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How a Great Name Can Make Your Self-Employed Business a Success

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Just Because It’s Old, Doesn’t Mean It’s Unchangeable, Right?

What is a person to do in a situation like this: let’s say you just bought your family business from a member of the family — maybe it was your uncle, or maybe it was your father. And that business has been in your family for multiple generations, going along just fine.

But in your opinion, the business and the brand desperately need some updating, now that you’re at the helm. It’s a thought you’ve always kept as a secret. You’re betting that the rest of the family will be entirely resistant to change.

Now, why did I pick that product over all of the other ones? The name made all the difference…

But just because a name has been around a long time, that doesn’t mean it’s untouchable, does it?

The Value of a Smart Business Name

Let me share a little story. It seems there are always just a few little cleaning chores that my wife would like me to get done around the house, including cleaning the mildew off the deck after a few weeks or months of rain.

Never being one to procrastinate on such things and always happy to oblige 100%, I eventually trundled off to our local hardware store to find the right product to help me accomplish my important new goal.

I saw many products that promised to make my job easier, and I am sure all of them would have worked well to one extent or another. But which one did I choose? It was something called “30 Second Outdoor Cleaner.”

Now, did I really expect that this stuff would clean my deck in a mere 30 seconds? No, of course not. But given the exceptional name of the product, I did expect that it would be quick, easy, and effective.

And it was.

Two Reasons Why When It Comes to Business, It’s All in the Name

Now, why did I pick that product over all of the other ones? Two reasons. First, I had just seen a commercial for it and the clever name was in my brain, and two, when faced with the prospect of cleaning grimy mold off of our cedar deck, any product that promised to do so so easily got my vote.

The name made all the difference. As Renee Zellweger famously said in Jerry Maguire, “You had me at hello.”

That is the value of having a great name for your product or business.

Now, this doesn’t mean that a name that has been around for multiple generations is not valuable in and of itself, even if it is something as mundane as, say, “Smith & Sons” (or daughter as the case may be).

Indeed, a business that has been around that long has created a lot of goodwill, and that name is probably very valuable. It likely does the same thing that my mildew product did, namely, evoke a desired image in the mind of the consumer.

But if the name does not, if it is just a name, then you cannot overlook just how important getting the right name for your business or product is. Do it right, and people will remember you. Do it wrong and, well, they won’t. It is as simple as that.

Using Your Business or Product Name to Create a Mental Image

When you own a small business, creating an image in the mind of the customer is no easy feat. Given that one can find advertising almost everywhere these days, getting noticed above the din is tough.

But one way to do that is to have a memorable name for your business or product because that is the first thing people will learn about your business. The key is to:

  • Know your customers – what they want and need?
  • Know your business – what makes it unique?
  • Know your value proposition – what are you offering that will resonate?

When I was building this very website, my initial idea was to call it “The Self-Employment Center.” But my web team convinced me that that name sounded too stodgy, too much like “unemployment center.” They were right. We ended up calling it TheSelfEmployed, because we thought it was a far more distinctive and appropriate name.

Offering a name with the benefit in it is not the only choice, of course. Some businesses use  a strange name as a way to stand apart; Syzygy for example. Personally, I don’t like names like that, because they are hard to remember and really mean nothing to anyone but the owner.

Other folks like to be cute, like an optometrist with the name, “Eyes on the Prize.” But cute doesn’t pay the bills.

So what I am suggesting is that in this competitive landscape, if you have the opportunity, you should not forgo the chance to name your business or product with your brand promise in mind – Gentle Dental, Jiffy Lube, 30 Second Outdoor Cleaner.

People buy that.

 

What did you name your business and why? How has it worked out for you? Leave us a comment in the space below, and let us know.

About Steve Strauss

Senior small business columnist at USA TODAY and author of 15 books, including The Small Business Bible, Steve is your host here at TheSelfEmployed.com.