Saturday, August 18, 2007
10 things to do when naming your new enterprise
If your new biz is some kind of gotta-have-it, Web 2.0 breakthrough, it really won't matter what you name your enterprise (my hat's off to Wufoo.com).
If, on the other hand, you'll be among the 99.99% of us that will need to convince our potential customer base that our new biz has merit and value for them, I've found that you have to start selling your proposition immediately. This starts with the name of your enterprise.
It's the first thing your potential customers hear. I recommend you weave what you do into the name. Be subtle or not, just get your value proposition stated so that the target audience gets it and wants to hear more.
I apply this test to all kinds of enterprises... for profit, non-profit, social entrepreneurs, everyone.
My ex business partner Mary just told me about a GREAT name along these lines, called Bag, Borrow or Steal, the name of a new firm that rents designer handbags. It's fast, funny, hip, and gets the value proposition into the first moments of contact.
So, here's a short 10 step test I take clients through when naming their new biz:
1. Make the name say what your enterprise does. Use subtlety, humor, in-your-face shock or drama, but get the value proposition stated in your name.
2. Check that the domain name is available before you name your biz. You need a domain name equal to the name of your biz. Period. It's not as daunting as you think. Unexpected word combinations that describe your project will be laying around.
3. Make sure the name is legally available in your state. Most states have the name registration done through the Secretary of State or their Dept. of Financial Institutions, etc. You need the legal name as well as the domain name. Do these in parallel and do this quickly. When you find you have availability for both, and you REALLY like the name, jump on it.
4. Search the name online and see how many direct and closely related hits you get. If it's going to take you generations to climb the search rankings with a generic name, consider something more specific. I've had clients show up within 2 weeks at the very top of Google searches just because they named their enterprises wisely.
5. Say it out loud to see if you REALLY want to introduce yourself with that name, as in, "Hi, I'm Helen from Jumbledoodle Widgets". You're going to be (hopefully!) saying this a lot, so make sure you like the way it sounds to you and gets your meaning across quickly to your potential customers.
6. Answer a pretend phone call with that name in mind to see if it works for you, as in "Good Morning, Unsightly Undershirts, this is Bill"
7. Type out the name inside the space of a business card (2" x 3.5") to see if it fits, as in "AAA Articulated Angles and Architectural Anomalies of Albuquerque, LLC". Anything left for a URL or a phone number?
8. Put your new name into an elevator pitch, even if the content of th pitch isn't in place yet. Can you live with that name in that venue? "Hi. Scientific Sausage Products makes the best hot dogs for kids parties ever created." Hmmm. Perhaps reconsider if that's the market. What about, "Wacky Wieners will make parties so weird and so fun, that every kid in attendance will remember it 30 years from now."
9. Type up an imaginary eMail signature using your proposed name. Do you like the way that works?
10. Does the name attract attention in a press release. All small enterprises rely on guerilla marketing (link below). You need to snatch the interest of people who are being pitched more than you can realize. "Acme Products announces new flavors" does not hold a candle to "Flavor Explosions breaks Richter scale with new taste treat".
These are good tests. I do them with each start up for myself and for clients. Importantly, it helps set me up with a name I can be proud of and speak confidently about as I launch it into the world.
That confidence is priceless for a startup.
Choose well, and go get 'em friend.
Bag, Borrow or Steal