Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I would like to address this directly. While I can not go into too much detail about our advertising strategy, I would like to clarify few things:
The goal for majority of our advertising is to find people who might be interested in naming, and bring them to our website. In most cases the customers do not know exactly how they plan to find a name (e.g. run a naming contest, or buy a domain from marketplace). They are simply looking for help with coming up with a great name. Therefore, most of our advertising is done a way that the customers see both our offerings (contests as well as marketplace) when they land on our website. Ultimately it is their choice based upon what features they are looking for.
Many customers explore the marketplace first, before they decide to launch a contest. Of course, with 20,000+ names in the Marketplace, it is likely that many customers do end up finding a great name in the Marketplace. This is an expected human behavior - if you can find something from a collection of names that are already available, you will likely purchase that (if you can afford it), instead of running a competition and taking a chance that you may find a great name.
Having said that, a large number of companies and startups still prefer to go down the contest path because they have very unique or specific requirements which can not be fulfilled by readymade names. The brainstorming and validation tools available in the contest process makes it an extremely attractive option for many companies. Therefore, we expect that the contests will continue to be an integral aspect of our platform.
As our platform is evolving, we do think that those creatives who balance their time between contests and marketplace, will likely be more successful over time. If you have great names that you have previously submitted to contests, we do recommend listing them in the Marketplace (of course, SH is not the only option - you can register and list them in other marketplaces as well). You have already invested the time and effort in thinking about good names - therefore, it is a sound strategy to find ways to monetize that effort.
Regarding the platform focus and improvements - it is correct to point out that we are indeed investing relatively more efforts currently in building out our marketplace. This is because Marketplace is a relatively new offering compared to contests. We have continued to build features and improvements in the contest process over the last several years - however, since the Marketplace is relatively new, it is now going through a similar cycle of rapid feature development that we saw in the contests.
This does not mean that we are no longer investing in contests. We are getting ready to launch a new UX experience for the launch contest process that we have been working on for last several months. This will provide a much cleaner interface and experience for customers who are looking to launch naming contests. Similarly, we are working on several areas that will drive even more successful outcomes in contests (and reduction in abandoned contests) - one such area of investment is the training of creatives (especially new creatives) in the area of naming and branding.
Please continue to share your feedback in the forum, or directly with our team - so that we can continue to improve. We do read all the feedback, and that feedback directly informs our product strategy and roadmap.