In World War II, the Allied forces ran an intense campaign to prevent people from discussing critical things like movement of troops, ships, cargo, etc. The campaign was highlighted by posters with the headline “Loose Talk Costs Lives,” alongside pictures of the enemy sinking ships (because “somebody blabbed”).

Loose talk in business may not be a life and death situation, but it, too, can be costly. I was reminded of this last week when a friend shared his idea for a business. It was a good idea, so I suggested he register the domain name. He didn’t do it.

Two days later, he told me he’d discussed the idea with a friend and potential business partner while having dinner at a restaurant. And he called again today. His domain name had been registered the day after that meeting with his friend. And it had been registered by a complete stranger!

I had a similar experience some years back. I was discussing a business idea with a friend during lunch at a restaurant. We’d brainstormed domain names. The next day, I discovered our best domain name had been registered… by a complete stranger.

My friend’s business idea is still a good one, but he’ll have to come up with a new domain name… one that will probably not be as marketable as the original one.

The lessons – learned from painful, personal experience:

  • Don’t brainstorm business ideas in public, especially in public spaces like restaurants.
  • If your domain name is available, you can register it today for about $9 and save yourself a lot of headaches.

If your domain name is already taken, you have two courses of action:

  1. You can write to the owner of the domain name and ask if they’re interested in selling. If, as in the case of my friend, the registrant was an opportunist, that’s not going to work. They’re likely out to try and sell it for a large sum – so forget it. But if the domain name was registered some time back and has not been used, there’s a good chance the owner will be interested in selling it reasonably – meaning (if you don’t sound frantic) you will be able to get it for between $50 and $200. (I’ve done it a few times.)
  2. You can take advantage of a number of domain registrars that offer a service where they will hold your request “in line.” If the domain becomes available and does not get renewed, the registrar will register it on your behalf. You probably have about a 10 percent to 20 percent chance that this approach will work in your favor. (I did it when, as in the case of my friend, my domain name was being held by an opportunist – and I was ultimately successful.)

Still the main thing to remember is, and remains, “Loose Talk Costs!”

[Ed. Note: David Cross is Senior Internet Consultant to Agora Inc. in Baltimore. If you’re interested in profiting from all the benefits of starting an online business, learn more about ETR’s Magic Button program here.]

Although David hails from Blackpool, England – which is often referred to as the “Las Vegas of England” – he shunned a career in show business and instead followed a meandering career path overflowing with “life’s great experiences,” working or living in over 20 countries along the way. Chef, teacher of Transcendental Meditation, guest presenter on QVC, earthquake relief volunteer, CEO of a web hosting company, marketer at a radio station and all combined with years of direct marketing, PR and sales experience for clients as diverse as health food stores, small charities and right up to multinational public companies. David brought unique talent and experience to his role for six years as Senior Internet Consultant to Agora Publishing Group. Working closely with Agora’s publishers and marketers to test new ideas and marketing campaigns, Agora’s Internet revenues topped $200 million in 2007. David understands and can communicate fluently with creative “right-brain” marketers and analytical “left-brain” IT and software teams, all with equal ease. He has a proven track record for generating results and creative thinking and excels at making trouble to find new ways of making things happen! He lives on a small farm close to Mount Hood in Oregon with his wife Cinda, a veterinarian, and their four children and a menagerie of animals (no more, please!). When not marketing or brainstorming you’ll find David following a dream of self-sufficiency for food, power and water within 10 years, tending the land and caring for the farm and animals. Not surprisingly, David is an engaging and knowledgeable speaker with many amusing anecdotes from his work and travels over the years.