| by Dennis R. Melton
I'd like to address the age-old arguement that a serious
business needs their own domain. I have never taken the popular view on this topic.
It is my not-so-humble (and not-so-popular) opinion
that the only time a business needs a virtual domain is if they are marketing the website
in broadcast media, ie: radio, television, etc., where their prospects are not likely to
be at a computer keyboard or have a pen and paper at hand. If you are listening to a radio
commercial for "the Tablelamp Company" and are told to "Visit our webpage
at tablelamps.com" and are in your car at the time, sure it came in handy. If the ad
were in a newspaper, magazine, phone book, etc., and the ad were intriguing enough to
warrant inspection, the ad would have been taken to the computer and the URL copied to the
browser's location line. Period.
If your company isn't something that will be
readily remembered anyway, like "tablelamps.com" but is, for instance,
"morisseymotors.com" or even "andersonlimo.com" all of that
memorability is lost. Mr. Morissey would've been better off to call his company
"thecaryoualwayswanted.com", at least on the web. If you are counting on your
URL being remembered until surfers get home to key it in, you had better drop the vanity
and make it stick in their memory. "Carloans.com" will survive the drive, as
they say, but "empireautoloan.com" hasn't a chance. (For one thing, they need a
car loan, not an empire.) Another likely casualty is the acronym. They have to remember
the name of your company to remember the letters that make up your nickname.
I get the impression at times that domain names
have all but replaced vanity license plates. Really, isn't
"mikeanddebbiejohnson.com" just a little silly?
Realistically, the majority of us by far are
marketing to the wired masses who are either coming in contact with our ads via banners on
other sites, search engines results, exchanged links or link lists. No typing whatsoever
required. Also no memory. Hypertext links to your site have made all of that memorability
unnecessary for the most part anyway, at least when marketing on the web.
I will take this one-sided discussion a step
further and state that any business that can afford radio or television airtime can pretty
well afford their own domain. Plain and simple. And that leaves a couple of other very
important factions of the online business community, being those who aren't particularly
well financed but still offer a valuable product and good service, and the extremely
practical and prudent.
By now most people are aware that they can house
their site on their isp's domain for a fraction of the cost of a virtual domain account.
And, realistically, if there is no keyboarding and no memory required, what difference
does it make if a commercial webpage is at "tablelamps.com" or
"triffid.com/tablelamps"? Chances are your prospect will simply click through to
you anyway and, if you amused and/or amazed them, drop a bookmark. Over and done.
Conversely, there is the valid issue of
"imaging" to consider. Being a practitioner of the advertising and marketing
arts for over half of my life, I am well aware of the value of imaging. You print your
brochures on paper stock that feels good in your prospects' hand and you go all out
decorating your lobby to make your clients feel comfortable. Maybe even serve them
designer coffee when they visit. You also hire the most reputable professionals you can
find to make sure your marketing materials communicate the image you choose to convey. If
your firm needs to identify side-by-side with your largest competitors, chances are you
should have your own domain name. Then again, chances are you should change your name from
"Mike's Cabinets" to "CabinetArt" while you're at it.
In reality, at least on the web, you are marketing
to a global, or at the very least, national market. We don't know your competitor unless
they are huge. (We'll also never grace your lobby and can't smell the coffee from here.)
If you are competing with the big guys you more than likely can afford your own domain.
You more than likely can also pay people to read articles like this one instead of taking
a personal interest in your web marketing campaign. Obviously, this has been written for
the businessperson who is looking to sharpen their edge and get all that the web has to
offer. I propose that you can do that without breaking the bank, and subdomains is just
one of the corners I am not the least reluctant to advise my clients to cut.
In summary, my feeling is that, particularly for
small or startup businesses, a virtual domain account is unnecessary. Do your imaging on
the web with interesting and informative content and visually dynamic graphics and leave
the vanity domain names to those who can afford to be a little less serious about
Article by Dennis Melton,
President of The DMD Group
of Creative Companies. The cornerstone of the organization, Dennis Melton Design, has
been providing creative solutions to marketing challenges for 26 years.
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