Tips for winning the B2B company or product “name game.”

Welcome my guest Steven Moody, who has some excellent advice to share on company and product naming.
As I explored starting and building a company, I became acutely aware of the opportunities around choosing a name for it. I noticed five different ways to go about it:

  1. Name + type of business (“Smith’s Accounting”)
  2. The product strategy (“Clothing World”)
  3. Unused brand (“Salesforce”)
  4. A completely new word (“Digg”)
  5. Unique Selling Proposition (USP) (“Fast Web Analytics”)

Looking at these options, #1 seems to be very common with small business owners; for many, putting their name “up in lights” is a bigger motivation than creating a thriving business. The question, though, is, “So what – who are you?”

The product strategy is more common with retailers: create a name that aligns you with a tribe, while emphasizing your size. If you build a Skirt Land, the thinking goes, every consumer of skirts will want to visit. This can apply to B2B companies, too, with names like Netgear, a provider of networking hardware.

The unused brand strategy is also a good one., for example, suggests a lot about the B2B company before you see their website. Are they for sales forces? Do they augment or even replace your sales force? Either of these assumptions is consistent with their brand, so they do well.

The downside to the unused brand strategy is the cost of online real estate. While was probably a fairly inexpensive domain, today, getting a word like this will require significantly more money, due to the speculation around domain names and the commonly accepted wisdom to target a properly spelled, short domain.

In response to the unused brand strategy, many web 2.0 companies began purposely misspelling words or creating new words. Flickr and Digg, for example, created value in a bargain location. This is also great if the new word reflects your tribe: Flickr evokes pictures, Digg evokes “digging” through the Web, and “digging” things you like. Although trendy, these names suffer if they don’t have the right sound.

What if your business is more than just a website? Arguably, the best naming strategy is to emphasize a unique selling proposition (#5).

This USP approach to naming has some immediate benefits. First, it requires less branding because the name evokes your brand. Second, it may be possible to register the domain name without paying thousands of dollars. Although many think a long name can hurt you, proves this strategy can work. Finally, your business name will be scalable and sellable – Smith’s Accounting will be more difficult to sell if Smith isn’t continuing with the company.

Bottom line: When brainstorming company or product names, it’s important to consider the greatest value to your customer and ensure the name is relevant to this value. If your greatest value is in your personal service, your name could be sufficient. If your value is something else, figure out what that is and weave it into your name in such a way that it creates a story. If your primary marketing will be online, finding a new word may be an effective method, as the cost to purchase the name will be lower, but don’t rule out longer names if your audience is other businesses.

Susan’s comment:
From a marketing standpoint, the right name can make a big difference. The name + type, product strategy or USP approach can all simplify B2B marketing messages because the product or company name communicates a lot all by itself.

Steven Moody is the founder of a Citizenship Application service, and writes regularly on his Marketing Technology blog.


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