Today’s topic is again a continuation of how to market a business from scratch. What are the step by step by step processes and tactics that you should be executing in the order that I’m going through?
Let us go back to what we have discussed so far:
First Step: COMPETITIVE RESEARCH
Second Step: BUILDING CUSTOMER PERSONAS AND AVATARS
Third Step (and today’s topic): NAMING YOUR BUSINESS
So, a business name is important when you market your business. In particular, naming your business and then naming any other kind of tertiary things that go around with the business. There’s a lot of different schools of thought that you can look at when it comes to naming.
When I really analyze a situation, there’s one of a couple of things. There are often the types of people that need a name before they can do anything. And the reason that I prefer not to start with naming your business is that you really want to start to get in the mind of your customer before you just start to slap some things on the wall. I also want you to kind of see some of the things that your competitors are doing so that you can not just blend in and ended up kind of being among the noise.
The downside of just slapping a name is that, I firmly believe that you underthink the value of a name and you just don’t think of a couple of things, in particular, the legal ramifications and then you will have problems in the future.
So if I look at naming, and in particular, again, we’re staying with the example of you’re starting a preschool or a childcare center from scratch. Most of these centers have very similar names—ABC Academy, Kids Academy, ABC Learning, ABC Childcare, and I’m obviously simplifying things a bit, but they’re often isn’t a huge variance among names. You can look at that as one of two ways—you could look at “okay, great! Well, anything we’re going to do is going to be fine and we’ll kind of blend in.” Or, the way that I really want you to look at it is we need to find something that is going to stand out.
DIFFERENT WAYS TO EXECUTE THIS STRATEGY
1. GENERIC PROCESS — Pick something and kind of slap it up that they like.
This is pretty much what most people do, and usually it might have some kind of significance. Maybe it has your first name. So, maybe I would call it Michael’s Preschool, for example. Or perhaps, maybe I would name it the names of my kids. That usually is where most people kind of think and a lot of these names that I’ve seen for childcare centers have the name of the owner somewhere. Or, it’s something that’s just pretty generic.
2. STRUCTURED PROCESS – An intense process that may take two years to complete
This is the kind of process that I would like to recommend and discuss further in this episode.
There are steps to this kind of process:
Schedule a structured brainstorming session
When you have this kind of session, you want to do this with any stakeholders and or a couple of moms or people that fit your customer avatar and customer persona. If you could get five to seven people or maybe 10—pretty much a fair amount of people in the room, then you’re going to execute a structured brainstorm. You’re going to give everyone a bunch of post-it notes with some markers. Basically, what you will need them to do is write down any name—as many as they can think of that would be good for our childcare center. And in a structured brainstorm, nothing is off the table—no idea is a bad idea. And literally just in that 10 minutes with a fair amount of people in the room again, five to seven is usually the best number. You’re just going to let them throw everything on those sticky notes—quantity over quality is the key. So you want them slapping as many things as they possibly can.
Group together those names which are similar
The next step in the brainstorming process to have all these people put their sticky notes up, one at a time. And then as people go, you’re gonna start to find some similarities. So maybe someone said, “Kids Learning Center”, then someone else said, “Kiddie Learning Center” and someone else said Children’s Learning Center. You’re going to start to put things that are similar to different categories.
Throw in some random words
You might say, “All right, think of toys. I want you to throw any names up that kind of come to mind when you think of the word toys.” Words like summer, play, outside, family, love, or religion may come up. You’re going to throw down some random phrases that are in alignment with the type of childcare center that you’re envisioning of building.
Now, in the childcare space, there’s lots of different types of centers.
- Montessori (Non-Montessori)
- Pre-K (Non-Pre-K)
- Infants Childcare (which is not the norm, really)
- Childcare centers that cater all the way up to grade school
- Religion-focused (Faith-based Preschool)
However, I don’t like to pigeonhole you initially, with a structured brainstorm. I want you to have as many ideas as you possibly can at first, but then I want you to use the words based on the type of center that you would be creating.
So the chances are pretty high that if you’re a Montessori School, you’re going to need the word Montessori somewhere in your name. Or perhaps, if you’re going to be a faith-based childcare center, that you need something, either in the name, or the phrasing and words should kind of rotate that you’re a Christian Learning Center, for example.
You start off broad, and then you start to throw some words that relate back to the type of center or things that are going to be at your center. And you’re just continuing to get as many names as you can, then going through the process of people one at a time putting up their sticky notes. Most probably, after about 90 minutes or so, you would have already come up with some pretty decent names. What I want you to do is to then take those names, transfer them over to Google Sheets, for example. I don’t want you to rank them or prioritize them, or anything like that. I want you to take all of them transferred over.
Leverage on an online naming tool
There’s a lot of them—naming force or squad help, for example. I mean, there are a dozen different ones that you could look at using. You don’t need to use more than one, but what I want you to do is to put some of the words that you had up there that started to resonate. Let’s say if you found a lot of names that had ABC in them and then, you could say “I really am starting to like that trend and would love some names here.”
You want to make sure that you provide details about the type of center that you’re looking at starting. So let the names that come back, or at least correlate. You could then create a little contest to help you sort the names out.
The beautiful thing with this contest is that you’re going to get hundreds and hundreds of names. I just did a couple of contests, two of which I had 1600 names. And you’ll want to make sure that each day that you’re going through and you’re eliminating some that just don’t make any sense or aren’t resonating with because you’re never going to be able to analyze thousands of names. It just isn’t realistic.
So what I have done with that process is that I’ll give multiple people access to go through and eliminate and you want to start to categorize them. So one of the tools that I use is Squad Help in particular. It allows me to say things like “love it”, “like it”, “on the right track”, “no thank you” or something like that.
I’ll have multiple people doing that, and I’m not looking to eliminate anything unless it’s really bad. But of those 1500 names, I eliminated well over 1200 that just didn’t fit. But then I whittle the list down to 15 that were “love it” and 50 that I liked. And then the rest was kind just okay.
So what I want you to do is to then take that list and add it to the initial list that you did when you had your structured brainstorm. From there, you’re going to continue to go through the same exercise and continue to kind of whittle things down. I like to whittle it down to the place where you’ve got give or take 20 to 30 names on the high side—if you can get it down to 10 that would be ideal. But I’m going to tell you why you’re going to want 20 to 30 initially.
Check for legality or trademark
The biggest thing that business owners miss and a lot of these preschools miss is, they don’t check the name from a legality or trademark standpoint. I am huge when it comes to trademarking names. I will not name a business something that I cannot trademark. And I could probably count on one hand how many of the childcare centers that I’ve worked with that actually have trademark their name? I can’t even think of any right now. I’m sure there are some but I can’t think of any.
So I like to look at the uspto.gov site and I’ll use that as a really quick check to see if the name is trademarked. I am in no way an attorney but I want to make sure that I can trademark my name. If the name is trademarked, I instantly eliminate it off my list. Because personally speaking, I refuse to name a company something that I can’t trademark. I want to be able to leverage that name wherever I want in the capacity that I want.
And maybe I’ll do another episode on trademarks and things like that—I mean that that’s a pretty lengthy conversation.
If you wanted to make it a little bit easier on you, you would leverage an intellectual property attorney and for a few hundred dollars, they’ll go through and they’ll just give you a quick yes or no. Do they believe you could secure a trademark—not an in-depth review but would they do a quick review of the names that you have? And that will then start to help you whittle it down to 10.
Conduct a focus group discussion
The final process then, would be to do some kind of focus group, typically doing some kind of email survey where people are voting. If you want it to be more structured and do a focus group in person and invest some more money, you surely can. You want to make sure that those personas are in the room based on the people that you identified. From there, you’ll whittle it down to a couple of names, probably two or three names. You then will send those two or three names to the trademark attorney to have them look at the names for some recommendation. They’d probably say, “Yes, I feel that all these names are not these two, you’ve got an 80% chance of being approved.” And for me, that is when I then pick the name.
So, to recap our structured brainstorming process:
- getting as many names as you can
- leverage a tool like squad helper a similar online naming tool
- whittle those names down
- have a trademark attorney that has a long list initially to help you whittle it down
- do focus groups or some kind of online survey to see which of the two or three names rise to the top
- have that trademark attorney do a more in-depth review of those two or three names and you’ll select based on that.
That is how you name a childcare center or any business that you’re starting. If you want to do it the right way.
3. HIRING A FULL-BLOWN NAMING AGENCY
The third one is where you really get intense. This is where you’re hiring a full-blown naming agency, where you’re doing lots of focus groups. It usually is a six-month process and the investment to name a preschool probably would be somewhere in the low side $10,000 and high side, probably $50,000 to $100,000.
Now, there’s a place for that and that probably is if you’re looking at franchising, for example, the future or if you’re planning on if you’re not just opening up one childcare center, you’re thinking of having a couple hundred, the name would be massively significant.
I’m not trying to downplay the name, but the name of your business isn’t going to be the reason that these families end up joining your center. It’s important, and it’s going to give you that brand recognition. But it’s not the only thing by any means. So I always recommend option B, which is the structured brainstorming process and that is the option that I have executed for every single new name that I have needed. And I literally have come up with three or four new names for other ventures in the past two weeks. So here’s how you execute this with largely the resources you have.
Get out there, make a change, and take some action.