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Domain Name Industry Knowledge

The inside track to TLD success

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I originally posted these thoughts via the DomainDiction blog in June of 2012.  I believe they still hold true today.

So perhaps you have survived reading the Applicant Guidebook, paid your fees and waded through the TAS process. Assuming your application is successful, how are you going to engage your channel(s)? What will you need to do to garner their attention? Why should they care about your TLD? What will you need to do to make them choose to work with you? Or will it be the other way around—in that YOU will need to decide who to target and YOU will need to decide who you want to work with?

I think some new TLDs will need to look beyond the traditional registrar channel, but many others will depend on the established global distribution network to help them quickly build essential new “create” revenue. Most new TLD business models will absolutely have to have this revenue just to survive year one, so let us focus on the registrar channel in this first blog post.

One need not look too far beyond the introduction of the older “original” new TLDs sanctioned by ICANN such as .info, .biz, .mobi, .tel, .asia, .museum, .jobs, .pro, .xxx etc. and “repurposed” ccTLDs such as .tv, .me, .co, .cc to learn what seems to have worked and what does not work.

Here are some things that I know that work:

Relationships. You must have them in the registry/registrar world and the domain investor (domainer) world. As digitally connected as we all are, nothing beats old-fashioned relationships.

Trust. Do what you say you are going to do. Registrars don’t like surprises and they do talk to each other. Your reputation alone may determine whether you can even get in the door.

Plan ahead. Way ahead. Registrars that matter don’t like doing things last minute.

You better have a plan that makes sense, even if you have the relationship–with-the-registrar part down. Flush it out. Twist it around a little with a few test cases, but in the end it better be spot on. Otherwise you are probably toast. You need to communicate how you are different, how your domain will work. Define the problem and what you are doing to solve it, how the registrar and end-user registrant will benefit AND of course how much money the registrar can make!

You must inform registrars of key sunrise, landrush and general registration dates/deadlines/policies well in advance. Registrars must clearly understand your application, technical and OT&E procedures. They must understand payment procedures and all fees.

BD. BD. BD. Market. Market. Market. Sell, sell, sell. If you are not doing all three you are not going to capture revenue. You must first get to the registrar and then, even if they buy your story and your deal, you will have force feed many of them with your messaging/value proposition along with other critical integration information that won’t make them choke on their morning coffee and croissant vs. all the other stuff they have to do that day/week/month/quarter/year.

What doesn’t work:

Registration restrictions. The more you have the more I can guarantee you will lose in new creates and the fewer registrars you will have in your distribution channel. It creates confusion. Besides, registrars don’t like it when they get more support calls and their costs go up. The history of the DNS is littered with restrictive policy TLDs. If you want to join me for a beer sometime I could easily discuss how much money has been made and lost in this industry with overly restrictive TLDs.

Not talking directly and often to prospective and existing end-user registrants. Those who have studied the history of the DNS know of the wall that is supposed to exist between registries, registrars and the registrar’s customers. We all know that has changed and will change again moving forward, but beyond just offering your TLD in a registrar’s storefront you must establish a relationship and build trust with your end user base. That relationship must not end a few months after launch. It must go on, for years.

Marketing and PR programs with no clearly defined goals. How will you gauge success? How will you know you are on track to achieve that success? How many registrations do you need on a daily basis to achieve your goal with your top 10 accredited registrars? Do you even know who your top 10 partners should be?

I’m simplyfing here based on past experience at dotMobi. How the TLD game is played with registrars moving forward is changing and will likely change quite a bit with the introduction of new TLDs.

The introduction of new TLDs, to the scale being contemplated at this time, represents an incredible opportunity for those that understand their market and the channel opportunities to make a difference and ultimately profit to a great extent. I look forward to examining issues in greater detail and to your feedback to get the conversation going!

Author: pinkybrand

My blog is mainly about the domain name industry, where I’ve spent the better part of the last 21 years at the registry and registrar levels. During that time I co-founded two corporate domain name portfolio management start-ups and sold them both to public companies—one to a Fortune 500 company. These days I spend most of my time as a consultant working with cross-functional virtual teams in Europe, China and the USA.

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