What's In a Name? Is Yours Working for You?
By Chris King

During the past decade, I have noticed the prevalence of name changing, as I am sure you have also. Several of the organizations with which I am involved have chosen new and different names that they feel represent them and their missions more descriptively.

Companies who were ready for a new start have changed names to reflect a new attitude, direction and/or focus. Some of these changes have made a positive difference, others have just caused confusion.

What we name ourselves, our businesses and/or the way we describe our services can make a huge impact. For example, I teach fitness classes and have discovered that the name of the class can determine how many people try it (of course, just like a business, once you attract them, you must make it so good they want to return). I started teaching a lower body callisthenic class in January which has turned into a huge success. Rather than naming it "Lower Body Workout," I feel that the name we chose - "Pain in the Butt" - has helped to attract the large number of participants. In this article, I am going to share some ideas about picking names and descriptive words that will help propel your career and business.

First of all decide what impression you want to have your name and/or the name of your company make. For example I know many independent professionals who use their own name followed by "and Associates." This sounds serious and a bit conservative to me. Law firms that in the past have listed many names of the various partners are now shortening their names. A good example is Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue which became Jones Day at the start of 2003. I chose the name "Creative Keys" for my company because I work in so many different creative areas it covers them. I like the word "Keys" because keys open doors and more, and because my initials are CK it seems easy for people to remember it. Although, I must admit that I sometimes get calls from people needing a set of keys to open a locked door.

When choosing a longer name, consider whether it would work as an acronym. People remember acronyms, especially if they are short and punchy. Our Ohio storytelling group goes by the name of O.O.P.S! which stands for the Ohio Order for the Preservation of Storytelling - a real mouthful. The fun part is that when I am giving a presentation or being introduced for any reason, I always have the emcee mention my involvement with the Ohio Order for the Preservation of Storytelling so that when I get up to the lectern, I say, "O.O.P.S!, that's another story." It is not only an attention getter, it is also easy to remember. Think of all of the easy acronyms: IBM, UPS, FedEx, P & G, MS, to name a few. I do a lot of work with community development corporations and their names are long, so acronyms fit the bill. The Cleveland Neighborhood Development Coalition is known as CNDC for example. Once you have picked a name with a reasonable, easy-to-remember acronym, you will need to repeat it everywhere until others become used to it - just like they will with any name that is heard often.

You may want to choose a descriptive name. Think of names like Land's End, Hard Rock Café, Holiday Inn, Guerilla Marketing, Convenience Stores, etc. My favorite marketing star is Robert Middleton, who calls himself an InfoGuru and his website, ActionPlan.com with Action Plan Marketing as his business description. I think that when we started purchasing domain names we were forced to describe our businesses and/or ourselves as succinctly and descriptively as possible. Of course, with the rush to get an effective domain name, many were forced into obtuse or convoluted choices, but it did make us think about names for a change. I have a friend who calls herself the Really Good Technology Writer. She uses it on her website, business card and when people meet her and ask her what she does, she doesn't hesitate to introduce herself as a "really good technology writer."

And, that takes us up to labels and names for what we do. I know a speaker who advises us to never, never use a label for our profession. Robert Middleton also feels that when someone asks us what we do, we can turn them off immediately by saying, "I am a lawyer, a consultant, a speaker, a doctor, a writer, and on and on." What happens is that most people have a pre-defined notion of what that label stands for and they don't ask anything else. Whereas, if you answer like Middleton does, "I help independent professionals who are struggling to attract more clients." Right away, we want to know how he does that - especially if we are an independent professional.

Other naming to consider for our business is the phrase or tag line that we use to describe us and what we do. "Pain in the Butt" has huge appeal (even though I am not particularly fond of the word "butt" it tells it like it is, and does bring a smile to most faces). Some phrases I have found on business cards and websites that are catchy and make me want to know more are: "Keeping you ahead of the competition," "Wasted time is wasted money," "Building the skills that build your reputation," "Connecting through story," "More than a Presentation … It's a Celebration," "Unleashing the promise of today's technology," and "We work with businesses to turn computer frustrations into solutions!" It takes a lot of consideration and effort to come up with an effective tag line, but once you find the right one, you can use it on your business card, website and any marketing material you create. As you are working on it, try various phrases on others to see their reactions. It won't take long to discover what works and what doesn't.

So, what's in a name? Lots! And what does your name, and/or tagline say about you? If it isn't doing the job you want and expect it to, it is time to consider a new one. Take your time - the name you pick is important to your future success. Send me your choices. I love getting FEEDBACK!

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