Selling Your Domain at a Live Auction | DomainInvesting.com
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Selling Your Domain at a Live Auction

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*Pre-post edit* I know Rick is about to discuss his take on auctions, but this is what I wrote in anticipation of my aunt’s funeral I am sure my post is much more tactical but I wanted to preface it anyway.

After every live auction, no matter who is running it, I always see complaints about selling domain names during these auctions.  Some of the most standard complaints that I always see include:

1) They charge too much commission for doing nothing
2) There isn’t enough time between when the final list is announced and the auction is held
3) The auction house doesn’t market the names to end users
4) The reserve prices are too high
5) The names suck

I am guilty of lodging at least one of these complaints at some point – and probably more than just one. However, instead of continuing to complain about the live auctions, I think we should be more proactive when we have a domain name listed in the auction, and we should take it upon ourselves to market our domains. For the sake of this post, I will hypothetically say that TropicalBirds.com is going to be sold at a live auction.

Upon submitting the name to the auction house, I would assume the name would be accepted to the live auction because I know it’s a high quality domain name that gets a lot of search engine traffic (5,000+ visitors). That said, as soon as I decide to sell the name at auction and submit it, I would begin my marketing campaign rather than waiting until it is (or isn’t) officially selected.

I would compile a list of all commercial pet businesses with a web presence, affiliate companies selling bird products, and bird-product advertisers on Google. I would get as many email addresses as possible from the corporate websites, and I would use social networking tools like LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook to find other decision makers where the corporate site failed. I would also search for email addresses on Google from press releases and guess email addresses by finding the email system (like elliot.silver or esilver) and taking a chance.

Each of these decision makers would then receive an email notifying them of the upcoming auction with details about the domain name and the auction. I would include traffic stats (# visitors, search engine visitors, keywords…etc) and I would include search engine ranking statistics. Because of spam filters, I would also send out Federal Express packages with the same information.

In addition to traffic information, I would include general information about the auction and include the auction house president’s email address and telephone number for sign up. I wouldn’t want the CEO of a large pet company to call the main phone number and end up with someone who didn’t know squat about the auction or was otherwise clueless. I would let each person know about bidding options, including bidding online, proxy bids and telephone bids, to make it as easy as possible to sign up.

I would also add a graphic on the navigation of the website with a link to a page on the site announcing the auction. This page would include most information about the site/domain along with bidding information. Finally, I would let my advertisers and competitors know about the auction, in case they wanted to buy this category defining domain name. I would do whatever I could do to sell my domain name.

It’s become pretty clear that domain auctions are attended by domain owners who probably aren’t the best buyers for niche domain names – especially in the economy. If we list domain names for sale that don’t sell at the prices we want, we only have ourselves to blame.

Incidentally, early in 2007 (or maybe late 2006), I sold what was then the highest value domain name that I owned for $20,000 in a live auction. Prior to the auction, I emailed 15 companies with information about the auction, and two companies replied to me. Although a domain investor won the name, I don’t know if these two (or other) companies bid it up from the $15,000 reserve price.

If we want to sell our domain names for the optimal price, we need to find the optimal buyers on our own.


About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of DomainInvesting.com. Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has sold seven figures worth of domain names in the last five years. Please read the DomainInvesting.com Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest.


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Comments (13)

    DomainTweeter

    Very good post. I’ve had a few disappointing sales (in the low to mid $xx,xxx) on high profile auctions in the past. There is nothing more frustrating than setting a lower reserve to drum up interest and having only one bidder scoop up a good name at live auction.

    It took me a few years to figure out most of the points you just posted. Including the auction house president’s e-mail and phone is one I hadn’t thought of and one I will start doing in the future.

    Your points are also an excellent outline for contacting end user companies to publicize a silent extended auction or Sedo listing.

    —–
    Please accept my condolences for your Aunt.

    February 23rd, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    Kristoff

    Great tips and thoughts Elliot.

    While it doesn’t hurt having a premium Tier 1 domain to “sell” itself, many of us are not in that envious position.

    There’s simply no substitute for rolling up your sleeves, doing some thorough research to identify the key market players – building a solid list of prospective buyers – then get to work contacting them (and following-up) in a professional manner.

    Develop a targeted marketing campaign, treat your domain names as valuable products, personalize your approach, and you might be pleasantly surprised by the results.

    February 23rd, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    Rob Sequin

    Well done!

    I think very few seller’s take responsibility for their sales.

    Sure, we rely on the auction house to have a domain auction at an event with qualified buyers but they are getting paid for running their domain through their auction system and handling the transfer.

    They really aren’t getting paid to market the auction although I think they should do SOME marketing of the auction.

    So, you are right, the seller should market their domain (or hire someone to pro-actively market the auction to qualified end users for a small fee :-)

    February 23rd, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    Kelly Lieberman

    Great advice on marketing, and apparently in this industry it becomes our responsibility, because you can’t rely on our industry leading auctions to do their jobs. If you submit your name to auction and it is excepted, many of us thought that this is exactly what they were going to be doing – only to find out they didn’t bother…
    Perhaps, years ago they should have been more clear on what they were “Not” doing…and so many sales would not have been lost. Perhaps they should train their sales reps to market their “properties”, as that is what their position implies….that they should be “selling”. Perhaps they should have been charging a higher commission in order to do it right all along.
    Of course many of us have been making suggestions like this for years. Hopefully they may be seeing we were right?

    February 24th, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    Adam

    Kelly,
    You’ve posted in multiple places about how “nothing is being done” to market names. Your absolutely wrong as I’ve repeated on other posts.

    Additionally, what does an aftermarket site bring to the table that makes them worthy of 10% ?

    Sometime you should read Dan Warners papers on the aftermarket. The places that bring in the buyers and have a market and presence are given commission because of this simple fact. If you can bring in buyers then you get a commission. If you can do it yourself you avoid the commissions . It’s really pretty simple.

    While the criticisms and advice are great and I think are definitely needed at times. I don’t think a lot of folks consider what goes on behind the scenes or what has already been tried before. . .etc.

    I actually would encourage people to try their hand at it. If the things you see wrong seem to be so simple of a concept to accomplish. GO FOR IT! We need the competition. It just betters the space and makes it better for all domain owners. I hear that anyone can run a proxybid.com auction. I’d love to have more auctions run by people who can do it (supposedly) better. That’s actually why DC jumped in to help aftermarket.com . . . go figure.

    February 25th, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    Adam

    Kelly,
    You’ve posted in multiple places about how “nothing is being done” to market names. Your absolutely wrong as I’ve repeated on other posts.

    Additionally, what does an aftermarket site like sedo or afternic bring to the table that makes them worthy of 10% ? I see the complaints about the live auctions but not the aftermarket sites. . .

    Sometime you should read Dan Warners papers on the aftermarket. The places that bring in the buyers and have a market and presence are given commission because of this simple fact. If you can bring in buyers then you get a commission. If you can do it yourself you avoid the commissions . It’s really pretty simple.

    While the criticisms and advice are great and I think are definitely needed at times. I don’t think a lot of folks consider what goes on behind the scenes or what has already been tried before. . .etc.

    I actually would encourage people to try their hand at it. If the things you see wrong seem to be so simple of a concept to accomplish. GO FOR IT! We need the competition. It just betters the space and makes it better for all domain owners. I hear that anyone can run a proxybid.com auction. I’d love to have more auctions run by people who can do it (supposedly) better. That’s actually why DC jumped in to help aftermarket.com . . . go figure.

    February 25th, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Mike

    Kelly, you just sound pissy, you have no clue what is done to market names. And obviously you’ve heard about it so it can’t be so bad.

    Real question is why aren’t you bitchin’ about Bido – you get maybe a day and no active promotion there? Or maybe Eric Rice and Domaining.com – they just send them in daily emails.

    You’re okay with that but not emails to every DT/TZ member and DCs buyers network or individual end-users? How about banners and personal emails, articles, PR and news?

    This seems personal. TONS is done to market every name but maybe you’ve heard – you can bring a horse to water, but can’t make him drink.

    Seriously, grow up. You got a chance to selll your name but didn’t – nbd, you said NO. That was your CHOICE.

    Don’t ruin it for all those smart ones who said yes.

    February 25th, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    Kelly Lieberman

    Generally speaking, in a live auction setting, in most industries where high value, one of a kind items are being sold, and where a process of selection is the determinate of whether your item makes it into the auction, there are certain expectations on behalf of the seller.
    Take Christies, Sotheby’s, Siegel’s (rare stamps), Stacks (rare coins), Lelands (sports), for example. In every case, the auction house makes a concerted effort to find and search out buyers worldwide. In fact, they make sure that they offer top notch service to their sellers as well, by keeping them in the loop on their efforts. There is a “relationship” created and nurtured based on mutual respect for what both sides bring to the other’s table.
    When you consign an antique or coins or a stamp collection to an auction house, they do not treat you as if they are doing you a favor…quite the opposite.
    In the interest of educating the end user, and showcasing domains in the best possible light, isn’t this the behavior we should be emulating?
    I have been to my share of quiet small town antique auctions that have only been advertised in antique newsletters and they are awesome for picking up bargains…since fewer people show up to bid.
    I am just suggesting that the industry can work to make changes that might bring about some positive results. I have also said many times that if the commissions needed to be higher to support a better auction result, I doubt that anyone would complain- it would only equate to higher sales for all involved.

    Also, I never hesitate to post using my full name, and I certainly never resort to the rude language used in the previous post. I think it is regrettable that a conversation needs to reach that level on a public blog.

    February 25th, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    Mike

    “I think it is regrettable that a conversation needs to reach that level on a public blog.”

    You’re suddenly very reserved but what is regrettable is that you feel you have to go around talking trash, with little basis and TONS of hypocrisy.

    Again, Bido? Domaining? I even get daily emails from Sedo selling a domain.

    Singling this out smells personal and vindictive, not constructive. Your last post was constructive.

    That kind of behavior, which is detrimental to those that chose to sell, forces me to keep it real. Sorry, nothing personal but these types of veiled attacks (ie, suggestions) are usually sour apples.

    Have you even noticed that they are giving away MORE than their commission on the sale of these names to Habitat for Humanity?

    I love the passion and the clear intellect and drive, not the methodology or motive behind it. Cheers.

    February 25th, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    Leigh Ann

    What a terrific “How To” list for marketing and selling your own domain name at a Live Auction. Excellent information Elliot – your tips will definitely be put to good use!

    February 26th, 2009 at 12:15 am

    Leigh Ann

    I must have missed a blog post somewhere however, I wanted to briefly comment on the conversation that is going on here.

    A good friend once shared with me that leaving a comment on someone’s weblog is like walking into their living room and joining in on a conversation.

    That being said, rude and condesending remarks about someone will not get you very far in the conversation.

    We all benefit and learn from one another when we
    respect one another.

    February 26th, 2009 at 12:34 am

    Davius

    Hello Elliot. I wanted your advice on how to proceed with Silent Auction Reserve Prices. At present, I have a .INFO domain that has been accepted to “Vegas’ Extended Silent Auction”, but am afraid that my reserve price is too low ($100). The .com version sold for $300k+. I set the reserve low so as to be accepted to this auction, but I’m wondering if I should try to raise the Reserve price to a little…..

    What’s your thoughts?

    January 10th, 2010 at 9:33 pm

      Elliot

      @ Davius

      I guess it depends on the name. I don’t really buy .info names, so I don;t know values. You should ask your rep about the domain contract to ensure that you can actually raise the reserve at this point.

      January 10th, 2010 at 9:36 pm

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