Frager Factor

Friday, December 31, 2010

Domainings' Most Fascinating People of 2010—Lori Anne Wardi: “Passion Made Profitable”


.CO is meaningful and memorable.
.CO is available.
.CO is global.
.CO is shorter than .com.
And .CO is one of the biggest domain marketing success stories of 2010.



Relax, You're in Good COmpany
If you want to be inspired by the success of a truly unique individual, relax you’re in good COmpany. Let me introduce you to one of Domaining’s Most Fascinating People of 2010: Lori Anne Wardi – a person who did the work to transform her own dreams into reality – and now spends her time trying to help others do the same. I have a special place in my heart for Lori Anne. It’s almost as if our brains are wired the same way, so it’s easy for me to recognize her marketing genius at work.

Unlike other alternative extensions before it, that simply took all the income to their bottom lines, .CO has invested in smart marketing (and a smart Marketing Executive in our good friend Lori Anne Wardi). .CO is not a domain for speculators, but was built from the ground up to be the Real McCoy -- for the real world end-users out there.

Passionate People and The Value They Create
Always on, always effervescent, Lori Anne has an uncanny ability to bring out the passion in people. She has a reputation as being one of the smartest and most people-centric professionals in the domain industry. It is no surprise that in her role as Director of Marketing, she helped to put .CO on the fast track to profitable growth, going from about 28,000 domains that were inherited from the former administrator of the Colombian registry of 18 years (.Com.Co) to over 600,000 new registrations. Beyond high registration numbers, there are a growing number of credible success stories of brands like Overstock, Twitter, Go Daddy and many more using .CO domains that you can read about here.

It happened with some of the most impressive marketing and flawless execution that I’ve ever seen, not only in the domain industry, but also in the decades of experience I’ve had in helping to launch and build some of the biggest consumer brands in the world.

New Era. New Choices.
The .CO value proposition is simple. For the past 25 years, the Internet has filled up with sites, becoming over crowded and leaving few desirable domain names for newcomers. Commonly associated with the word “COmpany,”.CO offers consumers an exciting new choice in branding their online presence “with a truly global, recognizable and credible domain.”

With the company mascot being a flying pig, the .CO Registry claims to be ushering in a “new era of the Internet,” where “anything is possible” – even getting the perfect domain name for your business, blog or brand. According to the company’s promotional materials, .CO is “the online space where people can fulfill their dreams and the world's next great enterprises will have a home.”

Breaking Hearts
An Ivy educated attorney and Goldman Sachs alumni, Lori Anne admits to having “broken her parents hearts” when she decided to abandon the traditional career path she was on to fulfill her own entrepreneurial dreams. In 2000, she started a management consulting firm on Wall Street to great early (but short-lived) success. When 9/11 happened just a few months later, her business quickly crumbled, along side of many of the buildings where her clients once worked.

With no job, no consulting clients and a brand new mortgage to pay, Lori Anne started registering domain names as placeholders for a variety of ideas she had for new businesses, products and/or services she could possibly start to pull herself out of the rut.

The Old Domaining Flip Flop
Like most of us in domaining, Lori Anne is full of ideas. Before she knew it, she had a few dozen domain names – and then a few dozen more. It was then that her love affair with the domain industry first began -- nearly a decade before a chance meeting with Juan Calle forever changed her destiny, and his… and possibly even yours.

During those intervening years, Lori Anne was on a rollercoaster – having some big career hits and other big flops. Hungry for knowledge, she studied everything she could about how domain names could be developed, bought, sold, monetized and leveraged. Along with a colleague, she started a company that was (very appropriately) called “Dream Big Media” – and was dedicated to bringing some of their earliest ideas to life. Their first big project was Jinglegram.com – the world’s first website offering customized video greetings from Santa Claus to kids around the world.

“When we launched Jinglegram, we naively thought it would become an instant phenomenon,” says Lori Anne. “While we were doing great from a traffic and media perspective, we assumed the business model would just take care of itself. Not surprisingly -- it didn’t.”

While Jinglegram was a financial flop, Lori Anne recognizes that it was the lessons learned during these early years, as well as the connections and friendships made attending dozens of Internet industry trade shows (including events like T.R.A.F.F.I.C.), that gave her the unique perspective she now has to understand the domain industry from both a vendor and customer perspective.

Making Ideas Real
According to Lori Anne, a big part of her job consists of “helping to give shape and meaning to the .CO brand.” When asked to give our readers more insight into her role, Juan Diego Calle, the company’s CEO (currently featured in his own DNJournal cover story), replied by saying: “Lori Anne reminds us every day that our mission is not simply to sell more domain names – but rather, to inspire more people to turn their unique passions, interests and big ideas into reality by leveraging the power of the .CO domain.”

Creating Opportunity
Our tagline is “Create your Opportunity,” says Lori Anne, “and it is getting more exciting every day to watch as more individuals, organizations and businesses are creating new opportunities on .CO domains. Check out sites like Angel.co, Playbutton.co, BZA.co, NWC.co and ReadyMaid.co, to name just a few – and then imagine hundreds of thousands of sites just like these that people are in the process of bringing to life even as we speak. What it means is millions of potential new opportunities for peoples’ lives – and an infinite number of new possibilities for the global economy -- and for the world. It’s really big! And I’m definitely grateful to be a part of it.”

I asked Lori Anne to tell us what she thinks are some of the key reasons for .CO’s marketing success. To start, she recognizes the vision and leadership of founder and CEO, Juan Diego Calle. According to Lori Anne, “Juan is an incredible, charismatic leader – and his vision for where .CO can and will go inspires us every day to take more risks, to push harder and do more than we ever thought possible.”

Another critical success factor is, not surprisingly, having a fantastic, creative marketing agency by your side. “The talented folks at the Pappas Group help to make our vision for .CO tangible through their innovative ideas, beautiful creative – and meticulous execution. No discussion about our marketing would be complete without having them take a big bow.”

The next, and perhaps most important, success factor is working with a passionate, committed team. “You can’t market what you don’t believe in – and our team is filled with extremely talented “believers” – people who love spreading the good word about .CO.

"The Best Party I've Ever Been To At A Domain Event"
.CO has a reputation for throwing some of the most lavish and memorable industry events, like the recent parties at the Versace Mansion and at the ICANN meeting in Cartagena. With great décor and fun, meaningful chatzkahs (unlike any I’ve seen before and definitely worth keeping!) .CO events have played a big role in helping the company to gain and maintain a positive industry buzz.

Beyond events, parties and sponsorships, I asked Lori Anne to detail some of the other specific marketing efforts that have made .CO’s marketing stand out from the crowd. Here are some of the answers.

The “.CO Founders Program” — which engaged early adopters to proactively develop and maintain domains with the .CO extension prior to the public launch – attracting notable partners like Twitter (t.co), Transitions Optical (getsighted.co) and Politi.co.

• The Pitch.co “Create Your Opportunity” Contest — in which .CO offered a $50,000 grand prize to fund the online startup that submitted the best pitch for how to develop their .CO domain – garnering hundreds of applicants and tens of thousands of voters.

• The GiveA.co campaign – in which the registry promoted the idea of giving your friends and loved ones .CO domain names this holiday season. I have always thought domain names make fantastic gifts – not only at Christmas, but for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Birthdays, Graduations and more. Now you can give “the gift of opportunity” at www.GiveA.CO.

• Various single letter domain sales, including a highly publicized pre-launch charity auction of the single letter domain e.CO (which sold for a then record-breaking $81,000), followed by the $350,000 sale of the domain name o.CO (which is now being used by Overstock.com to rebrand all of its International sites).

Hey Lori Anne, Where Are You Going After The Superbowl?
All of this seems to be culminating in the biggest industry marketing coup ever: being featured in Go Daddy’s infamous Superbowl Ad this coming February. With tons of media anticipation, this is pretty exciting news and will introduce .CO to a far broader consumer market than ever before. PLUS The domain i.CO will be up for auction in early February too – right around the same time as the Superbowl.

With the rise of user generated content, and the power of the “i”ndividual” in today’s social media dominated world, Lori Anne thinks that “i.CO may just be the shortest, hippest domain name available in the entire world!”

We think LoriAnne.CO is the hippest domain in the world -- given the person that it’s attached to.

Keep your eye on .CO. It's not domain extension bullshit as usual.


Photos: Lori Anne Wardi, DNJournal and assorted domainers posting on Flickr


Share/Bookmark
About The Author: Owen Frager is an Internet marketing expert ready to help take your company to the next level.

Contact Owen: Twitter | Google+ | Facebook | LinkedIn | Email