Domain Spotlight:

Christmas Trees. Domains. Selling is Selling

As a business owner you’re always looking for new profit centers to add to your business.  A new product introduction that can be added without adding more staffing, infrastructure, or time. It’s no different with domaining.  You are always looking to expand on what you are doing with your domains.  Whether it’s through development or leasing them out.  You are looking for a new way to generate profit from your assets.  My asset at the nursery is a good reputation and a solid customer base.  Our recent program introduction?  Christmas

I used the tried and true business practices that we always use when trying to make money.  Practices that often seem to be overlooked by many domain owners.  Overlooked most likely because many are not business people.  They haven’t quite moved past the buy low sell high business model.  We are in our third year of Christmas trees and live greens and the program was up 100% again this year adding low $XX,XXX in sales that didn’t exist 3 years ago.  Here are the basic principals we used that can be applied to any business but can be applied to domains as well.

1.  Expand on what you are known for.  Don’t chase the money, let the money come to you. We are known for plants so we went all natural.  Cut Christmas trees and live cut greens (roping, wreaths, branches, and swags) only.  No fake trees, no ornaments or anything made by machines.   There is probably a little money to be made in lighting and other things but we don’t make those.  We can cut branches, make our wreaths, and decorations. The input cost is low because we are the creators.  We buy in the trees but only because of the next reason.

2. Only carry the best and don’t mix shit into the product mix.  Some say you need price points for all your different customers and I agree but that doesn’t mean you have to bring in junk to make it happen. We carried scotch, white pine, and fraser firs the first year.  I realized the Fraser firs were superior trees and most people gravitated to them immediately.   I knew the next year that was all I should carry and my job became to find a supplier that could give me the prices I needed to get them down to levels that everyone could afford.  We did.  We had the best prices in town and the best trees.

3.  Associate yourself with being the best.  I did hundreds of commercials this year and everyone had the tag line “Home of the Fresh Cut Frasier Fir” and let off with a sample price 6 foot for $29.95.  Letting everyone know that not only did we carry the best but we had a better price than the junk.  In one season we are already associated with having the best product.  And yes, we kept them fresh with loads coming in weekly.

4.  Have an advertising budget.  Some businesses say they can’t afford to advertise.  I say you can’t afford not to.  Most businesses aren’t a restaurant.  You can’t survive on word of mouth.  Word of mouth is certainly the best form of advertising but if you have a new product line you need to get customers in to help spread the word.  You can wait for people to come to you or you can go out and remind them.  Give them reminders of what you do and why they should come out.  How and where to advertise is an art and a lot can be done for little money if you know how.  Domains are a little different in that they are unique products but if you have a website then it fits.  Rely on Google and pay the consequences later. Google is your icing.  You need to make the cake.

5. Have a budget to take a loss in the first year.  Profit centers take a while to build.  Some times they never pan out.  You’ll know in the first year whether or not you can continue to build the program.  After the initial run for Christmas I immediately knew we could make some money.  But we didn’t the first year.  After advertising and have an extra body to help load trees we broke even which was better than I thought we would.  But I learned enough to know what we had to do.  We needed more self cut greens, more product earlier, better pricing from our vendors which could be achieved through early orders, and different and cheaper advertising.  We also needed to display our product differently than everyone else.

6. Display is everything.  Whether it’s domains or trees, you have display that enhances the product. There is a reason why vendors fight over eye level shelves or spend more time on lighting than they do on the floor.  Christmas trees are traditionally sold by having a few standing up and the rest leaning against a wall or tied up laying in piles.  All our trees are opened up, drilled with a hole on the bottom, and placed and spaced on a spike under an awning.  This way you can see the whole tree and it’s shape.  Plenty of space between each tree and a customer can spin the tree on the spike to see what all sides look like.  This was our first year and undoubtedly we sold more trees, customers needed less help and chose trees much faster than previous years.  We made it easier for customers to spend money by having a better display.  Easily can be applied to websites and domains.  A buy it now price makes it easier for a buyer for example.

7.  Let the add on sales sell themselves.  Every business pushes add on sales.  Look at Godaddy.  You have to go through 7 pages of add ons.  I prefer add ons that make the customers experience easier and visually or orally remind them of those time savers on the way in to pay.  For Christmas trees we had bags that you can put at the bottom of the trees and at the end of the season you simply slide it up, tie it, and take it outside.  No needles, no mess.  We had an example of it right near the trees and essentially added $2 to every tree sale.  Our displays we versions of a spiked tree stands that we also sold and many of the customers bought the stand just because they saw our display and how easy it was to get it on the stand and straight.  Customers are always willing to pay for things that make their job easier as long as it’s cost is equal or less to their perceived value of that task.  And like all retail shops, you have to pass through the other products on the way to pay.

So once again, my little retail shop makes me a better domainer.  But the truth is, the better you become at business the better you become at ANY business…and domain investing is a business whether you treat it as such or not

Domain Spotlight:

4 Replies to “Christmas Trees. Domains. Selling is Selling”

  1. This is advise will definitely go a long way in helping those of us new to the domain business side of things.

    It reminds me of sound advice given by the great, direct mailing expert Jim Straw who stated to just focus on being really, really good at one business first which will lend itself to being great in other business attempts.

  2. I like your first point. Companies can get into a lot of trouble expanding into areas that aren’t their expertise – whether they are careful about it or not. I’ve seen it happen with my company, lesson learned!

  3. Nice read. Having been involved in so many businesses over my life I can relate to a lot of what you are saying.

    It sounds like your will really reap some profits now that you are seizing control with a good display, cheap prices, etc… those folks will want “easy and quality” next year and they will check with you first.

    You should get their contact info. for $5 off a tree next year. 😉 They’d get a woody over that after being so happy with the experience this year.

  4. Good article.

    But is really even icing anymore?

    2013 might be the year when online businesses gravitate toward an offline presence. Depending on the internet to sustain a business model is getting more difficult. Generic search is virtually dead. Big budgets and big business now rule the net.

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