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Business Unplugged™
This blog features Carol Roth's tough love on business and entrepreneurship, as well as insights from Carol's community of contributors.

What’s in a Name? Everything!

Written By: Mark E. Goodman | No Comments

two thumbs upWhether you are starting a new business or rolling out a new product or service, one of the most important – but challenging – tasks you will face is deciding on a new name.

But what do you need to think about as you are considering what to call your business / product / service? Here are some suggestions:

For a new business, is the business going to be more than primarily you? If not, you may want to use a name that ties directly to you as an individual. Check out Dave’s Specialty Foods. People know who you are and your expertise. Naming a business after yourself also lends to a pretty seamless connection in social media from you to your business. The connection, however, can be a drawback, as you need to be careful what you post personally, in that it easily reflects on your business. Specific product lines or services also could incorporate the name for consistency.

If you aspire to be bigger, consider a more generally descriptive name. The challenge is being descriptive without being generic. Some companies opt for a geographic name. Suppose you were opening a pet shop in Mount Prospect. You could consider calling your company Mount Prospect Pet Shop because it sounds good, and that’s what you are. However, when it comes to search, if someone enters your name, in addition to your shop, they’ll get all of your competition in the general area.

A geographic name also can be problematic as you expand out of your immediate area. Imagine a moving company in San Francisco called Pacific Bay Moving Company. A company with this name would be competing with many other “Pacific” moving companies in California. Social media and ratings also could be problematic. What if the search engines get confused? They could display a negative post about one of the other “Pacific” companies. Another downside of a geographic name is that it can be difficult to incorporate into products or services for the same reason.

Look at names that combine emotion and experience. There is a company in the Chicago area call Rise Interactive. Another company that we hear about this time of the year is WeatherTech, which makes all-weather car floor mats and other accessories. Products and services could easily fall under these.

A common naming convention is to pair something that is recognizable with an industry term. Consider Apple Computer. When Apple incorporated, it never thought that it might be in the music business. When the iPod and iTunes were introduced, Apple found themselves conflicting with the Apple Records that was aligned with the Beatles. A few years and millions of dollars later, Apple Computer was transformed into just Apple, by coming to an agreement with the music company.

Adding what you do with an industry term can work. How about Digital Detective? Using initials can work as well. CB Richard Ellis became CBRE. However, obtaining a URL containing initials can be expensive. Products and services could tie back to either of these, but beware of “alphabet soup” by using too many acronyms, which could be confusing for your prospects and customers.

Are you feeling creative? You can come up with a name that doesn’t mean anything. A new online business community is named Enmast. Before Google, that series of letters didn’t mean anything. The drawback is that you will have to explain what this “nothing” really means. For your products and services you may need to create more new words, or be creative in finding some existing word(s) that logically associates with it somehow.

Be careful about names that are too long. They may look good on paper or on the office door, but they can be difficult on the Internet. We set up Advanced Wellness Specialists for a fitness business. The name looked good on the office directory, but try to type www.advancedwellnessspecialists.com.

[Editor’s note: My company is Point A to Point B Transitions Inc. with the URL www.pointatopointbtransitions.com – it’s long to type, which can be a pain, but people easily remember it and I have had a lot of marketing fun playing with the getting to Point B, etc. PS – Finding a .com domain that’s available can be tough!]

Lastly, I would caution you to use the name that you create. An accounting firm, Smith & Jones, started to refer to themselves in social media as S&J. S&J is what they called themselves internally. They didn’t think it mattered until they got a check in the mail addressed to SNJ – oops!

There also are trademark and copyright considerations. Check out this interview segment that I did with a legal expert.

As you can see, there are many things to consider as you brainstorm a name. If you keep these points in mind, you will have a more effective name that accurately represents and works for your business.

What did you name your business? How well has it worked for you?

Article written by
Mark Goodman is the President & CEO of e-Conversation Solutions. He is also past workshop chair at SCORE Chicago. Prior to founding e-Conversation, Mark held numerous positions as a technology executive, including Director of Business Development at Motorola, where he was the first business manager in the cell phone group. In addition to Motorola, Mark was an executive for a Silicon Valley company and a film buyer for General Cinema Theatres. Mark holds an MBA from Boston University and an MA in radio/TV/film from Northwestern University.