The Brandable Insider: Screwing Up My First Private Deal

Back when I was a newbie domainer I had lots of ideas about how to make money in this industry. They all failed. But I did have one hair brained scheme that yielded a minor success. This was mostly due to dumb luck.

The story begins when I hand registered the name of a wealthy person. For the purpose of this blog, let’s call him Herman Mankowitz. Mankowitz was not famous but if you searched him on Google you’d see he was a member of a very, wealthy family. After a few months of owning HermanMankowitz.com I was contacted by a young women via LinkedIn. Let’s call her Alice.

Research

The first thing I did was research Alice. Her LinkedIn account and Facebook page made it easy. I wanted to know if she was representing Mankowitz or not. That would have a big impact on my asking price. I found out Alice was an American who was working for a non-profit in Africa. However she had previously worked for a global marketing and technology company in Australia. Bingo! I postulated that this connection to an International PR firm was the link between her and Mankowitz. Not because Mankowitz was Australian but because a wealthy person would likely hire a prestigious, International firm to handle their personal business. I surmised that Alice’s former employer had enlisted her to negotiate on their behalf. Now I was ready to respond to her query.

The Negotiation

  • Alice: I am looking to buy a name. Would you be able to help me with that?
  • Me: Sure, I can help you. What did you have in mind?
  • Alice: I wanted to purchase one of the names. How much are you selling them for?
  • Me: Which name are you interested in?
  • Alice: Are there different prices for different names?
  • Me: Yes, absolutely.
  • Alice: How much for HermanMankowitz.com?
  • Me: That one is $10,000 per the listing here at DomainTools (link)
  • Alice: $10,000? Are you kidding? I was thinking $500. Would you sell it for $500?
  • Me: Sorry, no I would not accept $500. It may be that this is not the right domain name for you.
  • Alice: What is the minimum that you would take? And which other domains might be cheaper?

Note: This conversation took place over a period of 3 days and I could tell she was living in a much different time zone. Africa’s time zone didn’t fit with her communication schedule so I concluded that she was back in Australia. This supported my suspicion that she was in cahoots with her old company. Also, when she started asking about other domains I felt like she was playing games and I wanted to put an end to that. I also didn’t want to enter into the typical negotiation where each party slowly comes down or up in price and meets in the middle. I wanted $10K for this name. So I decided to do something radical.

    • Me: I wouldn’t take anything less than $10,000 for that domain and in fact I’m thinking of raising the price to $12,500. My other domains have similar pricing. I know that is way out of your price range so I’m not sure there is much more for us to discuss. I do thank you for contacting me and I sincerely hope you find a domain that is right for your project. Good luck and best wishes.

Note: I thought my message would sober her up and that I would get an offer in the $5K range. But instead there was no response. Silence. Day after day, month after month. During that time I did some research and learned about common law trademarks for public figures and realized I could be facing a UDRP hearing. I thought I could even face frivolous legal action since a wealthy person has a lot of money to burn especially if you make them angry. I didn’t have any money for legal fees so after 3 months I decided that I should take the offer and run. I thought $500 was not too bad for a hand regged domain. But how to come down from $10K to $500? I felt like a fool. Finally I came up with a strategy.

  • Me: I’ve recently been reading up on Herman Mankowitz’s charitable activities and I’m very impressed with his social contributions. As a fellow supporter of charitable causes I’d like to see this domain name get into the proper hands. I’m now prepared to release the domain, to an appropriate person, at a much lower price. Please let me know if you are still interested.
  • Alice: Thanks for reaching out. We had moved on from that URL, but might be willing to discuss it for a nominal fee. What number did you have in mind?

Note: This return message sounded encouraging so I decided to increase my counter offer and ask for more than $500.

  • Me: Under the circumstances I would let it go for $1500.
  • Alice: We truly appreciate you reconsidering upon understanding his work. We would like to purchase the site for $1,500. As I’m sure you’d appreciate, we’d like to keep the terms of our agreement confidential and we would like to use Escrow.com to complete the transfer. Is there a phone number that I can reach you on to discuss details?

The sale went smoothly with the buyer paying the escrow fees. She was working for a small tech company in Australia and was the indirect representative of Herman Mankowitz. Several weeks later the domain became the home for a website that extolled Mankowitz, his life, and his accomplishments.

Learning From My Mistakes
When Alice quickly agreed to $1500 I knew that I’d left money on the table. In hindsight I think I could have gotten $3K for that domain if I had handled the situation differently. But overall I feel good about the sale. I had made a profit and Mankowitz had gotten his domain for a reasonable price. Most of all I’d learned some lessons for next time.:

  • I need to think twice before buying the name of famous person unless it’s are very common name like Herb Jones. Otherwise I could face a UDRP hearing or worse yet a law suit. It’s probably not worth the risk.
  • I need to make sure potential buyers can contact me easily. They shouldn’t have to find me on LinkedIn to start a conversation about a purchase.
  • If I set a high initial price it shouldn’t be so high that the buyer feels they are being taken advantage of.
  • I shouldn’t lose my patience even if the buyer starts to play games. Slow and steady wins the race.
  • In some circumstances it might be OK to play hard ball and say “It seems like we’re not going to be able to make a deal here. What do you think?” but I shouldn’t completely shut down the communications.
  • If I contact the buyer after a long period of silence I shouldn’t assume that I am the only motivated party. They may be just as desperate to close the deal as I am.

What are some ways you would have handled this negotiation for a better outcome? Let us know in the comments below.

Meanwhile, check out this great list of brandables available at NameJet:

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Keith deBoer

Keith DeBoer is a part-time, domain investor with an emphasis on brandable domains. He's a domain industry writer with published content at BrandBucket, DomainShane and NamePros. He's also a brand ambassador for BrandBucket and by day, he works as an Internet consultant.

4 thoughts on “The Brandable Insider: Screwing Up My First Private Deal

  1. When you wrote “I’ve recently been reading up on Herman Mankowitz’s charitable activities and I’m very impressed with his social contributions. As a fellow supporter of charitable causes I’d like to see this domain name get into the proper hands. I’m now prepared to release the domain, to an appropriate person, at a much lower price. Please let me know if you are still interested” and heard back from Alice, I would have asked to make a better and aggressive offer to close the deal instead of lowering the price and presenting my new price.

      1. Where is the ethics in heavily profiting from somebody’s first last name? Then to have the audacity in saying you “screwed up” this sale? I hope you, a fellow supporter of charitable causes, donated the proceeds of this sale to charity.

        15 U.S. Code § 8131 – Cyberpiracy protections for individuals
        (1) In general
        (A) Civil liability: Any person who registers a domain name that consists of the name of another living person, or a name substantially and confusingly similar thereto, without that person’s consent, with the specific intent to profit from such name by selling the domain name for financial gain to that person or any third party, shall be liable in a civil action by such person.
        (B) Exception: A person who in good faith registers a domain name consisting of the name of another living person, or a name substantially and confusingly similar thereto, shall not be liable under this paragraph if such name is used in, affiliated with, or related to a work of authorship protected under title 17, including a work made for hire as defined in section 101 of title 17, and if the person registering the domain name is the copyright owner or licensee of the work, the person intends to sell the domain name in conjunction with the lawful exploitation of the work, and such registration is not prohibited by a contract between the registrant and the named person. The exception under this subparagraph shall apply only to a civil action brought under paragraph (1) and shall in no manner limit the protections afforded under the Trademark Act of 1946 (15 U.S.C. 1051 et seq.) or other provision of Federal or State law.

        More @ https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/15/8131

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