I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “give a dog a bad name and hang it!”
Well, as business goes, when you name a business, I say “give a business a bad name and kill it!”
It seems to me that many of you must be thinking about starting new businesses or rebranding. Why? Because a number of you have been asking me for ideas to name a business.
Now, I don’t know if I have much expertise in this area, because there simply is no formula for you to follow in deciding how to name a business. But I do know a good name will help with marketing your services and help you differentiate yourself in a crowded market.
And I certainly have some commonsense observations which I will gladly share with you to help you name your next business.
1. What you name your business matters
Some of you treat naming a businesses like how I notice new home builders approach securing their houses.
How is that? Well, some homeowners build houses worth $500,000 and then secure them with $50 locks.
Similarly, some business owners pay lots of attention to product and branding and store layout and CRM systems, etc. And then give the business a crappy name.
Your name helps you to differentiate yourself in a crowded marketplace and attract customers to the business. It also helps to build trust for your business. Don't you think twice about doing business with a strange name?
Inappropriate names, names that are difficult to spell and pronounce, names that make people go “huh?!” can all drive your potential customers in the other direction.
2. Make sure that the name is available
Yeah...can you imagine choosing a name for your business, designing all your marketing and them discovering that that name is not available?
When I come with a name for a business, for myself or for a client, I immediately check for "business name availability".
I check it in my local Corporate Affairs department and then I check at any of the popular domain name providers, to see if the form of the URL I want is also available.
Checking to see if your oh-so-hot-business-name is available early in the naming process can save you time, money and pain. Especially if you discover it’s not available.
3. Let your business name signal what you’re offering
When I started my training business, I was passionate about providing training and development services that would make an impact on my clients and the rest of the world.
I also wanted a name that would let people know immediately what my business could do for them. The name Impact Training & Development Services (ITDS) did exactly that.
Contrast this with another one which I registered called Clockwork Enterprises. At the time, everything "business" was going like clockwork for me. I was on a roll.
Two weeks later, when I looked at the name, I concluded that as business goes, this "clock" needed a new movement. I realized that unless I was selling watches and clocks, that name wasn't going to work for anything I wanted to do.
Then there is “The Business of Being in Business”.
The more I worked with small businesses, the more I became alarmed that many small business owners only knew how to buy and sell products, deliver their services or whatever they established their business to do.
They did not understand business systems, their business models, the difference between revenue and profit or well…the business of being in business.
Wanting to help, I established…The Business of Being in Business. It says exactly what the business is about, and it has a nice ring to it as well.
Naming your business in such a way that lets your target market know what you’re selling will help you to connect with customers faster and grow your business at the speed you want.
4. Be aware of the mind "pictures' your business name can create
When I heard the name “SouthPaw Grafix Inc” I knew immediately that this business was owned by a left-handed graphics designer. The name also suggests creativity in the graphics that are designed.
This is much like the name of a gym I joined and eventually owned. When I first heard the name First Class Fitness Centre (FCFC) I immediately saw myself receiving top of the line service and services, once I became a member.
It did not hurt either that FCFC was owned by Superior Sporting Services (SSS).
On the other hand, let’s take “Delicate Designs”.
Is there anything about that name that suggests they’re in the food business?
When there is too big a disconnect between what the business does and what its name suggests, you have to work so much harder for market share and this leads to slow growth.
Sadly, this slow growth can eventually kill your business and you will not even make the connection between the death of your business and the name of your business. Furthermore, you may not have the deep pockets of Overstock, who now spends loads of money informing us that their business is not what the name suggests.
5. It should be easy to pronounce, remember and navigate
When I chose the name Impact Training & Development Services for my business, I knew that it was easy to pronounce but I felt it was a bit long.
So, I was counting on my gut feeling that clients would not want to call it every time they refer to the business. I believed they would eventually shorten it or “sex it up” to suit themselves.
Sure enough, it soon became ITDS or Impact Training. Because I anticipated this, I registered the business so that you could write a cheque to ITDS.
This is unlike a certain business which has since gone out of business. Let’s be clear, I’m not suggesting that it went out of business because of the name.
But people just could not seem to get the name right, even after the business had been in existence for more than three years. Moreover, when people heard or saw the name, they always thought it was providing a different kind of services than it was.
6. Try to avoid “hybrid” and “cute” names
Personally, these are approaches to naming a business that I do not like.
What I call a hybrid is when “Richard” and “Lorna” decide to get into business and call that business “Richlor” or “Lornard”. “Huh?!” is usually the reaction from most people to these names.
This does not mean that you have to avoid this approach altogether.
JENN Health and Beauty Supplies certainly works, and JENN is the acronym derived from the first names of the family members. But note that it is followed by a description of the products it sells.
On the other hand Semjen Insurance Brokers does not convince me that my insurance needs will be handled seriously and professionally.
Cute names may or may not work.
“Way Ahead Barber Saloon” I quite like. This name suggests that it’s way ahead of the competition and the sign also has an arrow pointing the way ahead to the shop’s location.
On the other hand, when I heard the name “Curl Up and Dye” referring to a hair salon, I became alarmed. A very vivid picture of what could happen to my hair if I patronise this salon. And I was not the only body who thought so.
7. It should not be too limiting.
When you name your business, while you want that name to represent what the business does, you still don’t want it to be too limiting.
What do I mean?
If I had named my business “Barbados Training Services” this would immediately suggest to a potential client that they can only receive my services if they are in Barbados.
Trying to sell them on the idea that “Barbados Training Services” is a special type of training, which could be had anywhere in the world, would require a marketing effort at a cost that might very well outweigh the benefits.
A name can also be limited by your vision.
Suppose you name your candy store “My Candy Store” because you only saw yourself selling candy. Later, if an opportunity came along for you to diversify into children clothes, this name would be a problem.
A name like “Sweet Little Things” would have made the transition easier.
If your ultimate goal is to sell the business, the name of that business can also determine how fast you can achieve that goal. For example, it would be easier for me to sell Impact Training than if I had named the business something like "Lorna Barrow Training".
8. It should be search engine friendly
I hope that this is a serious consideration when you’re naming your business.
The first place a person will rush to if they are looking for something is the internet. If your business name is not search engine optimized (SEO), the likelihood of your business coming up in a search will be very remote.
Now this does not mean that you should come up with a name that’s so search engine friendly that it makes no sense to us here on earth.
It does mean, however, that you should use “F” instead of “PH” when a word is known to begin with “F” and “quick” instead of “kwik”.
9. You are free to ignore 1 – 8 above.
Surprised? But you really are.
You can name your business anything you like...if you have the marketing budget to get your customers to quickly understand what it means.
Furthermore, you can also ignore the above tips and hire a naming company. But if your budget is limited, you could end up with the right name and nothing left to start up.
Your next "name a business" step…
Just remember that when it comes to starting a business, what you choose to name your business, should be taken as seriously as the other aspects of the process.
It requires you to get clear on the purpose for the business and your business model and let your business name reflect this.
And don’t be afraid to run it by your network. If you’ve built this out properly, it’s sure to include some connections who can give you some sound advice.
So what’s in a name? As they say: Everything! And when that name is the name of your business...
It’s Everything Inc!