Digital startup naming mistakes that everyone should avoid

Imagine, you’ve got a fantastic business idea with great prospects, clearly defined audience and the revenue model is crystal clear too. You are absolutely bullish about its chances to become “the next big thing”.

Suddenly, everything comes crashing down because your billion dollar dream domain is not available.

Any why not, the world consists of nearly 6,500 spoken languages. Thousands of new, weird words are coming to life every year. No matter how smart you may be, there is no way of knowing all of the words in the world or who, in the online arena, has used them before you.

Choosing a name just like that is absolutely out of question because the name you’ve chosen may have a negative connotation in the real or virtual world. It could be a bad omen in certain specific cultures or a slang used in some absurd social context. You would obviously want to avoid all those options.

Here are simple tips to help you avoid some of the startup naming mistakes.

Research

Google your desired brand name. What results are in the first page? Anything suspicious there? Are people complaining? Answer these questions by following these steps.

  • Should your new brand name sound like a generic word, evaluate the strengths of the first 10 results and make sure you will be able at all to rank for it. Use the Mozbar to check the Domain and Page authority of each result.
  • Check your new brand name in Google’s Keyword planner. Are there search volumes shown for your new brand name in exact match? Then it must exist somewhere, so you need to Google for it better.

Also Read : 7 Tips to name your company

Domain doesn’t matter

In my experience as a startup consultant, I’ve seen founders losing their night’s sleep over not being able to get the exact domain name as the business name. Frankly speaking, domain name doesn’t matter at all. The name itself matters much more than having the same domain name. Pick a great name, go with a tweaked domain name. Pick a great name, then add something to get a domain name. It really doesn’t matter all that much – whether you get the domain later or don’t. Then get building!

Also Read: Does your company name matter?

Don’t pick too creative names

The problem with having a name like Naymz, Takkle, Flickr, or Speesees is that you will forever have to spell it when you say it, because it isn’t spelled how people hear it. Most importantly, with voice recognition devices like SIRI or Google Now, you would never be able to get your brand search on the top.

Don’t play mixology with your company name

If you invent a new “word” for your name, be careful that it doesn’t sound unnatural. Mashing two words together or mixing up a bunch of letters to form a new word rarely appears or sounds smooth. And be cautious using trendy suffixes to make up a new word. Startups names like Learnyst, Hotelogix, Intelliber, Mobiefit are such examples.

 

Digital Strategy Template – for startups & small business

Prologue

Building a Digital Strategy Template, is on the wish list of almost each and every individual in the digital advertising business, every tech entrepreneur, existing startups or marketing communication teams in corporates.

But can we really create a generic strategy template? Lets find out.

People in the traditional advertising would definitely know about the role of a “strategic planner“. They are the genius brains (inside every advertising agency) who create the “brand story”, who add their midas touch by wearing a strategic hat and making sure that each and every part of the brand messaging goes through a quality prism.

The problem is, there was no such concept of a “Digital Strategy Planner” for a very long time. Fundamentally, planning & strategy in the online space was restricted to “Media Planning”. The ad agencies & the marketing team never really thought about “digital strategy” from an integrated customer outreach standpoint. It was more of a “media oriented approach” where the only objective was to optimize cost per user acquisition.

Unfortunately, social media ended this madness but added some new madness of its own. With Facebook & Twitter taking over the digital world like a storm, conventional media publishing models got massively disrupted. Audience started discovering new content on the social platforms and as a result, a lot of small publishers had to shut down their operations as bulk of the marketing spends started to move into social platforms because client’s objective shifted from just acquisition to engagement.

The Need

As a digital marketing consultant, I’ve heard this from so many aspired entrepreneurs in different startups meets, there is no single approach using which they can prepare their digital strategy to promote their SAAS product or to increase their app downloads or prepare a basic customer acquisition plan while they are bootstrapping it.

A lot of startup marketing teams see “Digital Strategy” in silos and not as an integrated marketing approach which is critical to build a consistent communication & brand experience across all audience touch points.

Who can use this document?

  • Early stage – Mid Stage startups
  • B2B Marketing Teams
  • Digital Ad Agencies
  • Digital Marketing Managers
  • App Developers

In this presentation, I’ve tried to cover very practical approach on how to break down your digital strategy process into stages that cuts across identifying & segmenting your target audience, choosing the right digital marketing channels and creating the marketing metrics to track your performance.

6 stages of Digital Startup business

If you are reading this post, I can assume that you have an idea and you are on your way to build your startup or else you have a deep desire to build one. Don’t worry, you are not alone in your journey. Building startups seems to be the only thing on the mind of every professional.

For a long time, the venture capital world has often correlated the ability to build a successful startup with the age & experience of individuals. Not anymore.  According to a Harvard Business Review report, the average age at founding (a startup) was just over 31, and the median was 30.

 

Startup Founder Age of VC Backed Companies

Startup Founder Age of VC Backed Companies

However, age has nothing to do with the stages of startup but interestingly it can increase or decrease the duration of your pre-startup period.

Now if you search on the Google, you would find different views & opinions about the stages of startup business. Frankly speaking, none of them is incorrect. But the one which has simplified it considerably is created by StartupCommons (see below):

 

Startup Development Phases & Lifecycle

Startup Development Phases & Lifecycle

Key stages of digital startup

Stage I : Ideation

In this stage, the startup founder(s) builds, sharpens, polishes their “potential scalable product or service idea” for a big enough “target market“. There is no need for any team or resources at this stage of startup. A significant amount of time goes into the market research, collecting data about primary & secondary audience. The end outcome is a very simplified 30,000 feet business plan document that defines all the key variables about your business in a nutshell. Most importantly, at the end of this stage you should know, who would pay for your product & service & why?

Also read: How to write a business plan document by Sequoia Capital

Stage II : Concept Development

Once you are convinced about your core startup idea, the next stage is to find your core team of people whom you would want to be part of your journey. A lot of startups (especially tech startups where founders are programmers and core architects) want to keep their idea within the closed room till they get the venture fund. Usually it delays the project considerably as they end up doing a lot of non specialised tasks by themselves.

In the concept development phase, you should start creating your actual business plan with estimated financials  of budgets, possible revenue and key company milestones for the next 2-3 years. Identifying your core team and involving them in the ideation process is absolutely critical as this would set the stage for actual business roll-out.

Stage III : Commitment

This is the stage when the founders actually start building the MVP or Minimum Viable Product for the users to test their business idea. According to Techopedia:

A minimum viable product (MVP) is a development technique in which a new product or website is developed with sufficient features to satisfy early adopters. The final, complete set of features is only designed and developed after considering feedback from the product’s initial users.

In case of services business MVP, it needs to build the tools for service delivery like wireframe of CRM for customer lifecycle management and how it would be linked with an online customer acquisition and final service delivery.

An MVP is one of the most important stages in any startup business. Not just it allows the founders to calibrate their efforts & product idea, it is the stage when you can start marketing about your product/service to prospect angel investors (not VCs).  The commitment stage is also critical to define the roles of the founding team & the shareholding pattern for the first 2-3 years of business.

Most of the early stage hiring happens during this stage of startup. The team size are thin and the founders literally bootstrap it to the maximum by doing multiple roles.

Also read: How to hire for bootstrap startup?

Stage IV : Validation

‘Validation’ or ‘proof of concept’ is one of those stages of startup business where they have to live with a great degree of vulnerability, both from inside & outside. In the validation stage, founding team has to show maximum value for all stakeholders, starting from its current customers, its employees to current angel (if any) & potential investors.

In many ways, this stage decides the fate of your business idea, and hence it gives the maximum stress to the startup owners.

On one side, the founders are struggling to find the right product strategy & brand positioning that would allow them to attract potential Series A/B venture investment, and on the other side, there is a continuous pressure to show some running profits and ensure customer delight. Incidentally, most of the startups lose their plot during this stage of business.

 

Also read: Worldwide Failed Startup Trends

Stage V : Scaling Up

This stage usually start after you’ve received your Series A investment and now you are looking to scale the length & breadth of your business operations. A significant amount of time goes into hiring resources, marketing your product in the target markets to key audience, building a strong word of mouth PR, and accelerating your quarter on quarter revenues.

Stage VI : Growth

This stage is actually subject to how your business idea has performed. Once you’ve achieved a critical mass of customers, you enter the growth stage in which you can diversify your business through possible acquisitions of smaller companies or you can enter newer markets by raising more venture fund. Fundamentally, there is no fixed time duration to this stage as most of the startups want to remain in the startup mode for a long time.

How to hire for bootstrapped digital startup?

Hiring for bootstrapped startup is always difficult, especially when you are building your prototype or incubating it using angel fund. A bootstrapped startup always goes through several challenges before they find the right people on board.

If you are one of those bootstrapped startup owners who is running or planning for his digital or tech startup, get ready to face the pain of your lifetime in finding the right set of people for your company.

And the below graphic would be sufficient to demotivate you further:

20 reasons startups fail

According to the above research by CB Insights, 23% of the bootstrapped startups shut down because they could not find the right team. So don’t worry, you are not alone in this pursuit.

With limited funds, poor office space (sometime no office space), lack of technology infrastructure (forget about the Macs, people would be lucky to get some decent Windows PC configuration), and absolutely no brand name, you just don’t have any negotiating or attractive proposition.

Also read: RIP Reports – Worldwide Failed startup trends

But like Friedrich Nietzsche has rightly said,

“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”

Here are some suggestions ( I won’t call them tips), which I’ve figured out after working & consulting with different stage startups in my career:

Stop hiring people like yourself

One of the common aspect of most of the early stage startups, is that the founders have very limited or no experience in hiring in their career. Result? They end up hiring resources like themselves so that they feel most comfortable. Eventually, they end up building a team with similar shades of skills. Most of these resources join because of fancy designations offered by the founders.

Remember that you need people who are “go go go” types with 100-percent drive, and also people who are meticulous, detail-oriented and know how to create solid internal processes.

Stop looking for ‘only’ MBA’s or ‘only premier institutes’ candidates

MBAs bring a lot of value on the table for any early stage startup, there is no doubt about that. Polished communications, problem solving skills, fresh ideas etc. But over obsessive nature towards hiring only MBA’s would make your life miserable and could lead to delays in product and brand build up strategy. Look for key skills without which you would not be able to take off your dream, instead of just MBA. For e.g., if you are hiring for a new digital media company, look for candidates who have worked as a media planner in any advertising agency or who have handled marketing operations for any brands.

Also read: Why I Don’t Advise Bootstrapped Startups to Hire M.B.A.s by Vivek Wadhwa

Hire people who make you do something crazy

Another challenge for a lot of younger startup CEOs is that they don’t necessarily have a large enough network from which to pull talent that they need. New founders will often hire friends, and there are pros and cons to that.

On the one hand, there’s a huge amount of loyalty, and you can pull in friends who are in it to win it, and who back you 100-percent. On the flip-side, they might not fall into the normal lines of authority, or you could just end up with yes men who agree to things, even if the ideas are ridiculous. The key is to hire people who will tell you that you’re doing something crazy.

Here’s a must watch video on Bootstrapped Startup hiring strategy:

 

How to foolproof your digital startup hiring strategy?

I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies.

~ Lawrence Bossidy (Former COO of GE and author)

I wish I could’ve mailed the above quote in 70 font size, Arial Bold Face to all the Digital Marketing companies ( especially Agencies & Publishers ). Needless to say that building your startup hiring strategy is a never ending Everest climb for all organisations ( digital or non digital ).

Though bigger digital brands find it slightly easy to attract the right talent, retaining the talent becomes a bigger pain for them as well.

Ask any HR specialist or recruiter, they would say the trend is nothing different from other industries. People are looking to match the pace of their career growth with the rising costs. An average salary increase of 12% is completely disconnected with rising inflationary conditions. This will build a spiral effect, people who are not satisfied with their financial conditions will always be the first ones to look out for better jobs & opportunities.

In an interview (watch the video) given by Mark Zuckerberg, he made a profound statement, I quote:

The best people I’ve hired in my life were those who didn’t have much of engineering experience ~ Mark Zuckerberg

Startup Hiring Strategy isn’t just about hiring the best people with skills or for that matter who are stable in their careers, it is also about getting those who have a strong & relevant point of view about what you believe in, even if they do not have the experience or qualification from reputed engineering colleges.

I also believe, that in every industry, people have their own set of challenges due to which they show unstable tendency at work places. Of course, there will always be few individuals who do not fall in line despite a lot of effort by the management, but in general, people hate updating their resumes every year.

Also Read : Why Job Hopping is no longer a stigma globally?

As a business owner ( especially a start up owner ), attrition is something I should always keep at the back of my mind as one of the challenges which could hamper my growth story. Often start ups do not factor attrition while giving projections to their investors, which I believe is a massive error. The sooner they’ll accept the lack of permanence in the employee-employer relationship, the better it will be for their future enterprise. Once the degree of attrition is understood & acknowledged in any industry, you can then plan your resources a lot better.

The question is, as a business owner, how can you deal with this kind of situation?

Team Composition

First, make hiring a continuous process and not just restricted till the desired roles are filled. Managers should always be on a lookout for quality resources with value added skills for the team. For instance, do not hire resources of same nature & type, hire people with differentiated skill sets which will add value in long term. People love to be in a team where they can learn from each other. Collaborative learning is possible when you have people with different skill-sets.

Long term hiring

Second, do not hire people for solving your short term problems. For instance, if your key Account Manager decides to leave, it is bound to hit your operations & would also create uncertainty at client’s end, but your new hiring should not be to fill the immediate gap, instead it should attract people who are looking for a challenge in their careers to put their skill to test. Employees who join start ups from big companies usually carry a lot of baggage of their esteemed employer. At times it can be fatal for team dynamics.

Performance linked remuneration

Third, hiring people on performance linked remuneration, incentives & contracts could be another option. If you build your digital company’s team dynamics this way, employees would be exactly aware of what they are chasing, what team is chasing & how they can work towards it in a logical yet innovative way, Managers KRA would be to maximise potential of each individual who is working as a part of this contract.The best part, build substantial amount of incentives ( both monetary & non monetary ) which would drive morale among the senior & junior level employees.

The last point needs an Industry buy-in, but we are witnessing this trend already in few small to mid size digital-IT & digital-Infra companies where other than the sales force, revenue support functions like account management/ client servicing & customer support have been connected to measurable performance linked metrics.

The contracts are time bound but readily renewable subject to agreement by both parties (employee & employer). It offers a very flexible working relationship to individuals where everything remains constant except that employees are free to move out after the contract period is over.

One of the main challenges any digital startup company will face is poaching from upcoming start ups. Actually the poor demand-supply ratio of quality resources has made it absolutely imperative for any company  to desperately hold on to their trained resources.

Today recruiters are under severe pressures to find quality talent for their clients. No start up has any time to waste on training semi skilled employees. They have a running train of profitability & projections to catch up without which they would not get their next round of funding from the investor.

So think of it, time bound, performance linked contracts isn’t a bad option in digital business, it may also prove to be a win-win for the individual & start up clients & agencies in the long term.

How to attract investors for digital startup?

If ever anyone ask me to describe our current era in one word, my reply would be “ENTREPRENEURSHIP” & “STARTUPS“. I am quite certain that most of you would say “I agree”.

A word, which has truly changed the complexion of our modern day global marketplace.

The world (as we speak) is no longer a bi-colored canvas of small & large enterprise companies. Every passing moment, the next billion dollar idea is taking shape in some small county of California or in the hinterlands of India, which could possibly cause serious disruption in the way people were living their lives.

While, most of us think (and some believe strongly) that our idea has the potential to become the next Facebook, Google, Alibaba or Amazon but very few people actually spend time in crystal gazing into the idea’s future.

It is a lot like visualising bond movie’s starting action sequence or planning your moves in the Chinese Checkers game. You go 3 steps forward in your head and get airlifted to see how the idea looks from the top.

Remember, the person who is investing his money in your business idea wants you forecast not just the profitability but also get him a sneak peek into the near & distant future.

That’s why I said it is a lot like crystal gazing.

The exercise I personally recommend to every budding entrepreneur, is a lot like formula 1 race track simulation where the driver races the entire track in his mind just to get accustomed to the track.

As a startup business owner, you need to see every twist & turn in your business idea even before you are actually in the race to acquire funding?

How you would operationalise the idea?

What would be the day 0 of your new business?

From where would get that first deal?

How would you reward your employees?

How would you make your customer your best friend?

Some investor are not just interested in knowing how much return the business will offer, they are also interested in knowing how will you do it?

The return on investment is non consequential if the path to success is not carved out properly.

Since your idea is your dream, your need to bring your investor into your dream. One has to learn the art of crystal gazing into the business future to attract investors for startup idea.

Remember, being a visionary is of no use if you cannot show the path to others. ~ Anonymous