Lessons from .build one year after launch: Q&A with CEO and Founder George Minardos

Published on April 28th, 2015

Tony KirschBy Tony Kirsch
28 April 2015

The .build domain namespace opened in General Availability in April 2014, as a domain name designed specifically for the online needs of the building industry and beyond. As the appointed technical provider for .build, ARI Registry Services powered the launch and continued technical operations for this global domain name.

A year into the life of the namespace, ARI Registry Services’ Head of Global Consulting Tony Kirsch caught up with George Minardos, CEO of .build to talk about his insights to date, what he’s learnt about the domain name industry, and a look at where he thinks it is heading.

Question (Tony Kirsch): Hi George and thanks for the chance to chat about the journey of .build. To start, let’s talk about your general experience in the first year of the TLD. What have been some of the highlights?

George Minardos, CEO of .build: The first year has been a combination of block and tackling of the basics of a new business while pushing for innovation in an exploding field.

We came to the market ready to integrate into what we thought was a standardised process, but then learned that this wasn’t the case.  The changes that the new Registries and the New gTLD Program itself introduced, required the industry to create and adopt new systems and best practices. One of the most fulfilling milestones of our first year was to see the state of the industry gradually change over time in the direction we had predicted and promoted.  It was quite a year to watch individual registrars go from not offering our name or any others, to hundreds of registrars and resellers offering our complete product including premium names and different price levels.

Q: You established a number of partnerships with leading industry bodies. Why did you decide on this strategy?

George: I see .build as an opportunity for the entire building world.   My vision is to create a namespace that actually helps an entire industry improve.  Builders understand the importance of their real world reputation and identity and are beginning to understand the importance of their online identity. We realised that this isn’t actually that hard of a story to tell, especially if we could show a few great case studies: the story would then propagate and tell itself.

We partnered early on with the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) and American Subcontractors Association (ASA), two of the largest associations in the commercial construction industry. We have also been working very closely with The Blue Book Network, a 100 year-old company with deep ties and services in the commercial construction industry.  These leading organizations represent hundreds of thousands of members. By getting them to effectively use, endorse, and adopt those domains, it is creating a broader awareness within the industry.  More to the point, each group understands the need to innovate and constantly offer their customers value.

IMG_0049

George Minardos and co-founder Tom Brackey with the Bluebook Network team at the Las Vegas Con Expo show

Q: What feedback have you received from your customers?

George: I spoke to a guy who was trying to buy a three-character domain that was selling for about $250 at the Registrar. He thought it was a bit expensive, compared with the general notion of what a domain costs, so I suggested he look up his desired name on a domain investing site and compare the prices. All the equivalent domains in other TLDs were worth thousands of dollars. And all of a sudden I heard the gears shifting on the other end of the phone and he was like ‘this is cheap; I’ve got to grab it now!’ He registered his domain name for the complete 10 year period!

I think there’s an opportunity to reset the consumer’s notion of value.  When you put a good domain name in terms of like-for-like, the whole notion of what’s good value can change.

There was a company called Saco that bought a .build in Landrush, and I actually went out and met with them because I was curious as to why they bought a .build. I sat down with the two founders of the company. They said there were 15 other Saco construction companies on the web and they saw .build as an opportunity to get the best name that was available to them and stand out from the crowd.

For them it was a no-brainer. They developed a website and did some pretty innovative things like setting up different Twitter accounts for each of their projects, where the Project Managers were posting updates and photos and they were uploading automatically into a feed on their website. I think they had that up in less than a day with a website builder.

We’ve set up a new page on our site – www.greatsites.build – to show some examples like this that are great representations of what people are doing with .build domains in so many areas.

Q: What else have you learned about the scope of .build over the past year?

George: When you start any business you wonder if you’ll have customers. Imagine opening a restaurant and wondering if people will fill the tables. We knew we’d have customers but it’s been really great to see how diverse they are.  There are a broad number of other types of people interested in the name ‘build’. We’re seeing tech and start-up companies, innovators and DIY-ers – many people just putting their next big idea on .build.

Something else that’s really interesting is that from a consumer side, we’ve found many times that the consumer is price-insensitive. We’ve offered some specials through marketing programs and often people don’t care to save $10, $20, or $50. They want to go to the easiest place to buy their domains, and if they’ve had an account with a registrar for 15 years then the discount to them is irrelevant. It’s easier for them to just log in and buy the domain full price at a place they know and trust. What I have learned in that regard is that the pricing model of the domain industry where there is no Manufactured Suggested Retail Price does work, but it isn’t one that I would have conceived of.

Sponsoring the Annual AGC Conference in Puerto Rico March 2015

Sponsoring the Annual AGC Conference in Puerto Rico March 2015

Q: How have you dealt with the competition in the market from other TLDs?

George: I’ve always said that a good domain name and therefore, a good TLD ultimately, is a name that means something to the person that buys it but also to the person that buys the good or service it offers. In short, a good domain is one you remember.

I think all the industry TLDs are good and they’re all needed, but I personally believe .build is the best for a number of reasons. It’s the shortest and it also is broader than any of the more specific TLDs like .engineer or .construction. I think competitively, it stands on its own without any kind of differentiation needed. If somebody thinks that their company name and ‘.contractors’ is better, then that is the one they should be buying. There are also peripheral TLDs like .property that are related, but they’re distinct. I think that standing back objectively, .build is a different TLD entirely because it is more universally understood than any of the competitors.

Q: Finally, what will be the main challenges and areas of focus for Year Two of .build?

George: General Awareness to the New gTLD Program was and still is very thin. This is partly related to the lack of technical integration but it is also a marketing and messaging issue. You have the challenge not only of how to sell the product, but also in getting the message out there that the product is even for sale.

I think that’s going to continue to be the potential challenge – or opportunity, depending on how you look at it. There are organisations like the DNA and ICANN that are working to push the word out further. We’re just going to continue to reach out in targeted ways that we find cost effective to increase the awareness of what new TLDs and .build in particular can do to improve a business’ online identity. We need to ensure the awareness increases and good stories keep getting told enough to raise all boats in this tide, so that the whole program becomes more successful.

Will the fast-approaching deadline for .brands catch many by surprise?

Published on April 20th, 2015

Tony KirschBy Corey Grant
21 April 2015

29 July 2015 is a big day for .brands. It’s the date when all ICANN Registry Agreements (RA) must be signed.

Once the RA is signed, the fees to ICANN and your Registry Services Provider kick in.

As certain as you can be that ICANN will begin sending invoices, you can also expect to receive increased scrutiny internally. Questions are inevitable.

People will want answers; what is the plan for this thing? How does it fit into our long term corporate goals? Do marketing have a plan to use the TLD in the upcoming launch of our new product?

Signing the RA by 29 July shouldn’t be your next step. Working backwards, by July you need a plan for the TLD. The plan might be to leave the TLD in a state where it can be used at short notice if needed, or it might be to establish a promotional site to support an upcoming campaign.

Either way, you need to develop a plan that enables you to address those inevitable questions, set expectations and manage internal stakeholders.

What .brands need to know

The addition of Specification 13 to the RA was a win for .brand applicants, recognising their unique status as brands. This also bought some time for those .brand applicants who were in no rush to proceed, with ICANN providing a nine month extension to the deadline when eligible .brand applicants must sign their RA.

By now, if you’re responsible for a .brand TLD you could be forgiven for putting things off for as long as possible in the hope that the whole process of taking control of the TLD becomes clearer and easier.

The good news is that it looks like ICANN isn’t going to alter the process of signing your RA and then getting delegated. At ARI Registry Services, we’ve helped many clients go through the process and it is all pretty easy now.

The not-so-easy part is explaining to the rest of your organisation how you will use your .brand TLD. This brings us back to that comfortable cruise into 29 July 2015.

How do you create a TLD plan?

You need to rally all of your senior stakeholders and workshop your options.

Bringing this group together not only helps you access a broad range of ideas and risks, but you also get buy-in from stakeholders right from the start. However, don’t under-estimate the challenge of organising this workshop.

You’ll need an executive level sponsor to buy into the workshop concept – after all, you’re taking a large number of senior personnel and locking them in a room for multiple days. Then you’ll need to convince each stakeholder to block out their calendar and attend.

If you weren’t already the internal evangelist for this .brand TLD, you need to become one right now. The future of your brand is digital and your .brand TLD is the future of your digital brand. It is a major investment for your organisation. It is also a new concept for almost everyone in your organisation and it’s difficult for them to get their heads around the scope of the impact and the opportunity.

Chicken and egg

Which comes first? It’s tough to spend time and resources on something when most people in your organisation don’t see the opportunity. But to gain buy-in, you need to start down the path of nailing down the strategy and having a plan you can refer to.

The good news is that the benefits of having a .brand TLD – like increased messaging recall and customer engagement, freedom of domain name choice, digital brand authority and trademark protection – make a compelling story when applied to your brand. .

More than 40 percent of the Fortune 100 applied for a .brand TLD, and those brands without a TLD will be at distinct disadvantage in their digital marketing strategy very soon.

Is a workshop and the resulting plan all you need to do to launch your .brand TLD? Unfortunately not, you’ll eventually need a full strategy, project plan, policy framework, risk assessment, budget, and resources to launch and operate the TLD. But for now, the workshop is the next step.

My advice to .brand operators is to get moving now and have a plan – or at least a path to create a plan – by the July deadline.

3 Reasons To Ditch Your Free DNS Service

Published on April 17th, 2015

By Brendon Mitchell

As the introduction of new gTLDs continue to capture the attention of the global internet audience, Registrars have never been in a stronger position to attract and retain their next generation of loyal customers – and domain name sales should be the beginning of the story.

Our research suggests that the rising impact of DNS related security threats, combined with the requirement for businesses to improve their online performance is resulting in an increased demand for premium DNS services. So while domain name sales remain your major focus; a shift in your DNS operations from a free to a paid DNS service could be a simple strategy to drive your average sales price higher.

Here’s three reasons why now’s the time to ditch that free DNS service in favour of a product that can support your business long term.

3_reasons_to_ditch_your_free_DNS_service

So if you’re thinking that now might be the right time to time to cull your free DNS service, drop me a line to discuss how DiscoveryDNS can deliver the technical, product and commercial expertise to drive your DNS revenues further.

Brendon Mitchell is a DNS Account Manager with ARI Registry Services. He consults with Registrars globally on the opportunity presented by premium DNS services. Follow Brendon on Twitter or contact him via LinkedIn to arrange a discussion on how DiscoveryDNS can help you manage risk and increase revenue.

3 steps for managing ICANN Registry compliance

Published on April 14th, 2015

Tony KirschBy Corey Grant
14 April 2015

If you are like the majority of Registry Operators we have spoken to, you may now be thinking that compliance with your new gTLD Registry Agreement is much more difficult than first envisaged – especially if you are one of the lucky operators which have been chosen for ICANN’s latest round of registry audits!

You may also be surprised at the number of questions and requests that you need to respond to.

The good news is that you are not alone, and I’m pleased to share some of our lessons here, in the hope that it may assist others.

What to expect from ICANN Compliance

When the first new gTLDs were launched, ICANN indicated that compliance with the Registry Agreement would be handled in a reactive and consultative manner.

The reality is that, since the first TLD was delegated ( شبكة. which translates to .shabaka, or ‘web’ in Arabic), ICANN’s Compliance department has been significantly ramping up efforts to proactively enforce Registry Agreements. In fact, responses from Registry Operators can be sought from the time the Registry Agreement is signed, and in some cases before TLDs are even live.

Making compliance management even harder for applicants are the shifting sands on which requirements are being developed, especially given that some are still being finalised.

It had been broadly expected that the parameters for compliance were two-fold:

a. ICANN Compliance Notices to be issued to Registry Operators when clear issues were identified; and
b. Formal (random) audits, to occur as part of a three year audit plan.

Extra compliance requirements

In addition to the above, we are seeing ICANN issue Inquiries, which seemingly amount to Notices without clear explanation.

ICANN has to date issued these Inquiries under a very broad range of topics to almost all current Registry Operators, and these ostensibly informal Notices must be acted upon by the Registry Operator lest ICANN escalate the Inquiry into a Notice.

This third area of contact by ICANN has significantly broadened the ability of ICANN compliance to contact Registry Operators. As a result we are seeing some concerning real world examples of compliance issues such as:

• Receiving compliance Notices before Registry Operators had reached a point in the launch process where names could be registered; and

• Receiving Notices because marketing material didn’t exactly match TLD startup information, without consideration for the differing audiences for this information; and

• In one case that we’ve been involved with, issuing Notices based on incorrectly auto-generated error messages, causing Registry Operators to scramble to understand potential breach situations that didn’t exist.

As concerning and time consuming as managing notices, audits and inquiries can be, experience shows us that preparation and knowledge is the key to minimising their impact on daily operations.

How to manage ICANN compliance

Effective and comprehensive TLD policies + clear understanding of the requirements/industry + comprehensive processes + knowledgeable resources = COMPLIANCE

The solution isn’t a simple one, given that it requires such a broad understanding of Registry Operator practices and the new gTLD regulatory framework, but for ARI Registry Services’ clients we provide the people and resources to ensure compliance via a three step process.

1. Proactive ongoing management of daily tasks
Managing the ongoing ICANN obligations such as Add Grace Period Limit Policy implementation, Zone File Access management, ICANN monthly reports, reserved name compliance management, etc.

2. Industry Engagement
Monitoring and active lobbying in the compliance space in the best interests of Registry Operators, as well as ensuring a comprehensive understanding of the requirements and best ways of resolving known and potential issues for a wide variety of operating parameters.

3. ICANN Response
Once inquiries or notices are received, or in preparation for a known audit, ARI Registry Services’ compliance staff have the accumulated knowledge and technical record keeping behind them to adequately respond in a timely fashion, minimizing the impact on Registry Operators.

Compliance with the Registry Agreement is a time consuming and complex affair. It’s also an unforgiving exercise too; you only get once chance to get it right or otherwise you face the very real consequence of an ICANN breach notice. This is the reason why many of our clients have signed up for our Operational Services program.

ARI Registry Services is the only one-stop-shop that simplifies your technical operations, advocates for your commercial interests and removes the complexities of operating within the ICANN ecosystem.

By safeguarding their TLD asset and outsourcing the burden of compliance to ARI Registry Services, our clients can concentrate on their core business operations safe in the knowledge that they’re working with a proven and trusted partner.

Corey Grant is a Senior Industry Consultant with the ARI Registry Services consulting team.

 

com.google April Fools’ is no laughing matter: what .google could mean for other .brands

Published on April 2nd, 2015

Tony KirschBy Tony Kirsch
2 April 2015

When April Fools’ Day rolls around each year, Google is generally one of the front runners for jokes – often making headlines for its quirky gimmicks. This year was no exception.

Yesterday, Google launched its first domain name under the recently delegated .google Top-Level Domain (TLD), a massive milestone for all .brand TLD owners. Google is encouraging millions of people around the world to visit: www.com.google.

The page offers a ‘flipped’ view of Google search – as if perhaps, you were inside Google itself looking outwards.

com.googleWhen promoting the stunt, Google openly promoted it as a product of new gTLDs and specifically its .google Top-Level Domain. Could it be perhaps, that Google is giving users a taste of what’s to come – a view from the inside of Google’s own corner of the Internet? The move from renting a small piece of .com to now hosting its search engine under on its own Top-Level Domain should not be understated in its significance.

The move attracted a lot of attention as many noted the use of .google and praised Google for its creativity.

There’s been much speculation about how Google will use its new gTLD assets – from the .google brand TLD to the likes of .app which Google famously acquired for $25 million earlier this year.

The fact that Google chose to use its .google TLD for this stunt could suggest a wider strategy starting to come into play. Based on its track record, the company’s April Fools’ efforts were always going to garner a lot of media attention, and they have been quite overt in linking this domain to new gTLDs.

trevor long tweetandrew bennett tweet

Hopefully, com.google is the ‘soft-launch’ of a larger .google strategy that will begin to roll out as Google continues to raise awareness of the namespace.

So what does this mean for other .brands? It’s no secret that in the world of tech, where Google goes, people follow. If Google starts to activate .google more broadly with as much creativity and innovation as com.google, it will provide a great example for other .brands on how to use a brand TLD to realise its full potential.

Some brands are already making waves with their TLD strategies. We’re very proud to be partnering with the likes of Monash University (.monash, the first .brand TLD to go live) and the Australian Cancer Research Foundation (.cancerresearch), which were both reported by CSC to be performing well in search and even have pages appearing in the Alexa 1M Ranking.

Our TLD consulting team is working with .brands to simplify their launch process and maximise business success. We’ll be watching closely to see what example Google sets as more .google sites start to emerge.

Managed DNS an opportunity for the savvy Registrar

Published on March 6th, 2015

Brendon MitchellBy Brendon Mitchell

We now live in a world where the achievement of over 500 new gTLD delegations is only overshadowed by the significance of over 4.5 million domain name registrations.

While there may have been the odd challenge along the way, it seems that the world we once knew is no longer. Namespaces are launching like clockwork, and the Registrar channel is beginning to harness the power of endless choice within their customer base; things are finally starting to become a little more stable and the next stage of our industry’s evolution is becoming all the more exciting.

So what’s next?

While a large portion of the team here at ARI has been focused on cracking the new gTLD puzzle, others (including me) have been working tirelessly to ensure our Registrar partners are provided with access to quality products to drive value and additional revenues from within their customer base.

Now is the right time for Registrars to start forming their long-term product strategies post-gTLD integration. To support this movement, we’ve focused our attention on addressing what we believe is a significant gap in the product portfolio of Registrars. It’s the missing link in the chain: Managed Anycast DNS.

While it’s a tried and tested quantity, the Managed DNS opportunity is now ripe for the picking and it’s time to jump on board. Here’s why:

1). Times are changing: Your customers are becoming more concerned with online security and performance than they ever have before. For many, the basic DNS hosting that is coupled with domain name registration leaves their organisation significantly exposed to the threats of the online world. They are actively looking for ways to ensure their online presence is protected and enhanced redundancy, coupled with improved resolution time from a premium Managed DNS service could provide the peace of mind they’re seeking.

2). Demand: Our analysis of .com and .net data suggests that over 1.7 million zones are currently delegated to the nameservers of independent DNS providers who are not the Registrar of record. Importantly, the trend for outsourced DNS services is increasing. Independently managed zones increased by 16.5% from November 2013 through to November 2014.

There is clearly demand for Managed DNS. The question is, will you be the one to serve your customers, or will it be a competitor?

3). Revenue: As in most cases, demand certainly results with an increase in revenue. The same analysis conducted by the ARI team (and summarised in this infographic) suggests that the Anycast DNS opportunity is worth an estimated $44 million per annum to the global Registrar channel. That’s right, $44 million per annum from .com and .net registrants alone. As we know, this opportunity is churning away from Registrars and into the pockets of independent DNS hosting providers at your detriment.

How will you secure your slice of the lucrative DNS pie?

Solution

DiscoveryDNS by ARI Registry Services can help you tap into the lucrative Managed DNS market to offer your customers enterprise ready DNS services from one of the industry’s most recognised service providers.

Our team of experts is focused on simplifying your technical operations to ensure you can focus on what matters most – adding to your bottom line.

Remember, online business starts with the Registrar. You have the relationships and marketing power and we have the experience. Leverage that to your advantage.

To learn more about how a DiscoveryDNS solution delivered by ARI Registry Services could support the growth of your business, drop me an email at brendon.mitchell@ariservices.com.

By Brendon Mitchell

.cancerresearch – Can a new TLD beat a global disease?

Published on February 4th, 2015

Tony KirschBy Tony Kirsch

I wish cancer research didn’t exist.

Imagine a world without cancer, where a cure existed to eradicate this disease.

Today, the best way for us to achieve this is through cancer research, and extremely bold goals like this require game-changing innovation.

Fittingly, the .cancerresearch Top Level Domain will launch on World Cancer Day (February 4) and use this fantastic new digital platform to show that cancer, its treatments and its cures, are not beyond us. You can see the promotional campaign at theone.cancerresearch – and express your support.

The .cancerresearch Top Level Domain is unique and something I’m extremely proud to be involved with. Like many people around the world, cancer has had devastating impact on my family and I’m extremely passionate about the potential that .cancerresearch represents.

It is the first Top Level Domain in the world to be launched with a network of websites that provide reliable and trusted information to the global community. And, as the name suggests, its sole purpose is to find a cure for cancer through research.

From today, the internet-using public can type domains such as home.cancerresearch and news.cancerresearch into the URL bar to find information that helps people affected by cancer, and also provides information on world-class cancer research that is aiming to beat this disease.

In addition, the launch will include a series of sites such as lung.cancerresearch or breast.cancerresearch which will provide detailed information related to these specific diseases.

The information is free and available to everyone across the world – and its intention is to build awareness and education around cancer itself and the amazing progress that has been made in relation to its cure, and to provide hope for those who are ever affected by this horrible disease.

How did we get here?

ARI Registry Services has been working alongside the applicant (the Australian Cancer Research Foundation), since the idea was first conceived in 2011. In addition to writing the application during the ICANN application period and being the backend technical partner, we’ve been intimately involved in the development of the strategy and a range of implementation and policy elements. Personally, I’m extremely proud of this project, and it’s a wonderful achievement for our organisation, the TLD industry as a whole, the Australian Cancer Research Foundation and a significant opportunity for the Not-for-Profit sector.

In designing the strategy, ARI and ACRF wanted to achieve a method by which we could promote the amazing work being done by the researchers that dedicate their lives to finding cures for cancer. Additionally, we wanted to find a way to provide reliable information – and importantly, hope – to the global community.

During the strategy development, it was apparent that demand existed for this type of information through sources such as Wikipedia, but we wanted to link the TLD strategy to a higher purpose; something that could genuinely disrupt the status quo, something that is necessary to beat a disease that has impacted the lives of so many.

With over a billion websites in existence today, there is already so much content available online, and as a result, internet users are really looking for beacons of relevant, targeted information from sources they can trust.

The .cancerresearch Top Level Domain provided the platform to design a solution that utilises a unique series of websites which will increase awareness and visibility of cancer research. These sites will facilitate communication and spread the message that, through the support of the cancer research community, we can all work together to help beat cancer.

At ARI Registry Services, we really believe the internet-using public will embrace the simplicity of visiting the series of .cancerresearch sites, such as home.cancerresearch, news.cancerresearch, and even donate.cancerresearch, for those who would like to contribute towards the fight.

After all, simplicity and relevant navigation is really what new TLDs are all about.

Industry Perspective

The industry has made significant inroads since the first delegation in late 2013. Yet despite having delegated almost 500 TLDs, and over 4 million domains registered to date, there is still a long way to go before we can confidently say we have achieved end-user awareness and buy-in.

What the industry is really waiting for is a great marketing campaign by one of the more prominent .brand applicants and frankly, I think that one of the bigger players such as Google have a responsibility to help the program by taking the lead on this.

The reality is that most others are taking a wait-and-see approach – but I strongly believe that in addition to our ultimate vision of curing cancer, .cancerresearch can truly help other TLD applicants by providing a real-world example of how a TLD can be implemented, launched, and used. Ultimately we want this to help all new TLD applicants, in particular those that have applied for a .brand and are struggling with the internal appetite for launching their TLD.

I wish cancer research didn’t exist. I wish we didn’t need it. But we do.

And through engagement with the .cancerresearch experience, we can all help to make big inroads into changing people’s lives.

To get involved, please visit theone.cancerresearch and see the wonderful marketing campaign that has been developed by M&C Saatchi in collaboration with ACRF and ARI Registry Services, or feel free to contact me directly at tony.kirsch@ariservices.com if you’d like to know more about the process of developing the TLD strategy and launch plans.

Tony Kirsch
Head of Global Consulting
ARI Registry Services

.brands – Nobody said it was easy

Published on January 13th, 2015

Tony KirschBy Tony Kirsch

I’ve got enormous respect and admiration for the passionate individuals who are still championing .brands for their organisations in the new Top-Level Domain (TLD) program.

I have the pleasure of assisting quite a few of these on a daily basis and I’m sure their experiences aren’t isolated with other applicants across the globe.

Put yourself in their shoes.

Delays, some stupid process called Digital Archery, GAC Advice, names collisions and negative media – just to name a few of the confidence-sapping issues destabilising the program for applicants. This is without mentioning the difficulties of confidently influencing such an enormous change with their key stakeholders.

Sure, they knew there would be challenges at the forefront of digital innovation in online brand strategy. However, in the words of Coldplay’s Chris Martin in The Scientist: “Nobody said it was easy. No one ever said it would be this hard.” (If you’re at NamesCon this week and can provide a guitar and a little liquid courage, I’d be happy to do a very ordinary rendition for you!!).

I’m sure the recent reports about the high costs of switching to a .brand had some applicants thinking their new TLD plans are a car crash waiting to happen.

That said, there are still rewards at the end of the new TLD tunnel for those applicants that have the intestinal fortitude to persist with the rigmarole. It’s not all gloom and doom and with the right strategy you can be singing Queen’s We Are The Champions with your shiny new TLD in your hands. (No, there isn’t enough liquid courage in the world to have me attempting a Freddie Mercury ballad).

Why make the switch

It’s naïve and short-sighted to think switching to a .brand will be anything but expensive and complicated. Attaining any form of real differentiation is difficult and takes immense effort. But what’s your key advantage? Isn’t it simply because YOU CAN (and others can’t)?

You’ve all heard the benefits of a new TLD, from improvements to SEO, message recall, domain name asset management and trademark protection. But how does a new TLD set you apart from the competition?

We know that organisations across the globe spend their entire lives competing on pure product and service improvements to get ahead. Yet despite how far we’ve come in a globalised digital world, it’s hard to differentiate yourself in today’s highly competitive market – and when you do get a half a percentage point gain, it’s only days later when your competitors catch up and copy your innovation, eroding any advantage you may have attained.

Products and services are prone to replication. Differentiation at the brand level is where the most significant gains can be made.

And this is where a new TLD provides an unmatched competitive advantage for the savvy brand.

New TLDs and brand differentiation

The ability to do something that the majority of your competitors can’t do is the holy grail of business success.

If you look at the long-term impact of a new TLD for a brand, it’s one of the ultimate differentiators of all time.

We know that first round applicants are likely to have a huge leg up on their competitors for anywhere from two to five years, which is a competitive advantage luxury you will never get anywhere else.

The only problem is; how do you get there?

Examples

While there are no previous .brand examples to demonstrate as case studies, we can look at brands which have performed more traditional digital asset rebrands as examples.

Take www.carloans.com.au for example. In June 2013 the company rebranded (moving away from beep.com.au) and the business saw an immediate increase in website traffic and customers, a decrease in marketing spend, 40% reduction in AdWord spend, and overall growth of 60% to generate turnover in excess of $100 million.

The company’s Director Shaun McGowan said of the rebrand: “Our business is not unique and we have many competitors. In this marketplace, you need a competitive advantage.”

Clearly they found their competitive advantage and achieved it through a successfully deployed transition strategy.

The strategy to switch

You need to have a long-term and a short-term return on investment strategy for your .brand asset.

Obviously, the end goal for your long-term strategy is where you completely deploy your TLD across the organisation and achieve full brand differentiation.

But what can you do now that achieves success whilst building towards your end goal?

My advice is that you launch your .brand around a project that has its own ROI and in doing so, also try to launch it so that it’s working in alignment with either a new product or project. Importantly, in the short-term it must be launched to be complementary to the existing core brand.

Too many people have the misguided mindset that a successful .brand strategy involves turning your .brand on and your brand.com off. It’s simply not the case because it would be too expensive, with a high degree of risk and cause terrible confusion for customers and stakeholders.

Success is about how you launch a .brand in parallel with your existing digital brand that will be complementary to your current operations, but with the ability to achieve long-term goals without the need for drastic corrections.

The question is; what do you do between now and then? Do you sit on the fence and do nothing, or do you take a strong leadership position to become one of the organisations that embraces new TLDs and reaps the rewards of changing the face of digital?

The decisions you make today will ultimately dictate how you get to your long-term goal.

Strategy to success

Mark my words. It might be tricky, but someone is going to get this right. In fact, I know they will because they’re working on it as you read this.

The brands that get it right will be positioned as the leaders in their space because it is one of the few differentiators you can ever achieve that is not easily replicable.

It’s worth remembering that (almost) all applicants applied for a new TLD because they recognised the opportunity presented, even if they didn’t have a strategy for actually achieving it.

Much like the film clip to The Scientist, the new TLD process starts off happy and ends happy. It’s just a bitch in between.

Tony Kirsch
Head of Global Consulting
ARI Registry Services

P.S: You could be forgiven for thinking the words to Coldplay’s The Scientist were actually written as an anthem for all new TLD applicants. Give it a listen for a laugh and tweet me your thoughts: @TonyKirsch_ARI.

What’s the ROI on a $20m TLD auction?

Published on October 20th, 2014

RyanBakerBy Ryan Baker

Ryan Baker, ARI Registry Services’ Industry Consultant, offers insights into valuing a TLD and crafting a winning auction strategy to help applicants in contention sets secure their highly prized TLDs.

ICANN have taken a solid stance in regards to contention sets, with those yet to be resolved soon to be forced into auctions of last resort in the coming months. As expected, this has increased the velocity of private settlements between applicants, either via deals or private auctions.

It seems like most applicants (wisely) don’t want to see their funds going into ICANN coffers unnecessarily.

While the prices paid for TLDs at private auction are a closely guarded secret, talk abounds in industry circles of prices approaching US$20 million for some contention sets.

Are these prices an outstanding investment or sheer lunacy?

The answer lies in being able to implement a strategy that generates solid revenues, whilst understanding the true costs of running a TLD.

Take for example the .sex TLD which was recently reported as having sold for USD 3 million. Intuitively this could appear to be a bargain for perpetual ownership of such a strong keyword TLD, considering the size of the industry, and the fact that directly comparable but much less flexible assets sex.com and sex.xxx sold for $13 million and $3 million respectively.

Or was the price tempered given potential concerns of ‘unexpected’ delays or political concerns such as those that impacted the .xxx TLD or queries over the competitive impacts of .xxx, .adult, .porn etc.?

While domain industry hyperbole over auction prices may be no more than scuttlebutt, there can be no denying that there have been some exceptionally high auction prices through the transparent ICANN auction of last resort process, such as .vip ($3M), .buy ($4.5M) and .tech ($6.7M).

What price is too high to pay?

At some point, without an amazingly viral marketing campaign and a magically cheap operating plan, the operations of your TLD can send you broke within a short matter of time.

Having being tasked by some applicants to assist in this very issue, I’d like to share the first two questions I am generally asked when sitting down with customers to define a TLD auction strategy:

1. How do you appropriately value the asset to gain enough capital to win at auction?; and
2. At what price does this TLD become unsustainable in terms of ROI?

The answer to both of these questions can only be divined after comprehensive analysis of both sides of the ledger; the potential revenues AND the real-world costs. Each has their own significant considerations.

Revenue

Calculating forecasted registrations from Sunrise and ten years of operating is relatively simple.

However, smart applicants are thinking beyond just x% of the total target market * wholesale price and realizing that the real benefit of operating a TLD is in finding the hidden value of these complex assets.

The value in the key partnerships, spinoff properties, premium domain name sales and associated businesses (just to name a few) which will make far more revenue than just domain name sales.

Costs

The second part of any good analysis is costs.

There is no such thing as a free lunch, and in the case of a TLD, you’ve got the obvious costs such as your registry, marketing and registrar management, and the not so obvious including managing ICANN compliance and dealing with an increasingly volatile regulatory environment.

Each of these has the potential to send your business spiraling backwards if not managed correctly.

Understanding and predicting all of these cost centres is one of the most important elements of working out your TLD’s potential ROI. To effectively complete this task, you really need the insight of folks that have been managing TLDs for many years.

Next steps?

Firstly, you’re not alone here. If all of this applies to you, you can rest assured that it’s impacting your competitors too.

However, it is time for you to get serious. If your auction strategy can achieve more ROI than your competitors, then you’ll enter the auction with a strategic advantage that could prove the difference in your one shot at securing your TLD

A good auction strategy relies on two fundamental principles:.

1. Knowing what value the TLD represents to you
2. Knowing what value the TLD represents to your competitors

If you aren’t absolutely certain you know the answer to the two elements above, you might be blowing your one and only chance.

Having a clear vision, a strong auction strategy and some help from those with experience in the process will ultimately decide whether you walk away on auction day with big frown or a profitable TLD.

By Ryan Baker
Industry Consultant
ARI Registry Services