How Should I Present Myself? – By Picking the Right Name For Your Business

Your business needs a name. And that name should work from a marketing standpoint.

The main objective to keep in mind is this: Your business name should convey information about your business. If it doesn’t convey anything, it’s essentially useless-unless you’re Google and have gobs of money to spend teaching people a new word.

Naming a company is difficult when you’re just starting out or making a transition. Your business will change and evolve as you find your market and learn more about the needs of that market. If you choose a name at the very beginning, it may not reflect what you actually end up doing.

Your business name must have room for growth, and should, ideally, be able to transform and grow as your business grows, too.

So, if possible, start with something that is more general than specific, and consider it temporary. It might make sense to start with your name as the business name. That, at least, is less likely to change.

The bottom line is this: Take your time. Don’t rush into making a decision about your company name. If necessary, in the interim, use a simple business card with your personal name and a list of services you’re offering. As you interact with people, especially with clients, it will become clearer what you’re doing and what you should call your business.

You probably have lots of cute and clever ideas for a business name. But those are probably from your own point of view and not that of your clients. For example, a client recently had a consultation to discuss the naming of his business and his logo. As a designer, he was very focused on which logo looked better, but he had not given much thought to the name he’d chosen: John Smith Digital Graphics.

At networking events, he was dismayed to discover that no one understood what digital graphics meant. Many people thought he offered pre-press services (which he doesn’t). When asked what tangible product his clients get as a result of working with him, he said, “They get a web site that is usable.”

Oh, so he’s a web site designer. Why didn’t he just say that?

Partially because he doesn’t want to say what everyone else says. He wants to be different. But this is neither the time nor the place to be different. Because if you present yourself using unclear words that confuse your prospects, they’ll never turn into clients.

Should my name be my business name, too?

You may not realize it, but your name is more than just your name. It’s also a valuable marketing tool at your disposal. So how should you use it?

One of your marketing objectives is to have a little share of your prospects’ minds so that when a need arises, your name comes readily to them. If you’ve been working for any length of time, there is undoubtedly a reputation that precedes you-people who know you or know of you, stories people can tell about you-for better or worse. If that’s the case, you can capitalize on the reputation, or “brand recognition,” you’ve already built for yourself by including your name in the name of your business or company.

On the other hand, if no one has ever heard of you, calling your firm Betty Smith and Associates will convey no information at all to a prospect who sees or hears it-so that doesn’t work as a marketing tool.

Keep in mind that, sometimes, besides your name, the name of your business will be the only thing your prospects see-on a business card, on your nametag, on a list of attendees at a meeting-and it should therefore reflect the focus of the work that you do, since you won’t always be available to elaborate. In fact, your company name should be so clear that it speaks for itself.

So while Smith & Associates may have name recognition, it conveys no information about the kind of services offered, much less a specialty. It could just as easily be a law firm as a marketing firm, and any prospect who saw only Smith & Associates would have no clue, which means a lost opportunity for business.

Smith Communications is little bit better because it is more descriptive but still general enough to encompass many services and client needs (it could include services such as graphic design, writing, public relations, marketing, almost anything). So this could be a good candidate for a temporary name.

But Smith Copywriting or Smith Design-or, even better, Smith Direct Mail Copywriting or Smith Web Design-is even more descriptive, so prospects needing these specific services would immediately know they’d found what they were looking for.

Business Naming Dos and Don’ts

· Do think long-term. When choosing a business name, choose something you can live with for three to five years. As your business evolves, you will see whether or how you need to change your name. Don’t change it just because you get bored, though, because you’ll lose all the brand equity you’ve built into that name.

· Don’t get too fancy or creative with your name, especially if your market is on the conservative side, because your clients won’t understand what you do. The name should be easy to pronounce and to remember, not esoteric or obscure. Do make sure the name of your business rolls easily off the tongue in two to three syllables. You don’t want a long, unpronounceable name that people will avoid saying. And make sure it is easy to spell, because that will make it easier to find in search engines and on the Internet. If prospects misspell your web address, they may never find you-but they may find your competition.

· Do consider where you’ll land in alphabetical listings. If you can use one of the early letters in the alphabet, do so.

· Do make sure the name you select has only positive associations. For example, Accurate Bookkeeping Services not only has positive associations, but it also would be near the top of an alphabetical listing. Joyous Media has positive associations, but it doesn’t communicate what the business is.

· Don’t choose something that has a personal or private meaning. Many people also use their geographic locations in their business names, which is good if the market would appreciate a local vendor. But sometimes it only has a personal meaning, like Mountain View Graphics or 408 Group (because the street address is 408).

· Do create a name that reflects a need your market has. For example, you can guess the specialty of a company called ReachWomen. When clients who need to reach women hear that name, they’ll respond immediately because the name reflects their need. Or how about Cross It Off Your List, an organizing and relocation company in New York City? Think about what your prospects need, and how that need can be finessed into a business name.

· Do make sure the name of your business rolls easily off the tongue in two to three syllables. You don’t want a long, unpronounceable name that people will avoid saying. And make sure it is easy to spell, because that will make it easier to find in search engines and on the Internet. If prospects misspell your web address, they may never find you-but they may find your competition.

Take your time thinking about this and getting feedback from other people. Your company name is an important choice.