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Start-ups Need To Choose Their Name Wisely

A small business has limited resources to build a brand.

A key element to growing a brand is the brand itself.

Choose a company name that will help drive recognition.

A brief survey by this newsletter’s parent, Information Strategies, Inc. (ISI) of 2000 start-ups in the last quarter of 2010 and first quarter 2011 showed that 57% were either the name or initials of the founders.

Another 19% were a combination of the founder’s first or last names.

Only 27% gave a readily-understandable name that gives an inkling of what the company did or provided.

Choosing an initial name is a critical component of any start-up.

Frequently, little thought is put into naming the company or product title.

Simply adding words such as “healthcare,” “partners” or “associates” is not the solution.

Once launched, a small company usually doesn’t have the time, resources or inclination to change, even in the face of client perplexity.

“Once begun, it is very difficult to change the company’s name and brand, said ISI Chairperson JoAnn M. Laing.

“One quick fix iIf you already have a name that is non-descriptive, consider a short tag line (3-5 words) that goes under the company name, which is descriptive, compelling,” Laing adds.

She also points out that sometimes names come into conflict with already established entities.

Choosing a name that immediately informs potential buyers is a key element of any start-up, so it should be chosen carefully.

Here are some suggestions from Laing for evaluating names to be used:

  • Choose a name that will help sell the product or service.
  • Avoid using your name or initials.
  • If possible, keep your company name to eight or less characters and perhaps include a number.
  • Keep it short and to the point.
  • Try to have the website URL that clearly mimics the name.
  • Try not to limit it geographically. (The Internet has widened the marketing footprint.)
  • Do a search to avoid any conflicting enterprises. (Do this nationwide; and if you are going to operate internationally, make sure the name isn’t offensive in another language/culture.)
  • Trademark it as quickly as possible.
  • Try to avoid acronyms or letter combinations as they are often confusing on the Internet search platforms.
  • Make it easily pronounceable. (If you need to provide a phonetic version, it is wrong.)
  • Try to use words that are familiar to your target audience.

We often point to the name of a predecessor company, Clay-Webster Associates, as a clever approach.

Named for Daniel Webster and Henry Clay, it was “vaguely familiar” to many potential consulting clients.  Many thought the company was older than it was because they had “heard of it before.”

Above all, be comfortable with the name and learn to live with it a long time.



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P.O. Box 315, Ridgefield, NJ 07657