This article was originally published on Geek Estate Blog:
Creating a great name for your company can be difficult. For start-ups and technology companies in fast-changing environments, it can be hard to find a stable moniker that represents what your company is today, and will still be appropriate years down the road.
As someone who thinks business school first, technology second, I’m going to give some advice that may ruffle a few feathers. This what you’d hear if you asked your potential paying business customers what to name your company, instead of your inner circle:
Stop creating sophomoric pseudo-words with zero product relevance to represent your business. Why? Because we have to decide if we want to do business with you.
I know that there are umpteen examples of strange names for successful companies, but bear with me for a moment. If your company is selling bouncy houses, sunglasses, or cell phone decorations to consumers, feel free to make up a stupid name for your business. Consumers will probably forgive you.
If, on the other hand, you’re running a company in which you’d like to sell services on an ongoing basis to business professionals, act like you understand business. When you call to introduce yourself and your services to myself or my team, do it in a way that makes you sound like you’re worthy of our ongoing relationship. In short, B2C has a lot more leeway than B2B. There are two businesses involved in this equation, and you should keep that thought top-of-mind.
Need convincing? I receive a slew of daily communications from companies hoping to garner my team’s business (read: monthly service fees). My tolerance level for these pitches is minimal. If it doesn’t hook me in the first 20 seconds, it’s probably getting deleted, or I’m hanging up. That may sound cold, but I, like many professionals, know that this mindset makes me more productive. This is my time, and as soon as you let me realize you’re wasting it, our conversation is done.
So, when you introduce yourself as the representative from Zumper, Qazzoo, Reesio, or any other inanely-created cluster-company-name, my tolerance level for your pitch has just been cut in half. Fair or not, you’ve now created a much higher barrier to garnering my attention. My first impression is that you don’t take business seriously. It’s a game for you. Start-ups and tech are really a lot of fun for you, and in six months you’ll be off in another country creating Twerkzig.
It took me months of seeing anecdotes about a company called Zurple before I finally investigated what they were doing. I now think their product is pretty amazing. Still, I had ignored them for quite some time, merely on the fact that their name sounded like a taffy factory. I wouldn’t even consider them as a serious option when online discussions turned to lead generation opportunities, until I made a personal connection with one of their people over a different discussion topic.
You could easily point out the successes of companies like Zillow with its strange moniker. I won’t argue that many companies with strange names are successful. At the same time, Rich and Lloyd were respected Microsoft executives first before they started Zillow, and also had Expedia under their belts (whose name actually had a connection to the service’s primary benefit). Credibility for their company was built-in. They’re also a company whose popularity was driven by consumer traffic far before it became a business services revenue driver.
For those that are still trying to build their first big success, the point in naming your company is not that you couldn’t be successful with a ridiculous name. It’s that you might just be successful in spite of it. Even worse, you might have been more successful, in a shorter time frame, if you had just used the English dictionary when naming it.
In the meantime, companies like DoorSteps, Market Leader, and WalkScore give us potential partners that we’re not embarrassed to tell our associates we’re doing business with. We can even be a bit flexible with slightly-amalgamated words in company names like Compstak (“stacking” multiple rent comparables) and Agentfolio (agent-to-client portfolio of activity). These names at least give us an idea of what these companies do, and sound like they might actually know what a business plan is. In real estate, this is ultimately important. Our world is unceasingly chaotic, and the ability to present oneself as a solid, responsible, reliable business partner is a huge boon for a business that wants to stand out from the cacophony of vendors calling for our attention.
In the end, if you’re going to do something truly amazing, you’ll probably be successful long-term no matter what you name your company. If you’re an entrepreneur, though, you should be acutely aware that your new company is very likely to struggle for some time. If your goal is to sell to other businesses, creating any extra barriers to making connections with professionals in your desired business community is simply detrimental to your long-term goals.
So, if you still want to name your company Xapjiggle, go ahead. You may very well succeed. Just don’t be surprised when my colleagues don’t answer your emails. It’s a self-inflicted wound, and one that is borne out of ego. If you’ve go the chops to overcome your funhouse company name, more power to you. For those that prefer a smoother road to new business customers, when choosing your business’s name, take the advice of a wise man: “You stay classy, San Diego.”