“How do I find a domain name for my business?” As a domain investor, webmaster, entrepreneur or product manager, you’ve either heard, wondered or asked this question. Entrepreneurs often want to know the coolest tools available to help them with the naming challenge. They want a really cool name for their business, their products and their services – that elusive Great Name.
There are some innovative tools, but unfortunately, there is no tool available that will automagically unmask the Great Name. The mechanics of obtaining an ideal name is secondary to understanding your business strategy. (That’s the big take-away from this post.)
So when asked this question by the business owner or marketing director, here are the high-level process steps that I outline:
In the first grade, we used a series of books named, “Think & Do.” Simple, yet profound. Think first, then do. This blog entry is kept at this high level throughout. The process isn’t difficult, it’s just rarely used. Those who choose to approach modeling their business communications in this way will generally be graced with success.
When naming your business, product or service, the first step is:
Step #1: Think – Understand Your Plan
Business Plan. Work with your co-founder, mentor, client and/ or startup consultant to help you translate your scribbles from your coffee-stained paper napkin into a business plan. Writing your plan down is important, mostly for you if you’re the business owner. Research the opportunity. Get your facts straight. Settle in on your strategy. The business plan provides one excellent source from which you can communicate your vision for the company. It can be one page or 20, but keep it fresh and up-to-date. Review it weekly to see how it’s changing. Once you document your strategy, identify the major steps needed to make it take shape.
Requirements Gathering. Is there really a need for what you want to do? Is there a problem that begs to be solved? Work closely with your prospects to get their input. They are also a good source of ideas for product definition and prioritization. As you get early adopters using your products or services, they can and will fill in the feature set. Always provide them with an avenue to give you feedback. This is much better than the free advice you might get from a blog!
Some time later… after you have operationalized your plan, after you have the infrastructure in place to deal with all your new clients, and after you have thoroughly examined your business and market, complete the second step.
Step #2: Do – Optimize and Communicate Your Brand
Your Brand. The business name, product name and service name are all key ways to establish your credibility. They are key components of your brand, but need to correlate with all of the other important brand elements. I use the word “brand” in the largest sense, to mean the promise that you’re making to your market.
Optimal Messaging. You have the opportunity to communicate your optimal messages with every customer interaction. That may take the form of customer service interactions, advertising, product quality and reliability, standardization, graphic styles, logos, tag lines, responsiveness to queries – as well as the Great Name you choose to represent your business.
Brand Elements All Make a Promise. We’re focusing here on just the naming, but all of the brand elements should be considered as important parts of the mix. The brand elements need to work together. There is no sense in the business ower saying, “We do it all for you!” but her cashiers never greet their customers. This inconsistency is always noticed. The brand permeates everything that you think, do, say and produce, and needs to be consistent to be believable.
Multiple Skills Needed. There are a few distinct skills needed to name a service, product or business. Depending upon the size of your business, you may end up playing several of these roles yourself. However, always seek out advisors whom you trust to help you with each of these specialty areas. Two heads are often better than one.
First Things First. In our excitement about a naming a new business, the level of our irrational exuberancy can be measured by the amount of Whois lookups we’ve done prior to really thinking through the strategy and tactics of the business.
Sometimes I think it’s easier to just stumble upon that Great Name, rather than first defining the business and honing the messaging. That’s natural. But it’s wrong.
Whose Opinion Matters? If you’re daring enough, see what your prospects or clients suggest. In the product-management discipline, there is a well-known harsh saying: “Your opinion, although interesting, is irrelevant.” Base your thoughts, opinions and decisions on evidence rather than your gut feel. Keep track of your sources of input. Are you being inclusive of the client’s market?
Crowdsource. A slice of your actual market can provide the best feedback you can get. So crowdsource for the very best ideas! Communicate the business plan to your prospects and incent them to provide you with their input. Do focus groups. Do split tests. Use every trick you know, but at least consider basing your decisions on their feedback. There are few people in this world who know their needs better than the end user. If you’re one of them, you can stop reading now!
Misplaced Anxiety. Don’t worry about someone stealing your ideas. This will just hold you back, slow you down and deprive you of more great ideas. You’re operating at lightning speed because you’re wholly invested. It’s rare that someone will have your level of passion around your ideas. If you can execute better than them – and you can – you have little to worry about.
Business & Product Naming. If this is new to you, begin the process of product name selection with an experienced naming strategist and/ or product manager, who understands the inherent value and potential obstacles in your business and product name(s). Ideally, these persons have the expertise to keep you away from names that may have a marred history, or that may not translate well to segments of your global market.
Brandables? Research has shown that cute brandable names generally do not have the initial impact of owning a market segment with a generic keyword. Same goes for naming a business with your own personal name rather than a name made up of generic keywords. But, as with the metrics of fashion, one size doesn’t fit all. These are all tough choices. Use your advisory team. Get data based on evidence to verify what the market wants. Your market may want the brandable name.
You may be thinking, do I really need to do all this? If you’re asking me, the answer is, “Yes, it’s that important.”
Brainstorm. Consider a variety of names (not domains, yet) that characterize your business, products and/or services. No limits. Think big. Keep them on your list until there is evidence to scrap them.
Design. Involve a creative person or digital art director. They can assist you by giving you ideas about how to communicate these options visually. Often, this visual feedback will help you to narrow or enlarge your own vision.
Metrics. Test market your names. There is a whole science around evidence-based marketing. Research it. Use it. If you’ve got a hunch that someone may take a name the wrong way, challenge it with a market test. You, your client or their prospects will be using this name every day, so think about whether their existing corporate name, “Our Products Don’t Suck,” will be their best option when the receptionist answers the phone. Does it leave the best possible impression? I don’t know. Test it.
Intellectual Property Protection. Consult an intellectual property (IP) or trademark attorney to ensure that your name(s) do not infringe on another business’ IP – and that you’re on solid ground with your chosen name candidates.
Implement. If you’ve used all of the selection criteria mentioned, you should have a short list of names. Facilitate a meeting with the owner, company advisors, brand specialists, customers and prospects to discuss names for the company, as well as its products and services. Talk it out. Narrow the list to two or three per category. Entrust the final decision to the owner. They will be living with the name.
If done right, their chosen name(s) will work together to support their brand. Everything you and the company employees think, say and do will support the brand. Over time, this will become the promise made to your customer. You will solve a problem for them. You will add value to their existence. Your Great Name will help to establish your company as the leader in being able to right what is wrong or fix what is broken. It will also assure the customer that the company will do this all in a manner that is better than anyone else.
Finally, find the right domain. At this point you step back into the world you know. Select. Verify. Inquire. Negotiate. Educate the client. This part is easy – it’s what you do!
Your Thoughts? Let us know your experiences with name selection. If there are case studies that you’re willing to share, where you have experienced bumps in the road, let our community know. We can learn from you and explore your case together.
We’ll discuss available naming tools in a subsequent post.