What’s in a name? Quite a bit if you are starting a business. From cute to clumsy, serious to inane, business names can range from the ridiculous to the sublime. Perhaps starved for opportunities to be creative, some entrepreneurs seem to have the market cornered on how to blunder into what may be the single most important aspect of marketing genius: the name of the business.
It never ceases to amaze me how people arrive at the names for their businesses. Many business people approach me after they have worked with their lawyers and accountants to set up the business, perhaps going the extra mile to incorporate and sometimes having also taken it upon themselves to design their own logo before realizing that it takes a little more talent to create a brand than some amateurish attempt at graphic design. I then have the dubious honor of taking the pooled efforts of these three dedicated professionals some of whom must have slept through business marketing to work with a sometimes problematic name they have agreed upon and create a logo or trademark which addresses the desperate need for a striking, definitive and effective professional image for the duration of its existence.
Many people who start small businesses fail to consider that in the highly competitive arena of local marketing the name should quickly define what the business represents. This results in two problems: The name does not describe what the business offers; or, even if it does, it usually uses too many, or a misguided combination of words, to do so. And to make matters worse, this is usually after a false start with liberal spending to try to promote this new venture, based on an array of inept marketing decisions and the use of deficient marketing tools, a situation which makes it more difficult for me than starting from ground zero.
Case in point: I recently was contacted by a relatively new organization who said they needed a marketing plan. Upon closer analysis, I learned that they had been running an ad in the regional newspaper of their geographic service area on almost a daily basis without reaping any response. In searching their industry via Google, I could not find any mention of their group within the first ten pages of results. Only after searching the name of the gentleman who had contacted me was I able to locate his name on a web page about this organization’s board of directors. Literally entering through the back door, I was able to find a link to their home page which upon observation reminded me of the incompetent ad which had been running in the paper I read every day but like everyone else, had ignored as irrelevant. Understandably, with a nebulous business name, poorly designed logo, non-existent ad message and busy, unprofessional presentation, it’s sad and ironic that this non-profit group offering a valuable service to senior citizens had so miserably wasted their limited funds by trying to do everything themselves to save money. And not one of the members of this in-house marketing group were able to detect any problems with this effort, too close to the forest to see the trees.
Now, with resignation that a do-it-yourself strategy is not always the most cost-effective, the directors were surprisingly receptive to my suggestion that, while I expected resistance, perhaps they could consider a business name change at this early juncture in their organization’s history. Simultaneously, I also proposed that along with the marketing plan and name change, a new professional logo would logically follow in addition to a series of well-conceived ads they could use for promotion on a continual basis. As soon as their signed contract and project deposit arrives, I will undertake this challenge, since they now are anxious to proceed with sudden recognition and appreciation of their failed attempt at self-promotion.
From the perspective of my long career, I assure you that this is a common phenomenon particularly in situations where marketing is done by “committee,” which tragically describes the majority of my clients: law firms, healthcare and dental practices, non-profit organizations, industrial and pharmaceutical companies, etc. And it doesn’t matter whether the business is large or small, or whether it is basically run by a single professional or a group of directors. In most cases, business leaders frequently lack the vision or self-confidence to make marketing decisions on their own, so they engage the opinions of everyone and anyone who surrounds them, regardless of competence to judge the subject. This means that my directives come from such diverse sources as teenage sons of clients, wives of clients, secretaries, summer interns, random customers of clients, anonymous emailed comments from websites, and other miscel