Archive for the ‘ARI Registry Services’ Category

Challenges for .brands – launching your .brand

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

Corey GrantBy Corey Grant
3 September 2015

This is the sixth in a series of blog posts discussing the strategic and operational challenges faced by .brand TLD owners and the processes involved in getting them ready for use. Previously I discussed how to transition your agreed strategy into an implementation plan, which you can read here.

One of the consistent themes of this blog series is that despite similarities across .brand TLDs, no two brands will settle on the exact same strategy and process for moving their TLD to launch.

As I discussed last week, an implementation plan ensures that each required action is documented, responsibility for it is assigned and a more detailed project plan can be developed to take this process further.

Then comes what is arguably the most exciting part of the process: introducing your .brand TLD to the world – “The Launch”.

So how do you make this easy and exciting for the most important person in this whole exercise – your customer?

There are  five key principles that we believe are key to a successful .brand launch:

1. Put the customer first in everything you do

2. Use pre-launch messaging to avoid shocking or confusing the customer

3. Conduct consumer testing

4. Reward the behaviour of your pioneers

5. Prepare customer-facing staff

1. Put the customer first in everything you do

Think about the questions that pop into your customer’s mind when they see your fabulous promotional material for the new .brand TLD for the first time:

– What happened to <company>.com?

– Is this actually <company> doing the advertisement?

– Am I being tricked?

– Is the internet broken?

Thinking about how they will react and anticipating what action they will take are important components in planning the launch. Even members of your own team can quickly forget that they only learned about new TLDs a short time ago.

2. Use pre-launch messaging to avoid shocking or confusing the customer

For most launches, we recommend a gentle introduction of the new domain format, rather than just thrusting it in the customer’s face – for example, a range of teaser campaigns.

Customers are usually smarter than we give them credit for, but they might need to see the URL written as
www.promo.<brand> to help them understand they can type it into their browser. Acknowledge that there is a new domain format being used, highlighting it without making it a ‘big deal’.

3. Consumer testing

Testing promotional material with consumers prior to the actual launch brings two major benefits:

1. Helps the marketing team identify the best messaging for influencing the customer and driving user behaviour

2. Assists the technical team with understanding how end-users navigate and whether the site structure stands up to real-world use.

Since the TLD is new to your marketing team as well as your customers, the .brand TLD launch warrants consumer testing more than an average campaign. This cross-functional activity once again highlights how broadly the project will impact your organisation, requiring strong project leadership and stakeholder support.

4. Reward the behaviour of your pioneers

If a customer sees a new domain in a promotion and types it into their browser, reward them.  You want them to do it again, and tell others as well.

Obviously a good experience is one type of reward, but an active acknowledgement of their behaviour and a token of your appreciation are even better. If you have the technology to identify the customer, offer them an incentive of sorts. It’s also worth considering whether your marketing communications should include an incentive to encourage customers to type in the domain. This draws attention to the domain while associating a positive experience with its use.

5. Prepare customer-facing staff

It’s no use having an award-winning campaign if your customer-facing staff – at all levels of the business – can’t handle enquiries concerning the .brand TLD. The simple remedy to this situation is to ensure they are trained and ready.

This exercise also presents opportunity. Your customer-facing staff are a valuable resource who know how customers are likely to react to the campaign involving new domains and can validate their experience. Involve them in the planning and testing phases to save yourself time and money.

 

In a campaign, finding the right balance between promoting a new product/service and introducing a .brand TLD is tricky. Be sure to factor in more time than usual for the communications team to prepare for the launch, so the added complexity can be managed properly.

Once your .brand TLD has been launched, there comes the important and often complex task of keeping it protected and in line with compliance requirements. I’ll discuss the ongoing maintenance in my last post of this series next week.

Corey is part of the Registry Services team at Neustar, based in Australia. Corey previously worked for ARI Registry Services – part of the Bombora Technologies Group of companies, which was acquired by Neustar on 30 July 2015.

Challenges for .brands – Transforming ideas into strategy

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

Corey GrantBy Corey Grant
19 August 2015

This is the fourth post in a series of blog posts discussing the strategic and operational challenges faced by .brand TLD owners and the processes involved in getting them ready for use. Previously we discussed the importance of engaging stakeholders in the decision-making process around operating your TLD, which you can read here.

The importance of engaging with all the necessary stakeholders in your .brand TLD and ensuring you have company-wide buy-in cannot be understated. But once you have all these players in a room together, what’s next?

Every brand launching its own TLD will move through the process differently. Unfortunately for those managing this project, there is no single, ‘off-the-rack’ strategy that will suit every .brand TLD’s individual requirements. Most importantly, the strategy for launching a .brand needs to be tied to what your goals are as an organisation, as well as reflecting your culture and the brand itself.

Once you’ve engaged the right senior stakeholders, your next vital step is to develop a high-level strategy which you can all agree on and allow the project to progress.

The three main benefits of holding a strategy workshop are:

1. Buy-in. The .brand TLD project will require support across the organisation. If senior stakeholders participate, they are much more likely to buy-in to the strategy.

2. Risks and opportunities identified. Only when ideas are explored and challenged, do the risks and opportunities reveal themselves.

3. Shared load. This project is too big for one person, or even one department. The strategy workshop will enable tasks and deliverables to be shared fairly.

In the past, we have conducted a number of workshops with .brands that have involved two or three days’ worth of brainstorming and extraction sessions. This might sound like a large commitment of time, and it is, but spending the time up-front is the best investment that can be made in the .brand TLD project.

One consistent factor is that while our formula for running the strategy workshop remains the same, each one evolves very differently depending on the brand and the people involved. A strategy workshop is a challenging exercise, so bringing in a qualified external facilitator is recommended.

By getting all the major stakeholders involved in a strategy workshop, you are educating and motivating them, as well as building a strategy. You ensure that no major stakeholder is taken by surprise and most importantly, you demonstrate a genuine desire to get their input and have a great opportunity to learn how the project will impact their department.

This participation up-front will mitigate disagreement later down the track, by allowing all those involved to get all the information they need, have their say and be a part of the decision.

Once this is completed, you’re ready to begin developing your implementation plan. This is a far-reaching process which I will delve into further in the coming weeks.

Corey is part of the Registry Services team at Neustar, based in Australia. Corey previously worked for ARI Registry Services – part of the Bombora Technologies Group of companies, which was acquired by Neustar on 30 July 2015. 

Navigating the .brand delegation process

Wednesday, 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

Tuesday, 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?

Monday, 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.

One year in: lessons from .rocks

Monday, 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

Wednesday, 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

Monday, 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.

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

Tuesday, 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.