Ten Things I Learnt About Launching a gTLD From .SKI
Times are fickle. One minute you are the hottest thing since sliced bread and then you are no one because someone relaunched sliced bread. During the planning stages of .SKI we knew that no matter how revolutionary our concept was, getting exposure was going to be easy, but the real key to success was going to be holding people's attention in a world where the unceasing flow of news pushes your product out of the spotlight.
We couldn’t rely on the "good old days ," hire a PR agency to craft a press release and set up a press tour. Then on launch day, you could sit back and watch the orders roll in. New tactics were required to get exposure and attention we needed on a limited startup budget.
We made a ten point plan to get us the exposure we needed on a tiny budget and launched .SKI as the biggest selling first day sports domain name extension , used by thousands of resorts, brands, athletes and skiers in almost one hundred countries to date.
So here are ten steps we used for a successful launch in these fickle times:
1. Start early. Don’t expect reporters to care about your product. Get a head start by creating a rolling launch. This is a great way to start and keep the conversation going with press and potential customers. Start your outreach activities ideally six months in advance but no less than eight weeks before the official launch date and then keep the news going up to, and beyond the official launch date.
2. Brief influencers in your community. We created relationships and open channels of communication with key snowsports institutions and influencers like the International Ski Federation, National Ski Areas Association etc. Making them aware of the value of .SKI and how they and their members can use it. Influencers can be friendly organizations, customers, prospects, or even bloggers who have an sizable online presence. Encourage these people to inform their followers of your upcoming launch using their voice.
3. Brief industry analysts during this early phase as well. Scheduling calls with these folks takes time so do this early. Invest the time to write compelling briefing requests. This is where a great agency can be very useful. Again start early in finding the right agency and working with them to build the messaging well in advance.
4. Use social media as you source of “leaks”. Target people who are naturally eager to learn about your product. For example, ‘coming soon’ tweets and ‘leaked’ photos of your product create an aura of intrigue that builds interest. We utilized this technique for three years before we launched. By the time we launched .SKI we had a committed followers of over 20,000.
5. Calm down your are not Apple. Don’t expect a "big bang" release unless your product or service is truly revolutionary or if you are Microsoft or Apple. Unless you have a huge budget, the official launch date should only signify the day your product is actually available.
6. Launch day doesn’t mean you are done. Your launch should be a three month affair. Continue to produce fresh news like announcements like use cases, customer stories, details about how the product is valuable, etc. If you can’t produce any of this content, you’ve got bigger issues. Read my post about why TLDs fail.
7. Do something unusual during the release cycle. The options are endless so I’ll let you use your imagination on this one. For us. We send out hundreds of .SKI branded ski swag to influencers, partners and press. It made us top of mind on launch day.
8. Get partners involved. Channel and marketing partners who have a financial stake in the success of the launch are natural allies. The more people that are talking about the release, the better chances it will get pickup. .SKI had a real win when the CEO of the world’s largest domain name company shared a picture of himself wearing our branded cap while promoting his AMA on Reddit.
9. LINKS LINKS LINKS. Make it easy for people to learn more about your product. Make sure people are always linking back to your website. Spread links to articles, product sheets, information, info graphics etc to all your channels.
10. Ignore the elements of the launch that do not drive revenue. All your efforts should directly tie back to sales. Soft metrics like followers and likes are not very useful. Make sure your efforts directly funnel people interested in your product to a place they can buy it. This is the beauty of the digital age so embrace the every action in your product launch should be able to be attributed to a dollar figure.