In this article, I’ll discuss product marketing in the industry that started it all - the domains industry. I’ll delve into why product marketing in this industry comes with its challenges thanks to two main characteristics it possesses.
Then, I’ll share four best practices I’ve found work well as a PMM within the industry.
What are we doing? I ask myself that question every day as a product marketer working in the domains industry. How did I get into the domains industry? That's a big mystery.
I am the product marketing manager for the wholesale domains division of Tucows Inc. I'm responsible for go to market, sales enablement, and product launches, and in between wild walks on the beach.
In this article, I'll talk about product marketing in the industry that started it all, which is the internet and the domains industry. I'll kick things off by talking a little bit about Tucows, then I'll move onto the domain industry, and finally best practices that I've found really work in this type of industry.
You're probably thinking, Tucows, the number two, and the animal cows. You're right.
This is our first logo - two cow heads. But Tucows actually stands for The Ultimate Collection Of Winsock Software. We have a very rich history with the internet. We've been around since the early 90s when the internet became a thing.
Tucows actually started as a software library. Back in the day where you would sacrifice your computer's health to download that free software, we were a part of that. Back in the day, we worked with a lot of ISPs providing different software, and during the.com boom when the internet became a thing is when we started to pick up and really ramp up the domain industry.
We are a publicly-traded tech company and there are two main focuses of our business.
- We have the domain side, which is made up of the wholesale side and the retail side.
- We also have the telco side called Ting. Ting provides internet services, as well as mobile services throughout the United States.
We have a strong mission statement that we follow through every day to work. We lobby, agitate and educate to promote and protect an open Internet around the world. That is our mission statement as a company.
The domains industry
The domains industry is very, very complex. It's made up of enforcers, government, technologists, regulators, it's not very simple.
This graph breaks down the different layers of the domains industry.
At the very top, you have ICANN which is the nonprofit governing body of the internet and the domains industry. They're the ones that come up with the rules and regulations of how a domain name works.
Below that is the registry. The registry is the entity that owns and operates the actual domain names. When you see the domain name .com, that's a registry, that's an actual product.
Below that is the registrar, which is Tucows. We actually help with the registration and we resell the domain names from the registry.
Below us, we have something we call the resellers who take domains from us and resell them to the actual consumers called the registrant.
A domain name from conception to actual consumption goes through a very rigorous process. It's not as simple as buying a .com and then using that domain name for different purposes.
Simplifying the industry: an example
To simplify things, I'm going to use the dairy industry because - Tucows.
- At the very top, you have government, they regulate the production and ingredients of milk or dairy products.
- You have the farmers, they're the ones with the actual process, the technology to create the actual raw milk or cheese.
- Then we work with the wholesaler like Tucows.
- The wholesaler would have a tonne of different products and would sell to different stores, like convenience stores and retail stores, which actually connects to the consumers where you go into a shop, and you purchase the goods.
It's like going into a convenience store, there are tonnes of different products and different choices and we're the ones powering the convenience stores with different products.
In this context, I'll use the terms reseller, wholesaler, and supplier just to simplify things.
Product marketing in the domains industry
There are two main characteristics that make this industry very unique and very challenging as a product marketer.
As product marketers, we have to navigate through the regulations, the technology, the bureaucracy, everything within the domains industry. But there are two things that really make this industry unique; it’s channel-heavy and a very mature industry.
We rely on the different channels within the industry to push our products to actual consumers. It's a very mature industry because we've been around since the early 90s.
Things have been established already; key players and technology. Innovation is very different in a mature industry because innovation is very slow. A type of innovation isn't as glamorous as for example startup where they can always try different things.
Here are the key takeaways as a product marketer in this type of industry.
Enablement is beyond sales
We've talked about sales enablement, but enablement should be internal and external as well. Every department should be enabled. That includes customer service, sales engineers, product managers, all the different stakeholders within different departments should be enabled.
Enablement in this industry requires twice the effort because this is a channel industry, we do have to work with a sales team to enable the resellers to sell the products to the actual consumers.
As product marketers, we have to enable the sales team and the resellers. Enablement equals empowerment. Everyone within the different channels and different departments needs to be empowered to get the products to the actual consumers.
This image shows how it works within this industry.
You have the supplier and then the supplier powers the wholesaler, which is Tucows. There's the PMM and connected to the PMM is a sales team and the reseller. The focus here, as a product marketer, is we have to enable the sales team effectively.
If we don't give them the right sales tools and materials they can't enable the resellers and the resellers cannot push the product out without being enabled properly. As product marketers we have to enable the sales team, as well as the reseller. It's double the work for us, unfortunately.
But also customer support, that is an example of a department that we have to help with our enablement as well.
Enabling a reseller: Hover
Hover is an example of a reseller. Hover provides domain names to consumers and this is an example of how we would enable a reseller.
When we have features or new products, you would provide white label materials. White label tools give them the ability to slap a logo, change some of the positionings, and repackage it so they can market to the actual consumers as well.
Above is an example of a feature that we just launched, we provided stock images, white-label blog posts, just so we are doing the heavy lifting for our resellers.
Connect the dots on both sides of the coin
In this industry, we want to be the voice of the channel, as well as the customer. We have to voice the changes that are happening from the top-bottom, as well as what's happening to consumers up to ICANN as well.
We only connect to what makes sense - because a wholesaler is between the supplier and the reseller, we have to channel the information both ways.
Let's say the supplier comes up with a brand new product or a product change, we have to take that information and message our resellers and let them know about the change. Vice versa we can say to the supplier, we noticed that there's a demand for a certain product can you work with us to come up with better pricing or promotions that we can pass to the reseller as well?
A consultative approach goes a long way. We work with a lot of big resellers to really understand their cycles and their buying process and the funnels as well. As a product marketer where we go to market with a new product, adoption doesn't happen on the day of the launch, it actually happens 30 days after launch, six months after the launch.
The reason being is when we provide our resellers with all the marketing materials for a new product, they might have the old schedules. They might launch the product, six months, which works for their schedule. We have to take that into consideration as well.
This is a really simple illustration to talk about the concept.
We have the supplier, the product marketer, the reseller, and on the far right, the market and customer insights. The PMM is the conduit between the supplier and the reseller.
For example, .NYC, that supplier of that domain name resell that to the reseller, and we can work with the resellers and maybe they'll tell us, "Hey, in New York City, no one's registering .US anymore. In New York, they're actually registering a lot of .NYC domain names".
That's really good market insight, we'll take that information, go back to the supplier and say, "Hey, we need more marketing materials, we need more enablement materials, we need to come up with better promotions and pricing so we can pass that to the actual resellers."
That's an example of how a product marketer should really be on both sides of the coin and connect the dots.
Shifting traditional thinking
I love this part of the article because of the nature of our industry. Everyone knows .com, that is the standard, that's been there for ages. When you go to a website, you don't want to go to a really fishy-looking URL.
Surface the value of alternatives
If you're buying things on Amazon, you don't want to go to Amazon.XYZ, you want to go to amazon.com. It's legit.
As a product marketer, that's tricky, because those domain names are very limited. If you try to register your name, chances are you can't register it, someone already has it registered.
We start looking for alternatives like DuongTran.marketing, not .com. As product marketers, we need to surface the value of different alternatives in different domain names.
The market influences the value of alternatives
Also, sometimes the market actually influences the alternatives and the value of the different domain names. For example, again .com is the gold standard but as product marketers, we need to surface other domain names that might provide different value, such as .store, .ninja, or .band.
These are actual domain names that you can purchase today if your .com isn't there. What's really interesting is certain domain names actually mean certain things in different geo locations and markets as well.
For example, there's .store and .shop and they are two completely different things. In the Asian market, .store actually means something physical so when we see a .store domain, you're thinking they have an actual location within the region.
But .shop is a completely different thing in Asia, it's the act of doing something. So it depends on the market and it depends on the geographic location that really gives the value behind the domain names
Example: .IO & .CO
.IO and .CO is a really good example of this. They are something we call CCTLDs.
CCTLDs are country-coded domain names, they are domain names specific and special to certain geo-locations. For example, I'm from Canada, so I can register a .CA name but Americans or people from France can't register .CA. Same with .US for example.
.IO is actually a special domain name for the British Indian Ocean territory. If you're from that market, that's the perfect domain name for that area. But in actuality, the way they market this domain name is completely different. It's positioned for tech companies, startups.
When you look at tech companies and startups .io is very common and actually stands for input-output. This is derived from something in the past when domain names started to become a thing.
It's the same with .co - you register .co because .com is taken and .co is the second legit thing - dot company, dot corporation, whatever the case may be. But .co is actually a CCTLD for Colombia.
The way they market these domains are very interesting, they have different perceptions depending on the market as well as the product.
Some things are beyond your control
Lastly, some things are just beyond your control within this industry. Things are happening, things are changing outside of the domains industry.
For example, there are privacy laws and data laws that really affect the domains industry like GDPR which affects how data is collected and deleted when you register a domain name.
As a domain registrar or wholesaler, we have to be proactive to better react. We know there are different laws and regulations coming down the pipeline, as product marketers, we know that's going to affect our messaging, the way we present our products, and how our products will actually function.
We also want to remove the burden from our resellers. As a wholesaler, we want to remove all the complexities and legalities of different changes that are outside our control.
For example, CCPA is a new privacy law in California that's coming on January 1. As a product marketer, we know when you register a domain name, it's going to affect how you do that and how we collect that information.
GDPR, as I mentioned, is a new privacy law within Europe. This really affects a lot of different things and throughout the whole channel as well.
Enablement is beyond sales - it's both internal and external.
As a wholesaler, we're the conduit between the supplier and the reseller so it's important to connect the dots on both sides of the coin.
Shifting traditional thinking - there are certain products out there that people have this connotation are the standard, but you really want to surface the value of different alternatives.
Lastly, some things are beyond your control but you have to be proactive to better react.
Thank you very much.