Naming a Small Business

Naming your business seems like an easy task but don’t take this decision lightly, you will be living with this name for many years to come and believe it or not a business name can make or break a business.

Naming a business is the first and most critical piece of marketing for your new business. A well chosen name can aid marketing efforts by communicating the business purpose, creating a good image, and forming the first emotional connection with customers. A strong business name will help build a strong brand that customers recognize and trust.

The name of your business must reflect the structure under which you will operate your new business – you will need to determine if you want to operate the business as a sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company or corporation. You can find the implications of each structure by visiting the website of you local small business administration office.

A good place to start the naming process is by writing down the answers to the following questions:

1) How would you describe your target audience?

2) What problems will you business solve for this audience?

3) What are 5 benefits that your business will offer to your customers?

4) What are the names of 4 competitors in your local area?

5) What characteristics will differentiate your business from these competitors?

Use these prompts to put together a list of 4-5 potential business names. Make combinations of words that you listed for characteristics, benefits, problems etc but avoid making the name too long as a shorter name of 2-4 words will be more easily remembered by customers.

Next test the names you have against the following criteria for a winning business name:

1) Is the name meaningful? Does it communicate the services provided by your business?

2) Is it easy to understand and pronounce? Easy pronunciation is important as you will want people to be able to easily pass on your business information to other via word of mouth.

3) Can the name grow with your business? It’s important that your name isn’t restricted to a certain city or location – if in the future you choose to franchise or expand you will want to retain your existing business name.

4) Will the name work in print? Experiment with different fonts and logos with the business name to make sure you are happy with the way it will be written.

5) Does it spark interest and express a desirable image?

6) Is it authentic to you and your vision for the business?

Once your new business name has passed these tests the next step is to ensure that the name is not being used by another business. You will want to ensure that your name is unique and avoid infringment on the trademarks and rights of other businesses.

The first place to check if any trademarked names are similar is at the US patent and trademark office. At their website you can search the database to check if you name has been registered by another business. Make sure there isn’t a very similar or identical name in use by another business.

Another place to check is on the internet. Many businesses will register a domain name that is the same as their business name. Using a search engine such as Yahoo.com or Google.com check that there are not any businesses that have websites with similar names or that you can find any businesses with similar names.

Finally take a look at your local yellow pages to make sure that there are no local businesses operating under similar names that have not registered trademarks or are not listed on the internet.

After you have finished these checks you can be confident that you can use your new name without problems.

A good final test of the name is to run it by family and friends and solicit their comments. Ask them how they feel about the name and if the name gives them a clear description of the services that you will be providing in your new business.

Once you are happy with the name you are ready to start preparing marketing materials such as business cards, fliers, and brochures. Look out for my next article on marketing for small business at my blog – Working with Pets.

How Does Real Estate Compare to Other Investments

With all the changes in the economy over the last 3-4 years and the values of real estate plummeting, it’s only natural to ask whether investing in real estate is still better or as good as other investments like stocks or even investing in your own or another’s small business. Let’s revisit some of the risks and returns and see if investing in real estate really makes sense.

From a standpoint of returns, this is still a major reason why people continue to looks towards real property investments. Real estate has and will most likely continue to generate the best returns on your money over the long term. And, unlike stocks and a business, real estate has the unique ability to produce rental income and even profits if run correctly. As always, selecting the best investment properties will always yield the highest returns so managing your properties as best you can and keeping them in areas that you really feel will appreciate over the long term is the best way to position your portfolio.

As with any investment, where there are rewards there will inevitably be risks. As we’ve seen over the past few years, property values will not always appreciate over the long run (and you can look at history to confirm this.) Property values are not normally as volatile as the stock market so you will not see huge 80-90% swings in value as you could see in the stock market. However, you need to be prepared for the long haul and build your portfolio of properties in areas that you’ve studied and can be as certain as possible will hold up better than others as time goes on. Doing your homework on location is by far one of the most important things you can do in order to avoid some of the huge risks that come with investing so make sure you know your target area well.

One of the biggest arguments against real estate investing has been that it’s not a very liquid investment, meaning the speed and ease at which you can sell your investment and recoup your money. I would say that not being very liquid is actually a plus for real estate investments as it keeps your mind focused on building long term value and not buying and selling at a frenzied pace much like the stock market does. Because you’re not tracking values on a daily basis and because it takes a lot of time, money and energy to sell an investment property, you’re much more likely to keep a property in your portfolio for the long term which is where you will build a lot of your wealth.

In addition there are many more tax advantages to owning real estate investments than there are the traditional stock portfolio (which I’ll go into more detail in future articles) which adds icing onto the cake. If you can afford the high capital investment it requires to get into the game, real estate is still the place to be for many more years to come. So, start studying your local market now and take that first step to making real estate a part of your portfolio for years to come.

Business Card Benefits

I probably don’t need to tell you that business cards are an incredibly powerful way of getting your name in people’s minds.

There are several benefits to having your own business card the first being that it gives you a way to leave your impression on potential customers.

Are business cards for everyone? The simple answer: Yes. The more complicated answer: No.

Any business, at any level of complexity, benefits from business cards. But high-volume businesses typically rely on business cards at higher levels of the business–finding new suppliers, prospective employees, and other business contacts–than on the basic promotional level.

For a small business (with a much flatter organizational model, usually), business cards take on a much more vital role. This holds doubly true for skilled trades or any business that works on a client model, rather than a customer model. Customer-based businesses (from supermarkets to software concerns) benefit the most from having a large body of customers to place orders or come into the store, and business cards, for all their advantages, don’t do this as effectively as other forms of advertising. But for skilled trades and other client businesses–for example, graphic designers, efficiency consultants, and even in-home housecleaning services–rely less on a large body of customers than on a few local, trusted clients who’ll patronize the business, form relationships with the business, and provide references to friends and business contacts to allow the business to grow. Basically, if your business provides a service that a larger business needs, or that can be performed effectively for only a few local clients, business cards are essential for business success.

The other business model that benefits the most from business cards is Internet-based business.

Remember, when people leave your website, the majority of the time they forget you, your site and anything to do with you forever.

Having a business card keeps you, your business and your products & services in the mind of your prospects and if they ever have an associate ask about a service like yours, chances are they will recommend you.

Make sure you have cards handy at all times so you can share them with people who would like to have them.