Let’s face it, we are now inevitably living in Dataville. Data drives everything we do in business, down to the customer’s journey and its evolution. But the big question to ask is: Do you have your fingertips on the pulse of your company’s data rhythm today? Is your company data strategy still relevant? Or are you making assumptions based on how it has always been?
Moving Forward Into 2020
2020 is the year to truly integrate data into your day-to-day business operations. You must also become more comfortable with the terminology, the use and potential power of data, and how you can best leverage it to provide insights into your current business cadence and story.
The time has come. Accountability is increasingly important, if not a necessity across the board, for organizations and leaders to move forward in a healthy way. This piece focuses on my thoughts around data strategy as it related to the domain name industry, where I have spent and extensive period of my professional career in.
The Customer Journey
Insights into your customers’ journey is essential in understanding how they interact with your business. From there, you can draw inferences about your present-day operations as well as what you’d like to see changed over time for your data strategy.
For example, channel partners get questions from registries, such as, “What are your customers thinking or saying about DOT NET?”
How do you respond to a question like that? How much of a granular perception do you have? With the data strategy you currently have, you may be able to already piece together and comprehend some sort of a story, which is a great start. You already have signals from activities that you are executing, so what are these signals? For instance, you might have stats around registration volumes. However, what do the volumes tell you? Do you know who is behind these registrations and do you know why? What is their story? There are many questions to ask to get an informative answer.
Analytics give you a powerful tool to discover the most important customer journeys while offering you a way to prioritize those opportunities in order to significantly impact your business goals.
Examples of questions to ask before exploring specific needs for a robust data strategy:
- When a domain name registration takes place, what do you know about this customer?
- Why did they choose your business to register a domain name?
- Do you have tools tracking their journey?
- What are you really looking for that gives you an actionable insight? Do you know where to begin to look?
- How often do you interact with your customer and how?
- How soon after the registration do you get some insights into their intent when they interact with your business?
By analyzing the responses that come from data, it gives you leverage to discover the customer journey more effectively. Explore ways to make your customer journey maps measurable. Cross-functional teams should be able get their respective actionable intelligence from these maps, such as who to target, what to target them with, what campaigns will be more likely to succeed based on the data gained, what A/B testing for messaging should be performed, and when to target each demographic.
Registries and Channel Partners: should there be change in the current dynamic?
TLD registries can and should broaden their engagement scope with channel partners and support their partners by empowering them (registrars, web hosting businesses) with basic data insights. This will help empower them to make strategic decisions that positively impacts their long-term growth. This includes providing data that is impactful and not easily accessible to them, helping them to create their stories, and working through the customer journey path with them to develop a partnership with them that is accountable on both sides.
Simply offering price reductions or MDF funds without baselines and milestones alone, isn’t enough. The partnership should be built on a strong foundation that is set up for longevity and growth.
Channel partners in the domain name industry can be broadly grouped into different business buckets:
- web hosting
- domain investor focused
- brand protection
Each one of these groups cannot be compared because of their different business models.
You would simply be comparing apples to pears if you did so. Understanding these different segments is extremely important in determining how you can impact a domain name lifecycle in a positive way.
As a registry, you have your own insights derived from your respective zone files. What are the trends that you are seeing? How do you translate them into business insights for the good of your partners? These are some significant questions to ask, and it is imperative to share insights that support your channel’s growth while also supporting channel development data strategies.
The Role of Account Managers
Account managers should also be data literate and passionately curious to support all aspects of the registry business, including product innovation, marketing, corporate development, cyber security goals, and more. They should have a thorough understanding of the partner’s business to advocate and to educate these business models within the registry’s respective cross-functional teams. Remember, channel partners are your eyes and ears to the world outside, so their customers are ultimately the registries’ customers too. With an influx of many TLDs to onboard today, TLD registries can apply a more creative and strategic approach in how they engage with their channel partners, while leveraging data to make a positive impact.
I am also of the opinion that Account Managers should be allowed to explore new channel opportunities with an entrepreneurial spirit. Registries should cultivate and nurture such mindsets.
Registry Marketing Strategies
Most registries, especially nTLD registries, simply reduce pricing to gain growth, but this is not a viable long-term business vision. You cannot apply a one-size-fits-all strategy for each one of those segments above.
Applying a lower registration cost could be beneficial to domain investor-focused channel partners who have an audience that are cost conscious: they typically register in bulk and monetize the domain name in different ways with the intent of only keeping a domain name if it has made up for the cost of the registration. This set of audiences can be particularly powerful in promoting brand awareness for a TLD and/or domain name, if they were supported in identifying potential buyers for their domain name, such as a corporate buyer who eventually uses the domain name as part of its online brand. In order for this to happen, there has to be an outlet for these invested domain names to find their way to potential buyers in transparent ways where companies are brought into the aftermarket mix as well to engage with these domain investors and not just circulated within the industry. Each time, I share with folks outside of the industry the way domain name monetization works; most do not always understand the value of a domain name and that domain name aftermarket activities exits. I encourage registries to explore ways to understand their business and understand it well enough for your teams to become creative in ways to support them with tools that lengthen the lifespan of a domain name registration. Eventually, the journey of the every registration should provide insights gained over time.
Behind every domain name registration, there is a story we can tap into to help understand the business better. For first-time registrations, it is important to impact the registrant within the initial 90 days—not within the last 90 days from expiration date. There are also up-sell opportunities for channel partners with website builder solutions, hosting, email, and more. TLD Registries can further research and explore new potential products and solutions to support the needs of the end-users, therefore helping channel partners to expand revenue sources and increase their bottom line too. Channel partners who only run a wholesale domain name registration service, have their own channel partners too and Registries have to explore ways to empower these wholesale channel partners to engage with their partners in a more productive and effective way that services all parties in the ecosystem well.
Measuring the life span of incremental units coming in through various marketing programs and/or promotions is essential. You can segment these incremental registrations separately from the usual flow to provide you with insights into how effective your current marketing strategies are. Perform A/B testing of data strategies and map the lifespan of each incremental new registration and see what it tells you.
You can track these over a period of time and be able to make assumptions that will help the business navigate in a more effective way. Once you have determined what that healthy end user looks like, explore effective ways to identify and target new potential end users who share similar profiles.
Everyone in your company should understand and be a part of this data-driven company-wide effort to know your current story today and how as a company, you want your story and data strategy to evolve over time.
It is crucial to start at home first with your own business to gain a thorough understanding of the current cadence. Cross-functional teams have to work as a team together to support the overall business objectives and the story that needs to be told through a unified voice. Working in silos no longer is applicable because everyone, ideally, should be a part of the customer’s journey to create a viable company and realize success.