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Drunken Sailors on a Deadline: How Not to Buy a Domain Name

One of the most interesting things I get to do in my role as General Manager, Domain Portfolio at Tucows is manage the sale of domain names that we own to third party buyers. Since joining the company, my team and I have dealt with countless inquiries from prospective domain name buyers looking to acquire a domain name from our portfolio. I’ve seen all sorts of approaches taken, some good, some not so good, and I wanted to share with you the story of one sale that we made because it’s a textbook case of how NOT to buy a domain name.

One morning, we received an "urgent" email and series of phone calls from an agency wanting to purchase a particular domain name.

That was their first mistake.

They explained that they were looking to acquire this domain name on behalf of one of their clients and that they needed to close the deal with us by the end of the day. Apparently, they had shortlisted several different domain names for this client and urgently needed to be able to tell their client that same evening that they’d secured one of the domain names.

That was their second mistake.

When it came time for me to negotiate the price of the domain name with the agency, it quickly became apparent to me that I was dealing with people who were spending money that wasn’t their own and – worse – could care less. Technically, of course, this was correct – the agency was buying the domain name on behalf of their client – but they obviously didn’t care how much their client would have to pay for the domain name as long as it was within a loosely defined range.

That was their third, and biggest, mistake.

Needless to say, I negotiated the price up, way up. In fact, I got us TEN TIMES the amount I would have normally sold that particular domain name for had the agency not been so flippant about the whole affair. Since the agency was in a hurry to meet a deadline and were willing to spend their client’s money like drunken sailors, I was happy to assist them in accomplishing their mission. ;+)

So, what lessons might be learned from this affair?

  • Rushing a domain name purchase, perhaps because you’ve left it to the last minute (ad agencies and clients, are you listening?), will likely mean the buyer will end up paying more than they normally should.
  • If you are using an intermediary to negotiate the purchase of a domain name on your behalf (which is not a bad idea, by the way), make sure your ‘agent’ is motivated to get you the best possible price. Ideally, they should treat the money that have to spend with as much, if not more, care than if it was their own.
  • Finally, regardless of whether or not you work with an intermediary, establish a clearly defined price range (or at least a maximum figure) at the outset, otherwise you will weaken your negotiating ability and won’t know when it’s time to walk away from the deal.

In other words, when it comes to buying a domain name, don’t be a drunken sailor on a deadline. But if you are, have I got a deal for you…


  1. Tim
    Tim December 18, 2007

    Great post! So, what was the domain name?

  2. Bill Sweetman
    Bill Sweetman December 18, 2007

    I can’t reveal the domain name, but it was a nonsensical four letter .com name similar to sfrs[dot]com.

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