I found the process of naming my business excruciatingly difficult. And it's not even the first time I have named a business. I named Eloquence Communication, though the process was hasty and ultimately I learned that was an ill-fitting name. I had a massage business many years ago which I struggled a bit to name (I named it Passages Bodywork) but it wasn't at all “excruciatingly difficult.” I got most of the way through starting up an online retail store back in 1996 and the name came quite easily to me, Romantic Interludes (no, it wasn't that kind of store, not exactly anyway – emphasis on the romantic.) I have helped clients with their business names – and helped create many taglines, too. I've even co-named three babies, quite successfully if I might say so. So, it would stand to reason that naming would come easily to me. I've had some practice.
Well, it didn't. Naming The Brazen Soul was the most angsty task I have had so far in my business.
I think there are a few reasons for this and I'm hoping that sharing them will help you in your process of naming your business – or anything really important to you, really.
- I'm an extreme perfectionist. This is not helpful. It is a hindrance and it gets in the way of many things. It's why I don't blog enough and why I avoid fashion (more on both of these in future posts, which I plan to do more regularly and less perfect.) I get overwhelmed with details and want to make no errors and it paralyzes me. I'm working on this, but it was in high state during the business naming process for me.
- I was afraid of what other people I respect would think. I love the word “brazen” – it totally captures the entrepreneurial life for me, and it's unusual enough to really make an impact. One of my favorite bloggers (actually my very favorite blogger at the moment) is Penelope Trunk. She wrote the book Brazen Careerist and now has a company by the same name. I was simply afraid that it would annoy Penelope Trunk that I used “Brazen” in my business name. This is silly, of course, because Penelope doesn't know me at all, doesn't even know I exist, I'm quite sure. And even if she did, we have totally different markets and we do different things – she does career stuff for generation Y and I do entrepreneurial stuff, mostly with generation X people (with some of the leading edge of generation Y mixed in there.) And anyway, it's just one word and words can be shared in abundance. I'm sharing this possibly ridiculous-sounding struggle with you because maybe you have some kind of thought process going on in your mind – some story you have been telling yourself that is getting in your way – that you can obliterate by taking a different lens into it. For me it was about answering the question, is this story I am telling about the word “brazen” really true? (Okay, it was also about having my business coach at the time laugh out loud at my concerns.) But the fact is, the story simply isn't true. It's just a story I created based on fear. It does matter what other people think – you want your target market to think, “hey, cool, that's me!” – but the “afraid of what others would think” is a good indicator that you need a story-check.
- I was afraid of being wrong. Now, this sounds like it fits into both one and two – and it also sounds like I am one big giant scaredy cat. Let's address both of those issues. First, while I am a perfectionist, I am not always this afraid of being wrong. There are a few of you reading this who are smiling knowing that I can sometimes get a bit caught in knowing I'm right, actually. (You are smiling, aren't you?) But I lost confidence after realizing how “off” I was with the last business name I chose and the process of rebranding is expensive and time-consuming, so I really really didn't want to be wrong again. I also knew I wanted a business name that was powerful, exciting and a bit unexpected, which is riskier. So, being wrong felt even more possible. And this takes us to the sort-of overlap with point number two, being one big scaredy cat. I got some negative feedback from people I really respect about the The Brazen Soul business name – some really direct and some more subtle, like “what's wrong with your current business name?” – and I took that as a sign that I might have picked the wrong business name. Thank goodness, again, for my business/marketing coach who gently yet firmly reminded me that I had researched my market, that I loved this new name and that many of my real clients had enthusiastically affirmed their resonance with this new name.
- And finally, but I think most hugely importantly (yep – HUGELY IMPORTANTLY, I'm yelling here…), I had not completely described to myself my target market. I mean, described like “It's Saturday morning, where are they going/what are they doing…” and “What books are on their bookshelf?” I had done some general analysis and description around ages, socio-economic status, gender… the basics. But until you know the intricacies of your target markets lives (in all of its variation as well as similarity), you can't confidently call out to them and know they will recognize your call. This is tricky for those of us who avoid stereotyping. We know that people are individuals and should be seen and recognized as such. How can I guess what a whole market of people would do on Saturday morning? I hear you on this – I identify with the struggle. And yet, you can – to a useful degree. And I'll write more about that later because it's too long for this post. My point simply is this: in order to name your business powerfully, you must know in intimate detail the desires, pain, nuances and language of your target market. Then get it on paper and marry it. Your business name will arrive like the first child of your union (labor included, of course.)
I finally did name my business, as you can see, and I am quite pleased with the result. I love the juxtaposition of Brazen and Soul. The name totally describes the clients I have helped most powerfully, the ones who are most thrilled with our work together: passionate, driven, powerful, soul-inspired, courageous, edge-pushing.
As I look back on the naming struggle, I really get it where my opportunities for growth are for my next difficult naming process. I also know that when my next business naming client comes along I will so know how to facilitate their process even more powerfully than before. (Hooray for personal and professional growth!)
And since blog posts aren't supposed to have this many “I” statements, let me switch around those four learnings into suggestions for your use.
The next time you are struggling to name a business, product, concept, idea… whatever, try this:
- Let go of perfection. It's your enemy.
- Check your story. It may simply not be true – or most certainly it is not the only truth. Search for other truths that serve you better.
- Trust yourself. Do your homework, then trust your expertise, process, intuition.
- Study the hell out of your very best clients – or your dream client.
I have never been so jazzed about my work. I love my new business name and the benefits are already kicking in. My ideas are flowing more freely and to my great thrill, clients are coming more freely, too! Even now, even near the holidays, even in “this economy.”
Go courageously into your naming process. Allow yourself to choose a name that you love, that feels great to you as well as calls out to your market. And please, share your stories about the process with me. I'd love to know what things worked for you, what you learned – and see what names you came up with as a result.
Thank you, Randi Son of Robert, for this image.