We don’t get to choose our first name, at least not for the first 18 years of life. It’s something our parents pick; their first gift to us, so to speak.
While we do have the option to change it once we reach adulthood, most of us stick with our given name for life.
Common and Uncommon Names
Recently I was talking to my friend and SEO Marketing entrepreneur Michael Quinn, and the topic of our names came up.
His first name, Michael, has the top spot for most common male name in United States for 4 decades in a row (the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s). It was #2 in the ’50s and 2000s (according to the Social Security Administration). If you share your name with thousands of others, you know how annoying it is to have it yelled out in a crowded room, and a dozen people turn their heads in response.
As annoying as it is to have a common name, an uncommon one is no picnic either. Growing up, I only knew of 1 other person who shared my first name (it doesn’t even make the top 200 list for the 1970s or 1980s).
When I was 13 and waiting for a dentist appointment, the receptionist yelled out “Grace?”
I walked up to the counter. She looked at me with a confused and slightly disappointed look and said,
“Oh! You’re Grace? I thought you would be 80 years old.”
Well sorry to disappoint, I thought to myself.
(My first name has only recently become popular. As a child, the chance of finding a keychain with Grace on it was as likely as finding a dollar bill on the sidewalk. Maybe you can relate.)
The Gift of Choice as a Business Owner
We may not get a choice about our designation.
But as a business owner, you do have the tremendous opportunity to invent yourself in a number of ways:
You get to pick your business name (or a DBA, if you’re not thrilled with the one you picked initially).
You can choose the hours you want to work.
You can offer whatever services, products, and delivery methods you want.
You get to set the price point and payment terms. [This is something that Multi-Level Marketing cannot provide to their Independent Contractors, and why I don’t believe MLMs provide a true “business”; read more here.]
You select the branding, marketing tools, and website design that matches your personality and preferences. [I recommend finding out your Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and StrenthsFinder Top 5, as well getting your colors analyzed.]
You get to decide how you’ll be known to customers.
You also get to choose the message you want to share, including your “Why”, which is the story that connects your experiences with the struggles of your target customers.
You even have the joy of creating policies and procedures (yay!)… and enforcing these when staff or customers don’t follow them (boo!).
And just like a given name, your business will develop a reputation based on the message you send through interactions with customers, the content on your website and social media, and the word-of-mouth communication in your community.
Just like the perception that can impact your given name, this reputation is impacted by factors that are sometimes out of your control.
Parents who choose the names Adolf, Herod, Medusa, or Ursula could be setting up their children for a lifetime of challenges. We may associate these names with the terms German dictator, Jewish murderer, Greek snake-haired lady, and Sea Witch… connotations that are difficult to escape. The notorious history overshadows a rich etymological meaning, but that’s not something that the playground bully wants to hear.
Reputation is one of the 5 types of risks, and distancing yourself from a negative reputation can be difficult. But once you understand how your Ideal Customers think, this is something you can control.
Questions to Evaluate Your Business
Consider how your customers experience your company from their point of view.
1. Do customers feel comfortable with your business name?
Some companies in the same industry share a very similar name, which can make finding it online a nightmare.
Additionally, there may be cultural, religious, or social connotations that you may not be aware of. A customer’s perception based on the word choices (name, tagline, motto, ad content) could make or break their decision to choose your service over a competitor’s.
It’s easy to ascertain a customer’s comfort level: simply ask them. You could do this as part of your business onboarding process, or as a questionnaire to initiate a new branding direction, or even in casual conversations.
2. How well do customers respond to your branding and content?
You are likely keeping tabs on your social media clicks and newsletter open rates.
But consider the bigger picture: Are your services, culture, and philosophy really resonating with your customers?
Does the content you produce attract them to get help from you, or could it actually be hurting your chances of creating a deeper customer relationship?
We are often blind to the very things that others perceive in us. Evaluating your own blind spots is an extremely useful (albeit painful) process that can reveal potential problems that are driving your best customers away.
Read more about the components of a good company culture:
3. Do your Ideal Customers understand what value your services can provide?
When we buy something, we’re always looking for the best value. If you’ve ever haggled over prices in an open market, you know that the goal is for the buyer to spend as little as possible for a “great deal,” and the seller is trying to keep the profit as high as possible without losing the sale.
But many business owners don’t consider the combination of quality and quantity when they consider value. A customer wants to feel like their investment is worthwhile, and that it will solve their problem. They want a guarantee that they won’t have to keep looking for other solutions later on. They’re looking for certainty, peace of mind, and (especially in the healthcare field) relief from pain.
I find that many companies generate 80% of their net profit from just one or two services. Ask yourself: which services or products are generating the highest profit? How can you leverage these to provide even more value to customers with less effort?
Read more about how to calculate your profit margins:
Answering these questions takes some analysis; but once you can see your business from the point of view of your Ideal Customers, it gives you the ability to adjust the environment (the niche) of your business.
Specializing in one particular area will help you make a marketing niche (which comes from a Latin word meaning “nest”).
Interested in hearing how you can reverse a toxic workplace? Find out more here.
Grace LaConte is a business consultant, writer, workplace equity strategist, and the founder of LaConte Consulting. Her risk management tools are used around the globe, and she has successfully reversed toxic work environments for clients in the healthcare and non-profit fields. Grace specializes in lactation law compliance & policy development, reducing staff turnover after maternity leave, and creating a participatory work culture.