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Andy Brice
Successful Software

Doug Nebeker ("Doug")

Jonathan Matthews
Creator of DeepTrawl, CloudTrawl, and LeapDoc

Nicholas Hebb
BreezeTree Software

Bob Walsh
host, Startup Success Podcast author of The Web Startup Success Guide and Micro-ISV: From Vision To Reality

Patrick McKenzie
Bingo Card Creator

What's in a (product) name?

I'm hoping to release version 1.0 of my first mISV product in February. But you can't release a product without a name and this is where I'm stuck.

I have a name picked out. I like it, my wife likes it, but I have doubts. The name doesn't really give an indication of what the product does. I've noticed that many mISV products tend to be quite the opposite. (Bingo Card Creator, Perfect Table Plan, etc.) Should I re-think this and go with a name that describes the functionality of the product?

On the other hand, the name I have is very catchy, easy to remember, and easy to spell. A five year old could probably spell it. So, fellow MicroISV-ers, what's in a name?

I guess I should mention... The name isn't totally out of left field. If you knew what the product did, it would make sense why I chose the name. Sort of. :)
Gary the Llama Send private email
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
A catchy googleable name can be useful as a brand.
You couldn add a product specific part on the end eg "SuperLamma - bingo card creator"  rather than just superlamma.exe
Martin Send private email
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
Thanks Martin. I've got already got a nice, short tag line to put on the website that describes the product in a few words. I'd love to hear more opinions on the matter though.
Gary the Llama Send private email
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
For SEO purposes: You ideally want your best keywords in your domain name, and in the anchor text of as many links to you as possible.
S. Tanna
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
My suggestion is go with the name you have thought of.  A name that describes the product is always handy but generally when you search for something you search for what it does, not what its called.  Providing that your product pages include this, you shouldn't have a problem.  If the user does know what its called (if its catchy they will remember it) and searches for it they will then most likely find it straight away.

I went with 'Portfolio Manager' for my app and am regretting it.  I even struggle to find my website when using the keywords 'portfolio manager' in google.
Greg Send private email
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
Greg: I definitely won't have that problem with my product. I can do a search for the name on Google right now and nothing even close comes up. It *should be* easy to get the number one spot on Google for the product name.
Gary the Llama Send private email
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
Descriptive names are good for SEO, but it is hard to know how much difference they make and SEO isn't everything. If it is easy to remember, catchy and unique - go for it. What you lose in SEO you might make up in other ways.
Andy Brice Send private email
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
My thoughts:

If there are say 10 products in your space and the names were listed, would yours stand out or be indistiguishable? Is you product likely to be in a lineup? Do you need to stand out?

For seo reasons a lot of businesses prefer a descriptive product name because when prospective customers see the name in search results they will automatically know what it is and click.

I'm not too sure about this though I think it will be more the case for consumer rather than b2b.

There is a limit to the number of I-perform-this-function names available before everybody starts using everybody elses name and perfecttableplan becomes tableplanperfection and no one can really tell the difference.

For my part I use a totally unconnected name it just sounded right to me so I went with it and tagged on the year. I also sell to the b2b market where some of my competition uses a combination of the words that describe what the product does. I put a description of what product does in the page title. That makes it clear what the product does. I also include it in the banner.

I couldn't use a functional name I would be constrained to come up with some mad combination that no one else had used when I can pick a word that resonates and is fun for me.

If someone posts conclusive proof that one or the other would be most profitale then go with the most profitable option otherwise go with what you feel.

Have a read of this if you haven't already http://www.sparkthis.com/2006/03/names_that_spar.html

All the best.
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
Personally I think the catchy names are overrated. A few years back, Seth Godin wrote that companies should have attention grabbing names. He cited Jet Blue as a company that got it and Southwest Airlines as one that didn't.

A week later, both companies posted their quarterly financials. Jet Blue lost money and Southwest showed a profit.
Nick Hebb Send private email
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
> I went with 'Portfolio Manager' for my app and am regretting it.

Until I looked at your site, I didn't know whether it was artistic portfolio, music portfolio, career (resume) portfolio, investment portfolio, stock portfolio, clipart portfolio, etc.  And is it for people who manage their own, other people's, lots of different portfolios, etc.

What I'm trying to say, I think it's very unlikely your best keywords are "portfolio" or "manager".


On the general point:

1. Don't forget unless you have a huge marketing or word of mouth presence, 99% of your potential customers haven't heard of you.  That's why invented product name as a keyword is practically worthless.

2. don't forget, many shareware sites will hyperlink your product name to your site. So keywords in your product name also appear in lots of anchor text.
S. Tanna
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
Both "Bingo Card Creator" and "Perfect Table Plan" are bad product names in my opinion. The fact that both products are doing well is more of a testament to the quality of the products and the persistence of their marketing campaigns (I've no idea, I am assuming all this). The reason I think these names are bad is because they are way too generic. A unique catchy name is way better for building a brand. Although, companies like Xerox, Kleenex and Google were fighting really hard against their names becoming generic, but lost anyway. Which just brings me to my main point: product name is one of the last things I would worry about. It helps to build a brand, but it's only a small component of it. If you have a catchy name - use it. If you don't - don't sweat it. Just make sure it doesn't go *against* your marketing message. That would really suck!
George Sudarkoff Send private email
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
Xerox, Google, and Kleenex are terrible examples to emulate.  They are all one in a million examples of runaway success - very unusual - are horizontal apps, and they all spent millions on marketing and PR.

Most products people on this board are developing are lucky to get hundreds in marketing, and are aimed squarely at particular niche/vertical areas.
Sunil Tanna
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
Do you have the .com domain under this name? If so, go for it. If not, rethink.
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
>A unique catchy name is way better for building a brand.

I don't feel that I have the money and resources to market a brand, only a product. Given my modest aspirations I still feel that a descriptive name was the right decision for my product. Other approaches may work for other people.
Andy Brice Send private email
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
If I had to do over again, I'd seriously consider putting valuable keywords in my product names.

PerfectTablePlan meets most of the guidelines from the classic marketing book "Positioning: the battle for your mind").

- Easy to spell
-Composed of ordinary words (which people understand and can spell).
-Unique enough (in combination) to be distinguishable).

Our market is crowded with non software companies. (Interactive Therapuetics, for one, which even *sounds* like a software company but isn't).  Speech Therapy x and Speech Therapy Y, blah blah.

We went for a completely unique name just to be memorable  (Bungalow Software). We THOUGHT it was dead simple to spell. Amazing how many people leave off the 'w' or call us "Bugaloo" or "Bigelow" (mostly Tea Drinkers, I suspect).
Mr. Analogy Send private email
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
Andy Brice> I don't feel that I have the money and resources to market a brand, only a product.

You (your product or your company) have a brand whether you want it or not. Identity is another word for it. And to "build a brand" means to stay focused on the message you are sending to your customers, that's all. In other words you are building a brand by making conscious decisions about what and how you communicate to your customers. It includes an icon for your application, website design, how you describe your product, how you differentiate your product from inferior competition, etc.

That is all just my humble opinion, of course.
George Sudarkoff Send private email
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
A lot of really good discussion in this thread, keep it going. I'm anxious to hear what Patrick from Bingo Card Creator has to say on the subject. (I believe he's working on his second project and I'm curious if it's going to have a "descriptive name" or something else, though I imagine he won't reveal it yet.)
Gary the Llama Send private email
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
I think either a descriptive name or a fabricated name is fine.  In your case, the product and company name are likely going to be the same in the beginning so you should keep that in mind. 

I've written a couple of articles on startup naming that you might find useful:

The Startup Name Game:

18 Pithy Insights on Naming Your Small Business
Dharmesh Shah Send private email
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
Don't try clever names that are a pun or cute written down but a pain in the butt to readout over the phone or for people to spell correctly in a bowser.
I won't name the otherwise excellent company I worked for but we used to start conversations with an apology about the name!

Sorry for the slightly previous garbled post, my D key fell off!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008
I'm anxious to hear what Patrick from Bingo Card Creator has to say on the subject. (I believe he's working on his second project and I'm curious if it's going to have a "descriptive name" or something else, though I imagine he won't reveal it yet.)

This would make an excellent blog post, so I'm going to milk it sometime this week.  The short (er, shorter) version:

1)  I really prefer descriptive names for the SEO benefits, for certain types of software.  It depends on what your software is, how the niche looks, and how you expect it to spread.  I sell my software primarily to people who a) know they have a problem, b) are looking for a solution to the problem, c) are not too particular about where they get the solution, and d) will not need to come back after they have the solution.  Thus, a descriptive name makes a lot of sense for me: it says that, if your problem is needing to create bingo cards, your pain relief is at the end of this link.

As Sunil said, you'll get oodles of links for your exact product name.  Bingo Card Creator is, far and away, the most popular text to link my site with.  This is true even if you discount the hundreds of PAD file links.  (The 2nd most popular is www.bingocardcreator.com as anchor text, and the 3rd most popular is "Patrick McKenzie", typically from uISV bloggers.) 

2)  My second project, Daily Bingo Cards, was not purely descriptive.  In particular, I wanted that name to both work for positioning ("Come back tomorrow!") and be memorable.  Given that I do get people searching for "daily bingo cards", I'm assuming that works.  (It seems to be more popular than using the bookmark to my site, and I gave folks plenty of opportunities to make bookmarks.  Who knew?)

3)  I could see places where you'd want a non-descriptive name, too.  One is the Seth Godin scenario in which you're trying to create a passionate and loyal customer for life.  In that case, you're expecting your name to be used largely by people who have already heard of you, so optimizing it for making a good first impression might be a premature optimization.

4)  My second project, which is currently shelved, used a keyword-rich compound which was brandable (similar, in general thrust, to PerfectTablePlan).  I have another project waiting in the wings, and the name for that one is not descriptive -- it is designed to be evocative and to change the way people think about the problem domain.  The general idea is that after you've heard what it describes you'll always want to describe that problem the same way I do.  (This is probably the only time I have ever picked a name Seth Godin would approve of -- it's an ideavirus.  Think of "Long Tail" for a comparison.)

5)  I'm eventually going to incorporate as Kalzumeus, which is almost an aggressively horrible name to pick.  However, since all of my products are branded primarily under their own names, and most people wanting to find me seem to search for me personally, I have a bit of leeway in picking an arbitrary identifier for government documents.
Patrick McKenzie (Bingo Card Creator) Send private email
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
I went through a "The" phase in the mid-1990's. Everything I did was "The": The Game, The World, etc. So in 1996 when I created the first version of my journaling software I called it ... The Journal.

In one sense, I love the name. It's not just descriptive...it's its own description.

On the other hand...

* "The Journal" is also the Wall Street Journal.
* Every flipping competitor (except OneNote) includes the word "journal" in their name. It's not uncommon for me to get emails from users who are confused about which product they purchased.
* Not everyone calls it a "journal" ... they also use diary, notebook, scribblepad, and on and on...

So I'm not sure I'd name The Journal "The Journal" again, were I to do it again. Not that I have any ideas yet what I would call it...

After over 11 years, the name isn't going anywhere. :-)

Choose your own moral to this story.

David Michael Send private email
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
One other issue - I probably can't trademark the name PerfectTablePlan, because it is considered descriptive/generic. But I believe I can trademark a combination of the name, font, colour & logo.
Andy Brice Send private email
Thursday, January 03, 2008
This is a great read on choosing a product name:


Of course the best name is one that isn't generic, otherwise you won't stand out. For example if I told someone to buy a copy of Bingo Card Creator and they did a search and saw Bingo Card Generator, Bingo Card Creator and Bingo Card Publisher, would they really know which one I was talking about? On the other hand if I told them to buy a copy of Bingerator, then this is something that isn't generic and they are more likely to be able to return to the correct site.
Frank Send private email
Thursday, January 03, 2008
Both descriptive and a non-descriptive product names can have benefits. Here are a few on the Mac side:

Minim (m cubed - me) - Music management application
MarsEdit (red sweater) - Desktop blog editor
Acorn (flying meat) - Image Editor
Fission (rogue amoeba) - Audio Editor
Tangerine (potion factory) - Playlist creator
Delicious Library (delicious monster) - DVD/CD/Book cataloguing software
Coda (panic) - Web development software
OmniGraffle (omni group) - Charting/Drawing software
Skitch (plasq) - screenshot application

Some vaguely resemble their function but for the most part they are short names that you can remember. You can have the most obscure or the most descriptive product name out there but if no-one can remember it then you're stuck. As you can also see an interesting company name can also help you.
Martin Pilkington Send private email
Thursday, January 03, 2008
A product name that is related to the product's function is very nice to have, especially when it comes to search engine referrals. I scored a hit by naming my code documentation tool for ASP the "ASP Documentation Tool".
Dr GUID Send private email
Monday, January 07, 2008

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