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What would you do if the next unicorn startup dropped a huge opportunity in your lap? It doesn’t happen very often, but it happened to us.
In the first half of January, .CLUB Domains saw a 737 percent spike in premium domain registrations. Our company just so happens to be the registry operator for the domain, but despite more than 20 years in internet and mobile marketing, we didn’t understand what was happening at first. Then, the rise of Clubhouse came into focus.
When Clubhouse first came on the scene last spring, it was valued at $100 million despite having only 1,500 users. Since then, it has soared in popularity, with Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey and Mark Zuckerberg making appearances. The app had 600,000 users in December 2020 — today, it has more than 10 million.
As the app began generating more buzz, we realized that people were registering .club domains to brand their rooms on Clubhouse. Then something else began to happen: As brands and individuals started snapping up their .club domains, a lot more people began buying those domains as investments.
This is the kind of once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that every company hopes for. Of course, you can’t control for serendipity. In our case, the initial opportunity was just a matter of being in the right place at the right time.
But you can be prepared to capitalize on it when it hits. When consumer behavior changes so radically, it can be hard to pivot quickly. (Just think what those conversations must have been like at Zoom in the early days of the pandemic!) But if you can move fast enough to seize a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, it can change your company forever.
Here’s what I learned about trying to catch lightning in a bottle:
1. Do a deep dive before investing heavily in an idea
Before you shift gears to pursue a new opportunity, it’s important to lean into the concept to really understand it: How real is the potential upside? Are you envisioning “the next big thing” when it’s really just a blip like Vine or Periscope? Or is this the start of a trend that can lead to real opportunity?
Making this judgment quickly and accurately can mean the difference between growing your company 700 percent and wasting tremendous amounts of time and money. These decisions are too important to make using third-party information or hearsay. The only way to know for sure is to dive in and see firsthand.
Think of it this way: If you suddenly had the chance to acquire a company because the owner was retiring, you wouldn’t buy the business sight unseen. You’d go visit the facilities, look at the manufacturing processes and go through the company’s books with a fine-tooth comb.
Because we weren’t acquiring a company, the only way we could do our due diligence was to become active participants on Clubhouse to understand how the app worked. If we’d started using it ourselves and thought that Clubhouse wasn’t going to make it, we wouldn’t have invested our resources there.
So, as a longtime Android user, I bought a new iPhone just to join and use the iOS-only Clubhouse app. As we spent time on the app, we saw that all these high-profile people were organically flocking to Clubhouse and creating clubs. I stumbled upon people I know in the marketing world, like bestselling author Laura Gassner Otting. She doesn’t have any ties to the domain industry. She was using the Clubhouse app to lead discussions for her following and mentioning a .club domain to point to the related website outside of Clubhouse.
When you see people outside your industry organically taking part in a trend, it’s a good indication that the opportunity is real. But the only way to observe that is to get an inside look.
2. Be prepared to kill your darlings
“Kill your darlings” is a writing aphorism whose idea is that to write a great novel, you must be willing to cut sentences or entire chapters that don’t serve the story — even if you hold a particular fondness for them. The same applies to business: To capitalize on once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, you must be willing to kill off other projects or goals.
With any new venture comes an opportunity cost to pursuing it. You must be prepared to reallocate time and resources to extract value from a new endeavor, and that usually requires letting go of other things. For example, one of our original objectives for this quarter was to sell another high-profile premium domain name. But because we knew we’d drive more revenue by pursuing Clubhouse, we had to rearrange our priorities.
As CMO, I led marketing efforts as we diverted resources that we would have dedicated to developing leads, sending out email blasts and creating marketing materials to sell high-value domains into creating content for Clubhouse. Both our marketing team and executive staff had to shift their focuses to hosting rooms, participating in discussions and building a following.
The same principle applies if you suddenly have the opportunity to buy a business that’s strongly aligned with your company’s mission. Suddenly, you have to divert your energy and resources into doing due diligence and exploring how you would integrate this business into your company. The wrong opportunity can take you off-course, but some opportunities are simply too good to pass up.
3. Be helpful rather than aggressive in your marketing
Listening to someone constantly promote their own product gets old fast, and your audience will tune you out almost immediately. The way to get people to pay attention and view you as a valued resource is to share your knowledge and experience.
Research shows that educational content makes people 131 percent more likely to buy from your brand. The instant an audience member implements your advice and sees results, you’ve secured their trust for life. And if you can build a community around your brand, that’s even better.
Amid all the lockdowns and social distancing of 2020 and into 2021, people are hungrier than ever for connection. This is why Clubhouse is having a moment: It allows people to feel like they’re part of an interesting conversation at a dinner party — even if they’re just listening in.
Once we determined that the app presented a real opportunity, we decided we needed an active presence there so we could become a trusted resource for entrepreneurs. Instead of getting aggressive trying to sell more domains, we approached the community in a helpful, non-promotional way.
There were enough people already interested in .club domains that we didn’t have to push them ourselves. Instead, we made it our mission to participate in those discussions by sharing our knowledge of domains, examples of businesses that were seeing results and tips for how to use domains within the Clubhouse ecosystem.
We ended up launching a Serial Entrepreneur Club in which we host a room every week on the app. Again, we didn’t use that space to just talk about domains. We centered our discussions on entrepreneurship and how to build a brand on Clubhouse. This has created a feeling of camaraderie and made entrepreneurs who tune in feel supported.
The chance to catch lightning in a bottle is rare for businesses, but when an extraordinary opportunity falls into your lap, you must be prepared to capitalize on it. The difference between hitting it big and missing out comes from evaluating the opportunity accurately, developing a strategy and diverting all your energy into making it work.