is available for purchase for a cool $10. Congratulations! You don’t need our help.

Domain names are like Monopoly properties, and the game is how much the person who snatched it up can squeeze you out of you. Here’s how to get the domain name you need for the price you want.

Who owns the domain?

You have your awesome domain name, you search it, follow the path, and the search either says the domain “might be for sale”, or it’s blank. This is the standard pitch.

If your domain is blank, you’ve got one option: figure out who owns it, and email them! But how? You need to search the owner. On GoDaddy, this is a “whois” search. Just type in your domain, and it tells you the owner and their contact info.

Now that you know who owns it, there are two potential scenarios: one, the domain is privately registered, in which case… forget it. It CAN be done, but it involves filing suit against them for trademark infringement, finding the private administrator, and forcing your way to make an offer — or a case. It’s most likely going to be less costly and less stressful to just pick a different name.

If the domain is not private, you’ll see contact info, including name, email, address, and phone number. The first thing you want to do is sent him an email. The second thing to do is give him a call. We’ll talk about what to put in that email in a minute.

If the domain is for sale, do the same thing: fill out the online form including your name, offer, and a private message.

Here’s what to do.

The first rule of this game is to make your offer enough to be taken seriously. This means, give or take, about 60-70% off the listed price. If the domain is listed for about $4000, don’t go lower than $900. Make sure you get their attention but make sure you’re not offering too high, either. We have never not been written back for $700.

The second rule is to never betray who you are. If your name is very generic, you’re probably safe using a throwaway account under your real name. But if they can Google you and figure out who you are, and you have an AmEx Black Card and a Lamborghini in your yard, they’re going to charge more.

Rule three is to downplay your net worth. Following Rule Two, don’t let them figure out who you are or your cash on hand. Be sure the email and name you use can’t be attached to property. Don’t let your ego stand in here — emailing as “CEO at Microsoft” or similar won’t help you. Spin some kind of story about your lack of cash availability, but your willingness to stretch. For example, a client of ours told the seller she wanted to use her birthday money to get this domain name. This kicked the cost down to 80% of the original price. Say whatever’s believable, such as “I lost my domain to a squatter” or “I just bought a new house”, or “my kid needs braces”, but play up how important acquiring the domain is to you. Use your best storytelling skills.  

Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate!

They will respond in kind, usually with an offer that’s three or four times what you’ve offered. This will come with tall tales, like:

“This domain is a very marketable, memorable and brand-able keyword .com. Nevertheless, since we are a volume company there can be some flexibility with the price. Typically discounts are in the 10-15% range, but on occasion, if it’s a same-day purchase there can sometimes be a little more flexibility.”

Or,

“While I’m happy to work with you to find a price that you can see the value in and that I can get approved by my management, we unfortunately just don’t have the flexibility in our pricing to get to the $800 range at this time.”

Don’t respond to every email. Hem & haw for as long as possible. Nobody else is in the market for your domain (no matter what they say). Of course, if you know your domain name is a hot property, ignore this advice!

Only go up in small increments. You should be able to get at least 70% off. 50% isn’t bad. If you’re down to 30%, try harder.

And that’s the secret to getting the domain you need for the price you want! Have you had any experiences with negotiating prices with domain owners? Let us know in the comments!

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