Lean Branding in Business Naming (Part 3 of 3)

lean branding

So far in our series on Lean Startups, we’ve provided an overview to Eric Ries’ renowned approach and discussed how you can apply it to lean branding your company. Today, we’re going to take a closer look at using Lean specifically when selecting and applying a brand name.

Many entrepreneurs envision that selecting a brand name can be the ‘lightbulb moment’ to bring an entire brand together. While it’s not untrue, that’s certainly a lot of pressure to put on yourself. That pressure can lead some entrepreneurs to a mountain of stress, as they fret about the time it’ll take to find a name, the number of people that should weigh in, and the fear of a better idea coming along later.

But leaving your brand name to some abstract date in the future can be a challenge too. Many entrepreneurs will tell you, it’s hard to start working on your company without that name. No name means – at the most basic level possible – no title on a whiteboard or document. How can you tell the world what you’re about if there’s no name to help you express it?

The good news? Lean branding can help you get over the hurdle of choosing a business name.

Lean vs. Cheap
When people hear the word ‘Lean’, they often substitute in the word ‘cheap’. But that’s definitely not the case. Eric Ries, founder of The Lean Startup, says it’s actually about “being less wasteful and still doing things that are big.” Lean branding means being smarter about how you work, being mindful about your time, and being open to resources that can help you accomplish both.

As with other aspects of Lean methodology, it’s about getting your brand out there as quickly as possible, so you can test how it’s resonating with customers. Remember, just like with applying Lean to product or platform testing, it probably won’t be perfect right off the hop. But you can use Lean to put a message out there, test it, and refine it until it clicks.

Choose Less Choices
As mentioned, many business leaders quickly became fatigued at the concept of choosing a business name. Have you ever stood in front of the drink coolers at a gas station, paralyzed with which beverage to pick? In both cases – a choice as simple as a drink or as complex as a brand name – you’re experiencing decision fatigue – a well-documented phenomenon (check out this New York Times article on it) that suggests our brains quickly become overtaxed when faced with too many choices. If you want to streamline the brand name selection process, save time and stress by introducing ways to reduce the number of viable options. Only bring names to the table that have a real shot at being ‘the one’. If you’re wondering what sort of ‘elimination qualifications’ you should have in place, here are a few suggestions:

–        Legally defensible

–        Not confused with your top competitors

–        Elimination or inclusion of specific keywords

–        Domain name availability

That last one is particularly important. Having a matching domain name for your business is more critical than ever, but a large portion of the most straightforward domains have already been snapped up. Fortunately, many domain names aren’t actually in use, and the owners may be willing to part with them.

Getting Started
When you’re considering brand names (and their associated domains), here are four tips to get you on the right path:

1)     Work Backwards

In the past, you may have brainstormed names then checked each one to see if it was available. With Lean branding, you’ll want to start with a list of names that are available and have already been identified as ‘good names’ by trusted brand experts. All BrandBucket names are carefully vetted before being added to our site. You can also conduct keyword searches to help you easily track down names that are in line with what you want your brand to stand for.

2)     Decide and Execute

If you’re purchasing a domain name from an existing owner, don’t get caught up in haggling. If the owner isn’t willing to let you buy it at a set price from the get go, you’re likely wasting your time trying to negotiate with them.

3)     Be Satisfied

Just about everyone has a ‘one that got away’ story related to branding. Don’t dwell on a name you loved but couldn’t get. Instead, make sure you feel good about the name you’ve gone with and work to build a compelling story around it.

4)     Embrace Change

Remember, Lean in general is all about the feedback loop. By putting your brand out there, you’ll be able to quickly see if your brand name choice was the right one. If it’s not, don’t despair. Good domain names are assets that can retain or grow their value. Hang onto it – a name that didn’t work for you may work for someone else. And in the meantime, don’t fret about starting over. Remember, the earlier in your business lifecycle you revisit things like brand name, the easier those changes will be accepted by your customers.

Remember, Lean branding isn’t about shortcuts. Or savings. Or settling! It’s about being smart, streamlined, and satisfied. And most of all, it’s about starting.

Read our full series on being a lean startup.