Saturday, August 11, 2012

Names and Brands Is Marketing Secret 12/101 from the Serial Entrepreneur

With a modest change, that could be my company name

How Do You Name Your Company

If you have seriously considered your niche and specifically the niche you want to occupy regarding such things as price and quality, you may next want to think about your name or brand.  I may be elevating brand at this point far above its level of importance for most small businesses.  However, I've chosen to place it here as part of a subset of issues around the overall image of the business.  And within that subset, the brand or name would naturally be the next thing to consider.

Company names tend to fall into four categories. 

    1.    The owners name
    2.    A cute name
    3.    A descriptive name
    4.    A practical name for some reason

There are advantages and disadvantages to each. 

When you choose to use your own name as the name of the business you create a clear and decisive stamp of your personality on the business.  Your reputation and that of the business rise and fall as one.  If you already have a reputation in the industry or the city, your name can be an asset.  A minor advantage is that you have no need of filing a fictitious name statement.  For some home businesses, this will also help the company avoid filing with other government entities.  You can also more easily run your business out of your personal checking account.  I'll let your accountant explain the disadvantages of that approach.

The major disadvantage of using your name is that there is nothing memorable or catchy about the name.  That is, unless your name happens to be catchy or memorable.  Also consider that when you sell, the new owner may find that the name is a considerable asset.  You may love that your legacy will continue, or you may be concerned that the new owner will besmirch your good name. 

Cute and made up names are tons of fun to dream up.  Whether for a company name, product, service, or blog, the naming of things brings out the creative in the least creative folks.  The biggest negative with cute brands and company names is that one persons cute is another persons …. uh… not so cute.  Moreover, unless a clear descriptive is included, many potential clients may see you sign, or other ads, and not know what business you are in.  Tesla doesn't need to add a modifier after their name, but they've spent millions of dollars to establish that a Tesla is a car.  If you called your carpet cleaning business Bentrush without adding carpet cleaning, you might never be able to spend what it would take to have new potential clients know you by that name.

A descriptive name, e.g. The Pizza Place, with or without your name, a cute modifier or a made up word to go with it, can be an excellent solution for most small businesses.  The description might be the primary product or service, or an adjective that describes the unique selling proposition (fast, best, mobile, downtown, statewide, affordable, etc).

Finally we have a category of names that has lain dormant for a while.  Names that offer some other practical advantage.  Think twenty years ago when you had name like AA Advanced, or ABC Auto.  My companies in those days were Atlas Lock, AC International, and Best Value Car Rental.  Today, having a name at the front of the alphabet is no longer a big deal.  But having keywords and geographic descriptives is a practical consideration. This helps the search engines find you.

Here is a great illustration.  I wrote a book in 1993 Called:  When Friday Isn't Payday. Very cute (I can say that. I didn't come up with it.)  When that book was updated and republished by Warner Business Books in 2009, the name became Running a 21st Century Small Business. All keywords.  Many of my clients ask early in our work with them if they should change the company name from Jimmy's Sweet Tooth to Chicago Chocolates and Bakery. 

You also need to take into consideration the customer you are trying to reach, and the personality you are trying to project.  When I started Randy Kirk and Associates, the word associates was a stretch.  However, I wanted to project that there was a real company there.  Now we have a bunch of associates, so it might be time to change it to The Best Small Business Marketing Consulting Company in America.  Maybe not. 

Action Steps for Day 12:
  1. Is your name helping you in any way?
  2. Is your name hurting you? Would changing it hurt business at all?
  3. If you were to change it, what would you goal be in doing so?
Should you choose to consider a name change, here is a possible process that I have used to come up with hundreds of names of products, services, and companies.
  1. Evaluate what you want to project with the name.
  2. Brainstorm with one or more people to draw up a short obvious list of names.
  3. Check synonyms of those words - add names that make sense, even if barely.
  4. Do online research of companies in other similar industries who might be trying to project a similar image. Add ideas that make sense.
  5. Get another brainstorming session going to build on the list.
  6. Now have the group whittle away at the list until you get down to ten.
  7. Pass this list around to other employees, friends, family, associates and have them vote. I prefer a vote of no way, ok, and like. Could also be ten to one, worst to best.
  8. Use the vote and your own gut to get down to three or so names.  
  9. Are these fantastic names.  If not, go back to the drawing board.
  10. If yes, use top management and trusted advisers to make the final decision.

No comments: