Joseph PetersonNames, Domains, Sentences and Strategies
Bio

Domain Names are my full-time professional focus. Contact me for naming initiatives, brand feedback, or domain industry questions. It's a point of honor for me to only give people the advice I follow myself. No exceptions. Update: In addition to my consulting work, I recently became Director of Operations at Epik.com.



Recent Answers


Microsoft Word should do the trick. Such programs make it easy to outline anything you can imagine. Or any old piece of paper, really.

Fiction has been written well, generation after generation, long before anybody thought of "tools or platforms". Shakespeare and Hemingway never suffered unduly from lack of a convenient app.


A bad name will cost you money. How? Missed opportunities. I could list a dozen ways.

Changing a name will also cost you money. How? Time. Energy. Redesigning marketing materials. Etc.

I don't know whether your brand name / domain name is good or bad. But it sounds like you're dissatisfied with it.

Think of your brand name like a coworker. Either you "hire" a name that goes out of its way to build your brand and business. Or you "hire" a name that's lazy, doesn't show up, misplaces things, rubs customers the wrong way.

Interview your name before hiring it.


You can always share the fact that you found someone's advice helpful. Online, you can say something like this:

"If you're ever in need of [blank] advice, talk to [so and so]. They just helped me out with a question I had."

Where? If you have a blog, maybe add a random P.S. If there's a place to leave a review, consider that. Or if you're on social media, maybe share a thumb's up with people. They may not need any advice today, but maybe in a month or a year somebody will. Or maybe a stranger, searching online, will stumble across your thumb's up.


Naming your service based on your surname has some disadvantages. For example:

- Surnames aren't memorable. Personally I'm terrible at remembering people's names after meeting them.

- Surnames are sometimes hard to spell, which can lead to misdirected online traffic

- Difficult to separate yourself from the business. Your own name is your own reputation. Best to have a way to separate the 2 in case the business gets negative reviews. Or in case you later choose to to be known for something else.

- What if you want to sell the company? Do you want your personal name attached to somebody else's business practices? Meanwhile, if the buyer is thinking about rebranding, then they'll plan on deducting that cost from what they'd have otherwise paid you.

If you'd like more advice on naming and/or domain selection, let's set up a call. These topics have been my full time job for years.


Asking other people to give us their products and labor for free ISN'T normal. So when someone asks us to give up our time or property for their benefit, we really must push back – even if only with a raised eyebrow.

Sure, in charity cases, we might be generous. And there might be a few startups where the risk / reward analysis justifies sweating out a contribution for the sake of equity alone. But wantrepreneurs are a dime a dozen. Something like 90% of them fail. So the bar needs to be high.

You understand this already. But do the panhandler CEO a favor and explain the situation to him as well.

Just because someone fancies himself an entrepreneur doesn't mean his daydreams are a credit card with an infinite limit. Would he tell his landlord to accept equity instead of last month's rent? Would he wave away the waiter at the restaurant, saying, "Congratulations! You own 0.1% of my latest startup fantasy"? Would he approach a used car salesman and volunteer to pay with stock in a mirage?

No self-styled entrepreneur would dare do any of those things. He'd feel sheepish to the point of paralysis. Yet, illogically, many wantrapreneurs feel that it's somehow appropriate not just to ask but to EXPECT web designers, app developers, and the like to give up their own projects and work for them for free – i.e. for a 90% chance of the equity being worthless.

Once you sit the person down and explain these facts, they'll usually understand.

People don't value what they don't pay for or work for or make sacrifices for. If the entrepreneur is eating out at restaurants, watching TV in the evening, or taking Saturday off, then he has no right to expect you to go unpaid while he's luxuriating in indolence. Let him make his own sandwiches for a month and divert his free time into an evening or weekend job and pay you that way. Then he'll understand what it means to ask someone else to work for nothing.

If the entrepreneur really can't afford to pay you, then BARTER is the fair way to proceed. Not with equity. His startup idea is probably a mirage; and, statistically speaking, is likely to flop. Find something he owns or can provide that you can benefit from. Make a swap. Or if you're just too busy to work on another unpaid project, tell him.


Figure out a website you yourself would like to manage as a business or hobby. Choose something just complex enough to show off your skills ... but not something so ambitious that it would eat up all your time.

Then pick the best domain name for the project you can reasonably afford, and get started. This will be good practice – not only for the sake of honing your dev skills, but also for understanding the challenges of designing a website, furnishing content, attracting customers / readers, monetizing traffic, and so forth.

These are the very challenges your employers or clients will be facing. If you understand their perspective, then this helps you help them; and it helps them trust you to help.


If you can spare 5 minutes for a consulting session, I have several ideas for promoting a blog related to tall menswear specifically.


Sounds potentially viable. You've described a way to structure the business in terms of a 20% revenue share. So it looks like you answered your own question.

The real way to test whether your model works is, of course, to try it out. That means (1) finding people whose services you'd like to promote; (2) asking them for feedback on the rev share idea; (3) attempting to market them, as you described. Put it in practice and see.

I know that some people would be curious and potentially willing to give it a shot. For instance, over the years, I have personally offered a 15% referral commission to certain colleagues who might send me a client for custom naming gigs, domain procurement, or other consulting.

That's not too different from your 20% rev share idea. So, depending on how you go about things, the idea might work.


What I'm about to mention is just 1 skill among many that a marketer ought to have – and not, by a long shot, the most important. But, since it is my own narrow area of specialization, the lack of this skill among marketers is something I notice daily as a glaring omission.

Domain names – the internet is built on domains. They're how we name websites, protect brands online, navigate directly to a site from a billboard or a radio ad, shorten URLs, recognize email messages, and trust that the page we're viewing really belongs to our bank.

Yet marketing professionals, for the most part, don't understand domain names adequately. I know VPs of marketing who mix up basic terminology like "URL" and "website" and "domain". Most marketers don't value domains adequately, seldom realizing there's a whole property market in which domains are trading daily.

Most professionals – including very smart people – rarely think about domain names strategically as assets to leverage in marketing campaigns. Usually I see entrepreneurs naming their startups and blundering badly because they don't think about domain-related issues.

Among established organizations, half fail to protect their brands by registering the right domains. And the other half wastes money maintaining domains they don't need. It's a rare company that knows its way around the domain industry or which plans ahead with any kind of domain portfolio strategy at all!

Marketers know by now that they can't neglect social media or PPC. So everybody knows they ought to know something about those topics. Domain names are important in a similar way – as another tool in the toolkit.

Your employers won't tell you to learn about domains. You won't be asked in job interviews. But they weren't asking about your social media acumen years ago either. If you want to be ahead of the curve, learn about domain names.


Aside from the business itself – improving the product / service, cutting costs, or marketing to acquire more customers – there are other ways to gain an advantage for your startup.

For instance, maybe you can out-brand your competitor. If you're cooler, more memorable, seem more trustworthy, or give the impression of being more cutting edge or even more established, then customers will gravitate to you. I don't mean that success is automatic, but your efforts in other areas might pay off more quickly because the brand glides smoothly and sticks more reliably than the competition.

Part of this branding is visual – graphics and UX. Part of it is verbal – writeup and naming. Professionally, I only work on the verbal part.

Additionally, you might be able to gain a permanent advantage over the competition by identifying and securing the best domain name(s) for your sector. Can't say whether this applies to you or not. But, by way of example, it hasn't hurt Barnes & Noble to own Books.com, nor Bank of America with Loans.com. Conversely, owning Loan.com or Condos.com has helped smaller players gain a foothold. Premium domains can only be owned by 1 company in any industry; so they're an advantage competitors cannot replicate.

I don't want to push expensive domains on everybody. Really it depends on the individual case. But if I were a latecomer to some market niche, I might want to leapfrog the more established players. As a professional domain consultant and buyer's broker, I often help clients assess opportunities like these.


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