Name your startup the ‘Lean’ way
In today’s rapidly changing employment landscape, starting a new business or self-employment is an attractive option for millions of people. And a plain necessity for many more.
This has produced a global wave of ‘Lean’ startups – new businesses with limited resources and little funding.
Many will consciously be a part of the Lean Startup movement, and are flag-waving readers of Eric Ries’s insightful and motivational book on the subject. But the overwhelming majority are just regular people like you and me. They need to get their idea off the ground quickly and cost-effectively, and start earning some money. Most don’t even know they’re building a Lean startup at all.
Lean principles add a welcome dose of practical reality to the often unrealistic, head-in-the-clouds, lifestyle-driven buzz around entrepreneurship. And although the principles were devised with software and app developers in mind, they’ve since been adopted by businesses across all sectors.
Lean principles are common sense and straightforward:
- Take your basic idea and run with a ‘minimum viable product’; don’t wait for perfection before making a start
- Evolve your service/product in response to customer feedback (often called ‘validated learning’)
- Test new ideas, and measure everything
- Never stop iterating
The whole process is summarised in the term ‘Build-Measure-Learn’.
This approach replaces the conventional business plan (an irrelevance for most small businesses) with a simple methodology that takes out some of the inherent risk. Because, like it or not, starting a new company is a very uncertain business.
If applied diligently, Lean startup principles help to create a business that focuses on continuous improvement, listens to customers, and understands what works and how it makes its money. Which can’t be a bad combination.
From The Lean Startup to Lean Branding
The Lean Startup movement has rightly inspired a number of authors and experts to start applying Lean principles to specific business areas – like branding. Jeremiah Gardner and Brant Cooper’s The Lean Brand and Laura Busche’s Lean Branding are the most prominent in this development.
Just as Ries encouraged startups to think outside of the traditional business plan, exponents of Lean branding encourage entrepreneurs to question traditional branding routes and to adopt a more agile, discovery-based approach to brand development where learning, iteration and the ability to change direction, or ‘pivot’, are crucial.
From Lean Branding to Lean Naming
But how do you name a Lean startup? As one of the key characteristics of a Lean startup is its ability to pivot, this pretty much rules out literal or descriptive names. Names that describe what the business does today could paint that business into a corner. And, to stretch the analogy, it's not easy to pivot when you’re stuck in a corner.
Naming a company is tricky enough when you have a fixed view of what it is, who it’s for, and where you want to take it. Naming and branding a new business that you KNOW will change makes the challenge even tougher. At the same time, if you’re looking to build something with value, you can’t ignore the two primary pillars of effective branding:
DIFFERENTIATION from competitors, and ENGAGEMENT with customers.
…in other words you’re not just looking for a name, you need a brand name; a name that’s a key ingredient of your Lean brand.
Lean Naming – the third way
Traditionally there have been two approaches to naming a business:
- Do it yourself (obviously the most cost effective, but too often a difficult and disappointing process)
- Use a branding agency (great if you have the budget and the time)
But there is a ‘third way’ to name a company – buying a brandable business name. These are usually short, memorable names with the potential to become brand names and which, crucially, come with an available .com domain.
These brandable names vary in character; from traditional names which exude authority to quirky ‘synthetic’ names with a contemporary vibe. What they’re NOT is conventionally descriptive or rationally explicable names particular to just one type of business. They might hint at a character, personality or attitude, or give clues to the general nature of a business, but they don’t spell things out.
Happily, the brandable business name fits neatly within Lean principles.
Lean and powerful brand names
Because they’re not literal or descriptive, brandable business names are flexible. A business can ‘pivot’ and ‘iterate’ without having to worry about being burdened with a no-longer relevant company name. Brandable names are designed to be slightly unusual and memorable, so they offer all of the advantages inherent in good branding: differentiation and engagement. Needless to say the choice is huge, and there are some good brandable names, lots of mediocre ones, and many excruciatingly bad ones. So there's still a job to do in identifying the right name for your business.
Businesses that invest in a brandable name early on get a ready-made brand name without the struggle and without the need to use a branding agency. They’re free to focus on the Build-Measure-Learn process of iteration, and can focus on developing relationships and on the creation of brand value.
The Lean Startup Guide to Naming Your Business: a great article by author and entrepreneur, Richard Santoro.
How to Choose Brandable Domain Names with Extra Awesome Sauce, from Hello SEO Copywriting.