Tim Campbell’s 12 steps to running a business – part 4

In his final three tips on starting up, the Bright Ideas Trust founder discusses choosing your company name and putting your customer first…

Social entrepreneur Tim Campbell MBE has been sharing his top tips to starting and running a business over the past two weeks – ranging from advice on market research and cashflow to the skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur.

In the final part of the series, the Apprentice winner discusses choosing a company name, being able to succinctly describe what your business does, and why you should put yourself in your customer’s shoes…

10. Naming your business

No doubt you will have an idea for a name for your business. Choosing a company name is a critical part of starting any business but many people get overly concerned about the naming process or choose their name before they think of anything else. You could spend hours twisting yourself in knots trying to think of something clever, original, cryptic or witty but is it more important than how you are going to make money?

Whatever business name you choose, ensure that you pick something that you feel comfortable with. It’s usually a good idea to choose a name that is recognisable to your customers and describes what the business does – take Claire’s Accessories, Clintons Cards or ABC Taxis for example. This will enable your customers to instantly recognise what you do and has a better chance of appearing on search engines.

Your business name will be on your business card, at the top of your letterhead, on your website, email signature, in sales material and mentioned in the press, advertising and media (if you’re lucky!) so you need to be confident about it. Make sure it’s not embarrassing and can be clearly heard and understood. It should also be able to stand the test of time, so be careful choosing something too tropical or trendy. In the middle of the dotcom boom in the late 1990s we were going to call a business ‘e-launchpartner.com’ – this would sound very old fashioned now.

Most importantly, you should check that the business name you have chosen does not conflict with existing companies, particularly those in your market or industry as you could find that other organisations will take legal action against you.

It’s also essential that you check you can obtain a web address from a domain name supplier (technically known as a domain name registrar) that is the same or similar to your chosen business name. There are thousands of domain name registrars in the UK alone and it’s very simple to go to one of their sites, enter your proposed name and see if it’s still available. Nominet is the home of ‘.uk’ names and has a comprehensive list of domain name registrars or you can simply use a search engine to find them.

11. Pitching your business

You need to be able to describe what your business does in terms that can be easily understood. It should be concise so it may take you a while to get a succinct distillation of what you are doing.

In our workshops at Bright Ideas Trust we ask participants to describe their business propositions. Here’s one attempt that shows what NOT to do. Michael said: ‘We supply high quality niche products to the urban style market.’ Try putting this description in the ‘what we do’ section of your website or in a brochure and see if you attract any customers – it’s unclear and riddled with jargon that no one will want to bother trying to understand. How about: ‘Our business buys and imports good quality, low cost fashionable clothes for the 14-25 female market from overseas manufacturers and then sells these through a number of small independent boutiques in London and the South East.’ It’s the same business, although it took us quite a while to work with Michael to find the right words to use.

Try to make your business description sound interesting and appealing to people and give them a chance to understand it. Try to make it so that your Mum could understand it – that may be a stretch in some cases, but it gives you the general idea of what you should be trying to achieve.

Sometimes it can be useful to come up with a short, succinct ‘strapline’ that you can put alongside your business name to convey to people very quickly what you will do for them. Here are two that demonstrate how well they work: ‘Just Do It’ and ‘Every Little Helps’.  It’s highly likely you will have just said to yourself ‘Nike’ and ‘Tesco’. See, it works!

12. Understanding your customer’s needs

If you’ve followed tip five on identifying your audience, we can assume that you pretty much know which customers you’re targeting. So now you need to think specifically about what customer needs you are going to satisfy and what you have to offer.

Customer needs are to your business what the location of a property is to an estate agent. So where they say that the three most important things in determining the appeal of a property are ‘Location, Location, Location’, you should be thinking that the three most important things in determining your proposition are ‘Needs, Needs, Needs’. These needs are sometimes referred to as pain points. Think of your potential customers as being in mild discomfort – they are crying out for something to ease their pain. It doesn’t matter what the pain is, but what can you offer to help them become satisfied? What can you do to help them understand the needs of potential customers?

Try standing in the shoes of the customer. Put yourself in their position as someone who is being approached by your company and think about what needs you might be trying to satisfy and what solutions might be available to do this completely – every customer is slightly different – but try and it should help you. This exercise is about developing empathy with your customers, trying to get inside their minds to understand what makes them buy and what you need to make them buy your products and services.

Hopefully my 12 tips to running a business have made you think a little differently about your business idea. There are so many elements to running a business but by breaking them all down into little pieces, they can be easier to manage.

Tim Campbell MBE is founder of the Bright Ideas Trust, click here for more information.

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