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Dennis R. Melton 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" 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 "" but is, for instance, "" or even "" all of that memorability is lost. Mr. Morissey would've been better off to call his company "", 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. "" will survive the drive, as they say, but "" 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 "" 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 "" or ""? 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 overhead.

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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