Domain Buyer Broker
This is an abridged version of an interview with domain buyer broker Bill Sweetman that originally appeared in the NamePros domain name forum.
An Interview with Domain Buyer Broker Bill Sweetman of Name Ninja
One of the most frustrating challenges faced by entrepreneurs launching a new venture is obtaining their first-choice domain name. It often seems like ‘all the good domains are taken’ because someone else previously registered them. Helping entrepreneurs overcome this obstacle and get their preferred domain name is what domain buyer broker Bill Sweetman specializes in.
Bill is the President of Name Ninja, one of the world’s only independent professional service firms focused on helping serial entrepreneurs, startup founders, and corporate marketers acquire domain names that are owned by third-parties. Using a combination of research, negotiation, and technical skills, the Name Ninja team pursues and acquires domain names on behalf of clients.
In the following interview, Bill Sweetman explains the important role that a domain buyer broker plays in helping entrepreneurs get their dream domain names.
You work primarily as a Domain Buyer Broker. What is a “Domain Buyer Broker” and how do they differ from a standard domain broker?
When most people think of a domain broker, they tend to think of someone who is trying to sell a domain name and get the highest price for it. Those are seller brokers because they are representing a domain seller and they are usually compensated by the seller. A domain buyer broker, on the other hand, represents a domain buyer and helps that client acquire one or several domain names for within the buyer’s budget. A buyer broker is usually compensated by the buyer, since the buyer is their client. These days I work almost exclusively as a domain buyer broker at my company, Name Ninja. My strengths and personality are better suited to being a domain buyer broker, and that is what I focus on.
How did you get started in the domain name industry?
It was a passion and hobby that eventually became a career. The domain name bug bit me in the early nineties when I decided that I wanted to understand how to build a Website. Of course one of the first things you need to launch a Website is a domain name, so I registered my first domain for that purpose. Because at the time I was one of the few people in my business circle that knew anything about Websites and domains, and I was already working as a marketing consultant, people started coming to me asking for advice and help with domain names as well. Eventually, I became the go-to guy for lots of clients wanting domain name help, especially buying domains owned by third-parties. I realized these things were valuable assets and powerful marketing tools.
Fast forward to 2007; I’m working in the digital marketing world and I run into a business associate who works at Tucows who mentions they are looking for someone to help them manage their in-house domain portfolio. I realized this was an opportunity for me to work with domain names on a full-time basis, so I quit my job as a marketing executive and went to work for Tucows. Working at a major domain registrar was an amazing experience and I learned a ton, but people were still constantly asking me for help buying domains on their behalf. In 2013, I took a leap of faith and left Tucows to launch Name Ninja so I could focus exclusively on domain buyer broker work. To my pleasant surprise, there turned out to be a lot of demand for my services, and Name Ninja has been growing ever since.
What is the largest domain name purchase you've brokered that you can tell us about?
I’ve done hundreds of domain name acquisitions for clients and the vast majority are kept confidential, which is understandable but also a bit frustrating for me because I can rarely talk in specifics about the projects I’ve worked on. These transactions have ranged from $0 domain name ‘purchases’ (i.e., convincing the current owner to donate the domain to my client) to transactions in the millions. Client budgets are all over the map! Some of the great domains I have helped clients acquire and that are not secret are Skills, Fauna, Verse, and Upfront (all .com), but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Keep in mind, too, that for a domain buyer broker like myself the ultimate badge of honor isn’t having acquired a really expensive domain for a client, it’s about acquiring a domain name that the client (and others) thought was impossible to get. Those ‘mission impossible’ domain name acquisitions, regardless of the price, are the ones I take the most pride in. I will spend months, even years, working on some domain name acquisitions, and I will travel halfway around the world if that’s what it will take to get a deal done … and I have!
What would your advice be for startups looking to buy their first domain name?
My general advice to startup founders is to focus on getting a domain name that exactly matches your startup’s company name, even if that means you have to change your company name. In fact, I encourage startups to think about the domain name aspect of their name during the company naming process, not afterwards. I usually recommend to budget-conscious startups, which is 99% of them, that they come up with either a two-word name (e.g., Smart Snacks) or an invented word name (e.g., Snackster) that will allow them to get the matching .com domain name for a relatively modest budget (four- or low five-figures). I generally discourage them for naming their startup a single word (e.g., Snacks) unless they have the six-figure (or higher) budget required to buy the exact match .com domain name.
How do you determine what a domain name is worth?
That is such a loaded question, because I also have to balance what my client thinks a domain name is worth (and can afford) and what the domain name owner thinks it is worth. It can take a long time to get those numbers to align! For my clients, I show them what comparable domain names have sold for in the past, as well as what is listed for sale today, and I will sometimes take that approach with the domain name owner. So much depends on the level of desire the client (buyer) has for the target domain name as well as how emotionally attached the domain name owner is to their domain.
Want to acquire a specific domain name that’s currently owned by another party?
Name Ninja will act as your Domain Buyer Broker to discreetly and efficiently negotiate the purchase of the domain name for the lowest possible price. This is our most popular service, and we pride ourselves on our track record of getting our clients the domain name of their dreams. Summon the Name Ninja.