Posts Tagged ‘Strategy’

Challenges for .brands – from strategy to implementation planning

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

Corey GrantBy Corey Grant
27 August 2015

This is the fifth 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 turn your ideas into a .brand TLD strategy, which you can read here.

While your strategy and objectives speak more broadly to why you’re launching a .brand TLD, your implementation plan covers the all-important ‘how’.

Once you complete your strategy workshop session to agree upon objectives and approach, how do you actually launch a .brand TLD?

You need an implementation plan to guide you from strategy to launch, and beyond. At its core, the implementation plan is a checklist; just like a pilot landing a plane, you need to run through your checklist to ensure you don’t miss any crucial elements. It only takes overlooking one small step to lead to disaster.

While developing your implementation plan is far from the most exciting step in launching a .brand TLD, the project planning work done here will lay the necessary foundation for the creative promotion and engagement activities to come. It will also provide confidence to internal stakeholders that their needs have been considered.

What is an implementation plan?

An implementation plan considers the broad range of internal departments and external participants involved in the launch and operation of a .brand TLD.

One way to think about the implementation plan is to treat it as a risk prevention and mitigation tool. Because of this, several factors contribute to its complexity.

One is the very nature of the complex ICANN ecosystem and intricacies of the domain name industry. Another is the involvement of such wide-ranging areas of the organisation, making it easy to overlook items from areas outside the control of the project owner, if the items are not identified and listed in the implementation plan.

The internal project owner should take the implementation plan and develop it into a fully detailed project plan with timelines and assignments that fit in with all participating resources.

How do you create an implementation plan?

Building upon Neustar’s experience in launching major .brand TLDs around the world, we have built a proprietary implementation plan to help .brand TLD owners navigate the launch process. Outputs typically include a RACI matrix (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) and a Gantt chart.

The intention of the implementation plan is to ensure every deliverable of the strategy is accounted for. This means getting into the minutia of tasks required of internal and external stakeholders.

For example, here are four common topics the Neustar TLD consulting team has covered in the past with clients in our implementation plan:

1. Reserved names – Creating a list of reserved names which need specific sign-off to register. Reserving these names reduces the likelihood of the names being accidentally released to an ineligible internal applicant.

2. Call centre readiness – Ensure the public-facing call centre is trained on upcoming domain name launches. It is no use promoting the .brand TLD only to have a call centre operator direct a caller to a legacy TLD website.

3. Test third-party software – E.g. payment gateways. There may be certain systems which currently rely on connecting to a legacy domain. A plan with IT needs to be developed.

4. PR strategy for analysts – For publicly-listed companies, analysts are likely to pick up on any news surrounding the launch. Be sure there is an educational document so analysts can understand what the company is trying to achieve with the initial use of the .brand TLD.

The implementation plan is an excellent tool to support the broad cross-functional nature of launching a .brand TLD. Your implementation plan lowers your risk and keeps you on track.

What we’ve learnt is that after developing a strategic plan and looking towards the launch of your .brand TLD, the implementation plan brings structure and confidence to the project. For the project owner, it also helps disperse the not-insignificant load of delivering on the strategy.

If you combine a great strategy with a seamless implementation plan, the launch of your .brand TLD will provide your organisation with an asset which will become the foundation of your future digital brand.

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. 

.brands – Nobody said it was easy

Tuesday, 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?

Monday, 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