Is choosing a name for your business that important? Will one name bring in more business than another? Is a quirky name better than just using your name for the business? What about standing out above the competition? If anyone has ideas or thoughts on choosing a name, please discuss them.
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor G:
Your business name may be the first thing a customer experiences, perhaps long before meeting you. It serves as the foundation of your business and should be solid, as it supports your marketing. It is also the thing least likely to change about your business. Ask yourself what impressions customers will get from hearing it. Will they understand what you do? How big you are? Pick a name that leaves room for growth. XYZ Woodworking rather than XYZ Custom Shutters. If you are well known and have a good reputation, you can use your own name; otherwise, try to pick one that people will remember. Pick a name that will be the same as your website and register it even if you donít plan a website just yet. Also Ė pick a name thatís easy to say and easy to spell. Youíll be saying it often and donít want to trip your tongue.
Whatever you choose to name it, the public has to see that name more than any others. Yard signs, vehicle lettering, continued ads, ads on restaurant menus, football schedules, etc. Appear to be everywhere all the time and folks will think you're busy, busy, busy. If you're busy, you must be good... It also helps keep the cheapie shoppers away because folks assume you're a full-blown, legit shop and therefore higher than Tom's Cabinet Shop. As a general rule - nothing is 100% in selling.
Typically, there are three ways to name a company. The first and most obvious is to name it for the founder/owner. It is the easiest, requires the least thought, and typically does the least for you. Tough to build any sort of brand identity around JimBob's Really Spiffy Cabinets.
The second is to name the company after the product or service. Still an easy choice, but (again) not especially effective. AAA Cabinets and Millwork will put up high in the yellow pages, but isn't going to stick in someone's mind for long.
The final method is the best one, and the hardest. It's coming up with a conceptual name for the business that is memorable, unique and which doesn't limit what you can do in 5 years when you outgrow what you're doing now. (If you're going to do custom millwork or furniture, you don't want the word "cabinet" in the name.)
Several things can make doing that easier. First, think about how you can turn the name into something graphic. For example, The Great Oak Craftsmen or The Sequoia Studio both lend themselves to a tree graphic. Those are both unlikely to be confused with someone else in your area, too, which is the value of a unique name. And both begin to be much more memorable than those of most of your competitors.
Second, recognize that building brand identity (what marketers call brand equity) builds the value of your business without tying it solely to you. If you've aspirations to build a business that you can actually sell when you're ready for whatever's next, the greater the brand equity, the more valuable the business and the more likely it is that you can sell it for more than the value of tools and inventory. If the name Great Oak Craftsmen (and the nifty Great Oak logo/symbol inside the drawers and doors of each of your finished products/projects) carries a real cache' in your area (as opposed to the same quality of product from JimBob who was forgotten 3 years after the delivery/installation), it will translate into continuing referrals and queries for you, a preference for your "branded" work (as opposed to JimBob's high quality but nameless work) and a market presence ("share of mind" in marketing speak) that has real value.
Third, don't be fearful of something unusual. Avoid the terms "Quality" and "Discount" like the plague. Research shows that neither is memorable, both are very widely used, and customers confuse the two. Seriously. Customers who got bids from Quality Cabinets often can't remember whether that was the company name, or whether it was Discount Cabinets. Avoid the term "Wood" if you can, too, for the same reason.
Fourth, recognize that you want to strike an emotional chord with your customers if you can. Good marketers are good story-tellers. And that's true even if the story is just implied by the name. If the name resonates with you, if it gives you a sense of warmth, authenticity, substance, or flair, you're on the right track.
If you want to be a craftsman and make a decent living, don't be afraid to put your name on your business or your work. It shows you have pride and confidence in who and what you are and do.
If you want to make more than a decent living, then get in the trenches with the marketing MBAs and set up a production shop. The risks are higher, investors/banks/lease companies to pay, pricey high tech machinery, payroll taxes, but so are the rewards.
There is a place in between the two scenarios I described. That's where I and many others are. The mid-sized shops. The shops with less than 5-10 employees. Many have their family name, town name, or area name tied to their business somehow. Some really big
companies do, too! The phonebook proves it. Examples are Dow Jones, Procter & Gamble, Ford, Olds, Edison, Bell, Dupont.
It is the quality of your product that provides longevity to your business. It is your best advertising. Some folks can market and sell water to a drowning man, but they can only do it once. He's not going to come back for another drink.:)
It can also be a bad thing, because, as mentioned earlier, it could inhibit the future liquidity of your enterprise. Although there are plenty of last-name companies who have done okay for themselves. Carrier, Reznor, Ford, Oldsmobile are a few that come to mind. Overall I think the benefits outweigh the negatives. Unless your name is Lipshitz. I hope I haven't offended any Lipshitzes with this comment.
If you assume (as I did) that you're going to do first quality work and that your competitor will also do the same (both of you producing work whose quality is at least high enough to meet or exceed what the customer can differentiate between), then the exercise is how do you convey those qualities about your firm that will draw a customer to call you rather than the other guy? A little homework will tell you.
Whatever your particular product, spend a few hours talking to people who fit the profile of your optimal customer. Ask them to describe the kind of firm that would appeal to them. And listen for the adjectives. That will give you clues not only about what to name the company, but also the messages that you need to send when talking to potential customers or trying to attract them through whatever advertising or sales promotion you do.
One final thought: If you are going to name the company for yourself, then go whole hog and build the brand identity around yourself. Consider using a cartoon or caricature of yourself (arms crossed, smiling, leaning against the workbench kind of thing) as your logo. Focus attention on you. You're trying to build a preference not for good or great work, but for *your* work. When the value of your work is the standard against which others are measured (however your preferred customer market defines value), you're succeeding in building brand equity. That's clearly what contributor P has done.