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An Interview with

Eric Rice, General Manager of BulkRegister

By Milena Sotirova
Editor DevStart, Inc.

October 13, 2005

Tell me something about yourself and your position in the company. What were you doing before starting BulkRegister? What are some of the other milestones in your life?
I am the General Manager for BulkRegister (www.BulkRegister.com), a leading global B2B domain name registrar that provides comprehensive domain name services and secure portfolio management to our 28,000 members, including reseller and enterprise customers.  Prior to joining BulkRegister, I did many things.  I was VP of Business Development with Connected Brands – an integrated advertising agency - creating online advertising, branding and direct marketing strategies for companies like Avid Technology, Softwatch, Cybercash, Comcast and others.  In my younger days, I was an ambulance driver, whitewater rafting guide, ski instructor, ran a daycare center, high school teacher, and marketing VP.  I’ve been fortunate to enjoy a life rich in various experiences!

Other milestones in my life pertain to my concern for others.  With BulkRegister’s support, I just returned from three weeks in New Orleans volunteering to help rescue abandoned pets and reunite them with their owners.  I feel very passionately about doing whatever I can when I see human or animal suffering.  I’m lucky to be a part of a company, BulkRegister, that believes in and actively supports this.

Please provide us with a brief history of your company, including the source of the unique name? 
BulkRegister began in 1995.  The name “BulkRegister” comes from the fact that we sell domain name registrations to domain owners who buy in bulk.  This is often a person or reseller who has a portfolio of names, usually from 25 up to as many as 50,000 domain names.  Our typical customer isn’t the individual domain owner.

Our primary mission is to provide our members, who typically manage large domain portfolios, with the domain tools and software to help them manage their domains and end-users more efficiently, thereby making them more profitable.

What is the core focus of BulkRegister?
Our core focus is providing the management tools that allow domain owners to manage large numbers of domains effectively.  By continually asking our members what more we can give them to make them more profitable, we are able to proactively develop the tools and features they need and serve them well.  BulkRegister members register, transfer, renew and manage almost 1.4 million domain names through us. They include companies of all sizes, ranging from Fortune 500 and Global 2000 corporations to legal professionals, SMBs, and non-profit organizations.  In addition, thousands of resellers, web design firms, ISPs, systems integrators and other IT services firms use us to power their own private-labeled domain name services.

What makes BulRegister different from other companies in the industry?
BulkRegister is different from other domain registrars for many reasons. For one, while we do sell domains individually and wholesale, we are the only Registrar with a membership model.  For only $99 per year, our 28,000 reseller and enterprise members enjoy the use of our state-of-the-art domain management system, which greatly simplifies the management process – from renewals to security to marketing support – we provide it all.  In addition, we offer solid customer support and answer our phones when our members need us.  We don’t think anyone else in the industry offers all of this under one roof. 

Another differentiator, I believe, is that BulkRegister is a company that is highly self-analytical. We are always seeking to improve, and when a member or employee suggests something we might do better or differently, it’s gratifying to see that, within reason, we actually do it. 

Please tell me more about the domain portfolio management tools for resellers. How do the Category folders help organize domains in an account?
BulkRegister Domain Category Folders are a great example of our responsiveness.  The creation of the Folders, and the features they offer, are the direct result of input from our members.  The Folders let people managing large numbers of domains organize them into folders, and add, delete, view, and set categorization criteria to automatically file names.  Basically, end-users can browse all of their folder titles or domains in one main view, sort by NameServer, creation date, name, keyword or any other criteria desired.  It’s an important, helpful tool because it really saves people who manage large volumes of domains a lot of time, frustration and resources.

Tell us a bit about your relationship with your customers. What is the most challenging and what is rewarding in your communications with the customers? 
Because we don’t have millions of individual customers, just thousands (28,000!), we’re able to communicate with them in far more of a one-on-one fashion than most other Registrars.  Most changes to our domain management systems, new products and features, come directly from conversations with our customers.  I also find it very rewarding to still be working with resellers who started their businesses with us with just a handful of end-users, and now they have thousands of customers and a nice revenue stream.

BulkRegister recently announced free domain name renewals for all customer domains in areas affected by Hurricane Katrina. Do you have other programs to help customers renew their domains
Automatically renewing all the domains of individuals and resellers displaced by Hurricane Katrina was an easy decision.  The last thing we wanted was BulkRegister members in these areas to be further burdened by worrying about their domains expiring during this terrible upheaval in their lives.  It was the least we could do, and we publicized our offer because we wanted to encourage the entire reseller and Registrar community to do the same for their customers, which, we were pleased to see that some did.

Aside from auto-renewing the domains of those affected by the hurricane, we do, of course, offer programs to help customers renew their domains.  We send notices in advance to domain owners to let them know which names are coming up for renewal.  In addition to the standard email renewal notices and multiple renewal processes, we provide our members with a number of ways to renew, manage, view their expiring domains.  Our easy-to-use autorenew feature allows members to pre-set their domains to renew automatically upon the annual expiration date.  Additionally, we provide quick links to lists of expiring and expired domains to help them more tracking the status of their domains.  And, we also help our resellers streamline their end-user communication processes and automate their renewal notice emails, etc.

Are you expecting again this year to retain most of your customers?  What are you doing to reach your customer retention goals?
We are expecting very high customer retention again this year. Our high customer retention rate has been something of a hallmark for BulkRegister.  In fact, in 2004 we added 3,500 new members, eighty-percent of whom said they were referred by a current member.  We think this growth in members, and our high retention rate, is directly attributable to proactively adding more value into our membership model, improving our tools and services and being responsive when customers contact us.  When customers see you working with them, listening to their needs and responding, and trying hard to make their businesses more profitable, that engenders loyalty and referrals.  This also shows in our domain name renewal rate, which is well above the industry average.

How do you see the future of advertising for the company? 
I think that word-of-mouth will continue to be a very strong viral marketing tool.  There is nothing more convincing than someone you respect telling you that a particular company does a good job.  In addition, we’ll keep doing a bit of print and banner advertising and some modest public relations outreach to the media.  Overall, though, in an online business like domain registration and management, if you don’t do a good job word will get around quickly and kill you.  The best, most effective advertising we can do is to keep doing a good job and show our members we care and continue to improve.  If we can manage to achieve that, every member is a potential advocate and advertiser for us. 

How do you see the development of the Domain Name Registration industry in the near future?  Where do you see the BulkRegister’s role in the industry in 10 years?
I believe BulkRegister will continue to be the industry leader for people holding and managing large domain portfolios. In addition, government regulation will continue to play a role, which could dramatically change the industry.  New extensions, of course, will continue to be added. 

Importantly, Domain name parking and buying names and building out web sites to monetize and grow the value of the domain name is the next big trend. This practice is like buying bare land and developing it. People are doing the same thing with domain names.  Some buy a name and build a web-based business on it which increases the value of their domain.  Others simply park it and generate revenue off of their parked domain names.

This relatively new part of the industry has really shot up domain registration numbers over the last year. It is becoming a big business.  And, BulkRegister is working hard to service customers in this space because it fits in very well with our tools to easily manage large portfolios of domains.  We are well positioned to help people in this area because we’ve been working with people managing large numbers of domains for years – it’s definitely our forte. 

What are the technology advancements produced by the company of which you are most proud?
I’m most proud of our recently unveiled BulkRegister Domain Category Folders.  Our members really wanted this tool and I think it’s a great example of our responsiveness and innovation.  The system is easy to use and it really saves those managing large portfolios of domains a lot of time.

What are the most important skills in the leadership and how do you optimize your time management?
I think that delegating, openness, vision, building a team ethos and learning from mistakes are the skills necessary to lead.  It’s important to have a good team that makes everyone feel empowered and trusted to make decisions knowing that their manager will support them.  It’s important for people to feel like they can ask any question or point out how we could do things better and build an atmosphere where anything said is all viewed as contributing toward the common goal of constantly improving.  When you invite others to tell you how you might have done something better, it makes your team realize that you truly are interested in learning and improving.  When you have a team you can trust to delegate to, it eases some of the burden of time management. 

And finally, what was the most recent book you read?
I recently read two books on the same day while on vacation.  I read Louis L’Amour’s ‘Ride the Dark Trail’ and Ernest Hemingway’s ‘The Old Man and the Sea.’ I highly recommend both.


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