Choosing Your Domain

By Joe Selzler

Here we are in the first article of our new series, Grow Your Business On-line.  This will be a milestone because you will be taking the first step toward a whole new way of doing business.  You will begin to think about you “patch” as a wider area than the physical address that is emblazoned above the door of your shop.  Your customers will come, not only from your neighborhood, but from half way around the world as well.  This is not an exaggeration but what many local businesses that have gone on-line regularly report.  This will open new horizons for you as you learn to do business with customers who have a different culture and different traditions. 

Establishing Your Brand On-line

In this first part of the process of moving your business on-line you will be choosing a domain name for your new Internet outlet.  A domain name is how your customers will find your business on-line.  Without one your business will be unreachable.  With one, the whole world will be able to visit your shop and see the products you have to offer.  The best part of your domain name is that it will be unique; no one else can have the exact same one as you anywhere in the world.  No more getting mail for another store in another city with the same name as yours, or that other store getting your mail.

But the question you are probably asking is: “Where do I get a domain name and what should I choose?”  The “where” is actually the easy part, the “what” is a little more complicated.  The “what” is going to establish your brand on-line.  Let’s take that part first.

What’s in a Name?

This part of the process is one of the most challenging, exciting and rewarding in moving your business to the Internet.  This is the point at which you are going to establish who you are to the entire world.  You will no longer be known as that cozy little shop that sells thing-a-me-bobs on the corner of 3rd and Main.  You are going to be known as that great new web site that sells great products consumers can buy any time of the day or night.  You will be saying to the entire world, “Here I am, please come in, look around my store, consider my products, and if something meets your needs please add it to your shopping basket¾I will get it out to you today.”  But you’re probably asking right now, “How will they find me?”  The answer, by your domain name.  Therefore, whatever you choose, it needs to reflect you: who you are and what you do.  In most cases, it will be the same name you trade under now.  Step outside and look at the name that is painted above your door or shop.  That name, which you have worked hard to establish, is what most of your current customers know you by.  This name has a lot of capital on which to grow your on-line business.  The question of whether you use this name, exactly as it is, comes down to whether you are going on-line to make it more convenient for your current customers to buy from you, or whether you are looking to expand your market significantly.  More than likely your goal is the latter.  So we will look at the process from that point of view.

To help you understand how the process works we are going to create an imaginary business and take that business through the entire process of moving on-line.  Let me give you a historical run down on the business.  The store is called Hockmeyer’s Men’s Clothing Co. and it is located in a small town on the outskirts of Big City, USA.  It is a third generation business that was established by George P. Hockmeyer in 1937.  Samuel P., succeeded his father George when joined the business in the 1950’s and took over as CEO in 1963.  He was responsible for establishing many of the standards by which the Hockmeyer name has become famous in the metropolitan area.  And now, George’s grandson, Edwin P. has succeeded his father as the CEO of the company and he is keen to carry on with all that is best of the family tradition.

You can imagine, with all those years of trading under the same name and under the same family ownership that Hockmeyer’s Men’s Clothing Co. is well known and respected in the area.  So Teddy, as his friends know him, wants to build on the capital the family name has earned.  Certainly the name Hockmeyer has to be a part of the name for the on-line store and it will form part of the domain name.  This is because those who know the firm and want to find them on-line will most likely search on that name in a search engine.  However, Teddy has received advice from some of his “Web Geek” buddies that the best names to use for domain names are short and easy to remember.  In fact, they should even be a little catchy, like “Google” or “Flikr” or “YouTube.”

Creating a Brand

Another idea Teddy has picked up on is that most of the suppliers and products he now sells are branded.  Younger men, and indeed ladies, are increasingly shopping in a brand conscious way.  Brands no longer just tell you what an item does, such as Band-aid, Crescent Wrench, Scotch Tape.  They also convey what is known today as life style; such as Fendi, Channel, BMW.  Most of us will never turn our name into such high profile offerings.  However, we can meet the desire of the market for recognition and sophistication and at the same time keep down to earth and honor the timeless foundations of business: trust, quality and service.

This is just what Teddy has decided to do by choosing to name his new on-line business “Hockmeyer’s.”1 It’s short.  It’s sweet.  It’s contemporary.  And most important, it is still recognizable to his loyal customer base, established since the beginning of the company over 70 years ago.2

So here is my tip when deciding on your domain name and on-line store name: keep it short, keep it contemporary and keep it recognizable.  Unless, that is, you are trying to create something completely new and cool. 

Finally, don’t get the impression you must not or cannot use the current name of your company for your domain name.  In many case, you will want to use your name just as it is.  For example, if you are called The Plum Tree Restaurant then your domain name probably should be theplumtreerestaurant.  If you are Bemidji Plumbing and Heating, then your domain name probably should be bemidjiplumbingandheating.  Unless you are using your on-line business to create an entirely new identity for your business, use the capital gained from your name just as it is.


  1. The name will be printed on letterhead and displayed on the website with the apostrophe, but you will see in the next article that punctuation is not included in the domain name.
  2. Our own company changed its trading name a few years ago, just as we were going online because we wanted our current customers and our new customers to know us for the uniqueness and quality of the product we were producing.  It wasn’t solely because we were going on-line that we changed our name, but going on-line one of the driving forces behind the change.

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