There are very few domain brokers who can say that they have successfully brokered over $40mm worth of domain sales, but today, we are speaking with someone who can. Joe Uddeme is one of the industry’s most successful domain brokers and as a key member of the Domain Holdings team, Joe closed millions of dollars worth of domain sales. Now however, Joe has decided to take on a new challenge by opening his own domain brokerage company, Name Experts LLC, who already have premium domains such as Guitar.com under exclusive brokerage. In this interview, we discuss many aspects of domain investing and brokering, as well as Joe’s own advice for any startups looking to acquire a domain. NP: How did you get started in domain investing? Joe: I’ve always been an entrepreneur, but I got my start in the retail space. I sold two companies before and I have a strong marketing background from learning to grow brands . Funnily enough, I was always aware of domains, but my original business was in SEO, PPC, and other web marketing strategies. Domains were a natural segue and my past business took off because of it. NP: How many domains do you personally own? Do you develop any of them? Joe: I have a smaller portfolio of around 250 names. I’ve only developed a few. I focus more on helping my clients these days, but I still grow my .com portfolio in my spare time while monitoring auctions and dropping domains at NameJet and SnapNames. As the industry has evolved over the years, so have my habits for procuring domains. NP: What is your most unusual domain name story? Joe: Unfortunately I’m not able to share some of the most unusual as I put my clients’ privacy first, but I can tell you one that’s synonymous with sales, and that is Connect.com. Sony originally owned Connect.com and I was helping a buyer acquire the name. I must have talked to over 120 contacts at Sony over 7 months before we finally got the name for 7 figures. Who knew that it was so difficult to “connect” with people over that name? Persistence and trust is everything as a broker. It’s important to forge long-lasting relationships in the industry with your contacts and constantly keep in contact with them. There was even a time where I brokered the same single domain 3 different times to repeat clients over the years. NP: Who spends the most on domains - startups, corporations, or individual investors? Joe: I would say investors or corporations although there are a ton of corps that won’t spend anything on the appropriate URL, so it just depends on the circumstances. For instance, just this last month has been great for selling to end users for me. If corporations are buying, it’s usually for brand protection purposes, which doesn’t usually have a large budget. We often focus on these large paydays from startups and large corps, but we overlook that between those large sales that could take years, we need copious small ones to stay afloat. All markets need liquidity, and that’s where domain investors come in. A community like NamePros helps the investors stay afloat by connecting domainers for regular transactions. Investors are there to buy names through good times and bad, and we need to remember that they keep regular cash flow going while we pursue larger sales. NP: Is .COM still the most popular TLD amongst your clients? Joe: Well, .COM is my bread and butter. That’s my specific niche. It’s important that everyone finds their niche in the industry and learns to carve out that space for themselves. .COMs have provided me the best returns. That’s not to say that I never deal with gTLD’s, but I don’t focus on them. When I help buyers look for a gTLD, I remind them to choose wisely and pick something that makes sense both left and right of the dot. It has to flow and make sense with their brand, otherwise it won’t produce any traffic or people won’t remember it. I want my clients to be excited after they make a purchase so I’ll be direct in letting them know if something they’re pursuing really stinks or purely speculative. Again, I focus mostly on .COM because that’s what I’ve done best over the years. New people entering the industry might have more luck with very specific gTLDs if they have the opportunity to get a prime dictionary single word domain that they wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to secure. NP: Why did you decide to leave a large brokerage firm to create NameExperts.com on your own? Joe: As I stated earlier, I’ve always been an entrepreneur and enjoyed manning a boutique firm. After I helped shape and grow Domain Holdings from the ground up to something large, I decided I wanted to start anew. It was time for a change. They are good people and I have nothing but the utmost respect for them as an organization, but I wanted to focus again on a small boutique brokerage firm where I can devote myself to building relationships and helping my contacts. NP: What is the domain industry missing? Joe: I believe investors and end-users alike need to understand more about how the web and SEO works. Anyone can market themselves, but a truly great domain builds an invaluable foundation to begin on. We need more expert valuators that take the time to understand a domain name. A better understanding of how SEO plays a role in the correct selection as well as organic search and content. We need to dig deeper and research what keywords work in specific industries according to CPC, PPC and other factors. Buyers must educate themselves on the true value and marketability of domain names. NP: What information do you use to create a fair market valuation on domain names for your clients? Joe: For me, it’s a combination of multiple tools including; DomainTools, NameBio, SEM Rush, market comps and Alexa ranking details where applicable. I’ve also used Google’s keyword search tool. It’s important to also use these tools to analyze trends and pay attention to what people are buying and why. For example, by and large, right now I’ve seen a growing trend for e-commerce and marijuana domains. NP: What are two pieces of advice you can give to startups looking for a domain? Joe: Use a professional and don’t do it yourself. Seriously. I’ve seen some major mistakes made by founders trying to get a domain name. By the time some of them finally contact me, it ends up costing them a lot more, or they get themselves into legal troubles. It’s important to take the time to understand all ramifications of the name. Are there trademarks, or other companies that could steal your thunder? I’ve had people call me up in a huff desperately asking what they can do because they built everything under a certain brand and they end up finding out the domain owner also owns the trademark. What’s worse is when the startups directly contact them. It’s not uncommon for the founder to get into an argument with the domain and trademark owner, essentially ending any chance for their company’s brand. Do your homework, and let a professional handle it. And before you hire a broker, make sure you investigate them a bit before hand. Google them. Ask them what other names they’ve sold and if they have references. Everyone and their mom claims to be a broker these days, but few have the legitimate sales records to back it up. Identify alternatives. Like I said earlier, not everything works out in the end. Sometimes the owner is asking for too much or it’s already developed and they won’t sell. It’s imperative to think of a long-line of industry related keywords and come up with some equally great ideas. Brokers can help with this as well. NP: As a broker, you have a pulse on both buying and selling trends in the industry. What do you see in store for the rest of the year? Joe: End users are out there, but China is drying up. With everything going on in the world right now, I strongly believe it’s going to be a buyer’s market. Especially for .com domains. NP: Any tips on how to revive an old lead or cold lead? Joe: Just call them up! Persistence and tracking is everything. I swear by Hubspot’s CRM. I religiously track my leads and contacts and regularly follow up with them. Don’t get me wrong, if someone asks to be removed from a list or gives me a clear “no”, I make sure to never contact them again. But most leads will say they’re not looking to buy at this moment, try again in a few months, I’ll have my boss call you when she returns, etc. One of the most helpful parts of a CRM is its reminder emails. Set reminders for everything and follow up relentlessly until you hear a clear and concise “yes” or “no.” That may take a few phone calls and a couple days, or thousands of calls over a year. If you ever start to run out of leads, try looking on CrunchBase for recently funded companies. They’ll definitely have the bankroll!