*Pre-post edit* I know Rick is about to discuss his take on auctions, but this is what I wrote in anticipation of my aunt’s funeral I am sure my post is much more tactical but I wanted to preface it anyway.
After every live auction, no matter who is running it, I always see complaints about selling domain names during these auctions. Some of the most standard complaints that I always see include:
1) They charge too much commission for doing nothing
2) There isn’t enough time between when the final list is announced and the auction is held
3) The auction house doesn’t market the names to end users
4) The reserve prices are too high
5) The names suck
I am guilty of lodging at least one of these complaints at some point – and probably more than just one. However, instead of continuing to complain about the live auctions, I think we should be more proactive when we have a domain name listed in the auction, and we should take it upon ourselves to market our domains. For the sake of this post, I will hypothetically say that TropicalBirds.com is going to be sold at a live auction.
Upon submitting the name to the auction house, I would assume the name would be accepted to the live auction because I know it’s a high quality domain name that gets a lot of search engine traffic (5,000+ visitors). That said, as soon as I decide to sell the name at auction and submit it, I would begin my marketing campaign rather than waiting until it is (or isn’t) officially selected.
I would compile a list of all commercial pet businesses with a web presence, affiliate companies selling bird products, and bird-product advertisers on Google. I would get as many email addresses as possible from the corporate websites, and I would use social networking tools like LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook to find other decision makers where the corporate site failed. I would also search for email addresses on Google from press releases and guess email addresses by finding the email system (like elliot.silver or esilver) and taking a chance.
Each of these decision makers would then receive an email notifying them of the upcoming auction with details about the domain name and the auction. I would include traffic stats (# visitors, search engine visitors, keywords…etc) and I would include search engine ranking statistics. Because of spam filters, I would also send out Federal Express packages with the same information.
In addition to traffic information, I would include general information about the auction and include the auction house president’s email address and telephone number for sign up. I wouldn’t want the CEO of a large pet company to call the main phone number and end up with someone who didn’t know squat about the auction or was otherwise clueless. I would let each person know about bidding options, including bidding online, proxy bids and telephone bids, to make it as easy as possible to sign up.
I would also add a graphic on the navigation of the website with a link to a page on the site announcing the auction. This page would include most information about the site/domain along with bidding information. Finally, I would let my advertisers and competitors know about the auction, in case they wanted to buy this category defining domain name. I would do whatever I could do to sell my domain name.
It’s become pretty clear that domain auctions are attended by domain owners who probably aren’t the best buyers for niche domain names – especially in the economy. If we list domain names for sale that don’t sell at the prices we want, we only have ourselves to blame.
Incidentally, early in 2007 (or maybe late 2006), I sold what was then the highest value domain name that I owned for $20,000 in a live auction. Prior to the auction, I emailed 15 companies with information about the auction, and two companies replied to me. Although a domain investor won the name, I don’t know if these two (or other) companies bid it up from the $15,000 reserve price.
If we want to sell our domain names for the optimal price, we need to find the optimal buyers on our own.