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A Comprehensive 25 Step Blueprint for Initial Domain Name Strategies to Strengthen Your Brand

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Tasha Kidd
March 11, 2008

Tasha Kidd

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When staking out a good domain name strategy in brand management, there are a lot of things that need to happen, to lay the groundwork for years of success, both offline and online. The new internet reality has made it essential to develop brands with the internet in mind; failure to do so is a recipe for failure. The wisdom to embrace the internet as a tool to advance your brand, however, can be a recipe for sensational success and mind-blowing domination.

A key part of embracing the internet for powerful leverage is a comprehensive domain name strategy that can strengthen (not erode) your brand. Because this is so obvious to us, and given that the “e” prefix handily refers to the realities of an online world in most economies, we think of this as “The Big eDuh” — it will either be obvious to you now, or will become obvious to you months or years from now, when you finally see it, and have paid the consequences of missing it.

To help you get in on the tremendous market advantage that domain names can provide, here are our Big eDuh guidelines that provide a Comprehensive Blueprint for Initial Domain Name Strategies to Strengthen Your Brand:

  • 0. ZERO: Most companies start with their brand. That’s natural, but (if you insist) buy the domain name that matches your brand, and then set it aside for a moment
  1. Identify your customer(s) and think like your customer thinks, NATURALLY. Try, anyway. Ask them. Talk to them. Don’t assume they only think one way. Capture ALL the ways they think naturally. Make a list. Keep adding to it. Your customers are dynamic; keep a pulse on these changes and stay up with them
  2. Re-read number 1. Think some more about it. Put “Think like customers. Don’t make them think like you.” on your wall. Stamp it on your forehead. Get a custom skin made for your PDA and put it on the front and back of it. Draw it with lipstick on your bathroom mirror while you’re shaving. Tattoo it on your ankle and cross your legs a lot.
  3. Think about how your customers ACT naturally: where they go, who they hang with, what’s important to them. (Think demographics plus anecdotal plus viral/social plus uncommon sense.) If you have more than one category of customers, do this for each category and customer demographic. Hang with them if you can. Go where they go. Be with them. Be one of them.
  4. Find out what triggers emotional responses in your customers, (particularly certain songs, cultural/era throwbacks and fast forwards, and universal personal experiences, new excitements, fears, etc.) Plan to tap into that.
  5. Look up. Look around. Know trends, fads, new things, and new ways that are here to stay. Anticipate them. Weigh them based on numbers 1, 3 and 4 and the inevitability factor. Don’t get so stuck in what used to work, that you miss tectonic shifts and the inherent opportunities to leverage market advantage.
  6. Re-visit number 1. Research your assumptions. Be sure to include research on keyword searches already being performed on the search engines by your customers.
  7. Stake out the POSITIONS you want to “own” in the competitive landscape. (Better, faster, luxury, etc.; types and categories of products; industries; etc.)
  8. Rethink 0 based on 1 through 7. Really rethink it. Is it still a good fit? If so, proceed to 9. If not, fix 0 and proceed to 9. anyway.
  9. Develop your slogan, that establishes your position, taps into numbers 1, 3 and 4, does not miss 5, and incorporates some benefit or emotional or visceral response, including tying back to your brand in a mnemonic or meaningful way.
  10. Recognize that domains are the single biggest, best, and cheapest way to reach your customers, and help them reach you, with significant long-term dividends. Note that 30-40% of online searches skip the search engines altogether, and type in a meaningful keyword domain name directly into the navigation bar. (See 1 and 3 above.) This means that people are searching with keywords that are meaningful to them, plus “.com” in their address bar. Other extensions can be okay, but .com is IT if you’re serious about business. (Hot tip: In your browser address bar, type in [keyword 1] no space [keyword 2], then hold down the CTRL key and hit Enter. You’ll have your full url built around your keywords, without ever having to type “http://www” prefix or “.com” suffix. Some of your customers know this, and do this all the time! Others type in the whole thing.)
  11. Research and buy the .com domain names that mean something to your customers, (all of them) and especially “category” domains, AND
  12. Research and buy the .com domain names that reflect your positions, AND
  13. Research and buy the .com domain name that states your slogan AND variations in case your customer doesn’t get it exactly right, PLUS
  14. Think about your competitors. What positions are they staking out?
  15. Buy the .com domain names that reflect THEIR positions (generics, not trademarks)
  16. Buy as many of numbers 11-15 as you think are worth staking out as yours, (and not your competitors), AND
  17. Buy variations of numbers 11, 12, 13 and 15, including common typos (see number 3).
  18. Survey what you have in domain assets. Recognize that good keyword generic domains are an appreciating asset. Regardless of whether your company tanks, your .com domains will continue to go up in value, if you have purchased well. They will appreciate faster than stocks, real estate, funds, offshore investments, IPOs, art, antiques, gold, jewelry, collectibles, sports cards, or classic cars.
  19. Choose headliner domains from among the collective domain name portfolio to be your key domains (brand domain, slogan domain, keyword position domain, and most importantly, category domain, if you have it), and use the others as contributing domains (contributing to your brand), campaign tracking domains, and as defensive end runs against your competitors.
  20. Choose your one key domain name. You have to choose; choose the one that means the most to your customer. (See number 1.) Use your key domain to drive people to your front door, to advertise, and to leverage. Use it on everything: all emails, billboards, tv ads, mugs, t-shirts, promotions, packaging, shipping, vehicle wraps, giveaways, opinons, signatures, mobile skins, etc. Stay consistent in your choices with your desired image, but always use your domain name, as appropriate. (You can use a slight variation if you want to track an ad campaign, but that’s temporary and make sure it doesn’t erode your key domain asset.)
  21. Use contributing domains as either mini-sites (to provide content, and then link to you), as pure feeder domains (to allow customers to meander to your brand, through their own natural thought pathways), or as advanced niche strategies (diced by demographics and related to sub-categories in your offerings, and ad/promotion tracking). Stop frustrating customers by forcing them to use convoluted, unnatural pathways - your way - to your front door. You don’t care how they get there, as long as they get there, to buy what you have to offer.
  22. Use any mini-sites built around your contributing domains with good SEO (search engine optimization) strategies, to strengthen your SEO position on your key domain(s).
  23. Remember, a good domain name strategy STRENGTHENS your brand. (Pre-internet, a good brand was meant to mind-map customers to your brand in your sector. Post-internet, meaningful keyword domain names harness natural thought patterns, and lead customers to your door the easy way.) If that advantage is hard to get your head around, step back for a minute, and envision your company’s prognosis and uphill battle if your key competitor had done all this first, and had all the good domain names landing on THEIR brand. Which brand will be perceived as the strongest brand BY YOUR CUSTOMER? (See number 1.)
  24. Remember, a poor domain name strategy makes brand management an uphill battle, and leaves your customer without multiple natural pathways to your front door, and to your brand. Nobody else is leveraging a multiple domain name strategy in your industry? All the better. Be the first and blow your competitors out of the tub — straight to your brand! You’ll never be sorry.
  25. In addition to a good brand manager and media manager, hire a domain name strategist and/or domain name manager if you don’t understand domain names, to work with your team and to design and orchestrate your domain strategy, including to purchase your domain names for you in stealth mode.

Of course, it bears repeating that you should use your domain name in all your interactions with customers, including emails, packaging, advertising, promotions, billboards, t-shirts, etc. Use it without the prefix stuff (http://www.); that just clutters up your url (and your ad), and besides, you don’t need it. (See number 10, above.)

Good domain names are some of the most important investments you will make to contribute to the success of your brand, and to your company. Make your shareholders happy; do things the right way: Make it easy for your customers to find you. Easy pathways to you creates happy customers and more customers, with no confusion, and a clearly dominant and powerful brand.

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