Naming your business from the inside out

  • charlotte_petris.jpgCharlotte Petris of Timelio shares four tips for making your most important branding decision: naming your company

    Doing a Backrub search for the latest pair of Blue Ribbon sneakers may sound strange, but once upon a time, Google was called BackRub and Nike started life as Blue Ribbon Sports. Some of the world's most successful brands have gone through name iterations, sometimes more than one, to finally settle on a name that works from the inside out.

    Google changed its name and based it on 'googol', which means a large number-reflective of the large amount of information sorted and arranged by the ubiquitous search engine. Nike was named for the goddess of victory. Even newer companies like Paypal and Yahoo weren't always known by their famous monikers.

    Timelio's not a household name just yet, but naming a company is like naming a child: it has an impact. And like so many others, I didn't realise that until we went through a process that taught me your business name is probably your most important branding decision.

    Here are my four most important lessons:

    timelio_logo.jpg1. Choose a name that excites you

    When we were establishing our business, we were eager to get things moving and I was impatient to cross off 'business name' from the to-do list. So we went with the no-brainer option: InvoiceBid. It was simple and it reflected our service at the time, so we didn't analyse it any further.

    But when we went to market, we realised our brand, and mainly our name, wasn't reflecting the excitement we felt for our service: it lacked personality, it had no colour and, worst of all, it didn't communicate our belief or purpose. That's what I now know about branding - it helps you connect, and it all starts with a name.

    2. Tell a story

    Timelio is a marketplace with two very different target customers: investors and businesses. InvoiceBid was too literal and focused too much on the investor and not our business customers. Our primary aim is to make finance simple and timely for a business, and we wanted a name that reflected this. But we also wanted a name that resonated with who we are and what we want to be: easy, simple, supportive, empowering, transparent and friendly.

    If you think one word can't possibly tell a story, think of an evocative brand and it's almost certain that there is more to their name than face value. Even if that meaning has to be dug up, it's there!

    With that premise in mind, we used a good ol' brainstorm to think of the word, real or made-up, that would communicate our business and the people within it. We argued. We consulted. We rolled names off our tongue to see if we liked the sound. We even engaged the services of a comedian to help us think outside of the "finance box". In the end, we came up with Timelio. After all, time is money and money is time, and getting timely payments makes running a business so much easier.

    3. Be original

    One of the reasons we liked Timelio is that it's not a real word. Of course it's linked to a real word, but the irreverent aspect says something about who we are and helps us connect with customers. We're not officious or authoritative like a bank - we're fast, flexible and on the same level as the people we are dealing with.

    We had other 'safe' options, but with so many businesses out there in the world, differentiation (and being able to buy the domain name!) is key.

    4. Think about the future

    As your business grows, it becomes harder and harder to change your name. Not just from a marketing perspective, but it's a legal and logistic headache too. Choosing a name that locks you into one process, product, or service is something so many business owners do. The problem with that is the lack of flexibility.

    You only know your business as it stands right now, but you can rely on change to make itself known.

    Just look at the way Google has changed or how Nike has expanded. A growing business means new or different products or services that you may never even have thought about. As part of our naming journey, we realised that InvoiceBid locked us into one model, but Timelio allows us to grow.

    Nick Davis, Creative Director at The Marketing Eye comments:

    nick_davis.jpgNaming and renaming a business should certainly not be taken lightly and this is an excellent example of a properly considered approach. I loved that the Timelio team engaged a stand-up comic to help them come up with ideas - that's really thinking outside the box to think outside the box!

    To fall in love with a name is easy, but it's important to test it out on your target audience to see if it resonates with them too. Even a small sample of your potential customers will give you feedback, which may alter your initial perceptions. If you are planning to trade in International markets, then it is also advisable to translate the name into the regional language. There are plenty of very public examples of businesses that didn't do this and got it wrong.

    Once you have decided on your preferred name, you need to be rigorous and undertake exhaustive searching to ensure that the name is unique and there are no infringements. In fact, I recommend doing this at the shortlist stage so you don't waste time on something you will have to abandon in the end. Ultimately you should consult with a firm of solicitors that specialise in Intellectual Property (IP) law who will be able to protect your name in the form of a Trademark.

    Intellectual Property lawyers are kept very busy conducting extensive searches to ensure that there are no conflicting names, but there are a number of searches you can do for free using publicly available data. Here are a few:

    •   The Companies House register, which lists the names of limited companies and limited liability partnerships (LLPs)
    •   The Trade Marks Journal published by UK Intellectual Property Office (UK-IPO)
    •   Trade and telephone directories
    •   Membership directories for chambers of commerce or professional bodies.
    •   The internet, to see if a business has already registered an identical domain name

    Useful contacts

    Companies Registration Offices England, Northern Ireland and Wales
    www.companieshouse.gov.uk
    0870 333 3636

    UK Intellectual Property Office

    www.ipo.gov.uk
    08459 500 505

    Charlotte's blog first appeared on Inc.com and is reproduced with kind permission of Timelio

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