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Ting co-op print ads

tingprint

It has come to my attention that not every reseller visits our Marketing Resources every day. So I wanted to quickly highlight some co-op print ads we created to help those of you that promote Ting.

We have three versions, highlighting different benefits. Each come in two layouts – a standard magazine and a half-page horizontal newspaper. Each focus on the significant savings that businesses and families could realize by switching to Ting.

There is a blank area for your “Authorized Reseller” logo and a call to action that should be customized to include your unique URL. We provide PDFs for easy viewing, EPS files and the Ting font file.

Enjoy! Please let us know if you find these useful and if there is anything else we can do to help.

The Internet Infrastructure Coalition

imagesIf you’ve spent any time reading us or drinking with us, you have almost certainly heard a member of the Tucows herd singing the praises of the Open Internet and vowing to either enlighten or destroy its enemies. It’s sort of our thing. We are thrilled and humbled by what can be achieved when billions of people have access to information and a vehicle to communicate, collaborate and co-create. We are increasingly wary of large corporations that are willing to compromise consumer experiences and impede progress to protect their market shares. We are similarly concerned about politicians that legislate on the Internet without truly understanding the world they are affecting.

So we were thrilled when some friends approached us about an organization called the Internet Infrastructure Coalition (i2Coalition). The i2Coalition launched about six months ago to provide a voice in Washington, D.C for the folks who “power” the Internet – principally web hosting companies and services, like ours, that support their efforts. After the SOPA and PIPA fight over a year ago, industry experts recognized the need for continued leadership in the ongoing public policy debate about the Internet. Tucows proudly joined with more than 40 other industry allies to be a founding member of the i2Coalition to help educate Congress and protect Internet freedoms.

The i2Coalition has experienced a great deal of success since its official launch last September. The i2Coalition recently hosted Internet Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill, where they educated lawmakers and opinion leaders about the Internet and how it works. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jerry Moran (R-KS), as well as Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA), joined the i2Coalition at an educational event focusing on just how the Internet works.

Since its launch, the i2Coalition has been a leading voice in many domestic and global policy discussions, including cybersecurity, privacy, and patent reform as well as continuing to work with lawmakers to promote how the nuts and bolts of the Internet work.

The i2Coalition stands ready for the next legislative battle and is recruiting allies to join the fight.  They’re kicking off a membership drive with a webinar “12 Reasons to Join the i2Coalition: What You Get and Why It Matters” on Tuesday, March 26 from 2:00 PM – 2:30 PM CDT. Sign up to learn about membership or visit www.i2coalition.com/join to become a member today.

We think the i2Coalition is doing great work to represent and protect many of your interests in Washington, D.C. We also think many of you would have great ideas and expertise to bring to this initiative. Please check out their website, attend the webinar and consider supporting their efforts.

The Channel Partners Conference & Expo

We are checking out a new industry show this year that we think could be relevant to a lot of you.

Channel Partners Conference & Expo in Las Vegas at The Venetian & Sands Expo Feb. 27-March 1.

It looks similar to the hosting conferences where we tend to meet many of you. Companies like us with products and services to offer come to meet companies like you with end user relationships to offer. This event is focused on the telecom industry. We will be talking mostly about Ting and a bit about our email service. If you offer mobile, VOIP and other telephony solutions to your business customers, this could be chance to learn a bit about the latest trends and products and connect with some of the providers. If you have not ventured into this world much, it is a chance to gauge the opportunity.

It sounds like it will be well attended. We would love to see some of you there.

You can register here.

Use our code, exh13, for a free pass to the Expo Hall or $50 off the Conference and Expo Pass.

 

 

 

Change to Ting end user offers in January

I want to let our US resellers know about a change we are making to your Ting promo codes.

Starting on Tuesday, January 15, 2013, all codes that currently offer $50 discounts to end users will now be offering a $25 discount. The 25% revenue shares or $50 bounties to resellers associated with these offers will remain the same.

Please be sure to revise all communications that promote the $50 by then. Also feel free to let your customer know they should “act now” to get a deal they will not be able to get anywhere on January 15.

The simple explanation, after almost a year of analysis on the business, is that $50 is just a bit too much to maintain the margins we (all) need on a customer and that $50 now seems unnecessarily generous for a service that is saving even the smallest businesses hundreds of dollars a year.

Of course, the most important thing is that you will still have the best possible offer a customer can find anywhere. To be clear, we will be reducing absolutely any promotions out there to $25 as well.

Many of you have $75 service credits, with no associated revenue share or bounty, that we offered you to sign up yourselves and your employees. Those can still be used discreetly.

Along with this change, all codes that currently offer $25 discounts to end users along with either 30% revenue shares or $75 bounties will be disabled. These have not been used much since, presumably, most of you only wanted the very best offer you could get for your customers. And with the best offer coming down now, there really isn’t room for these any longer.

Also, starting today, if you have not already generated a $50 discount code, you will not be able to generate a new one. Again, if you already have these codes, they will continue to offer a $50 discount until January 15. But we figured we would not make offers available anymore that are soon to be extinct.

We know it is never easy to offer the customer less. We hope this does not create disappointment.

We continue to focus on crafting an offering that:

- Extends significant value to your customers.
- Provides healthy, sustainable margins to you.

We remain confident that Ting does both. As always, we appreciate any feedback or ideas.

People Love Ting

The People Love Ting page on the Ting site delivers two clear, important messages to any of you out there selling Ting or thinking about selling Ting.

  • Your customers will be treated well. People are shocked by the accessibility and quality of our customer support and all the little ways (in our pricing, policies, rapid responses and improvements, etc.) that we simply do right by customers. Also check out our Facebook page, our Twitter mentions and this recent Yahoo! Answers thread.
  • We are getting some high profile press and tons of great blogger reviews. This means some of your customers will have already heard of us. It also means that those who research us after your recommendation will like what they see. All this makes your job much easier.

Talking About Ting

In our recent webinar about selling Ting, ultramarathoner James Koole suggested that you should “host more of the conversation on your side than ours.” I want to share a piece of data to support that point, elaborate on it a bit and see if I can offer you some help.

First the data. Looking at the traffic coming through our reseller landing pages on Ting, we see that 9% of the traffic has produced 80% of the accounts. Said differently, we are seeing a bunch of resellers who drive, for example, 200 visits with no conversions and a bunch of resellers who drive, for example, 4 visits with 3 conversions. The 200 visitors are probably coming through some sort of logo or link dropped on a homepage. The 4 visitors obviously knew quite a lot about Ting before they ever got there.

Your customers will likely not yet know anything about Ting. We do the best we can on our site to establish credibility and address potential concerns. But, in the end, we are still strangers. The best thing we have going for us is your endorsement.

Think about your own buying decisions. Familiarity and trust is everything. A blog post from you explaining the Ting plans will inevitably be so much more powerful than our own Ting plans page. Sharing how much you have saved a month with Ting will be so much more relevant than dozens of our own testimonials (from yet more strangers). Offering to walk your customers through the savings calculator to see if they will save money themselves will be absolutely invaluable.

The days of slapping affiliate links on your site and hoping to see conversions are over. Your customers rightfully expect to know what Ting is all about and why you are recommending it before they even visit our site. And they will not convert to any of our satisfaction if they don’t get that from you.

I don’t have more advice to offer on selling Ting in your own words. Be helpful. Be honest. I do, however, have one more thought on hosting more of the conversation on your side than ours.

We recently put the Ting savings calculator on our Ting Facebook page. Then, we took it a step further and put it on our separate Hover Facebook page. This work pretty much paves the way for you to embed this calculator on your site, Facebook page or anywhere else you want. Again, it might not seem profoundly different than sending your customers to our site. But I believe having this tool on your side, surrounded by your thoughts and suggestions, will drive more interaction and have far greater impact. It also does even more to reinforce your role as a trusted provider and expert.

You can add the savings calculator to your Facebook page easily. You’ll find more info and the link here.

If you want to add it to your site, there’s just a bit of work that needs to be done. We are happy to help. Just send an email to our own doctor of Ting reseller love, Mark Klein, at mark@ting.com.

Meanwhile, please join us in the Ting discussion forum to offer any questions, thoughts or concerns about how we can help you succeed.

Premium domains work.

A few months ago, we expanded our premium (secondary market) domain offering. We encouraged you to help your customers find the perfect domain by including premium domains in your search results using the OpenSRS API. We recognized this would require some front-end work. We recognized many of you still thought of a domain name as a component of your hosting service, not a revenue stream. We also had our own doubts about whether people would pay a couple of thousand dollars for a domain name rather than settle for whatever-is-available.com. We had even greater doubts that they would just throw it into an online shopping cart and plunk down a credit card without any real human sales effort.

So we took our own advice and integrated premium domains in the Hover search results in early August.

The design approach was a bit different than anything else we had seen in the industry. Rather than break these domains out into some distinct section of results, we simply included them in one long list of available domains. That seems more consistent with the way we shop for products and services that will ultimately play the same role. “I can have this low-end brand for $15 or that deluxe model for $2,400.”

Check out the search results for sandwich.com (in a new tab, so you can get to the shocking results below!). A roll over the star explains that this is a premium domain. A click goes to a detailed page with a video.

The results are shocking. We have sold 29 premium domains in 4 months at an average price of $1,530.

(I also have to mention that just about anybody reading this post has a better base for premium domains than Hover does. About 20% of Hover customers claim to use their domains for business purposes.)

So to put that in the context of your own business, that is 1 premium domain sold for every 853 new available domains (“regular domains”) registered. Said differently, we have collected $1.79 in gross premium domains revenue for every new available domain registered. With your 10% commission, that would be an extra $.18 in margin for every new domain name you register.

For us, that starts to look like real money.

Plus, our customers are thrilled with their new domain names. And, not surprisingly, almost all of them are renewing these domains far into the future and buying additional services on them. Makes sense. These are heavily invested customers. (I am not claiming causality there, stats geeks. The premium domains do not make them more serious about their businesses. But they certainly get them even more excited about their businesses and make other expenses seem less steep by comparison!)

Finally, this has been mostly passive stuff so far. We have not yet begun to really sell these domains. We are just starting to have fun with database marketing. Imagine looking at every organization name among your base to see if any exact matches are available as premium domains. Imagine just looking at every domain name that has a hyphen in it (a classic compromise) and finding the exact same domain name without the hyphen available as a premium domain. As always, we would love to pull these sort of lists for you so you can reach out to these customers with a killer pitch. (By the way, you do not even need to implement the API to do this.) Please let us know if you are interested in these sorts of efforts.

So, in conclusion, once in a while, we are right. And when we are, I will always tell you about it.

Sell premium domains!

 

 

A Plea from Marketing

Almost every time I meet with an OpenSRS reseller, they end up saying, “Hey, it would be great if you had something to help me deal with (particular marketing challenge).”

And I end up saying, “We do have that! #@!!%! We posted it on the blog five times and emailed you like thirty.” And they say, “OK, calm down, I’m just asking…” And I say, “You’re just asking?! Let me ask you this…” And they say, “Stop pushing me.”

Anyway, since apparently we are reseller friendly, I have been asked to apologize and politely remind you that we have wonderful marketing resources and capabilities you should take advantage of.

Want to make it easy as possible for customers to transfer more domains to you?
We have white label videos and tutorials to help them transfer away from your top competitors.

Want to educate your customers about the value of contact privacy?
Check out our white label video and PDF on the benefits of revealing less in their Whois records.

Want to help your customers understand that it does, in fact, matter who manages your domain name?
We have Tucows Domains badges and a Tucows Domains Promise that you can link to.

We have marketing kits for TLDs, SSL brands and goMobi. We have end user tutorials on configuring our email service with the leading mobile devices. We have tons of end user documentation and videos that we can help you brand as your own. We can help you segment your own mailing lists for transfer campaigns or name-based promotions. See anything you like going on at Hover? We can help you replicate it. Have another marketing challenge that you think we might be able to help with? Ask us.

We are not trying to turn ourselves into retailers. We also understand that the resources listed above will likely not help you solve your most pressing business problems. But we have 11,000 resellers that do have some challenges and needs in common. Many of you do not have the resources that we do. If there are opportunities to find efficiencies and to make your jobs a little easier, we want to do that.

So, please use what we have and please let us know if there is anything else we can do to help. Damn it.

The Elephant In The Room

You work in an intense competitive environment. Customers are always comparing your services and your prices to others’. When you mess up, there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to get defectors. When a competitor messes up, there’s a good chance you’re going to benefit.

So what do you do when a competitor messes up big? Maybe they have a huge outage. Maybe they get caught up in a legal battle. Maybe a senior employee ends up strangling a giraffe to death. Or just smacking around a monkey.

It is really tempting to call attention to the situation and position yourself as the antidote.

Just a few warnings:

  • Remember that you had your own mess ups in the past and will likely have them in the future. You will have outages. Maybe you once kicked a pigeon. Avoid inviting scrutiny and retaliation that will ultimately hurt you.
  • Be careful not to appear too opportunistic. If you suddenly start donating 10% of your revenues to save porcupines, it might seem more exploitative than generous. Maybe not. Sometimes the outrage is so great and the opportunity is so right. Also, honesty, creativity and humor can go a long way. Just be aware of the risk.
  • Stay on message. You work hard to stand for something. Great service. Innovation. Reliability. If you leap to a very different message because it’s trending on Twitter, you could sacrifice clarity and you might not be playing to your own strengths.

Having said all that, a competitor’s stumble is certainly an opportunity to step up your game. Their customers are going to come looking for alternatives. Make it simple for people to switch. Pound home the benefits of your service. Do all the things you likely do anyway. Just think about using this as an excuse to do them a bit better.

The OpenSRS .CO Superbowl Box Pool

Does everyone know how a Superbowl box pool works?

You have a grid like this. There are 100 boxes available. Participants generally claim boxes by writing their names in them. In this case, I will put your logos in the boxes. Once all the boxes have been claimed, we pick numbers 0-9 at random and put them in that order along the top. Then we pick 0-9 at random again and put them in that order along the side.

Those numbers indicate what score would  produce a victory for the owner of each box. If you have Pittsburgh 3, Green Bay 4, for example, you would be a winner with a score of Pittsburgh 23 – Green Bay 14, Pittsburgh 3 – Green Bay 24 or any other other score that ends in those two digits. Winners are generally declared at the end of each quarter.

Now, here’s how you get yourself a box.

Send me evidence of the following at mgoldstein@tucows.com:

  • .CO highlighted in some way on your domains page
  • .CO as one of the top two TLDs presented in your search results
  • Some sort of flag or highlight on .CO in your search results
  • A promotional .CO price
  • A campaign to your customers about .CO

Each one of these earns you one box.

Also send me a company logo so I can put it in each of your boxes.

I will post the populated grid by Friday prior to the Superbowl so you know what numbers you have. Watch the game on Sunday, February 6 to see if you win. Watch your sales on Monday, February 7 to see if you win again.

Winners of the first and third quarters get authentic OpenSRS fake sports team t-shirts and $50 Amazon.com gift cards. The halftime winner gets a t-shirt and a $100 gift card. The final score winner (whether that’s the end of regulation or overtime) gets a t-shirt, a $200 gift card and a Service Guy collectible action figure.

Let us know if anyone has any questions. Good luck!

Are you ready for some .CO?

Update: We’re offering a .CO price promotion! The wholesale cost for new one-year .CO domains will be USD $13.00 beginning on Sunday, February 6 and continuing through until Saturday, February 12, 2011. Full details on the terms of the promotion are available on the promo signup page. You must signup by Friday, February 4, 2011 at 8:00AM EST to get in on the special pricing.

Superbowl Service GuyOn February 6, Go Daddy will promote .CO in their Superbowl commercial.

We will no doubt be left pondering the connection between .CO, car racing and cleavage. But one thing is certain. Demand for .CO will go up.

Tens of millions of Internet users and publishers will become aware of .CO for the first time. Millions who were already aware of it will now regard it as more credible. Many will come to your front doors looking for it or at least more willing to consider it than they were before.

This is the upside of having a competitor like Go Daddy. There are times when they will subsidize our marketing efforts and help drive our businesses.

So, what can you do to capitalize on this opportunity?

  • First, just make sure it is clear that you offer .CO. Put a .CO banner on your domains page. Move .CO results up in your search results. Maybe flag them with a NEW banner. (“As seen on TV” is probably a bit cheesy.) Reach out to your base with the message that the domain name they couldn’t get in .COM is likely available in .CO. Check out some of our marketing suggestions from when .CO first launched.
  • Offer your own “what” and “why” around .CO. The Go Daddy spot will likely leave consumers titillated but slightly confused. Explain in the most honest, helpful way that .CO is simply a great alternative to .COM. Internet users are getting more comfortable with it. Google acknowledges it as a global (generic) domain. And, most importantly, it offers millions of great available domain names.
  • Consider taking advantage of our promotion to offer a small limited-time discount. I am not encouraging you to try to compete with GoDaddy on price. You already know not to do that. A price promotion just creates a bit of “do this now”. And, with the promotion, you can achieve this without even eating into your margins.

Every once in a while, external forces push some business in your direction. I think this will be one of those situations. (By the way, I also think Pittsburgh will top Green Bay 24-7, propelled by a defense that returns two turnovers for touchdowns.) Please let us know if there is anything we can do to help you make the most of it.

"May I help you?" and/or "Help yourself!"

Full Service versus Self Service

A key strategic question in any service business is where to play along the spectrum from managed service (or full service) to self service. This is particularly true with Web services, which can be either particularly sophisticated (necessitating full service) or particularly simple (enabling self service).

The answer, as always, will be driven by what your customers need and what you are good at. It will also be influenced by your competitive landscape, your resources, your cost of goods and other business considerations.

The OpenSRS Business

I’ll use OpenSRS as an example. We have a big, talented team of engineers and I think we develop pretty usable solutions. Our resellers are also about as capable as they come. But a couple of other factors nudge us more toward managed relationships.

The services we offer are quite sophisticated and quite critical. Registries keep on tweaking their platforms. Spammers keep on spamming. And millions of websites and mailboxes depend on us to run smoothly. It is inevitable that we are going to have to help resellers through our responses and iterations and that they are going to come to us with custom problems and questions. Plus, it’s tough to differentiate ourselves from our competition based on product alone when the product attribute our resellers seem to rank highest is “doesn’t fail”.

So, while we are indeed hard at work on a profoundly more usable control panel, a more flexible API and more robust documentation, we staff a whole bunch of support people, account managers and communications folks and, ultimately, make our living offering superior service.

Although even at that end of the spectrum, we go from lower touch relationships like our Storefront program to higher touch ones like a large email migration, led by our professional services team. So, our resellers can get as much or little as they need from us. And we manage to achieve both the volume and the blended profit margin we need to have a healthy business.

The Web Design Business

Our upcoming launch of goMobi, the do-it-yourself tool for building a mobile website, has me thinking about the web design business in this context.

Web design, like any creative service, is historically as managed as it gets. Clients are paying for talent and ideas. Fees tend to be hourly, reinforcing the fact that the product is human.

But web design is evolving in an interesting way.

The traditional desktop website is still a wonderful vehicle for creativity, beauty, entertainment, provocation and emotion. It can perform valuable functions and it can position a brand. And no template can do what a talented designer can to bring a brand to life or engage a visitor.

The mobile website, however, has moved in a different direction. Thanks largely to the influence of the iPhone, users are showing a strong preference for mobile websites that offer pure function and speed. Icons and buttons. The goal, at least for websites (as opposed to more playful apps), is to navigate as easily as possible and get the information you need.

We think this creates a business opportunity for web designers. It offers an obvious place to draw the line between managed service and self service. “I can build you a beautiful desktop site and you can build yourself an effective mobile site (for less than you would expect).” Maybe there’s some training tacked on. Maybe there’s even some demand for a “supported self service” model. In general, clients spend their money appropriately and get what they need from each channel. Designers continue to make money on desktop sites while they’re awake and now they can make money on mobile sites while they’re asleep.

Web designers will always make their living on talent, ideas and full service. But mobile creates demand for a new kind of website, goMobi has a great self service solution and designers are in a unique position to deliver it to market.

"No Hassle Renewals" at Hover

Here’s another discovery we made at Hover that you can consider implementing.

Renewals were our number one support issue, accounting for 36% of support tickets opened. A lot of those calls and emails came from customers (or friends, relatives, colleagues and assistants of customers) that could not sign in to their account. So, we developed a renewal process that no longer required folks to sign in. Now we are getting fewer support calls and we are solving renewal-related problems much more quickly.

You can read the more complete story here.

If you have any questions about how we did this or need any help with implementation, please feel free to email me directly at mgoldstein@tucows.com.

Tucows or Not Tucows

Our new Tucows badge program has inspired some great discussions and debates (both internally and with our resellers!). I want to quickly contribute some more thoughts on evaluating whether this program makes sense for you.

The big idea here is to let your customers and prospects know that a domain name registered with you is better than a domain name registered elsewhere, that it comes with more honest, generous policies.

You do have two perfectly good ways to do this.

You can use our name and our promise. You benefit from some Tucows brand recognition and favorability. You potentially (depending on how big you are) align yourself with a larger entity, which brings some reassurances of stability and security. You leave it up to us to develop and maintain content about the differences in domain name management and to fight some battles with registrar competitors for you. You might even be able to blame a few customer issues on us if they come up.

The risk here is that your customers say, “Wait, you’re not managing our domain name? There are multiple parties involved? I’m not sure that’s so comforting to me.”

The second approach is you can imitate what we’ve done in the Tucows Promise but keep the focus on yourself. In fact, you can probably offer a longer list of benefits than we did since we were limited to policies that would be universal to all our resellers. You keep things simple and highlight a more intimate relationship, the one you have with your customers.

There are a couple of risks here too. Your customers could say, “I know a little something about domain names and the key players in the domain name world and you’re not one of them.” Or they could say, “Hey, I see that Tucows is listed as my registrar. Why are you trying to pretend you’re managing this domain name yourself?”

In the end, the benefits of differentiating your domain name offering are great and the risks with either approach are pretty minimal. Above all, we encourage you to attack the notion that it does not matter who manages your domain name. If our program is useful to you, great. If it helps you simply craft your own messaging, that’s great too.

Please keep the feedback coming.

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