Brandable domains have found themselves with many new standalone websites popping up all over. We sat down today with the lady running the most successful and oldest of these niche specific marketplaces. Margot Bushnaq is the founder of Brand Bucket and was kind enough to take some time and tell us about how it all got started and what is driving sales today.
1) When did you first start getting involved with domain names ?
Margot: In early 2007 I left a company that I had worked at for over 7 years. I decided to take a few months off before starting to work with my soon-to-be-husband on a new web software incubator named Boxador. We spent a lot of that time thinking of ideas, which always led to brainstorming names for those ideas, and registering any domain name that was available. I registered plenty of keyword-driven names, but after a while I started leaning towards more generic, non-keyword names that we made up but sounded great.
2) How did the idea for BrandBucket come about ?
Margot: By June of that year I had a collection of about 150 domains, so I put them up on a WordPress blog that we called “the bucket” so that our team at Boxador could reference them during our brainstorming sessions. My husband — always concerned about design and usability — made logos for all of the names so that our list was nicer to look at than a bunch of words on a page. In the first month that our site was up, someone stumbled across it, asked about purchasing a name, and told us that it was a great collection to choose from. Then a second person came along, and a third. We realized we had something special, and it really struck a chord with entrepreneurs like us, so we decided to expand and improve it.
3) Who do you find is the average domain buyer on BrandBucket ?
Margot: The most common type of buyer we see is a small team of entrepreneurs — 2 or 3 people. They are often experienced with startups, and the name they are buying is not for their first company. This tells us that there is a lot of learning that happens the first time you start a business, including what parts of the business you should seek outside help with, and that are worth spending money on to help save time.
4) Do you do any outbound marketing or advertising to reach potential buyers ?
Margot: Yes, we have a large advertising budget, and we are involved with events in the startup/accelerator/VC community.
5) The site has gotten tremendously popular with domainers submitting more domains in the last six months than ever before. Have you had to make your selection process even more stringent ?
Margot: I wouldn’t say it is more stringent. We try to focus on diversity (in both types of names and quality/prices) and it is very important to us — because it is important to our customers — that we try and avoid names that are very similar to each other. For example, there is a finite amount of made-up CVCVCV words, and we have names submitted that are one letter different from something already in the marketplace. We have to make the call whether or not the new name is too similar or if it can really stand on its own. We’ve had to reject a lot of good names recently because of this. Our primary focus is on the customer that wants to see variety and not a lot of duplication, but at the same time we are also being fair to domain owners who were first to list with us.
6: Some domainers have lamented the fact that their newly approved listings are off the first page after a couple days. Aside from paying to promote your listing on page 1, is there anyway of having names rotate so it does not turn out the older the listing, the further back you are ?
Margot: We have been thinking of ways to diversify the front page; however, two things we’ve learned over the past six years are: 1) we have a lot of repeat visitors, and they appreciate being able to browse newest to oldest by default, and 2) being on the front page has very little to do with a name selling. Just last month we sold one of the oldest names in our portfolio, and a day later we sold a name that had been on the site for less than a week. When you build a site for a specific type of buyer in terms of quality and price range, and the size of the inventory isn’t overwhelming, serious buyers will take the time to go through everything. If they are going to purchase, they owe it to themselves to make sure they are making the right choice.
7) What are the hot themes currently on BrandBucket and what kind of names should domainers be submitting ?
Margot: We don’t typically see themes from our buyers. Most people are looking for a name for the long haul, so they aren’t too interested in trends. Trends that you see in startup names, like a missing vowel (Flickr) or extensions like .ly or .io, are usually due to companies thinking all of the good names are “taken” and they insist on starting their company with a $10 naming budget. It becomes acceptable to use a hack or a misspelling only because other people are doing it. Our buyers have usually moved beyond this and appreciate names that are spelled the way they sound, and don’t make them or their customers think too much.
Regarding my earlier point about reaching a limit of unique made-up or “coined” names, a solid keyword pair with good linguistic structure and applicability to many possible types of business is what we’d like to see more of in the submissions.
Thank you for your time and continued success to you and Brand Bucket.
Margot: Thank you! I really appreciate your blog and the time you put into your content. It is a great resource for people interested in domain names.