Playing 20 Questions

While walking my dog in town yesterday, I strode up Main Street (Boonton, NJ) and, glancing right, saw that a new business was occupying one of the storefront retail spots.

I saw chairs. I saw desks. And a small sign, identifying the occupant as PMD.

That’s it. If I was a potential customer, I didn’t know it – nor was I going to stop and ask.

Now, I make so secret of the fact that I despise meaningless names, especially when they are a jumble of letters. But even if this company was open for just one week, or about to open next week, shouldn’t there be something to tell me what it is about?

PMD could mean Plaster Mask Designers. It could stand for Plutonium Manufacturers and Distributors. Or Paul, Mike, & Darryl. By itself, without any other explanation, it’s just a Potentially Meaningless Description.

Besides coming up with a real name, all it would take would be one eye-level sign: New Jersey’s Only Nutella Bakery (or whatever) – and now I know why you’re there. Without having to ask questions.

You have 3 seconds while I’m walking past your retail store. Or driving past your billboard. Or browsing by your tradeshow booth. Or visiting your website. And I don’t have time for 20 questions.

Give me the one message that matters, at eye-level, in 3 seconds. Your Purpose that Makes a Difference (PMD). Or you’ll just be another acronym in memory’s dustbin.

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Building your Small Business

So, you have (or are starting) a small business. Now the big challenges are: How do I do this right? and, How do I get noticed?

Here’s a collection of posts I’ve put up over time, based on my experience. Since they are scattered over various venues, I decided to pull them together. Maybe they’ll be of some help:

Getting started

- 10 Lessons Learned Starting a Business

- How I Became a Consultant

Determining your focus

- What’s the Point?

- I’m Pursuing Niche Domination

- Who Needs You?

Personal Branding

- You – Projected

- Personal Branding: What’s your Value-Add?

Naming

- Don’t Make a Name for Yourself

- Product: Winner. Name: Loser

Branding/Marketing your business

- Do you Pass the T-shirt Test?

- Laundry List Marketing

- How to be Unremarkable

Using social networking

- Do you Have an Opportunity Network?

- Getting Started with Social Networking

- The Strategic Serendipity of Social Media

- Feed People

Storytelling

- Telling the Company Story

- What’s in a Name?

Core principles

- Ask the Right Questions

The right people

- Picking Bad Apples

- Hiring for Virtue

Customer Service

- Eat Mor Chikin

- A Boy and his Legos

- Greetings…Done Right

The ultimate goal

- A cult following

Wanting to start your own business, but still working toward the goal? This is for you: Time. Talent. And Magic.

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Product: Winner. Name: Loser.

(fade in to Toshiba’s boardroom, where a product management meeting is taking place)

“Looks like we’ve just come up with the best netbook out there! Power, features, great user design – now all we have to do is name it and sell it!”

“I know! – let’s call it the PU-875-0988b!”

“Nah, I’ve always been inclined toward the UmmWillatriBBle 876. It just rolls off the tongue!”

“Wait – let’s call in our engineers! They always come up with the most imaginative names…”

NetbookAnd now, introducing the Toshiba NB205-N310. As reviewed here by the WSJ, a nice entry into the Netbook marketplace. Yet once again, horribly named by the What, me Worry? school of product branding. Sexy. Memorable. Gotta go out and tell all my friends about the NB205-N… NB2o M16… AB365… never mind.

When will these people learn???

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What’s in a Name?

Today, I received an unsolicited e-mail from a company looking to introduce themselves. Since this company at least was positioned somewhere near my sweet spot of interest, I went to the website to find out more.

And found a great way NOT to introduce yourself:

What’s in a name?
When we were thinking of what to call ourselves, we looked at both the approach to what we do and the context in which we do it. Not that earth shattering, but we think we came up with a great name. _______ covers both approach and context.

Lesson #1 – I don’t care what you think of your name, nor is the process by which you arrived at it of any significance. I’m there to learn WIIF Me. Taking these intro sentences and saying, “we…ourselves…we…we…we…we…we…” all with a note of self-congratulation, doesn’t inform me about what you do and why I should be engaged.

When you introduce your company, immediately tell me what the value is – what you can do for me. You have maybe 10 seconds to make your first impression, so give me one powerful sound bite that addresses a real business need. Save the historical explanations for a footnote. Because what’s in your name doesn’t address my pain.

Five in the Morning 010609

Let’s talk creativity and branding today (mostly). One of the benefits of having an overly-full RSS Reader is that there is a constant tidal wave of great stuff to look at, and be inspired by. Such as…

Hijacking other people’s billboards with thought balloons. Reminds me of the birds that put their eggs in other birds nest. This is quite brilliant actually – pointed out to us by those Plaid folks.

A picture is worth 90% of the words. Or all of them. Great “iceberg” example from Brand Curve, and en even more stunning execution from the Ad Goodness blog.

This Montreal logo, brought to our attention by the fine folks at the Brand New blog, raises a constant nagging question in my mind. Really – does anybody but the in-the-bubble creative ad agency types ever really make all these connections about what the logo means?? I say that the vast majority of normal people can in no way discern the “intent” of most of these logos.What do you think? And, you also need to consider (says uber-designer David Airey) the cost of rebranding, with a tangible UK example. (oh – and you might also like this Brand New “Best and Worst of 2008” post about logos).

David Polinchock brings us a link to 50 strangely wonderful buildings, if creative architecture is where you itch. Pretty awesome stuff.

Who doesn’t like creative photography? See how this couple teamed up with a photographer to make some pretty cool engagement photos. From A Cup of Jo blog.

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(Image credit)

Five in the Morning 102108

Is new media marketing becoming “mainstreamed”? Check out what Paul Chaney has to say.

Re-branding…fish…with new names. Guess I hadn’t thought of that one. From the NameWire blog.

How can social media help with customer loyalty? Becky Carroll over at Customers Rock! begins a brief series this week, with quickie videos (at this link – a video from Jim Kukral). Anything Becky produces is worth your attention.

Why do we blog? Here’s what Darren Rowse (@problogger) found out when he asked his readers.

Ann Handley has Nine Questions for Guy Kawasaki. Read the Q&A here.

PLUS: Only Ann Handley could pull this off. From her blog A n n a r c h y: A Toast to Cancer.

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There’s a Bumble in the Jumble

The announcement just came out that a new iPhone competitor, the G1 (using Google’s Android software), is about to be unleashed on the world. And this will be a coming-out party of sorts, not only for this branch of Google, but also for a contract phone manufacturer trying to make a name for itself.

Too bad they have such a memorable “name”. HTC. Blecch.

Why do companies do this to themselves? Why use obscure acronyms that simply blend into the background, and that stand out about as much as a single seed in a birdfeeder?

Effective marketing means, in part, providing a hook into the minds, memories, and imaginations of customers. And jumbles of letters and numbers are utterly self-defeating.

Just for fun, I scanned yesterday’s Wall Street Journal to gather some company/brand names that are designed to be forgotten:

CNG (Compressed Natural Gas)

CME Group (trading exchange)

CSC (technology resources)

TMI (executive recruting)

ELS (educational services)

If you’ve managed, through longevity and market penetration, to create a brand around an acronym (IBM, GM, A&P, etc.) that’s one thing. But if you want to stand out and be memorable, what is going to stick more in people’s minds – a well-crafted name, or a jumble? If you were investing, would you more easily remember a name like Fidelity (a word with actual, relevant meaning), or something like “ABX Resources”?

Companies and products should not be named by non-marketers and engineers. If I’m buying a LCD projector, I should not have to knot my tongue over a name like Panasonic PT-DW10000U. It’s a bumble to market a jumble, and a needless barrier to success.

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