Tuesday, 23 September 2008

What's In A Name?

One of the most difficult decisions facing every startup company and entrepreneur is what to call their new business and/or products and services.

Your name is the first thing that people notice, it is the entry point to your business, ideally your name should be snappy, original and instantly inform people of what your business/product offers. Your aim is to attract customers with a name that is appealing enough to stand out from the crowd, but also presents a relevant message and a trustworthy, professional image. Essentially you need to strike the right tone without getting too clever, which may result in loosing sight of what you are trying to portray.

By combing the right name with simple and effective branding you can form a recognisable mark that reflects your business. The way you present your name will help differentiate you from your competitors and form visual links with what your business offers. In turn this will support the development of brand recognition, which will constantly remind potential customers of your company's existence, your values and the product/service you offer, think about successful brands such as Boots and Kellogg's.

If the competition looks more attractive and is more memorable, then even if your product or service is the best available nobody will ever know!

Practical Words of Warning

Check the name is original, ensure nobody else is trading under the same name, you can find this information online at Companies House. However, sole traders do not need to register so you should also check phonebooks and run searches online.

Check that your proposed name isn't too similar to one that somebody else has registered as a trademark, you can do this online at the Patents Office and when your ready you can also register your own trademark here.

Secure your domain name(s), marketing is much easier if your web address is the same as your company name. It may be worth buying several domains depending upon the nature of your business, for example .com, .co.uk, .net, .biz, etc. this will prevent others from presenting competitive products on domain names that are similar to yours.

Word of Warning

Words or expressions deemed to be offensive are not permitted by Companies House.

Words deemed to be sensitive are not permitted by Companies House. For example words that imply your business is of national importance, or suggest that you're a charity, official authority, member of a professional body, government or royal family.

How We Did It

When we first started developing PhoneFromHere.com we spent quite a lot of time experimenting with where and how we might use the technology. As a temporary measure we purchased the domain name PhoneFromHere.com and here we built a very basic website to launch our demo's, betas and trials.

As time passed and we found our resource was stretched to the limit just keeping up with the various day-to-day demands of running a startup business, including ongoing development, raising investment, and networking with potential customers. Before we knew it we had organically developed a brand based on the name PhoneFromHere.com, tweaking and refining it over the months to meet the needs of a particular project, presentation, document or exhibition.

Lessons Learnt...

For us the choice of what was (at the time) intended to be a temporary domain was a process informed by previous experience. Both myself and my colleagues had experience naming previous startups, companies, products and services. We were concious that the name we decided upon would have a huge impact on the consumers perception of our offering.

Defining what you offer and too whom will help clarify your aims and objectives. Our service allows web users to place calls directly from a webpage, using their Internet connection and the computer's microphone and speakers. We felt that that PhoneFromHere described the service we offered very well. However, as PhoneFromHere evolved to become our companies name we discovered that if it was taken out of context, it no longer reflected that we were a web-based service and therefore we now use PhoneFromHere.com. To date this appears to be working well for us, but if you have any thoughts or feedback I would love to hear from you.

From past experience we have learnt that if a name is not memorable or if it is difficult to pronounce, then it will be hard for people to talk about you and mention your name. Word of mouth and personal recommendation is among one of the best forms of marketing/advertising and best of all it costs you nothing!

If your name is difficult to spell, then potential customers may find problems searching for you online or in the phonebook. As mentioned previously your domain name should, if at all possible be same as you company/product name. It may also be worth buying the domain names for some common mis-spellings of your companies name. This will ensure you can be found and will also prevent your competitors from registering these domains and potentially stealing your customers.

Best Practice

To summarise, ask yourself 'What does your name say about you?'. Try not to make it too clever or too abstract or there will be nothing for people to link the name to your business or to your offering. If people cannot understand what it is you offer from just your name they will not be instantly attracted your business, they probably won't remember you and therefore won't recommend you, etc, etc.

As one classic strapline reminds us, make sure it “Does exactly what it says on the tin!”.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

PhoneFromHere.com Demo

One of the bigger challenges of introducing an innovative new service to the marketplace is that nobody knows what it is you’re selling and even harder there is essentially nothing to compare it to either. In the office we have been thinking about this quite a lot recently, discussing numerous ways in which we might convey the concept and message both quickly and effectively to potential customers and investors… so far we remain undecided on the best solution!

Let me know if you have any thoughts or ideas, I would love to hear from you.

In the meanwhile, I thought I would make a quick video to demo the PhoneFromHere.com service just for you, so at least this way my readers might understand exactly what it is that I am talking about.


Thursday, 11 September 2008

A Journey with my Eee PC

As many of you will already know I recently took delivery of my fabulous new Eee PC Linux 901 in black, perhaps I should have done an un-boxing video for that!! Anyway, firstly I should just say how much I am truly loving this little gem of a computer, the portability is fantastic, I am rarely without it and it is so shiny and sexy, you should just see the looks I get when blogging on the bus on my way to work!!

This is my first Linux machine, chosen because of the obvious advantages it has over the equivalent Windows machine. FYI the deal clincher for me was the significantly larger memory. However, as time goes by I am slowly coming to terms with the differences, both the advantages and possible downsides of the Linux platform, specifically when placed in direct comparison with my home machine (Sony Vaio, Windows XP) and my work machine (G5 Mac, OS X).

To be honest, I'm fairly none-technical as geeks go, I have to rely very heavily on the help of my more hands-on and much more technical geek friends, who kindly provide me with much needed ongoing tech-support. (You know who you are, very many thanks!) So, I thought it might be worth sharing some of my thoughts on any particularly bother-some issues I encounter, as I learn to depend more and more on this lovely little machine.

I would like my blog posts to become more of a two way conversation with my readers, so where I come across a particular problem I need to resolve I will flag it here and if you have any thoughts or advice you can post it back to the blog. For my part, if I find a solution to the problem encountered I will also be sure to post that here too – Sound OK?

Problem 1 – I Can't Spell and Neither Can My Eee!

My Eee came pre-installed with StarOffice 8, the application seems to be up to the job I need it to do, although I admit I am probably not using some of the fancier functionality.

However, very irritatingly the spell check functionality, despite appearances, including a button and a popup window, just wouldn't work. After several painful weeks of trying to manage without spell check and transferring files to other machines to check the spelling, I decided enough was enough and set about trying to resolve the problem once and for all!

Once I started googling the problem I discovered that many, many people were also encountering the same or similar issues, one site in particular had a large number of complaints and suggestions; http://www.eeeuser.com/, but wait a moment...

... some of the suggestions for resolving the spellchecker problems were terrifying, and included re-installing the operating system, or un-installing the StarOffice software suite and then downloading and installing the OpenOffice suite, changing settings in the BIOS, whatever that might be, and the lists of suggestions just went on and on.

Knowing that my tech skills were not up to many, or even any of these solutions I sensibly decided against even trying, but eventually I found the following simple solution:

To Enable SpellChecker on StarOffice 8:
1. Get "DicOOo wizard" from http://ftp.services.openoffice.org/pub/

2. Enable macros in Tools -> Options -> StarOffice Security -> Macro Security...
3. Open .sxw file and download SpellCheckers (and Hyphenators and Thesauruses).
4. Restart StarOffice.
5. RESULT!!!

I hope it works well for you too :-)

The original post with this solution can be found here: http://forum.eeeuser.com/viewtopic.php?id=40100 – Many Thanks!

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

My BlackBerry Bold Geek Un-Boxing!

I know that many of you will have already seen this but for completeness I am adding it to my Blog! Watch out for future installments ...

To Blog or not to Blog, that is the question...

As a member of an Internet startup company I am constantly monitoring the ways of the World Wide Web. What is new? What is undergoing resurgence? How are people using technology? What new uses have they found for existing technologies... etc. etc. etc.

Generally speaking I want to know what people are doing, why, when and how!

Blogging has been around since the early 1990's and although I have often looked at peoples blogs, it has usually been specifically as a detailed resource to answer some all consuming question I have just Googled, however until recently I had not 'subscribed' to the concept of blogging, or any specific blog.

Reading someone else's diary has somehow never really appealed, I mean 'Adrian Mole' and 'Are You There God It's Me Margaret' might have been educational to that naive young girl I once was, but Bridget Jones' cringe-worthy self obsessed drivel (loved by the world over it seems) was enough to put me off reading other people's diaries’ for life. This, combined with the horrific thought of someone else reading my own personal dairy has been deterrent enough to keep me from the blogging world... at least, until now that is!

But why do people blog? Sharing opinions, exchange of ideas, social contribution, love of writing, thrill, exposure, personal growth and development, money, or maybe just because everyone else is doing it!

Having thought about this and examined the blogs of a number of people, all with wildly differing profiles, it appears that there is generally a Primary and Secondary motivation for blogging. Often this is boils down to, (a) what you want your blog to offer others and (b) what you hope to get out of it in return.

And why do people read blogs? I suspect there are two main reasons, firstly for entertainment purposes and secondly as an information resource. If the subject matter is of interest to the reader and the content is relevant, informative and entertaining then they will become a loyal and dedicated audience.

My Blog:

My primary motivation and my objective is to share, exchange and validate my ideas, processes and experiences of working with a web startup company. I envisage that my blog will become a conversation with my readers, where I can receive feedback and insights, that are often difficult to obtain when working in the close-knit environment of a small business.

My secondary motivation is more selfish, it is my hope that blogging will help to raise my profile within the technology industry and open up new opportunities for myself and the startup company I am currently working with. My blog will present a record of my experiences and I hope it will help to spread the word about the current activity of our organization.

I intend to be clear on what my blog can offer my readers, but since this is my first time blogging I expect to learn some lessons along the way, that may mean that I need to review and refine the direction of my blog in order to ensure I accomplish my objectives.

I would like to try and keep the focus of the blog relatively narrow as I am aware that too much information can be overwhelming, however I also intend to allow the more relevant aspects of my personality and lifestyle to come across in the content of the blog... so consider yourself warned!

This could be FUN :-)