GoDaddy Cleans Up Marketing and Simplifies Product to Woo VSBs

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GoDaddyDon’t expect to see any scandalous GoDaddy ads during tonight’s NFL opener. It’s dumping the sexy spots in favor of small business props.

The internet services company announced a major rebrand this morning, chucking the racy ads and convoluted site for a cleaner product and entrepreneur-focused pitch aimed at repositioning GoDaddy as a small business marketing firm. The rebranding includes a new marketing campaign featuring an irreverent Jean-Claude Van Damme as well as a redesign of both the company’s site and its flagship website-building product.

The shift has been underway for nearly a year. In the fall of last year, GoDaddy undertook a broad segmentation and brand research study looking at market opportunities and customer demographics, as well as perception of their, at the time, edgy brand. What it found was a sea of customers who ran very small businesses (VSBs) with one-to-five employees, a market that the company has always attracted but one that Barb Rechterman, the company’s chief marketing officer, believes has been widely underserved.

“Most of the solutions that are being offered to small businesses today are ‘enterprise level solutions,’ and it’s because companies tend to define these small businesses as companies with 25-50 employees,” Rechterman told Street Fight in an interview. “But most of these businesses are nowhere near that — there super-small businesses, maybe 1-5 employees. That’s where we’re focused.”

A few months after the first study, the firm brought on Blake Irving, a Microsoft veteran and former director of product at Yahoo, to take the helm. In addition to rebuilding its core products, Irving looked outside the company as well. In February, the company purchased the mobile website builder M.Dot, adding a critical piece to its already established website development tool. Then, late last month, Irving and his team acquired Locu, a venture-funded startup which developed a tool to allow business owners to publish content across a network of local publishers.

Buried below its notorious ad campaigns and once-convoluted homepage, the bones of a big SMB marketing play have been in place at GoDaddy for some time. In addition to its domain registration and website building product, the company has offered the mainstays of a small business marketing suite — SEO, email marketing, social media, and pay-per-click advertising — for years. And, of the 12 million customers already on its platform (many of whom are small businesses), Rechterman says the upwards of 80% fit the profile of a VSB — a massive install base to upsell.

But the VSB market is underserved for a reason. With small budgets, the opportunity to upsell to higher margin product is much smaller. Without that incremental revenue, the Yellow Pages and media companies, which have started bundling marketing services, have trouble accounting the cost of their massive outbound sales efforts.

That’s why marketing and branding are so critical for GoDaddy. The company needs breadth not depth, and large national ad buys (like the NFL opener), are more effective and profitable than the one-to-one relationship. But if it wants to move beyond selling commodity in domain registration to slightly more involved web presences services, the messaging needs to convey a level trust that’s often missing in inbound sales.

Steven Jacobs is Street Fight’s deputy editor.