Business Name Mistake #1

Kawasaki Jet Ski

I started a post a while ago planning to discuss naming your business with a thought of making suggestions about things I think work well and some that just don’t.  That post is still in draft status but one thought I want to tackle now.

One of the biggest mistakes a small business owner can make when naming their business is to name it after the category.  For example, a plumber calls his or her company “The Plumbers” or “The Plumbing Company.”  The temptation to do this is because the business owner believes that every time someone talks about their category they are saying the business name.  Unfortunately that’s not how this works.  There you are, excited because someone says to their partner “Better call the plumbers.”  Ah ha, they just said your name!  Wrong!  In fact what is happening is the consumer just said the generic name of an entire category.  Having this type of name actually hurts more than it helps.  We’ll get to that thought later.

In the ecology of big business, one of the fundamental rules of marketing is that the number one business in a category can advertise the category, and they will get more business.  Think personal water craft (PWC) for example.  This is a category with a small number of large competitors.  One of the pioneers in this category, Kawasaki, is the maker of the Jet Ski.  Many people use the brand name to refer to any product in the category.  Kawasaki benefits from this.

A key point to keep in mind here is that the category is named after a branded product.  This reality does not apply to service businesses like plumbing, roofing, painting, and moving companies.  These are categories with a large number of small competitors.  The category name already exists and has been in use by consumers for many years.  If you now name your company after the category you basically have no name.  I maintain that you are actually behind the competitors with better names.  People could be talking about your business and the person they are talking to doesn’t know of your business and think their friend is actually talking about everybody (the category) and not you.

This caution against naming your business in this way is actually more important today than ever before.  People no longer look for services in a yellow directory they search online.  If people search your business name they end up with a category search with everyone in the category ranked perhaps higher than you.  Another concern is when a person sees search results with just the category name there might be a reluctance to click because they feel it will just take them to one of the listing sites.  Resist the urge to name your business after the category.  Using your personal name is better, and in future I will have another post on other ideas with respect to business names.


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