How To Pick The Perfect Name For Your Startup

I’m often asked by young entrepreneurs whether it’s important to find a strong name for a new startup.

The name is important, but the process to come up with a unique name can easily distract you. For example, it took us nearly 50 hours to come up with “crowdSPRING” – time that would have been better spent focusing on developing the core business.

If you don’t have time too invest in coming up with a great name for your new company, you can leverage crowdSPRING’s community of more than 87,000 creatives to come up with your company name or a product name.

Whether you work on your own to come up with a name or leverage crowdSPRING’s community, let me offer 10 useful tips that should guide this process:

1. What do you want your company name to convey?

Your company name is an important part of your company’s identity. The name will appear on your business cards, letterhead, website, promotional materials, products, and pretty much everywhere in print to identify your company or your company’s products and/or services.

Service oriented businesses should consider whether it will be easy for their prospective customers to recognize what services the business provides, based on the name of the company (example: Friendly Dog Walkers or Bright Accounting). This is especially important early in the life of your new company, when your brand is not well established and people don’t know who you or your company are.

Businesses located in rural areas and serving rural communities may want to project a smaller, hometown feel with their name. However, businesses planning to focus on bigger markets or bigger customers might want to project a larger, more corporate image with their name.

2. Brainstorm to identify name possibilities.

Start by thinking about words that describe your industry or the products/services you plan to offer. Think about words that describe your competitors and words that describe the differences between your products and services and those of your competitors. Consider too words that describe the benefits of using your products or services. Finally, think about words (and phrases) that evoke the feelings you want your customers to feel when they see your company name.

Tip: while brainstorming, look up Greek and Latin translations of your words – you might find new ideas from doing that exercise. Look at foreign words too (we spent some time with a Swahili dictionary looking for strong names).

3. Short, simple, and easy to write and remember is best (and consider acronyms of the name).

Obscure business names are often difficult to write and even more difficult to remember. This is a problem because for most startups and small businesses, word-of-mouth advertising is the most successful form of marketing. If your customers can’t remember your name or can’t spell it for others, it will make it difficult for them to help promote your business.

Think about the names of companies you admire. They typically have a few things in common: their names are short, simple, easy to write and easy to remember. (Examples: Apple, Google, Virgin, Southwest).

While it might be tempting (some startups think it’s cool to do), avoid using a “K” in place of a “Q” or a “Ph” in place of an “F” when coming up with your company name. Such letter substitutions makes spelling the name very difficult and will only cause confusion.

Also, don’t forget to consider the acronym of your company name (an acronym is composed of the first letter of each word in a phrase). You might not use an acronym, but your customers might refer to your business by an acronym. A name such as Apple Support Services can result in an unfavorable acronym – ASS.

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Worry About What You Say More Than What Others Say About You

he blogosphere and print media are full of articles about corporations leveraging the Internet, including social networks such as MySpace, Facebook and Twitter (among others), to provide customer service and to manage their online reputations. I recently wrote about “personal brands” and whether people are brands.

We spend far too much time worrying about what others say and write about us and not nearly enough time thinking about what we ourselves say and write. For some, a blog article or post on Twitter is solely a sound-bite to generate controversy and “followers”, with little regard for the impact our words might have on others.

We all become frustrated and angry at one time or another. And there are times when we want nothing more than to demonstrate our mastery of the written word by leaving insulting and negative comments online.

You don’t improve your reputation by lowering the reputation of others. When you direct negative comments or insults to someone, your words impact both their reputation and yours.

Don’t fall prey to the temptation. Follow the examples set by those who understand that “a reputation for a thousand years may depend upon the conduct of a single moment.” [Ernest Bramah – an English author]. Think twice – think three times – before you put your own reputation at risk by attacking someone else.

“Personal Brand” – An Exercise In Linguistic Olympics?

People find reasons to disagree about many things. Sometimes, what appear to be substantive disagreements turn out to be little more than smoke and mirrors.

Take for example the subject of “personal brand”. David Armano’s new “Brand U.0 Blog focuses on personal brands. Chris Brogan recently listed 10 articles from his blog about personal branding. And shortly thereafter, Jason Bender wrote a short article in his blog titled “People Aren’t Brands. Ever”. Jason Bender disagreed with Armano and Brogan – and argued that “people ain’t brands.”

Here’s the irony. They are all saying the same thing. A personal brand is your reputation. Pure and simple. There’s a great simplicity to the term reputation – everyone knows what that word means. There’s less simplicity to what is a brand – that’s been the domain of agencies and marketing specialists.

But let’s not fool ourselves. Reputation has always been important. The Internet didn’t create the notion of “personal brand”. Web 2.0 didn’t create the notion of “personal brand.” Gary Vaynerchuk didn’t create the notion of personal brand (although he is demonstrating firsthand how one can build a great reputation online). There is no new “movement” of people as brands.

Reputation has always been important.

And that’s why the debate about “personal brands” is purely linguistic olympics – it’s a debate about something that’s not really in dispute. There’s no real disagreement about what it takes to build a good reputation. Among other things, it takes time, effort, and the sharing of insights and ideas. This is what it takes to build a brand. And marketing-speak doesn’t shortcut that process. Nike didn’t become a “brand” overnight. Neither did Apple, Google, or any of the top brands in the world. Similarly, the people whom many admire online – Chris Brogan, Gary Vaynerchuk, Jason Fried, Guy Kawasaki, David Armano (among others) – they gained their reputation after investing time, effort and the sharing of insights and ideas. Over a lengthy period of time.

And that’s why the disagreement about personal branding is a lot of smoke without much substance. I wanted to accept Chris Brogan’s statement that a “strong personal brand is a mix of reputation, trust, attention and execution.” But at the end of the day, I don’t buy it. When you have a strong reputation, you have built trust. When you have a strong reputation, you command attention. When you have a strong reputation, you can execute better because of that reputation. If we want to call this a brand – fine – but we can call it an elephant and it’ll still be the same thing – reputation.

Those people who have built a strong reputation are trusted by people who listen to them, command attention, and can execute better. How did they do this? Time. Effort. Sharing.

There’s no secret formula. There’s no secret sauce. It’s always been about reputation. Reputation has always been important.