I have a friend who is launching her own business. As she's wrestled with names for the company, she started out very pragmatic — her last name and a descriptive word that would tell prospects what she sells.
But she's not crazy about her last name and wanted something more creative. So every new round of names became more fanciful and more creative in terms of spelling etc. She was down to a final four — none of which included the original group. Her prospects are very B-to-B minded, mostly men and very white collar.
Here's a portion of the e-mail I sent back to her when she asked my opinion.
Here’s the thing. The company’s name isn’t about you or for you. It is a business tool. And it may well be one of the most important business tools you’ll ever create. So…when it comes to naming this new baby — it’s a tough message for me to deliver, but you need to get over yourself.
You literally need to get over yourself. Crawl over your own preferences and see beyond that. To the sea of people who are milling about who might be your customers. They don’t want cute or clever. They don’t want to have to think about what your company’s name means or what you do. They want, in an instant, to know who you are, what you sell and if they might want to buy some.
You do X. And Y. I know you do much more than that — but to your consumer — that’s what you do in a nutshell. And here’s the rub. They’re going to think about you for about 10 seconds….so all you can serve them is the nutshell. If they don’t get it or can’t figure it out or it feels too anything…they’ll walk away.
I know you want to be creative. And clever. But you save that energy for your clients. A business name in the B-to-B space is not the time for subtle or inside baseball language. Cut to the chase. Tell them what you do in no uncertain terms and without cutesy spelling (like Kwik for Quick).
If you want to be more creative in your logo and build in some subtle messaging — have at it. Or in your website’s copy or even in how you package your proposals. But your business name is foundational and should be steady, solid and clear. Even if you don’t like it.
How’s that for tough love?
What do you think? Good advice? Bad?
What’s in a name? When your audience is familiar with you (and your caliber of services) the name itself matters less. The company can be called anything, basically, and so long as the really great mechanic or friendly schedule lady is there, and existing customers remain happy. [Google, Zappos and the like]
When your audience isn’t familiar with you, then I think things are different. Your business name may be the first tenuous connection between owner and prospect. There’s no room for interpretation or a misapprehension about Quick or Kwick, as you suggest. Besides, I know what ‘quick’ means whereas ‘kwick’ could leave me to wonder.
This really hits home with me. My first name was “Healthpromeme”, trying to be forward thinking. Nobody understood it and absolutely nobody remembered it. When I started thinking about changing it, my husband suggested “Manage My Practice” and I was gobsmacked! That’s exactly what I do and it seems memorable.
I can attest firsthand to your excellent advice!
After reading both your words and the comments from others, I have another thought on the matter.
Since my name is a common name, Scott Howard, at least if you google it, I decided to create an unique online identity, ScLoHo which I had been using as an email address for years.
When it was time to launch my own company, I decided to build on the ScLoHo name which was already established locally online, and then when I am talking to friends, acquaintances and prospects, I could simply direct them to ScLoHo, “Just Google it” I would say and that way anything related to ScLoHo was connected to me!
The tough part was to pick the words after ScLoHo when naming my company.
And I admit, ScLoHo Marketing Solutions will be tough to spin off in the future, if I ever want to, since I’m so closely tied to the name, but I have some ideas on how to handle that in the future.
Drew–This post really resonated with me. I think it is great advice. But a name seems like such a significant decision–similar to naming a kid! I have noticed that many people seem to use their name and associates which does not tell the public what their business does. So I agree with you and as always, I appreciate the great advice you share in blogs. Jann
I agree wholeheartedly. I went through the artsy stage some years ago and it got me nowhere. These days it’s straight forward. Thanks for the good advice. See if you can guess what I do for a living.
Printing & Marketing Solutions
Agree totally, the name should in fact state “it does what it says on the tin”.
Had an argument once with a company director, very proud of his rebranding. His company was now called LiquidKnowledge, so I asked it they were experts in plumbing.
Nope, they are IT experts 😉
Putting potential clients on a wrong footing with your name means extra work/effort to explain what you are doing. Takes away the focus from the client to you again, wrong strategy IMHO.
Karin H (co-owner of Wood You Like – natural wooden flooring) 😉
CLEAR – yet, if possible, a name that allows you some flexibility to evolve in the future. For instance – naming your company PAPER CLIPS PLUS is very clear, but if you evolve into a more general office-supply company, then you’ve forged some handcuffs. However, as you imply, if the name can mean anything, it means nothing.
As usual, had a similar post (we’ve got to stop meeting like this).
I focused on business cards that, though they had a business name, omit all information as to what exactly Best,
their business is. What a waste of a business tool.
Firstly, great website! I found it via a popular marketing forum and now bookmarked it.
Anyways, In have a short catchy business name that i think is easy to remember and basicly states what the business does!
You clearly knew some of this as you chose your own business name! Clear and solid indeed!
You make some good points. In addition — Google and Yahoo live on the internet where odd names are the norm. So it doesn’t feel as out of place.
In the white collar B-to-B world that my friend’s business is in, it would have come off as trying too hard.
So context matters too.
What a perfect example — thanks for sharing it. Sometimes, I think we let clever get the best of us. We’re almost embarrassed if our business name sounds normal or what “anyone” would think of.
But isn’t that sort of the point?
In a way, ScLoHo is your “name” at least as you established yourself online. Marketing Solutions seems broad enough that you should be good for awhile. But you’re right in the fact that people with common names have an additional burden. Imagine how challenging it will be for the generation that are babies and toddlers today.
Unless their parents were really forward thinking — they won’t be able to grab a google e-mail address with their name, a URL with their name. They’ll have to really get creative.
Your analogy is a good one. When we named our kids, we had no idea if they’d “fit” their name. But now, we can’t imagine calling them something different. Businesses are sort of the same thing. While the decision is an important one…the business will grow into their name. Whatever you choose.
In today’s economy, straightforward feels smarter, doesn’t it. And I’ll bet I can guess what you do….
Okay…it would have taken me A LOT of guesses to come up with IT Services. We have to remember that people don’t want to work that hard to figure out what a business is all about.
Good point about it being about us, not the customers. Yet another reason why it’s not wise.
You’re right — it’s a fine line. Specific enough that it is meaningful but not so tight that it reins you in.
That’s probably where the catchall & Associates that Jann mentioned comes into play. People are afraid of not having choices down the road.
I am beginning to think that one of us is a figment of the other’s imagination! Your post is right on the money. A business card is a tool. Just like a business name is a tool.
I wrote a post awhile back chastising marketing bloggers for not having contact information on their blog. Duh!
Glad you found us….I hope you’ll come back often.
Personally I think it’s great advice. I hear so many people talk about branding yourself, but in reality you’re branding your business and exactly what your business does. There is time for branding yourself as a professional and it’s not when your naming your business in my opinion.
Branding your business is about clearly communicating not only what you sell but how you work/what you’re like to work with. Personal branding is more about reputation management, in my opinion.
Both important but your business name should be about the former, not the latter. I agree!