5 With… Jessica Bookstaff, PigeonForge.com
With hard work and determination, Jessica Bookstaff has become a successful Internet marketing entrepreneur, owning popular geographic websites such as PigeonForge.com and Durango.com among others. Clients, partners and colleagues love working with her because of her contagious enthusiasm and bubbly personality, coupled with her intelligence in the geographic marketing space.
Since acquiring PigeonForge.com in 2000, Jessica has been developing the site with a firm belief in original content, electronic newsletters, visitor interaction and satisfaction. She believes that one of the keys to success in the city.com industry is a clear understanding of customer and market needs. Jess and her websites are ambassadors for the cities they represent, and she does a fine job at that. Clearly she is onto something, as the site has grown 1,400% since she took the reigns.
Jessica has been active in the Internet industry since 1998 managing marketing and public relations efforts for a mature start-up company. She enjoys the challenge of implementing effective site design and content management with a goal to increase overall revenue. She is actively involved as a board member of CASA of East Tennessee (Court Appointed Special Advocates) and a board member of Associated Cities. In her spare time, she is a volunteer with Junior Achievement and the Boys and Girls Club of the Smoky Mountains. Jessica lives in Knoxville, Tennessee with her awesome dog, Jackson. She enjoys running, biking, and the occasional dance-off.
EJS: 1) For geographic domain names, is .com considered the king, or are other extensions just as good if the intent is development? Is it worth paying a considerable amount more for the .com over another extension?
JB: “I am a purist. I truly believe that .com is the best extension by far, and I believe this will always be the case. .com is branded just as Coke, Kleenex, or Xerox are branded. It has become a generic term used describe and entire industry. This being said, it is absolutely worth paying considerably more for a city.com domain. I have passed on purchasing many other city names with alternative extensions. Saying this, I would never discourage anyone from developing their domain be it a .com, .net or .whatever.”
EJS: 2) If you had the opportunity to acquire a phenomenal geographic domain name, but you had no interest in that particular geographic area, would you buy it and develop it, buy it and resell it to someone else for a profit or pass on it?
JB: “Casting my emotions aside, as long as a) it were a sweet name and b) there was viable business potential, I would buy it and develop it – Absolutely!”
EJS: 3) What are you three favorite geographic websites, and why (other than the ones you own)?
JB: “There are so many I like and for different reasons, but if I must, I will only give you three …
Saratoga.com – I love the design and creativity they put into their sites. They are aesthetically appealing and user intuitive.
NewYorkCity.com – An amazing job developing the site using user generated content. This really gives the site a “community” feel.
SanFrancisco.com – as well as the other Boulevards sites using this design. So clean and organized yet packed with information a visitor or local resident could use.”
EJS: 4) To date, what are you most proud of in your business?
JB: “The relationship and reputation I have with my clients (250 +). They believe in my product and goals. I have personally met about 95% of them which is sometimes rare in this business. They are really like family!”
EJS: 5) Who has been the most influential person in your career, and what was the best piece of advice that person gave to you?
JB: “I’m picking two – my dad and brother. They have both given me so much advice and encouragement. One thing that sticks out in my mind my dad said, Just do your best and give it a try (referring to the purchase of PigeonForge.com in 2000). Thank goodness, I listened! Blake, my brother and possibly my biggest fan, always challenges me to look at everything from a different perspective. It’s really important in decision making and gaining clarity on issues. My dad did tell me Men are like streetcars – one comes along every 15 minutes. That’s stuck, too.”
EJS: 6) Aside from the camaraderie with like minded people, what other advantages are there to joining Associated Cities?
JB: “Besides hanging with me? Just kidding! Seriously, I am amazed at each member of Associated Cities. All the members are so creative and full of ideas. What I have found most interesting is that everyone has a different business plan with their sites. No one does it the same. All the members are so encouraging and willing to give advice and share their experiences. I am always learning so much!”
EJS: 7) What is a better bijigity moment: acquiring a great domain name, finishing the development of a great domain name or closing a large deal?
JB: “Just the thought of acquiring a new domain and closing the deal makes me bijigity. I love it!! I never really consider a domain finished in terms of development as it’s continuously changing and updating.”
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