Acquiring a great domain can take persistence
Acquiring a great domain that matches your brand can pay off in spades. Carl Hancock, co-founder of the popular WordPress tool Gravity Forms, knows this firsthand.
Ever since launching Gravity Forms in 2009, Hancock’s company has used the domain gravityforms.com. It’s a good domain that matches the name of the plugin. But it’s also limiting; the company has considered introducing new products that have nothing to do with forms.
He’s always been interested in acquiring gravity.com but it seemed unattainable. That was, until earlier this year, when he negotiated for and acquired the domain within the span of a few weeks.
The unattainable domain name
Hancock told Domain Name Wire that he’s always wanted gravity.com but it has been locked up in a succession of companies. When he first looked at the domain, it was used by a sports marketing company.
“It’s unlikely that someone’s going to sell you the domain when they’re actively using it as their brand,” he explained. “So I never reached out to them.”
At some point, that marketing company either shut down or changed domains because Gravity.com ended up in the hands of a tech company called Gravity. It was still out of reach; Hancock read that the new owner had raised more funding than Gravity was worth as an entire company.
That tech company was then acquired by AOL, which then became part of Yahoo!, and the domain eventually went dormant. But getting someone at a big company to respond about selling a domain is hard. Hancock tried but never got a response.
Earlier this year, Hancock was talking to a friend about domains and decided to see if gravity.com was being used again. To his surprise, the domain had a contact form that let interested parties inquire about the domain.
He talked to his business partners to see if they were onboard with submitting an offer for the domain. He recounted:
I went to them [business partners] and said, ‘I’ve discovered that gravity.com is actually available and for sale. And I think it’s at a price that we can do. And if we don’t buy it, somebody else is going to buy it. If it’s another tech company, that is going to suck for us. It really doesn’t matter if they’re even remotely in our space. It just means that this domain is probably unlikely to ever be available to us again, if we don’t make a move and acquire it now.’
His partners agreed. He filled out the contact form and submitted an offer that he thought would get the domain owner’s attention. The domain’s broker got back to him and he negotiated the sale over the course of a couple of weeks. Within another couple of weeks, he had control of the domain name.
Here are some lessons you can take from Gravity Forms’ experience:
- Be careful about using a “limiting” domain. In the case of Gravity Forms, gravityforms.com limits its use to a website about form builders. Gravity.com is more generic and can be used for many types of products and services.
- Just because a domain name you want is being used by a company today, doesn’t mean they’ll always use it. Companies rebrand or go out of business. Keep track of domains you want in case they become available in the future.
- Strike while you have the opportunity. Since acquiring gravity.com, other companies that use the name Gravity have contacted Hancock about buying the domain. Had he waited any longer, it’s likely that another company would have purchased the domain.