Don Mayer was a refugee from software sales, trying to get his start-up off the ground, when a friend suggested giving the new company a name reflective of its lowly status among the dotcom giants. Mayer didn't like the idea at first, but the more he considered how it would help him stand out among the online computer retailers with techy-sounding names, the more he liked it.
With all the failed dotcoms out there, who survived the fallout-and how? Read Easy.com, Easy.go.
Small Dog Electronics, the name he finally chose for his Waitsfield, Vermont, online computer retailer, has just 13 employees. Yet Smalldog.com showed up on Interactive Week's 2000 ranking of the top 500 Internet companies (in 299th position). It's more than the name that did it, of course. That was just the first step in a comprehensive-and successful-effort to make Mayer's company stand out in an overcrowded dotcom world.
Mayer attracts and engages visitors with extensive and constantly updated content, drawings for giveaways, online advertising, e-mail newsletters and other enticements. Perhaps most effective, he employs a highly personal touch that includes live webcams so visitors can see him and other employees at work in the Small Dog offices.
But it all comes back to that initial standout impression. "The emphasis on small and dogs gives us a softer appeal on the Internet," Mayer says. "People tend to look at it a little more differently than a standard Web site."
That difference is getting harder to obtain-particularly following last year's dotcom fallout. Today, cutting through online noise is a key issue for any dotcom, anywhere. "If anything," says Jim Wilson, owner of Direct Marketing Network, an Internet marketing consulting firm in Laguna Niguel, California, "that's an understatement."