Navigating the .brand delegation process

Published on July 29th, 2015

Corey GrantBy Corey Grant
29 July 2015

This is the second post in a series from Corey Grant, Senior Industry Consultant at ARI Registry Services, about how .brand TLDs can get started and make the most of their TLDs. You can read the first part here.

Today marks a major milestone for .brand Top-Level Domain applicants, as we pass the deadline set by ICANN for them to sign their Registry Agreement (RA).

For those who have knuckled down over the last few weeks and months to meet this deadline, congratulations – for many, this was no mean feat and the effort should be acknowledged.

At the same time, organisations that have reached this point need to remember that putting pen to paper is the first step of many; in order to get your TLD to a stage where it can be used, there is a process that now begins that can be complex, at best.

So what’s involved in getting a TLD delegated – and how long will it reasonably be before brands can start using their new TLDs?

The path from RA signing to delegation

At ARI, we were the first Registry to navigate the complex path to TLD delegation, when we launched شبكة. (‘web’ in Arabic and pronounced “dot shabaka”) in October 2013 as the world’s first new TLD.

In many respects, we were helping write the delegation process for all applicants as شبكة. traversed the process. In fact, our progress was recorded through a journal on Domain Incite which allowed other TLD applicants to learn from our experiences.

Since then we’ve spent almost two years gaining more experience and partnering with other Registry Operators to help them through the delegation process. Based on our experiences as a Registry Services Provider over the last few years, we’ve drawn up a timeline of the typical delegation process as a guide, which you can view below.

No matter what your plans are for your .brand TLD, it makes sense to move through the delegation process as efficiently as possible. That way you will have the ability to use your TLD, whether you currently plan to or not. Plans change, and I’ve seen clients have commercial opportunities to use the TLD at short notice, but were unable to do so because they did not prioritise moving through stages of the delegation process.

In the table below, the ‘typical timeframe’ we’ve estimated is based on our own client experiences. The process can sound complicated, but your Registry Services Provider should assist you in moving through these requirements and be able to execute steps such as pre-delegation testing and delegation on your behalf.

Also bear in mind that ICANN will now have a significant workload to manage, with approximately 170 .brand TLDs likely to begin the delegation process following today’s deadline. Given this, there is the possibility of a backlog being created that could cause further delays for some applicants.

Delegation is only one part of the process. Running parallel to the delegation timeline is another, arguably more daunting timeline for the commercial steps that must be considered to get a TLD ready for operation.

While time pressure means the delegation process is the most urgent step right now, once this is set in motion it should proceed with little effort required. For .brand TLD owners, the bigger focus should be on beginning the commercial steps to launching and using your .brand TLD such as stakeholder engagement and developing an implementation plan – elements of which I’ll examine further in the coming weeks.

DelegationProcessTimeline

A new boom to come? Re-evaluating the success of the new TLD program

Published on July 28th, 2015

RyanBakerBy Ryan Baker
28 July 2015

I think it’s fair to say that quite a few people – both within the domain name industry and beyond – have an opinion on whether the new TLD program is succeeding or struggling.

But are things really all that bad? Are we forecasting doom before it has really had a chance to run?

Crunching the numbers

Let’s consider the (relatively short) history to this point and take a look at some statistics. In 2012, 1,930 applications were received by ICANN for new TLDs – however accounting for multiple contending string applications, withdrawals and so on, the eventual number of new TLDs to enter the digital ecosystem is likely to be closer to 1,300.

Opponents of the new TLD program are quick to point out the “slow” registration numbers seen across the program; however I’m not so sure this is true when we take a more ‘birds-eye’ view of the wider industry in two important areas – comparative registration volumes and target market awareness.

Registration Volumes

It’s been just 18 months since the introduction of the very first new TLDs to the root zone, over which time we have seen more than 700 TLDs delegated.

In that short time, businesses and individuals in all shapes and sizes across the world have registered over 6.5 million domains.

To put it another way, new TLDs have total registrations equalling nearly 5.5 percent of the incumbent powerhouse TLD, .com in just 18 months.

This alone is an impressive effort, but it may be even more positive if we dig just a little deeper:

• The average new TLD has been delegated for just 11 months.
• 50% of new TLDs have been delegated for 6 months or less.
• 25% of new TLDs have been delegated for 3 months or less.

To summarise, of the 1,300 or so expected new TLDs, only 25% have reached a point where they can realistically sell domain names to their intended target markets (taking into account mandatory name collisions). Yet just this fraction of the expected total of new TLDs have reached 5.5% of the registrations that .com has been able to achieve in more than 30 years.

Furthermore, these figures have occurred without some of the TLDs that are likely to be the most popular (for example .music and .shop), which are still to launch due to the sheer number of people vying for ownership.

Awareness

In addition to the industry-wide registration growth numbers, awareness in the target market continues to grow in a similarly impressive manner.

ARI Registry Services conducted a study in 2011 which highlighted that only 15% of respondents were aware of the increasing options for domain names. When that is compared to the recently conducted ICANN/Neilsen survey which showed 46% of people were aware of the same metric, it’s clear that awareness is growing significantly.

As momentum grows and more TLDs are delegated the awareness level should increase exponentially. This will also be helped in large part by .brand TLDs, many of whom are up and running, with the remainder expected to sign Registry Agreements by the ICANN imposed 29 July deadline.

Vital to end user awareness of new TLDs, we are seeing major global brands transition to usage scenarios with their .brand TLDs (Barclays Bank to www.home.barclays, BNP Paribas to www.mabanque.bnpparibas) and each high-profile launch helps people to become aware of the significant opportunity these TLDs present.

Practicality vs positivity: a balancing act

The highly-competitive, ever-changing environment of the technology sector and the domain name industry in particular mean that new products and developments such as new TLDs are under constant scrutiny.

This isn’t about putting our fingers in our ears and yelling to avoid hearing the criticism. No one is denying that new TLD operators face some challenges and that this is a marathon, not a sprint.

However it’s also important to recognise the achievements and successes that have been reached by the wider industry so far and the positive signs for continued growth that are already emerging.

The new TLD world is dynamic, diverse and full of innovators. Let’s not forget to acknowledge that – and maintain a justifiably optimistic outlook on the changes to come.

What does the July 29 deadline mean for .brand TLDs?

Published on July 20th, 2015

Corey GrantBy Corey Grant
20 July 2015

This is the first post in a series from Corey Grant, Senior Industry Consultant at ARI Registry Services, on what .brand TLDs need to do to get started and make the most of their TLDs.

If you are a .brand Top Level Domain (TLD) and have a Registry Agreement from ICANN which you have not yet signed, you need to sign it by July 29, 2015.

You’re not alone; there are many others in the same boat – all staring at their Registry Agreement trying to figure out what to do next.

The bad news? The biggest challenge will be getting everything signed off quickly. It will take a significant amount of time and energy in the lead up to July 29.
The good news? This is achievable, and there are people who can help.

How did we get here? When ICANN created a specific category for brands with Specification 13, they also provided a path for .brands to request a nine month extension to the deadline for signing the ICANN Registry Agreement. The majority of .brands elected to take this path, moving their deadline out to July 29, 2015.

Most .brands used that deadline extension to carefully consider their launch plans and take their time launching. We are starting to see some movement from big players now, such as Barclays Bank, BMW, Samsung, and more.

What needs to happen: legal

In short, your legal department needs to agree that the ICANN Registry Agreement can be signed.

There will be multiple people listed as eligible signatories from the original ICANN application (this list may or may not have been updated). Identifying the best two or three people on this list to sign the document, and ensuring that these people are available in the coming days will help meet the tight timeframe and avoid the unnecessary difficulty of chasing your CEO down the corridor.

For legal teams who have not yet reviewed the Registry Agreement, it is important they start as soon as possible. To help ease the process, ensure they understand the following:

1. Negotiation really isn’t a valid option. Unless there are laws in your jurisdiction which prevent you from signing, ICANN has demonstrated a consistently rigid approach to ensuring Registry Agreements are signed without major change. Given the time delays, if it hasn’t been signed yet brands are almost certainly going to need to sign it ‘as is’.

2. There tends to be a large amount of technical and domain industry jargon in Registry Agreements which won’t be familiar to many of the legal counsel within your organisation. Try to get ahead of this situation by lining up support from someone in the industry that can help explain the jargon.

What needs to happen: financial

Unless you’re lucky enough to have sign-off for the whole project, most executive committees or similar parties will require a summary of costs. It typically makes sense to structure the financials in relation to year one (higher due to launch costs), then years two onward (these won’t vary as much).

A quick breakdown of typical costs:

1. ICANN costs: USD 5,000 set-up for Trademark Clearinghouse, then USD 25,000 per year payable quarterly.

2. Registry costs: Set-up, then annual fees. Most contracts are fixed up to a specified number of domains, which should cover your needs. See your Registry Services Provider contract for details.

3. Compliance requirements: Once launched, ICANN compliance obligations and anti-abuse obligations must continue to be met. For .brands, this is often outsourced as it can be an unnecessary additional cost to hire or train suitable resources.

4. Industry participation: Engaging with the industry and with ICANN will be a valuable ongoing investment. The Domain Name Association (DNA) and Brand Registry Group (BRG) are worth investigating, and both have fees associated.

5. External assistance (industry expertise): The new TLD world is new to everybody. Don’t be afraid to seek help for critical steps such as strategy, creating an implementation plan, and launch execution. Creating an ROI for a .brand is complex and requires an understanding of many different elements.

6. Internal costs: Internal resources to support the project and any required branding or technical transition (may include existing external digital agency).

7. Promotional costs: Although promotion of your .brand TLD should benefit from some existing campaign funds, there will likely need to be some specific promotional funds assigned.

Bringing it all together

Applications for new TLDs closed early 2012, so there is a possibility that some in your organisation have lost track of the project over the last three years. In addition to the financial and legal hurdles, a significant challenge might be convincing your executive committee in such a short timeframe. Here are some angles that might help:

Joining an exclusive community: Remind everyone of the rarified company .brands keep, which includes Apple, Google, IBM, Amazon, Nike, GE, Toyota, American Express, UPS, and about 600 others. If your competitor doesn’t have their .brand TLD, it will likely be at least a few years before they can get one. When was the last time someone handed your organisation a competitive advantage like that – especially in the digital brand space?

Calculating brand value: The ROI on a .brand TLD needs to be demonstrable, and relies on people understanding and embracing the valuation of brands, and how they contribute to the bottom line. Look for ways to incorporate your .brand into launches of new products, territories or strategic initiatives.

Part of a wider strategy: Outline how the .brand TLD project fits into and supports the organisation’s goals for the coming years. Most organisations have at least one digital branding goal – work with those most closely tied to that goal and help them become evangelists.

Easy, right?

For .brand TLDs that have not yet signed the ICANN Registry Agreement, everything points to taking action right now.

Whether internal challenges are with legal, finance or executive buy-in, now is the time to ensure there is a plan in place to address them quickly. Look to superiors and other advocates for support.

If there is a chance that even one step in the path to getting your ICANN Registry Agreement signed is at risk, reach out now to a trusted industry advisor and ask for help. No brand wants to be the one that let their .brand TLD slip away.

The TLD Operator Webinar transitions to the DNA University

Published on July 20th, 2015

Tony KirschBy Tony Kirsch
20 July 2015

Readers of my posts will have noticed that we’ve been working over the last two months to launch the TLD Operator Webinar which was held recently. Its purpose was to unite all new TLD applicants and collectively share our experiences in order to build momentum in the industry and support each other in our pursuits.

With more than 300 registrations and 40 percent of all new TLDs attending, we were humbled and overjoyed with the success – validating our ‘educated guess’ that there was a global appetite for information to assist new TLD applicants.

Following the TLD Operator Webinar, we surveyed attendees and received responses from more than 200 participants who all expressed a desire for more opportunities to learn from other operators. When asked about their views on the state of the industry, most respondents indicated that it “needs some work” and “still has a long way to go”. By far the biggest challenge identified by respondents was the “lack of public awareness of new TLDs”.

Interestingly, the survey data showed broad interest for topics across all TLD categories, while respondents preferred a monthly or bi-monthly frequency for webinars.

Last week, the Domain Name Association (DNA) announced the launch of the DNA University to provide a platform for the industry to exchange ideas and learn best practices. So, based on the success of the TLD Operator Webinar, and our passion for the Domain Name Association, we have agreed to merge these two concepts and continue the approach under the banner of the DNA University.

On a more personal note, I am honoured that the DNA has selected me as the inaugural “Dean” of the DNA University where I can continue the work that I’m so passionate about.

In this role, it’s my ambition that the DNA University will be able to service the large (and growing) demand for education in the domain name industry as it is clear that this is one of the most crucial times in the history of the Internet.

As an industry, we have a responsibility to work together to ensure our shared success for years to come and I am passionate about making the DNA University a unique, collaborative forum that drives this.

The first DNA University Webinar, Premium Domain Name Planning, will be held on 28 July at 15:00 UTC and is open to all Registry operators, domain name Registrars and new gTLD applicants who can register here. It is free of charge.

This topic was chosen for the inaugural session because carefully-planned premium name selection and marketing efforts are crucial for success as a domain name registry. In this webinar, attendees will gain a 360 degree view of premium names – including the key experiences of seasoned TLD operators, strategies in developing premium name lists and customer and sales insights from some of the world’s most prominent Registrars.

Future webinars are planned to address a wide range of industry topics – with insights being provided by some of the most successful folks within the industry and beyond.

We need the support of the industry to make the DNA University and webinar series a success. I encourage you all to get behind us, participate and support this brilliant initiative.

One year in: lessons from .rocks

Published on July 13th, 2015

Tony KirschBy Tony Kirsch
14 July 2015

An excerpt of this interview first appeared in the Domain Name Association’s (DNA) ‘State of the Domains’ Report, Edition 3 – June 2015. Access the full report on the DNA’s website.

This is the third in a series of interviews I conducted with notable TLD applicants approaching one year of operations. In this article, I spoke with Statton Hammock of Rightside about how the .rocks TLD is finding its place in the market. You can also read my interviews with .luxury and .photography.

What have been some of the highlights of the process so far?

Statton Hammock, V.P. Business and Legal Affairs, Rightside: Without a doubt, the highlight has been seeing consumers embrace and use our TLDs in fun innovative ways, such as the Rolling Stones running a tour campaign on justakissaway.rocks. Seeing all of the exciting and creative ways people identify and brand themselves online with our TLDs has been thoroughly rewarding for everyone at Rightside.  We had anticipated that consumers would register and use our domain offerings and it’s wonderful to watch this happen, week after week.

What was one of the key challenges you faced and how did you overcome this?

Statton: A key challenge for Rightside was trying to build its new Registry business while being subject to constant ICANN delays and policy changes.  Hiring personnel, managing accounts, and making technical changes to a platform is difficult enough under regular circumstances, but with repeated delays in the new gTLD program being thrown at us, it made the work that much more challenging. When there’s uncertainty around when you can launch your business, it’s extremely difficult to make hiring decisions and execute on your company’s strategic plans.

Statton Hammock

Was there a moment when things ‘clicked’ for you?

Statton: I think everything ‘clicked’ when we saw Guy Kawasaki tweet about “not.com” when he announced his new book on artof.social. Or perhaps when young rockers, V-Squared, gave a live red carpet interview in which they referred the interviewer to their website on vsquared.rocks, saying “Not.com”. The V-Squared boys’ adoption of .rocks was an illustration of how the younger generation, one without a .combias, would choose a more meaningful TLD like a .rocks to showcase their musical talent.

What is one thing you wish you had known going into the process?

Statton: I think everyone in the domain name industry wishes they had known how long the gTLD process was going to take – from filing the application, to final launch. It’s been a long and challenging path but we are nearing the end of it and the real fun is beginning. There is no more exciting time for the domain name industry than right now, and Rightside is committed to making every one of its TLDs a success.

What will be the main challenges and areas of focus for the next year of your TLD?

Statton: The main focus of Rightside for the remainder of this year will be to resolve our remaining contention sets and complete our portfolio of domain names (we are currently at 39).  But another challenge will be raising consumer awareness about new gTLDs and developing creative marketing efforts so that people will learn that they can now get a more memorable and descriptive domain name. The domain name industry as a whole also needs to do a better job at driving awareness and education.

One year in: lessons from .photography

Published on July 8th, 2015

Tony KirschBy Tony Kirsch
8 July 2015

An excerpt of this interview first appeared in the Domain Name Association’s (DNA) ‘State of the Domains’ Report, Edition 3 – June 2015. Access the full report on the DNA’s website.

In the second of our series of TLD applicant interviews, I spoke to Richard Tindal from Donuts about the .photography TLD and how to build a strategy for a single namespace among a portfolio of over 180 others. You can also read my previous interview with .luxury.

How is .photography tracking at this stage of the TLD’s lifespan?

Richard Tindal, Co-Founder and COO, Donuts Inc.: .photography has been on the market 15 months and we’re very happy.  It has 50,000 names under management, an average retail price of US$20, and a healthy, 72% renewal rate (on the first three months of renewals). As the TLD matures and grows we expect that rate to reach 80%.  Currently, 55% of our registrants are from outside the United States.

We certainly had some unanswered questions when we launched .photography. In a portfolio of 180 Donuts TLDs, it was an interesting test-case of two principles: firstly, can TLDs specific to an industry or activity (eg. .photography, .clothing, .pizza) do well, or will users prefer more generic TLDs that still offer choice (eg. .today, .tips, .solutions)? And secondly, are 11 characters too many for a TLD?

Richard Tindal

What has been your impression of the registrations and use of .photography?

Richard: The marketplace roll-out of .photography has been largely as we expected. Because it can be harder to get a business with an existing web presence to change its URL, our focus is more on businesses that are creating a new Internet presence for their company, product or campaign. One of the reasons .photography is doing well is that a lot of new entities join the photography industry each year, as well as the fact that it is a digital industry.

The use of these names – meaning that they contain good website content – has already reached half the levels seen in legacy TLDs such as .com, which is great news given .photography has been out such a short time. We measure website content on the domains every month, and every month proportionally more of them have good content, so it’s headed in the right direction. We should catch the legacy TLDs within 24 months.

What is your outlook for the coming year?

Richard: The challenge for .photography and all new TLDs now is to increase Internet user awareness about the product set. Awareness is currently low but we have reasons to be upbeat about changing that. Surveys show that people respond to TLD advertising quickly and positively, younger people are getting the message the quickest and new vendors and new technologies have made it easy and affordable to put up good content. Nothing reinforces our marketing message more powerfully than .photography registrants who use and advertise their sites. We think .photography will continue to be a success, as will 95% of all new TLDs.

One year in: Lessons from .luxury

Published on July 6th, 2015

Tony KirschBy Tony Kirsch
6 July 2015

An excerpt of this interview first appeared in the Domain Name Association’s (DNA) ‘State of the Domains’ Report, Edition 3 – June 2015. Access the full report on the DNA’s website.

The experiences of applying for and operating a new Top-Level Domain (TLD) are as diverse as they are complex. Each TLD takes its own unique path and faces individual challenges as well as those shared by the wider domain name industry.

I spoke with some of the industry’s most prominent TLD experts – and those TLD operators who are new to the industry – about their key lessons learnt from the first 12 months of operation. Today’s interview features Monica Kirchner of .luxury.

What have been some of the highlights of the process so far?

Monica Kirchner, CEO of .luxury: Thus far, my most rewarding experience has been getting .luxury launched, after what was a long and dynamic process.  I am also really excited about some of the positive feedback we are getting for .luxury as a unique platform for the luxury industry online.  Our success in generating industry and business PR has enabled us to engage in a number of meaningful opportunities and begin the necessary process of education around the new TLD program.  The constant message we hear is how poised the luxury industry is for online innovation.  We are going to be a part of that.

Monica Kirchner

What was one of the key challenges you faced and how did you overcome this?

Monica: Our primary challenge is really building awareness for and helping define the value proposition of our new TLD. We’ve spent a lot of time going to luxury industry conferences, trying to learn what brand concerns and issues exist, and then have been working to further refine our messaging, ancillary service offerings and education materials to help people think through the migration process and potential benefit of joining our platform online. In this process we have engaged experts in a number of areas – including digital strategy, luxury marketing and intellectual property protection.

Was there an experience that reaffirmed your strategy or decisions?

Monica: Early on, when you are doing something really new, you are always looking for signs of validation.  Fortunately, we’ve had some really good feedback – first with regard to the real need within the luxury industry for a more trusted, focused space for luxury brands and consumers to interact; next with regard to our strategic decisions around premium pricing; and lastly around where we’ve decided to put our initial marketing emphasis – on meticulously working to build our brand presence and in focusing on building awareness through PR.

If you could go back and tell yourself something before you got into this process, what would it be?

Monica: Be patient, be adaptable, be innovative, be fearless, and find a well-defined market niche – then be clear on the value proposition you plan to bring it. With that clarity, and some real passion and entrepreneurial spirit, you are going to be about as well equipped as you can be to embark on this exciting journey of reshaping the online world as we know it.

What Registrars should consider in a vendor partnership

Published on July 3rd, 2015

Brendon MitchellBy Brendon Mitchell

More and more, business and web users are on the lookout for complementary products and services to support their online assets, and in most cases it makes sense to start their search at the same organisation from which they bought their domain name.

In the days of increased competition and a plethora of technical solutions, Registrars find themselves operating in a market where white-labelled products and services represent fast an efficient opportunities to bring new products and services to market.

This is an effective way to increase revenues without the need for in-house product development, outsourced resourcing or operational support.

The environment Registrars now operate in is moving swiftly towards a traditional wholesaler, retailer model. You have the shelf-space, the audience and the brand and you need quality products and strong partnerships to drive your business further with maximum return and minimal risk.

However, your choice in vendor could be the difference between success and failure.

Here are four key tips for building a strong vendor relationship based on our experience as a provider of services to the Registrar channel.

1. A good and relevant product

The simplest and perhaps most important factor is to select products that are interesting and relevant to your customers. Look for a vendor that fits with your existing customer requirements and would be considered a valuable and complementary product or service.

Think about ease of take up when considering the products you have access to. For example, what’s the easiest way to increase your average ticket price by a few dollars for every domain name sold?

Regardless of whether you decide to white-label or resell the service, it’s important you partner with a reputable provider that has the credibility and a track-record of success with other Registrars.

For instance, niche vendors with specific expertise in a particular area are obviously more credible in that field than those with a general service. In this scenario, make sure you research and understand the history of this niche and seek out any relevant client experiences that can give you further insight.

2. Commercial terms that make sense

Pricing and margins will remain an important factor of any vendor relationship. You need to ensure that your chosen vendor is able to sell the product to you at a price that allows you to apply the appropriate margin ;to cover not only your the cost of delivery, but also your risk in delivering that product to your customer base.

It’s a simple fact that the initial costs for integration, development and launch may not be recouped for a period of time. Ask your vendor whether they are willing to adjust their pricing to reflect this fact, or if they would consider rethinking their pricing strategy throughout launch so that you can both benefit from the product’s success in the long term.

A vendor that demonstrates an interest in supporting you in the short term shows that they are in it for the long haul and while we’re all in it to make a dollar, a little flexibility goes a long way when you’re introducing a new product or service.

3. Significant experience in go-to-market strategy

Does your chosen new vendor have significant experience in launching a product to market and ensuring successful implementation? Consider vendors like suppliers: you’re providing them with ‘shelf space’ and you need to be able to incentivise and be incentivised to sell their product through to your customers.

Make sure you have a deep understanding of how your vendor is going to support you in selling their product. Do they have a strategy for and experience in co-operative marketing, sales rebates, sales team training, collateral and product support?

If the answer is no, then you’re only appointing a service provider. Look elsewhere for the support you will need to ensure joint success.

4. Flexibility and product development

In business, compromise is essential to ensure both parties benefit from the arrangement. Every business is different and their customers are different too.

Introducing a product that is not tailored to the requirements of your customer base could potentially result in failure and loss of customer loyalty.

Ask your chosen vendor if they are willing to build a product that is right for your customers and your position in market, and see how they respond to this request. If they’re willing to alter their standard offering or work with you to construct the right product configuration, that’s one less thing you need to do at the front end.

Choosing your vendors

When choosing your vendors, ask the hard questions. Test their ability to be flexible and their desire to find solutions that suit both parties and ultimately, benefit the customer.

Ensure that you have all of the information you need before joining forces with any new party, to put your business in the best position for success.

DiscoveryDNS – Wholesale DNS Services for Registrars

ARI Registry Services has developed a premium managed DNS service designed to address the challenges and risks presented by today’s dynamic online environment.

Sold exclusively through the Registrar channel, the DiscoveryDNS service can be specifically tailored to the demands of a Registrars’ technical, operational or commercial environment. Our objective is to provide an enterprise-ready DNS service to Registrars that has the potential to generate revenue and reduce operational risk from the provision of DNS services.

If you’re interested in having a chat about how our unique approach to DNS service provision could benefit you, drop me a line.

By Brendon Mitchell
Account Manager, ARI Registry Services

An open letter to all new TLD operators

Published on June 17th, 2015

Tony KirschBy Tony Kirsch
17 June 2015

Dear TLD operators,

As many of you will know from my previous posts, I’m pretty passionate about our new TLD industry and genuinely believe we are all working towards a goal that will provide something truly special for future generations to embrace.

However, speaking candidly (as is the Australian way), I think we’d all agree that there is much to do to get new TLDs into the mainstream in a timely manner. And as new TLD applicants, we all have a responsibility to work together to ensure the success of our industry for years to come.

Based upon this view and after 12 months of contemplation and some assistance and support from a few industry leaders, we’ve just launched a webinar for all TLD applicants.

Thus, the TLD Operator Webinar is now scheduled for June 30 and information is available at www.tldoperator.help for those that would like to register or understand more about this initiative.

Since our soft launch last week, we’ve had over 200 applicants register for the webinar and plenty of comments of support from the industry which really demonstrates appetite for this on a global level. With about two weeks to go until the webinar, we’re hoping we can double this number and provide useful information to a large sector of the new TLD applicant base.

The TLD Operator Webinar is designed to provide all new TLD applicants with an opportunity to share their experiences and learn from each other – away from the confines of the typical ICANN discussions on policy and so on. Put simply, it is about TLD Operators helping other TLD Operators learn how to maximise the return on your investment and make your mark on the future of the Internet– whether you’re a generic, geographic or brand TLD.

The webinar is free, lasts only 60 minutes and will provide attendees with unique insight from other TLD Operators based on what has and hasn’t worked for them so far.

I am extremely excited by the quality of speakers we’ve been able to assemble, including

• Donuts (Largest portfolio TLD applicant)
• Monash University (World’s first .brand)
• .club (Highly successful generic TLD)
• .berlin & .sydney (Leading city TLDs)
• .sucks (High profile TLD in the news)

The TLD Operator Webinar is open to all applicants only (and/or nominated advisors) and will not be a forum for industry sales or promotion in any way. I should also reiterate as per recent media reports, that this initiative is not a formal community group in any way, simply an attempt to utilise a webinar for the benefit of all new TLDs.

I welcome you to join us for the TLD Operator Webinar and look forward to sharing some unique insights at this pivotal time in our industry.

Kind Regards

Tony Kirsch
Head of Global Consulting
ARI Registry Services

How to maximise registrations through effective Registrar relationships

Published on June 9th, 2015

RyanBakerBy Ryan Baker

There are some surefire ways to get channel engagement and drive registrations, but doing what everyone else is doing is not going to cut it in the world of new TLDs.

Successful Registrar engagement requires an investment of time far in advance of what some Registry Operators appear to be expecting, both in terms of ongoing relationship management as well as continually providing tools which make it easier for Registrars to sell your extension over other TLDs.

There are a number of methods that we use to help drive registrations including:

– PR and media activities,
– pre- and post-launch ambassador programs, and
– Registrar co-marketing programs.

In addition, providing collateral or examples of real-world TLD usage to Registrars can simplify their task of reaching out to their client base and converting them to registrations. Examples may include providing case studies of fully developed digital brands based on key domains within your TLD or highlighting relevant media which discusses the benefits of the TLD program generally and your TLD specifically.

Today I would like to expand on ambassador programs which are one area that is typically underutilised by the majority of TLD operators. In addition, I will outline the amount of effort required to deeply engage Registrars which is often misunderstood by those just entering the TLD industry.

Getting the word out

While the sleeping giant of .brand TLDs will eventually catapault new gTLDs to the forefront of global awareness, in the first instance the best way to bring the power of a brand to the attention of your potential registrants is through an effective TLD ambassador program.

At ARI, our strategy has been to engage with high-profile ambassadors prior to and after launch of our clients’ TLDs, providing a boost to marketing activities and a way to kick-start registrations by showcasing some big names already on board.

One of the strongest forms of marketing is third party endorsement and when it comes to promoting TLDs, the easiest way to achieve this is through an ambassador program. For example, when .sydney launched into General Availability, iconic Sydney landmarks such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge (www.bridgeclimb.sydney) and the famous Luna Park amusement park (www.lunapark.sydney) were already part of the .sydney community. The benefit of an effective ambassador program is that prominent businesses are immediately seen to be adopting your extension and demonstrating use. But there is another significant benefit to the Registrar channel if used correctly. A successful ambassador program provides an invaluable resource to your Registrars – making their task of promoting your TLD that much easier and keeping you top-of-mind above your competitors. A Registrar with effective products is much more likely to be a Registrar incentivised to sell your domains.

Keeping Registrars engaged

The balance of power has shifted somewhat with the introduction of so many new gTLDs. Registrars and resellers now have more products to put on their shelves and getting your product placed in the front window can prove difficult.

While it is important to have the broadest range of Registrars accredited to sell your product so no sales are lost, with so much competition for a Registrar’s eye it is often important to prioritise and find the Registrars who are most willing to work with your extension. Identifying Registrars whose existing customer base has a synergy with your target market is an easy choice, as is looking for Registrars who are receptive to your ongoing marketing efforts and focusing on making their job of selling as easy as possible.

To be clear, it’s important to treat all Registrars equally in terms of access to information, but you certainly don’t have to focus your efforts equally in terms of ongoing relationship management.

Cultivating strong working relationships with those Registrars who show they are willing to promote your TLDs and from whom you get the best results will ensure you get best bang for marketing buck.

Managing a Registrar channel is also an exceptionally time consuming process and spending five minutes on the phone daily with 35 Registrars versus deeply engaging with several Registrars who are helping you gain registrations is an easy choice. The reality is that there isn’t enough time in the day to develop the tools you will require and to engage all Registrars in the use of those tools, as well as engaging with your most successful Registrants. Prioritising your efforts is key.

Avoid the balancing act

While the process seems simple – supplying Registrars with the tools they need to sell, then building on success stories to provide additional sales tools and incentive for Registrars, and awareness for the market – the reality is that it’s a complex one.

It takes an innovative marketing plan and a real and continued effort to maintain and build upon Registrar relationships, as well as finding and promoting early adopters.

For many Registry Operators, especially those without a large portfolio of TLDs to manage, balancing these two functions in addition to all the other aspects of running a TLD can be overwhelming. Trying to divide resources and manage both alone could mean not realising the full potential of either strategy.

In these instances, Registry Operators may wish to consider splitting their efforts with a trusted partner: a partner who can help them build these Registrar relationships and allow them to really focus on finding and promoting innovative usage within their TLD.

At ARI, we have years of experience managing the day to day activities of building and maintaining Registrar relationships. There is a lot that goes into this process – whether it’s picking up the phone to make sure you remain top-of-mind, to giving your channel regular updates on your marketing and public relations efforts so they have all the tools they need to promote your TLD.

Many Registrars have trouble determining ‘which horse to back’ in a race whose entrants are multiplying by the day. Building relationships with Registrars, providing dedicated attention when one is showing particular interest or enthusiasm and supplying them with resources to make their job easier all take a necessary time and effort commitment, but it’s not one that every Registry Operator has the capacity to handle in-house.

When it comes to making the most of your relationship with resellers and registrars, an experienced partner means you have one less thing to worry about. Change is coming, but it can be a tricky road to navigate alone.