I’m no stranger to frugailty – growing up in Miami, Florida, my father was a cheapskate, and it got him into trouble. He couldn’t bear to put a quarter in a parking meter, so he racked up a lot of $10 and $25 parking tickets. It became a running joke. If he’d been able to spend $0.25, he could have saved himself hundreds of dollars over time.
I thought about this story last week at the D.C. Tech Meetup, when I was talking to the owner of a startup. If you’ve talked to end users about domains, you know that some “get it,” and some don’t.
He explained the idea behind his site (a peer-to-peer network for music lessons), how they’d received $25,000 in angel funding, and had recently unveiled a prototype. Without divulging the name they came up with, I’ll say that the name was one of the things that piqued my curiosity. It’s a word that’s music-related, but is immediately recognizable to the general public. It’s catchy, sounds great, and lends itself to a perfect logo.
I immediately assumed their domain was (Keyword)Music.com. He said, “No, we would have liked to have had that one, but it was taken, so we got “My(Keyword)Music.com.” I have nothing against three-word domains, but this one sounded – well, clunky. He agreed they wanted something shorter.
And there was no way the single-word .COM was within reach.
Keep in mind, I wasn’t selling this guy anything, and I have no stake in what he does with his domains. I was merely dispensing free information, and said it might be worth putting in an offer on the two-word .COM. He said they’d already tried that.
Then a lightbulb went off in my head, and I said, “What about a .ME? The one or two-word version is more likely to be available, it would sound great, and you could eliminate the need for the word “my.” I mentioned Join.me, About.me, and all of the startups in D.C. I’d seen using the .ME extension. This was not a word I think would sound well with a .CO, .TV, or any other extensions – but it worked with .ME.
“If it’s available, you could probably register that for $7.” (at the time, GoDaddy had a $6.99 coupon code for .ME). And here’s the kicker…
His response was, “All of our funds are going into development right now.”
“I understand that, but it’s seven dollars. If you haven’t done a soft launch yet and could potentially change the name down the road, you could own it now, rather than have to haggle about it years later.”
“We really don’t have any money to spend on anything other than development at the moment.”
There you have it – a prime example of someone who doesn’t get it. I completely sympathize with small businesses and startups for whom $10,000, or even $1,000, is a large amount of money. Not everyone has deep pockets, and that’s one reason a lot of startups are coming up with made-up words and thinking “out of the box” when it comes to branding. .COM is clearly king when it comes to building a business, but in this case, I think the three-word version is inferior, and that he’ll probably end up losing traffic to the one and two-word .com versions of his name. The one or two-word .ME, on the other hand, is memorable, fresh, and trendy. At the very least, they could have secured it and done some audience testing.
But why spend $6.99 today, when, if your idea takes off, you can spend thousands of dollars later? Why not put a quarter in the parking meter, if it will prevent you from getting a $25 parking ticket?