Filed Under:Agent Broker, Agency Technology

What’s in a name? Domain names dominate when it comes to brand recognition

From Trump to your agency, the way you use your name matters big-time.

What’s in a name? For some, it’s everything. Donald Trump, author and television personality, is perhaps best known for his real estate business, The Trump Organization. Considered by many a publicity hound and not known for shying away from the limelight, Trump plasters his name across all of his businesses and many of his real estate holdings: Trump Towers, Trump Plaza, etc.

Recently Trump has sued Trump Entertainment Resorts to have his name taken off two Atlantic City casinos which he no longer has control over and believes doesn’t represent him at the quality and style to which his brand belongs. Clearly, for Donald Trump, his name is his brand and critically important.

This is an example of a name being chosen because of the brand experience associated with it. For Exxon, as an example, the name was chosen partly because it had no meaning. Created by its predecessor, Esso (Standard Oil of New Jersey) in the early 1970s, its evolution included variations that were dismissed for different reasons. One, Enco, was eliminated because it was too similar to a Japanese slang term enko, meaning, “stalled car,” perhaps not great for the name of an oil & gasoline company.

Another variation was based solely on the original spelling, Exon, which was the same of the sitting governor of Nebraska, James Exon. Hence the second “X” was added.

Clearly, Exxon is a name that came about through an exercise of avoiding things rather than representing something.

In today’s business environment, second in importance to a company’s name is the URL or domain name it chooses for its website. While you might think that it would be obvious what domain name a company should choose, for a number of reasons, it doesn’t always go that way.

Large corporations generally will be able to use their name for their website partly because their name is so well known that it makes sense, partly also, for those whose domain is not available, they can afford to buy it from the owner (sometimes known as a “squatter” because they are not using it but just bought it to flip it for lots of money).

For smaller companies, and in this case, agencies, the selection of a domain name often entails creating a name that is more descriptive of what you do than who you are. You’ll find many domain names that include the words, “insurance”, “agency”, “broker” or variations of them.

A recent release by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) of more than 300 new top-level domains (i.e., .com or .net) has flooded the market with very unique and specific extensions. (Current list of domain extensions available - http://data.iana.org/TLD/tlds-alpha-by-domain.txt)

In that list are two—.agency and .insure—that might make sense for an insurance agency to consider. Imagine an agency whose URL is BestInsuranceAgency.com (which doesn’t exist yet) but realizes that perhaps that’s not the best way to represent themselves on the Internet. Maybe they want to emphasize pricing or service or choice so, they now can pick a URL like www.BestPrices.insure or www.BestInsuranceService.agency.

The flip side of all of this choice is that people don’t generally think of extensions other than .com. Most of these extensions will remain in the realm of novelty. Consider .biz, created in 2001 as a potential identifier for corporations, but it never gained credibility. Similar things can be said about .info. When was the last time you visited a website with a URL that ended in either .biz or .info?

Because of my business and my online marketing efforts, I’ve created a number of landing pages for different business purposes. For many of those sites I purchased a domain name that was relevant from GoDaddy for around $10 per year. Of the 20 or so different names, 95% of them end in .com and generally the .info and .biz domains I bought were obtained because the .com was already taken or was offered for a price I wasn’t willing to pay.

Real choices, real value

Another reason to take seriously the choices you make in terms of your digital footprint is the impact they make on the value of your agency.

A recent study by OpenMatters with Deloitte & Touche LLP analysis has discovered that financial statements no longer reflect much of the value organizations create in today’s digital and networked world. A review of 40 years of data from the Standard & Poor’s 500 index companies indicates that investors place a higher value on organizations that adopt emerging technologies such as social media, mobile and the Internet of everything.

Barry Libert, chairman and CEO of OpenMatters and senior fellow of the SEI Center at Wharton, believes that the research clearly shows companies “with business models that embrace today’s technologies and emphasize intangible assets—customer, human and intellectual property—and that leverage “networks” to co-create products and services with their customers are commanding higher valuations.

“Our research also indicates that investors are valuing Technology Companies (regardless of industry) and Network Orchestrators—be they social, business or commercial—between two and four times more than manufacturers, distributors and retailers, as well services companies, regardless of industry,” Libert said.

He goes on to explain that one reason for the valuation gap is that “asset-intensive and service-centric businesses typically scale by investing in more assets and/or more people (both of which don’t scale well).”

I would venture to say that those companies that effectively embrace social media, the Internet and mobile are being viewed as having greater value because these tools are enhancing their capabilities far greater than the traditional addition of physical assets or people.

What was once thought of as intangible and difficult to measure, digital age activities such as social media or having a strong Internet and mobile presence are, in fact, adding greater value to a business than ever before. Therefore insurance agencies should take notice.

If you’ve typically looked at the Internet or mobile technologies as either “nice to haves” or “necessary evils”, think again, especially if you’re of the generation that’s thinking about retirement or hoping to avoid all this change before you get out. That shortsightedness will not only limit the success and growth of your agency today, it will limit the value of your agency for the future.

So whether it’s choosing a domain name or considering a mobile app or maybe adding an online 24-hour customer service capability, realize those decisions not only impact your current brand and its success in the marketplace, but also the potential valuation placed on your agency down the road should be want to sell it.

What’s the old saying? “A penny wise is a pound foolish.” Don’t be foolish; invest in your agency’s future by following the right Internet technology path today.

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