A logical extension to the issue of what problem we solve and who is our ideal customer is the question of “Who are we?”
That is, not only what do we say we do, but how do others perceive what we do?
If you are a one product or one service firm, your identity should closely parallel what you supply. That is, your identity should clearly convey information about the product or service you sell. If you have a range of products and services, you need to find a way of grouping them under some umbrella name so that there is a direct relationship between the firm’s name and the products or services which it sells.
Get daily business news.
The latest stories, funding information, and expert advice. Free to sign up.
Why the name of the firm matters
Many would argue that the firm’s name is akin to a brand and that the name itself can be used like a brand to convey information about the firm. While there is no question that this can work for established companies with well positioned products or services, it is hard to imagine that this could work for an emerging firm.
So for example; there is little question as to the identity of the following; IBM, HP, BP, 3M, Shell, GE, AIG and so on.
But try doing that with an early stage firm; AC, GH, BDG, PC. I think “lost in translation” would apply.
You need to put yourself into the position of the customer and reflect on the meaning of your firm’s name.
What do the following convey?
- Adamson Bros
- G. H. Salmon Pty Ltd
- Ray Technologies
- Aftercare Precision Services.
- Foster & Foster.
Basically – complete confusion. They could be anything, although you would guess some are professional services and others are trade related or manufacturing. The more information we can convey in the firm name, the easier it is for customers to relate to what you sell.
Your name is conveying information, whether you recognise that or not. A poorly chosen name can simply confuse the customer. If they neglect to follow up on an enquiry because they assumed you did something else, you have lost an opportunity to sell.
Your tag line
We don’t have a lot of freedom with the company name as it generally needs to be short. But we can convey a lot with the tag line.
The tag line is often more critical than the firm name as you have more words to work with and a lot of discretion as to what you say. It should convey enough information for the customer to recognise that you are in the general area within which they are seeking a solution. So for example:
- Specialists in sport injury litigation.
- Plumbing supplies.
- High speed detection cameras for security applications.
- Web development for professional services firms.
The more definitive you make the tag line, the more likely customers will identify you with their need. This is also where you can easily identify both the ideal customer and the solution you provide.
- Executive recruitment services for the banking sector.
- Pumps for the mining industry.
- Project management for large, complex, offshore drilling platforms.
- Cleaning products and equipment for the commercial cleaning sector.
You need to put yourself into the shoes of the customer where their search has generated an endless list of possible suppliers. What message are you conveying with your name and tagline? Remember, the customer is trying to reduce the risk of selecting the wrong vendor, attempting to reduce their evaluation time and wanting to connect to a firm which will understand their problems.
As a customer, I really don’t want to have an endless round of discussions explaining my problem. What I really want to do is to talk to someone who says “I understand exactly what the problem is and you have come to the experts.” But you have to be selected in the first place to even have the chance of having that conversation. If you are passed over because you don’t seem to have the right solution or if others are in the queue ahead of you because they have conveyed the right message, then you have missed a sale opportunity.
Tom McKaskill is a successful global serial entrepreneur, educator and author who is a world acknowledged authority on exit strategies and the former Richard Pratt Professor of Entrepreneurship, Australian Graduate School of Entrepreneurship, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia. A series of free eBooks for entrepreneurs and angel and VC investors can be found at his site here.