You have a great idea for a new business, you have a plan for how you’ll go about it, you may even have funding, customers and a web site design… Now you’re only stuck on one thing – choosing a name!We’ve spoken to entrepreneurs, marketers, strategists, branding experts and design gurus to get some structure on how to go about picking a name that will last, that you’ll still love in 10 years time and that will come to hold value in the mind of your customers.
1. How Do I Start?
Initially, begin by brainstorming a list of keywords that relate to your product/service, company or blog. Then hit the reference materials, look at dictionaries, thesaurus and online for more options around your chosen theme. Try to think of all different types of names, compound words like “Facebook”, blend together words like “RedStorm”, add affixes “coComment”, make up words like “Squidoo” or even phrases such as “StumbleUpon” or “GoToMeeting”Once you’ve got a healthy list, start cutting it all back. Begin by asking yourself:
2. Does It Mean Something?
Names can be classified on a continuum based on how they communicate to consumers. There’s a spectrum from descriptive names which speak directly to a product benefit or attribute, “Organic Supermarket” to empty vessel names, where it doesn’t mean anything about the product “RedHat Linux”.Descriptive names, such as “Murphy’s Ice Cream”, immediately convey information about what you do. They are simple, intuitive and help consumers easily identify the mission of your business.The downside? They can sound generic and boring, and the accompanying domain name is usually taken. They are also limiting in a fast-moving industry like technology, where what you do now might not be what you’ll be doing in a few years. Don’t forget, a name can be a prison… it can restrict what you offer and to whom you offer it as you move through the phases of development.
3. Or Does It Mean Nothing?
Empty Vessel Names can be completely made-up words (Kodak or Squidoo), words in another language “Hulu” which roughly translates both to “holder of precious things” and “interactive recording” in Mandarin), or those whose meaning is so obscure that people interpret it as an invented word “Google” (sparked from “googol,” the name for the number consisting of a one followed by a hundred zeros).Empty vessel names can be fun to say, can separate you from the crowd, and can be subtler than descriptive ones.But you may need to put in more money to get the word out initially. And a word to the wise: Check to see if the word means something in another language — you don’t want unintended meanings to make a mockery of your carefully crafted name.If neither descriptive nor empty vessel names appeal, try a suggestive name, which lies somewhere in between. Names like Apple which indirectly alludes to the simplistic and perfectionist values for which the brand would like to be known.
4. Will It Work Online?
Nothing kills a name faster than finding out someone else already has it, a competitor or even an totally unrelated business — and in the online hunt for domain names, it sometimes seems like every possible option is taken.More and more, search engine issues and domain availability are affecting the style of names businesses can launch with. Some people consciously try to create names with unique keywords so theirs will be the only result in targeted Google searches. Although it can be dangerous to go down this road as keyword incorporation can be viewed as spam by search engines.
5. Is It Sticky?
Amidst all the search engine and domain name drama, consider that names are memorable when they sound good. Names like “Bebo” and “Yahoo” are great sounding memorable names.You can also use poetic devices to ensure the names stick. Names based on rhymes (TopShop, HotSpot), repetition (Bebo,LaLa), and alliteration (FireFox,BlackBerry) tend to be memorable.For the advanced namers out there, try what’s called the “Part of Speech Test.” Look at whether potential names can be used in multiple parts of speech. These are stronger because people will use them in speech more often. LinkedIn, for instance, can be used as a noun “We connected on LinkedIn”, as an adjective “Did you look at her LinkedIn profile?”, and as a verb “I am going to LinkIn with him”. When a name passes the Part of Speech test, it becomes pervasive.
6. Is It Simple?
Any name should be easy to pronounce, easy to understand, easy to spell when you hear it, and easy to know the pronunciation when you see it written down. However, you can mitigate confusion by also holding domain names with likely misspellings and redirecting users to your correct site. Remember, although almost all single word domain names are gone, try to keep your name short as it has to appear in email addresses and on business cards as a www.Punctuation is trickier. Although adding hyphens to domain names or underscores to Twitter handles may allow you to get the name you wanted, people are likely to accidentally leave them out, especially when typing on mobile devices. You’re better off avoiding punctuation if you can.
7. Forget the Rules
If a name is really meaningful to you, it might work even if it doesn’t quite meet all the other criteria. So don’t be intimidated by the rules — just grab your thesaurus and get going. Check with friends, ask them to describe what type of business the name suggests, can they spell it? Pronounce it? And can they remember it a week later?
When choosing a name for your new company, keep these tips in mind to help you find one that will work now and in the future.Naming a business is a lot like laying the cornerstone of a building. Once it’s in place, the entire foundation and structure is aligned to that original stone. If it’s off, even just a bit, the rest of the building is off, and the misalignment becomes amplified. So if you have that gnawing sense that choosing a name for your new business is vitally important, you’re right. To help you get off to a good start, read on to discover the top 8 mistakes people make when it comes to choosing a name for their business:Mistake #1: Getting the “committee” involved in your decisionWe live in a democratic society, and it seems like the right thing to do, to involve everyone (your friends, family, employees and clients) in such an important decision. This approach, however, presents a few problems. Mainly, you often end up with a consensus decision, which results in a very safe, very Vanilla name. A better method is to involve only the key decision-makers – the fewer the better – and select only the people who have the company’s best interests at heart and those who have experience in this naming process.Mistake #2: Employing the “train wreck” method of creating a nameWhen forced to come up with a catchy name, many aspiring entrepreneurs simply take part of an adjective and weld it onto a noun, essentially colliding the two words head on to create a new word. The results are names that have a certain twisted rationale to them, but look and sound awful. Someone starting a high-end, service franchise becomes QualiServe. Someone starting a classy day spa becomes TranquiSpa. Fundamentally, there’s nothing wrong with either word, but they just don’t go together. The problem with this approach is that it’s forced–and looks and sounds that way.Mistake #3: Using words so plain they’ll never stand out in a crowdThe first company in a category can get away with this one. Hence you have General Motors. But once you have competition, it requires differentiation. Imagine if Yahoo! had come out as GeneralInternetDirectory.com? The name would be much more descriptive but hardly memorable. And with the onslaught of new media and advertising channels, it’s more important than ever to carve out your niche by displaying your uniqueness. Nothing does that better than a well conceived name.Mistake #4: Taking the atlas approach and using a map to name your companyIn the excitement of starting a new company, many businesses choose to use their city, county or region as part of their company name. While this may actually help in the beginning, it often becomes a hindrance as a company grows and reaches farther afield.Mistake #5: Turning your name into a clicheOnce past the literal, descriptive word choices, your thought process will most likely turn to metaphors. These can be great if they’re not overly used. For example, since many companies think of themselves as the top in their industry, the world is full of names like Summit, Apex, Pinnacle, Peak and so on. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with these names, they’re overworked. Instead, look for combinations of positive words and metaphors, and you’ll be much better served. A good example is the data storage company Iron Mountain, a name that conveys strength and security without sounding commonplace.Mistake #6: Making your business name overly obscureIt’s great for a name to have a special meaning or significance – it sets up a story that can be used to tell the company message. But if the reference is too obscure or too hard to spell and pronounce, you may never have the opportunity to speak to that customer because they’ll simply pass you by.So resist the urge to name your company after the mythical Greek god of fast service or the Latin phrase for “We’re number one!” If a name has a natural, intuitive sound and a special meaning, it can work. If it’s too complex and puzzling, it will remain a mystery to your customers. This is especially true if you’re reaching out to a mass audience.Mistake #7: Selecting an awkward nameDriven by the need for a domain name, many companies have resorted to awkwardly constructed or purposefully misspelled names. The results are company names that sound more like prescription drugs than real life businesses, names like KwaliTronix. It’s amazing how good some names begin to sound after searching for available domain names all night. But resist the urge. Avoid using a “K” in place of a “Q” or a “Ph” in place of an “F”. This makes spelling the name–and locating you on the internet–all that much harder.You may argue that “Xerox” and “Kodak” are pretty awkward. Keep in mind that many of the companies that successfully use this approach were either first to market or have large marketing budgets. “Verizon”, for instance, spent millions on their rebranding and education efforts. So did Accenture. So check your bank balance before you decide on these types of names.Mistake #8: Choosing the wrong name and then refusing to change itMany business owners know they have a problem with their name and just hope it will somehow magically resolve itself. Often they began with a regional name “Dublin Cleaning Services”. Having expanded nationwide they needed a change but how to do this with out losing the trust and brand value they have created over the past years of service? “DCS – nationwide cleaning”.And Finally…In the fever to start your new business or expand a current one, take time to think through some of these issues. By tapping into your creativity and avoiding these potential pitfalls, you’ll be able to create a name that works for both the short and long term. Like the original cornerstone of a building, it will support upward expansion as your company reaches new heights.
Naming your business is one of the hardest tasks when you are starting up – no matter how creative you are. Carol O’Kelly, founder and CEO of Redstorm, a marketing company in Dublin, Ireland, that specialises in branding strategy, has been an expert in naming products and companies for over a decade. Here are six steps Carol believes every entrepreneur should follow when choosing a business name:Step 1: Identify who has a voteEverybody involved in your startup has an opinion and will want to participate in the naming process. Leave the decision in the hands of those who know the business best.Step 2: Know yourselfUnderstand the essence of your company. Find a hook – something that’s compelling about who you are-and build on that from a vocabulary perspective.Step 3: Know your competitionUnderstand what other people are doing, and dare to be different. You don’t have to jump into the middle of the pack and use the same language or style as that of your competitors.Step 4: Be creativeDon’t come up with just two or three names. Push the envelope, and try to expand beyond the obvious by not getting stuck in generic naming solutions.Step 5: Do your homeworkBefore you form an emotional bond with any name, find out if it is legally available for use; and make sure it won’t translate oddly or offensively in another language and check if you can secure the domain name.Step 6: Select a nameIt’s an obvious step but often the most difficult to make. If you’re waiting for an epiphany, a moment where you say, “This is the one,” you could be waiting forever. Print out each name, in colour, on a separate sheet of paper and put them around your home and/or office. Let them catch your eye as you go about your daily tasks, look at them as “Company Signage”, live with them all for a week or so, then set a deadline, and just choose a name.And Finally…Remember, names should be simple, memorable and catchy. They should not constrict your future expansion and you should not need to educate the market expensively as to what you do.
Remember social media networking takes time, the more involved in it you and your organisation become, the more time it will take. The more successful you become within the social media world, the more interactivity you encourage, the more successful you will become but it will take still more time. So, the key success factors for any strategy come into play with social media – know what you want, have a clear end goal and then find myriad ways to achieve it.
Begin with the End in Mind
Strategy isn’t the end goal – It’s the path you take to get to that end goal. So, first you need to think about setting some goals for your Social Media work. What do you want to achieve (end goal) by getting involved in social media. Remember, social media is highly measurable, but also include softer goals such as building a strong community, loyalty, trust and interactivity around your brand. Don’t measure your Social Media strategy solely in terms of percentages or ROI.So, let’s look at some basic goals you can achieve through Social Media:
• Increase customer base
• Generate leads
• Drive sales
• Build awareness
• Make money from your content
• Establish thought leadership
• Educate customers
• Reach new channels of customers
• Improve internal communication
Questions Before the Strategy
Before you go too far down any one path, you need to ask some basic questions:
• Are your key customer groups or influencer groups likely to be online?
• How are you going to add value through their online contact with you?
• How do you plan to engage them online through your new social media platform? Interactivity is key to repeat visits but it’s not all about selling.
• How well suited is your brand to the Social Media environment?
• Which Social Media platforms are you planning to include in your strategy? LinkedIn, Facebook, Blogging, Podcasting, Twitter etc
• What measures will you use to determine the success or failure of your strategy?
• How long are you going run with this new strategy before you call it a success or failure?
• Who has overall responsibility for each area? It’s critical that each message you send out to the market is aligned with your brand story and that you react to any feedback/comments/queries quickly.
• How will you incorporate this into people’s daily jobs getting them actively enthused?
• Are you ready to handle negativity? Platforms like blogs, podcasts and videos allow for external comments, not all of which will be good, and some company cultures aren’t ready to engage with those opinions.
Even looking at those few questions will tell you a lot about your business and whether or not Social Media is actually a good fit for you and your internal capabilities at this stage.
Where are you going? How are you going to get there? How do you know you’ve arrived? Simple?If you’re going to put a social media strategy into place, you need to know where you’re going (end goal), align and develop the paths you’re going to take (which platforms, who’s responsible, how to engage), measure the journey (what factors signify success or failure) and funnel all this back into the original strategy as you proceed, to make it more robust, better targeted and more effective as you move forward.
First Step to Social Media Success
Listen…!Seriously, before you start developing a Social Media strategy for your organisation – Listen…Listen to what’s going on in your market – who’s playing in Social Media?What are they saying? What platforms are they using? How are they bringing value to their communities? How are their brands represented and their stories told? What are they doing and how can you do it better?Also, have a listen to what the market is saying about you – even before you begin to court feedback through actively engaging in Social Media the market may be talking about you – you need to know what people are saying.
Have a look a couple of basic listening tools:
Google Reader and Google Alerts – set these up on your iGoogle home page so you can instantly see when someone mentions you. Don’t just set your alerts for your company name; use your own name, names of people on your team, directors, influencers, clients etc. Set up alerts for business areas where you are the leader, events that you run – anything that will relate to your organisation and will give you feedback on market reactions.
Technorati – Go to www.Technorati.com, search for your company (again using product, brand, personal names) in the search bar, and see what people are saying about you. Note the little orange RSS subscription button in the upper right. Copy that link location (Right click the link and say “Copy Link” or however your browser words that). Now, put that into Google Reader as one of your listening searches. Repeat this for your competitor’s name, brand, individuals, and some industry terms (make them succinct).
Google Blogsearch – Go to Google Blogsearch and do the same thing. Sure there will be some overlap, but it’s important to capture both. The subscription to searches link is on the left hand side about 1/3 down the page.
Try Summize – if you’re thinking about using social networks and social media, it’s likely that some of your customers are using Twitter. If so, go to Summize and put in your search terms there, too. Input as many searches as you need, copying the RSS feeds and putting them into Google Reader as above. Build a strong catalog of searches initially, you can prune the bad or ineffective ones after you have tried it for a while.
About You!What do you think? What else should we work into this “Starting a Social Media Strategy” piece to make it more useful to your needs?
Once you’ve decided you want a business mentor and understand the value of having one, how do you go about finding the right one? It all depends on how selective you want to be. A number of Web sites and organizations offer free mentoring. Some will offer a great deal of information about your potential mentors, while others simply match you with whoever is available. That doesn’t mean they’re any less qualified, of course.You can find a mentor in any number of ways:Many professional associations offer mentoring programs. If you are looking for a mentor in your industry, this is the first place to look.Next, explore your network: distant relatives, friends of the family, former bosses or professors, people you meet through professional associations or networking groups, or even online social networks.If you are a first-time entrepreneur, you are going to have a lot to learn from any mentor. You of course want to be compatible with them, but it doesn’t have to be a lifelong commitment. If you have already started your business, it is more important that you go ahead and get a mentor and get started, rather than spending a great deal of time searching right now. As your business takes shape, you can always move on to another mentor.On the other hand, if you’ve been down the entrepreneurial path before, you may have a much clearer vision of what you are trying to accomplish and how a mentor can help you get there.Here are some steps you can take to help you find the right mentor for you:
- Define a list of your top goals for the mentoring relationship
- Brainstorm a list of prospective mentors
- Research any available information about them or speak to people they have worked withSelect the top candidates who are aligned with your goals
- Contact the mentor and ask for a a meeting. You do not have to divulge at this time that you are interested in a longer-term relationship with them, just that you are interested in getting their input on what you are doing
- Prepare a short list of questions regarding their feedback on your current situationMeet with them. If they’re willing to take time away from their office, that’s best. (You pick up the tab!)
- Ask them about their history, current situation, and goals
- State your goals and ask your questions. Take notes!
- If you like their responses, you can test the waters with them regarding an ongoing relationship, e.g., “I really appreciate your input on this, and I’d greatly value it on an ongoing basis. Would you be willing to meet with me again next month to follow up on what we’ve discussed today?”
- The day after the meeting remember to thank the mentor for their time
- Review your notes and draw up a clear cut action list
- Take action on their suggestions
- Call or email to keep them up to date on the results of those actions and request a second appointment (assuming you’re still interested)
- Propose a mentoring relationship. Be sure to spell out your goals and expectations, as well as your commitment to them. A written agreement will show you are serious about the commitment and investment
Keep in mind that while a mentoring relationship generally lasts more than just one or two meetings, neither of you is locked in. You continue the relationship only if it continues to serve you both well.
A mentor will become not only your advisor, but your friend and confidante. That doesn’t happen instantly—building trust and personal interest takes time. You set the tone at the outset of the relationship by demonstrating your commitment to the process.
How can you best establish the base on which to build a solid mentoring relationship? Carol O’Kelly of Redstorm, a Marketing Strategy company based in Dublin, Ireland and a leading provider of business mentoring and coaching, says consistency and preparation are essential. “Frequency of contact is important in the relationship to keep the learning process moving forward. Each new discussion with the mentor should include updates from the mentee on items the mentor recommended in the previous meeting.” Carol stresses that the mentor needs to be involved in the big picture, not just the details. “Working together to set goals can be pivotal. Not only should the mentor/mentee talk about current specific issues, they should also focus on short and long term goals together with all the surrounding business noise.”
Come to every meeting prepared. Take time to review your discussion and to set action items. Before your next meeting, review those items and ensure you have actively moved your status forward. Bring the notes to the next meeting for discussion. O’Kelly, who has spent years working closely with entrepreneurs, stresses that there’s more to an effective mentoring relationship than organized meetings, and has some great advice on the interpersonal aspects of the mentoring relationship:
Take an interest in the person as a human being. Get to know them not just through mentoring activities, keep in touch during daily activities… this goes both ways – regular and informal communications are key to building this relationship. How did the work out go? Was the London weekend fun? I saw this and thought it’d make you laugh… etc. All very simple, all very effective at gaining a deeper understanding of the other persons click points – which leads to a deeper relationship and more valuable mentoring.
Don’t say, “I’d like to pick your brain.” My brain “has been picked dry” and I start feeling bored when I hear those words. I know the time I spend with that person is going to be nothing but an interrogation. Instead say, “I would really value your opinion.” It’s much gentler and I get the sense that it will be a more pleasant conversation rather than an interrogation with harsh lights shining down.
Don’t try to monopolize a lot of your mentor’s time at first. Connect in a way that’s quick and easy. Schedule meetings in advance. Email is great as I can deal with it immediately, or if I have a lot on I will get back to you when I have a minute but I don’t feel threatened and hassled. Don’t suddenly arrive at the door expecting to get a mentor’s time, you’d be surprised how often it happens.
Be clear about what you’re doing and what you need. There is so much “murky thinking” in the world. I’m amazed that people feel they have to write five pages to express one idea. That means you don’t really know what you’re talking about. Work on developing a clear elevator speech and mission statement. Think about one or two specific questions you need answered and think about your words and how to ask those questions clearly. Put questions and issues down on paper first, it’s a good trick to help you think through an issue you may be able to deal with yourself which gives you a feeling of achievement and frees up your mentor meeting for something you really need help on.
Listen, listen, listen to what they say. Don’t think about all the reasons why you can’t. That’s part of the reason why you’re not there yet. Say, “I’m dealing with yada, yada, yada – how would you suggest overcoming those obstacles? And then let your mind listen without the automatic “Can’t do it that way” response.
Thank the person for their time. Tell them what you’re going to do and then when you take action, be sure to let them know what you’re doing. Always, always, always tell them when you take an action step – keep them in the loop, without this any mentor is operating in the dark and you will not get any value from working with them.
Reciprocate once in awhile. If you see a great article that you think your mentor would enjoy – send it on with a quick note. If you have a trade or a skill and can offer to help him out in some way – offer it. Don’t say, “How can I help you?” Then they have to figure it out. Even if they never take you up on it, they will appreciate your offer.
Learn to make the link between cause and effect. Don’t put your mentor in a position where he/she has to figure it all out for you. You’re not a child. The job of a mentor is not to take you by the hand every step of the way. It’s to give you some guidance as you’re on your way. Your job is to make the link between what you are told and how you will apply it to your life. With mutual respect, demonstrated through action as well as attitude, your mentoring relationship can be mutually extremely rewarding.
Your friends and family, the Web, periodicals, and even casual acquaintances can provide you with a steady daily flow of information regarding news, industry developments, and opportunities. Industry analysts, consultants, employees, and good networking contacts can share their expert knowledge with you regarding particular situations and needs you may encounter. But only a mentor can truly share wisdom with you on an ongoing basis.A mentor is someone with more entrepreneurial business experience than you, who serves as a trusted confidante over an extended period of time. A true mentoring relationship also works in both directions—they learn about new ideas from you just as you learn timeless wisdom from them.But whatever the benefits to the mentor, the benefits to you, the entrepreneur, are even greater:Where else are you going to turn? There’s no boss any more to turn to for advice or direction—maybe not even any employees yet. You’re flying solo. But you don’t have to. Everybody needs a good reliable sounding board, second opinion, and sometimes just emotional support.They’ve “been there, done that”. Learn from others’ mistakes and successes. They don’t have to have experience in your particular industry. They don’t have to be up on the latest trends or technology—you’ve got other sources for that. Their role is to share with you lessons from their experience in the hopes that you can learn them a bit more quickly and easily.Expand your social network. Your mentor, being an experienced businessperson, is likely to have an extensive network, and can offer you access to far more senior decision-makers than you currently have. And they will be far more willing to open that network up to you than some casual acquaintance from a networking meeting.A trusted, long-term relationship. Your mentor has no ulterior motive—no service or product to sell you. That combined with their experience creates a good foundation for trust. And as the relationship develops over time, that trust can grow even stronger. Also, your time with them becomes more and more efficient as they become more and more familiar with you and your business.As you can see, the rewards are many. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by finding a good mentor. Every entrepreneur should have one.
If your company is on life support, don’t expect sympathy or gentle encouragement from George Cloutier, the CEO of American Management Services and author of Profits Aren’t Everything, They’re the Only Thing. The no-nonsense consultant advocates a severe, business-first philosophy that might shock small-business owners—and, possibly, revive their fortunes. In an interview with Kermit Pattison of the New York Times, he gives advice like this:Don’t use the recession as a catchall excuse for poor performance. “Why does your work dry up?” he asks. “Normally because you haven’t built a strong enough sales organization.”Micromanage your team. “Getting good people is 100 times more difficult than conventional wisdom says,” argues Cloutier. “The fact is, you’re going to deal with a lot of mediocre people, no matter how hard you try. You have got to have a system in place to check on how they’re doing.”Fire relatives who don’t perform at a level well above that of unrelated employees. “A member of the family, if they’re not carefully policed or indoctrinated by the principle of the business, tends to feel entitled,” he says. “That entitlement is terrible for morale and is terrible for the business.”Cloutier’s medicine isn’t pleasant—but it could be what your company needs to survive.Source: New York Times. Click here for the full story.