American author Mark Twain once wrote: "I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it had ceased to be one."
Last month we learned that Hilton Hotels & Resorts joined six other new Top-Level Domain applicants in withdrawing their application and exiting the program.
I was disappointed when I first heard the news. My initial thoughts were centred on the enormous potential .hilton offered the company and the innovative business opportunities they were now abandoning.
Just imagine the ease of content access Hilton could have delivered their guests through associating their products, locations and services with .hilton. Instead of Googling to find the nearest Hilton Hotel in a city (which I commonly do), guests could simply type newyork.hilton for example to find everything they need. Not only would this deliver improved trust, customer engagement and message recall with consumers, it would allow Hilton to localise and tailor their messages to suit guests' needs.
I asked myself, what circumstances could force Hilton into giving up on these benefits?
Some brands may have made decisions to apply for a new TLD based on fears about brand protection. Perhaps Hilton applied simply to prevent someone else owning .hilton?
I can understand why some applicants have withdrawn from the program, be it due to competition or GAC Early Warnings. However, none of these reasons apply to Hilton.
The truth is we don't know why Hilton withdrew their application because neither Hilton nor their representatives have offered an official explanation for the decision.
It is my proposition that Hilton lacked two crucial elements in their new TLD plans and that these were the reasons for their withdrawal: Expert support and intestinal fortitude.
I find it odd that a lot of new TLD applicants hit submit on their application in early 2012 and naively thought the revenue and rewards of their hard labour would somehow magically start rolling through the door.
This couldn't be further from the truth.
There is an enormous amount of work to be done in order to transform your application into a fully operational component of your business.
Unfortunately, it seems likely to me that Hilton fell into this trap. They may have lacked the expert support needed to help them through ICANN's complicated processes and the authoritative guidance on how to build a successful TLD. Ultimately, they probably just needed someone to hold their hand.
My team and I have taken on this role with our own clients. While we are polishing our backend registry systems in preparation to launch new TLDs, we are also spending a significant amount of time consulting with our clients and helping them develop an operational strategy capable of delivering them the revenue and rewards they so eagerly seek.
Essentially, what we're trying to do is help our clients and other new TLD applicants stand up robust and successful businesses. Simple, right?
This involves tedious planning sessions and workshops to produce assets to execute a winning business plan. To do this, you'll need TLD policies, procedures for dispute resolution, integration with registrars and other third parties, technology support, operational guides and a host of other requirements. The reason we know this is because we have done this many times before for other TLDs.
However, it's understandable if the prospect of getting all of these elements in place scared the living daylights out of Hilton. They're leaders in operating hotels and resorts. Launching and operating a TLD is about as foreign as it gets.
They needed an expert they could rely on for support.
While getting the right advice is important, I've also been telling folks from day one that you've got to have intestinal fortitude if you want to be a leader — especially in the new TLD game.
By its very nature, everyone participating in the new TLD program is breaking new ground in an attempt to achieve greatness. This is where leaders and innovators separate themselves from followers. It takes guts!
I suspect Hilton lost confidence and didn't have the courage, determination and chutzpah to see it through. It's a shame really because they were sitting on a gem of a TLD that had enormous potential, particularly given the online nature of the travel industry.
My team and I are working hard for our clients to give them every confidence in achieving success. We do this by reducing the burden on our clients by providing the expertise they need at this crucial stage in a TLDs development. We will stand side-by-side with them and face every challenge together.
With the right advice and support from a trusted partner, combined with the intestinal fortitude capable of withstanding ICANN's ever flexible timelines, applicants should be set to achieve every success in this program.
The unfortunate reality for Hilton was that they were in an enviable position compared to many others. They just didn't know it. I wish they had given me a call before making the decision to withdraw.
Clearly, there is significant interest and demand in the program and the benefits are there to be seen.
It's true; one of my clients could come to me next week and ask to withdraw from the program. However, my team and I are prepared to get our hands dirty and work hard for every one of our clients to ensure they have the opportunity to realise success.
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