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!”.


marshall_law said...

Good stuff again honey - I think you're really getting in to this now! If I start my own business, I'm coming to ask you!

Birgit said...

Good article. Makes you wonder, though, how Google managed to grow so big.

Manoj Ranaweera said...

what's in a name? I believe phonefromhere.com is a superb brand. It probably limits it to what you are doing right now - but hey that's exactly what you need to get traction in the first place.

edocr stands for electronic document repository. Not bad for getting it right (in my opinion). Whilst edocr itself might not be clear as yours, it probably has lot more mileage. "r" was inspired by flickr.

My thinking at the time (and still the same today):

1. Brand must survive time
2. Must explain what it stands for and must be relevant
3. Must be catchy and bit of mystery about it
4. Something you can be proud of when it grows

CEO - edocr