5 With… Jeff Reynolds, AmericanFlags.com
Jeffrey Reynolds is the President/CEO of Precision Marketing Solutions, Inc., a privately held communications and ecommerce company based on Long Island. The company’s portfolio includes about 3,000 domain names and websites in a dozen markets, the most prominent of which is AmericanFlags.com.
Since purchasing that domain a month after 9/11 on eBay for $2,650, Reynolds has turned the once vacant URL into one of the nation’s top flag retailers, with revenues doubling annually since that time. Other websites in the company’s portfolio include JackOLantern.com, SantasMailbox.com, Discrimination.com, DivorceDirectory.com, BestPsychics.com, PetSitter.com and BlackBikeWeek.com.
Precision Marketing offers a wide range of marketing, public relations and communications services on a flat fee or monthly retainer basis, as well as strategic business consulting services with an emphasis on ecommerce.
Dr. Reynolds holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and a Ph.D. in social policy from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where he is a member of the adjunct faculty. In addition to his business endeavors, Dr. Reynolds provides strategic marketing, government relations, fund development and program evaluation services to health and human service organizations on Long Island including a youth violence prevention program and the region’s largest HIV/AIDS care agency.
1.) EJS: How did you acquire AmericanFlags.com, and when you were bidding on it, did you plan to build a website/business using the name?
JR: “I acquired the name in October of 2001 – about a month after 9/11 –via an eBay auction with no specific plan in mind. The second-highest bidder emailed me a note of congratulations and told me that his interest in the name was related to the fact that he had a warehouse full of American flags he was looking to peddle. It was an instant match as I didn’t have a single flag to sell and probably wouldn’t have been able to find inventory at any price given that most major suppliers were sold out within days after 9/11. In a few emails, we worked out a simple dropshipping arrangement.
I fired up my brand new copy of Microsoft Frontpage and threw together a single page website. Orders began coming in literally within seconds of the site going live and I re-couped my whopping $2,650 domain investment almost immediately. Once we had depleted the original inventory, I spent the next couple years building a base of major suppliers, expanding the product line to include US flags of different weights and sizes, world flags, state flags, military flags, residential/commercial flagpoles and more.
I never imagined the business would be where it is today, and it’s been an educational, occasionally overwhelming (think July 4th of every year) and dare I say – even fun – ride. My wife Maureen has become a vital part of the business and with infinitely more patience and tact is far better than I am at things like customer service.”
2.) EJS: Do you think a domainer/domain investor can also be a domain developer without losing his identity?
JR: “Absolutely and having a foot in both worlds has helped diversify both my skills and my business portfolio. The trend among domain investors is development and shifts in the PPC market, along with some other dynamics will likely accelerate the convergence of domain investing and development. Having said all that and getting back to the identity question, most people know me as the “AmericanFlags.com guy,” which I’ve perpetuated by speaking at TRAFFIC and doing interviews such as this one.
The flag business overshadows some of my other projects, but not to the point of great detriment. Frankly, I’ve always seen my experience in developing AmericanFlags.com as a great narrative for helping to reframe the public perception of domain name investors. It’s an all-American success story and at the end of the day, we’ve created something of real value. Done right, development can put a positive, constructive face on domaining and help us shed the misplaced “cybersquatter” label that’s been wrongly assigned by some special interest groups and media sources.”
3.) EJS: Can you give some advice to people who own domain names that they would like to develop, but have no experience with web development?
JR: “Start today. Bounce some ideas off a few friends and family members. Do some market research and talk to folks who have done it. Map out timeframes and then get to work. Good design doesn’t cost what it once did, nor does coding or content development. You can do it in small steps and scale things up as you go. And development doesn’t necessarily mean handling products, it can mean creating a directory with paid listings, a forum or some other service.”
4.) EJS: Would you have had the same success if you had simply registered a name like eAmericanFlags.com, or is owning the premier domain name essential to your business?
JR: “The domain name is absolutely essential to the business. Having a category-killer domain means having the wind at your back as you develop, test and market your product line. It means instant high-quality type-in traffic that increases almost daily. It means better deals with suppliers, more credibility with consumers and a better response from the media. The strength of our name has opened the door to significant military and corporate sales with folks who otherwise probably wouldn’t take our calls and put us at the top of a space formally dominated by multigenerational businesses within just a few years.”
5.) EJS: Do you think you could replicate the business model for AmericanFlags.com in another vertical, and what challenges would need to be overcome?
JR: “Sure, we could replicate the model, though I’m not that hot on creating more work. Running a full-fledged site with more than 2,000 SKUs is an immense task just in terms of order processing, customer service, purchasing, inventory management, shipping and receiving and accounting. I’m content to build out some smaller properties that reflect personal interests or work with the seasonality of the flag business, but am not looking to start a new endeavor of the same magnitude right now.”
6.) EJS: What other projects are you working on at the moment?
JR: “We just launched PetSitter.com, a directory of professional pet sitters and our third new project so far this year. We’ve got two other projects on the drawing board for the Summer/Fall, though I’ve been focusing a large amount of my time on increasing our PR/marketing client base. We’re really good at helping folks attract free media attention through press releases, direct pitches and promotions.
We’ve also taken on some clients and helped them increase their sales conversions by refining the checkout process, boosting product descriptions and making some other minor changes that can have a huge impact on shopping cart abandonment. It’s been rewarding to take some of the lessons we’ve learned and help others scale new heights in terms of visitors, revenues and their own expectations.”
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