I’ve been helping several clients answer the question: what is branding and how do I decide on a company brand or domain name especially online? Good domain names can be hard to find, do I use my own name, help?!Â Many factors come into play in choosing a name or establishing a brand –
- Your industry/area of expertise
- how established your business is already
- do you want to sell it later
- and what is the central “IT”, the core take away you want your customers to get about your brand.
Branding is a balance of several factors.Â How your audience, or current and potential customers, perceive your brand, and what their POV brings to the table is a factor that is becoming more important. Many American big-name brands became household names in the days when there were three TV channels that most of America watched.Â Newer household brand names have taken advantage of the new playing field, finding creative ways to reach the audience through the internet and new social media tools.
But how does a small business owner, entrepreneur, or solopreneur go about leveraging the power of the internet? Guy Kawasaki referenced this in aÂ recent teleseminar for his new book Reality Check, that it is easier now that ever for the little guy. The open source, Web 2.0 tools can make you look as good as the businesses with millions behind them.Â I add that, the small business owner might be able to do it better, as he is actually closer to his customer.Â The small business can change course and integrate (or discard) new tools faster than the fortune 500’s can.
Back toÂ the practicalities of selecting a name.Â If you are established, of course I hope you registered your company name long ago.Â But sometimes a catch phrase or buzz word can work as well, as long as you can own, or live up to it.Â A colleague and client of mine, John Reddish, a business consultant for over 30 years named his company name is Advent Management International, Ltd many years ago; his website is www.GetResults.com; his new business succession blog to help small business owners craft exit strategies and sell their companies is www.thesuccessionplanner.com.Â In search engines – the name John Reddish leads you to each of his online “outposts.” For social media sites, his website name, which he builds into his tag line on everything he does, will work much better than his company name.Â It intrigues you – may make you think, “yes, I want toÂ Get Results…I think I’ll check him out.” But using his own name, which has some internet cache as he has authored many articles and been quoted in on-line magazines, would also have been a good choice as well.
One advantage for entrepreneurs and solopreneurs, who are creating an new website on blogging platforms like WordPress, your own name can become your brand. One way it can help you, is that when people search for you by name, after meeting you for example, it gives you automatic “Google juice,” that is having a keyword or search term in a website name does still help with search engine rankings; although it is not the complete picture.Â It would also become a part of every blog page title, which also helps with rankings as well.Â However, you can also set up your blog to include your name in every page title by working with the Permalinks structure of post titles. The down side of using your own name, is unless you are well known, your name is an unknown. To a prospective client or customer, I gives no clues to your business niche, or identity.Â It doesn’t help me pick you out from the crowd, unless someone else introduced me to you.
Two other difficulties with using your name as your brand or online identity include:
1) It may already be taken; I waited several years before a domain name re-seller released the .com version of my own name back into the internet names pool. I had to buy it through an auction, but was lucky and it only cost $10.
2) It will take time and work to become known for your name and niche.Â It will take time either way, but perhaps more time with just your name, unless you are well-known in your industry, are an author, or the like.
3) If your business lends itself to resale, you should seriously consider not using your name as your website or as your social media handle, for somewhat obvious reasons. If you sell your company, the online branding becomes a part of the business valuation.Â Your social media accounts can become part of the deal…if you’ve set them up that way.Â This may be controversial, as the social media cityscape is built mainly on the strength of relationships.Â I know of one blogger who was recently approached to purchase his domain, site and following for a hamdsome sum.Â He turned it down.Â It would have seriously hurt his credibility, and he would have had to start building all over again, not from scratch, but from much further down the lane than where his is today.
For my website, blog and new company name, I went with a dynamic phrase that was still available:Â WebSavvyPR.com. This proves that there are still some good website names out there; it did take me a while to come up with a combination that I felt worked for me.Â I also registered my own name, but have yet to set it up; at this point I will probably do a redirect, or set up a basic page with contact info, which will link to this site.Â Also I felt that in the social networking world of LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and with the hundreds of new media tools, a dynamic name would give me a hook.Â I watched myself read a LinkedIn comment by someone who used their tagline/company name as their handle and I was intrigued enough to click through to her website.Â I remembered that lesson. This is not always accepted practice on all sites, you have to learn the culture of each site or be branded a newbie, or a spammer.Â My social media handle is CathyWebSavvyPR.Â I’m trying to capture the best of both worlds, and keep my brand from feeling like a faceless company.Â Although recently I have begun to use my brand without my first name, lest someone else grab it on various sites.
What do you think? Company name, brand/identity/hook, or personal name as brand. There is no perfect solution; and there are pros and cons on all sides of the question.
My post here was sparked by one Chris Brogan wrote today and got me thinking about it in a new way, and I’m headed there to add a comment to his site on one aspect of the question – Customer POV and branding.Â I hope this post helps you find the sweet spot for creating your on-line brand identy.
You can find me on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/cathylarkin
on Twitter at http://twitter.com/CathyWebSavvyPR (no caps needed, it just makes it easier to read)
or e-mail me at Cathy [dot] Larkin [at] WebSavvyPR [Dot] Com ( to proect against spam) or use my comment form.