Tested and true annual report tips for wondrous results

Nonprofit organizations and some companies create annual reports to showcase their work with key stakeholders every year. And many come off sounding like a, well, report. Something nobody really wants to read. They’re just something to check a required box. But why waste an opportunity? When annual reports are well executed, people actually read them and act.

An effective annual report may inspire stakeholders of different backgrounds to take action. A reporter might pick up something from the report for a story. A donor might make another donation or buy tickets for an upcoming event. A customer may book a different service or try a different product than the one they’re familiar with. What do you want your audience to do when they read yours?

Influential annual reports

The topic of annual reports is on the brain here because ClearWing recently worked with the Cobb/Marietta Exhibit Hall Authority to create an inspiring 2018 Annual Report. The theme was “Influence” and included stories about how three organizations – The Cobb Galleria, the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre and ArtsBridge – make a significant impact on people and organizations across the community, the state and the southeast.

We considered all stakeholders and readers when planning and hunting for stories.  In all, we featured 7 short stories to show how companies benefited from sponsorships; how organizations and people benefited from events there; and how students benefited from arts education. One story was about a volunteer who overcame her grief at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center, and formed a close relationship with a patron. Another story featured a school principal who shared how children’s eyes are opened to the possibilities when they are exposed to the arts. The report was picked up by local media and gave the organization another opportunity to tell their story to audiences beyond their own stakeholders.

This elementary school principal helped tell the story of the important work of ArtsBridge, an arts education foundation.

Another stunning annual report I had the privilege to help conceptualize and produce was the 2017 WellStar Annual Report. Authentic patient stories, stunning photography, custom paper artwork and infographics came together to create a story of how the health system was “Building momentum in pursuit of world-class healthcare.” It was inspiring to tell the story of the 72-year-old man who won a gold medal in shot-put halfway through his cancer treatment. The 16-year-old girl who survived a tragic bus crash taking a church group to the airport for a mission trip. And the woman who survived breast cancer so she could keep teaching elementary music students and living life to the fullest.  Several of these stories came to life in print and broadcast media.

This man helped illustrate the winning cancer care by WellStar radiologists.

9 Tips for tremendous annual reports

  1. CONSIDER YOUR READER: As always, consider who will be reading the annual report. What do you want them to know? What do they want to know? And how can you put the two together?
  2. KEEP IT SIMPLE: Additionally, remember who you’re writing for and in most cases, keep jargon out of it. Most annual reports cater to a variety of audiences.  
  3. TELL YOUR STORY: Tell authentic brand stories that take both your mission and your reader into consideration. Who does your organization serve? Who in your organization serves them? There are interesting stories. You just have to dig a little. Read how to tell your brand story to engage your audience here.
  4. CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY: If your company isn’t a nonprofit but you do things to make the world a better place, talk about it! Corporate social responsibility (or CSR) is becoming increasingly important, especially for younger consumers. According to a 2017 study by Cone Communications, 87 percent of people will purchase a product because a company got behind an important issue.
  5. SHOWCASE: Use high-quality photography to accompany your stories. The photos don’t have to be of people using your product or service (but it’s a win if they do). They can reflect the life that’s possible because of your organization.
  6. VISUALIZE YOUR DATA: Annual reports usually divulge a lot of data in the spirit of openness. Unfortunately, they can be complete eye charts and cause people to close the report. Include only what’s really necessary. Use infographics, pull-quotes or other graphics to visualize the data and take people on a journey through information that might otherwise go unnoticed.
  7. APPRECIATE: It’s always good to appreciate people in an annual report. Gratitude can incentivize those who’ve given to or purchased from your organization a reason to stay engaged.
  8. ASK: Most people don’t usually act unless they’re invited. If there’s something you want from your readers, ask. Looking for funds? Have a new service? Give them a way to go after it. If you’ve told your story well, they will be more inspired than ever to take action.
  9. MAKE IT DIGITAL: Annual reports are changing to keep up with the digital age. Consider how to make your annual report interactive online with video, animation, extended stories and more. While this is the last item on this list, it shouldn’t be an afterthought.  Here’s an example of an amazing animated 2017 Annual Report by Girls Who Code.

If you’re ready to ace your next annual report with great storytelling, let’s talk.

Want more information? 

If you’re interested in receiving ClearWing’s communications tips to let your brand fly, sign up for the occasional e-blast here:


How to get your brand identity in shape

ClearWing Communications - How to get your brand identity in shape: Craft strong key messaging & brand voice to stand out

In an earlier blog post, we discussed how to boost your business when you focus on brand identity. Essentially, how your “why” informs your brand identity and helps you accomplish business goals.

Here, we’ll talk about developing key messaging and voice to shape up your brand identity.

Shape your brand’s key messaging and repeat it

Your key messaging should incorporate the “why” and the “who” we discussed in our previous brand identity blog. Then you’ll repeat it in every communication. Your website, your social media channels, printed collateral, ads, speeches, videos and more.

Companies with strong brand identities like Coca-Cola repeat their messaging over and over and over. And over and over and over. And over. Even when it gets old. That’s why you recognize slogans like “Taste the feeling.”

Why is repetition important?

  1. In today’s digital landscape, media is more diverse than ever. People can get their information across different service providers and devices. That means audiences are more fragmented than ever. Even when a company repeats a message day in and day out, an individual customer only hears it sporadically so it must be repeated relentlessly.
  2. People are also exposed to more messages than ever before. According to Yankelovich, a market research firm, people living in cities were exposed to an average of 5,000 ads a day in 2007. More than a decade later, experts say it could be as high as 10,000. It’s no wonder many messages don’t stick. In a world where thousands of messages compete for attention on a daily basis, repetition is critical.

Once a company develops its key messaging, it will inform all future communications such as elevator pitches, speeches, ads and more.

Your word choices and brand voice should reflect your organization’s personality

But don’t stop yet. Take it a step further and make intentional choices about your brand voice. Your brand has a unique personality and your brand voice should reflect it. Specific word across your marketing collateral will help people understand how your brand relates to them better.

To start humanizing your brand, come up with a list of adjectives that represent your organization’s personality. You might describe it with words like tough, friendly, witty or funny. And for every personality trait, there’s a voice to match. Words can be gruff, humorous, peppy or clever.

Brand personality helped SPANX stand out

A great example of a Georgia-based company that created a unique brand voice is SPANX. Atlantan Sara Blakely, a.k.a. the “pantyhose mogul,” invented her body-shaping product to look svelte in white jeans (it works, ya’ll).

Though the billionaire has made a killing, she shared in a 2018 interview with Georgia Trend magazine that her brand never takes itself too seriously. That’s a direct reflection of its founder who isn’t afraid to say she was the company’s original “butt model.” The name in itself – SPANX – was risky, but funny, and its first slogan was, “Don’t worry, we’ve got your butt covered.” Product names have included “Her Thighness” and “Undi-tectable.” Her brand voice made it acceptable, even cool, for younger women to use shapewear. The first SPANX served a need no one else was serving and her approachable humor helped the company stand out.

Brand personalities, especially for small businesses, are often a reflection of their founders. Think about your own personality. How would you describe you?  It’s not a good idea to force a voice that’s far from natural. If your company voice is really humorous but you’re quiet and straightforward in person, it won’t feel authentic.

Exercise your brand identity

There’s a good chance you’ve gone through a similar process to create your brand logo and look with color, font and design choices. Combine that with brand messaging and voice and you’ll have everything you need to create a brand identity guideline document. Moving forward, you’ll want to share your guidelines with any marketing and communications professionals you work with, people on your team involved with marketing and companies you partner with to keep everything consistent.

For example, a sponsorship may include remarks, a company description in the program and a logo for a shirt or presentation. A quick consult with your brand identity document can guide your speaking points, program write-up and ensure the partner organization keeps the integrity of your logo intact.

For help creating a brand identity that really reflects your company, let’s talk.

Want more information? 

If you’re interested in receiving ClearWing’s tips on messaging, brand storytelling and how to let your brand fly, sign up for the occasional e-blast here:

Boost your business when you focus on brand identity

Boost your business when you focus on brand identity

We’re going to play a brand identity game and I’m not even going to tell you the rules. You’ll be fine. I say “Dress for Less.” Now you say, “_______.” Here are a few more. The Happiest Place on Earth. Taste the Feeling. Where Shopping is a Pleasure. Eat More Chicken. And my favorite, Do the Kind Thing.

ClearWing Communications strong brand identity boosts business growth

Just in case you need a memory boost….that’s Ross, Disney, Coca-Cola, Publix, Chik-fil-A and KIND. But you probably already knew that.

These powerhouses have strong brand identities. That’s not a result of being a powerhouse. It’s the other way around. When a company creates a strong brand identity and does a phenomenal job of delivering on its brand promise, people connect with it and even trust it.

It’s clear that Ross, Chick-fil-A and Coke invest a lot of THOUGHT, TIME and MONEY into their branding. And COMMITMENT. While the first three are obvious, you might scratch your head at that word “commitment.” It means that after putting careful thought into creating the brand identity, these companies didn’t tuck the document away and move on. They committed to it for years and even decades. They repeated and continue to repeat the message and use their iconic logos and symbols (like cows for Chik-fil-A) over and over and over.

ClearWing Communications helps companies shape their brand identity

Branding is important for businesses of all sizes

Because these mammoth corporations spend more money than we can imagine on their marketing, does that mean we let them have all the branding fun? Most certainly not. Branding isn’t just important for billion dollar companies.

Branding is a critical step in paving the path to your company’s success. The investment you put into it will affect your ride. So unless you’re Jeep, you probably want to accelerate down a paved road rather than struggle up a rocky mountain incline.

A strong brand identity helps define you so clearly that your dream customers find you. When you’re working with your ideal customers, you’re happier. You provide even more excellent service or the new products that they love. They talk. That attracts more ideal customers. And your business grows.

Is it hard to find the time to do this? Yes! You want to focus on your product or your service. Who has time for a brand identity?

Is it worth it? Yup. Adding something else to your to-do list might feel like a step backward when you’re gearing up for a launch or even just managing the day today.

If you’re ready to level up your brand identity for better connections and growth, read on.

Start with your why

In a nutshell, a brand identity is your brand promise to your customer. It’s your why. It’s what gives you a traction to connect with your customers in a meaningful way.

Some businesses launch because their owners are good at what they do. They are tired of working for someone else. And they work to make sure they’re paying the bills. Those are all real-world reasons to run a business. But they’re not good enough to be a company’s why. They’re selfish. (Ouch.)

The real reason a company exists is to serve a purpose. To serve someone, somewhere. The financial payoff is what allows the company to keep on trucking. And when profits are high, they’re a reward for doing a good job. But money shouldn’t be the primary reason a company exists (unless it’s a bank.)

In other cases, a company is started with a deeper purpose. But then the day-to-day gets in the way and brand identity gets set aside.

No matter where you are, it’s never too late to rethink or rev up your brand identity. And then to maintain it. The more attention you give it, the better the results.

When you take the time to get granular with your why, it will serve to guide many of the business decisions you make in the future. In a nutshell, your why needs to define:

  • What you do
  • How you’re different
  • Why customers choose you

More than ever, millennials and the generations that follow are looking for connection. They’re looking for authenticity. They want to support brands with purpose. As an example, think about KIND Snacks. KIND promotes a message of kindness to our bodies as well as other humans in the world. Check out the KIND site – you can actually nominate someone for doing something #kindaawesome and hit them with a KIND card and a KIND bar.

You can gift a KIND bar to someone for doing “the kind thing.” This is brand identity genius.

Who do you serve?

Just as important as our why is our who. It’s imperative to drill down to who exactly we want to serve. A clearly defined customer makes it easier to deliver your message to the right people.

If you keep your brand as generic as possible so you can serve everybody, no one really has any way to connect with you.

But if you define your dream customer and deliver on your brand promise, you will stand out from a crowd to the people who really matter to you.

ClearWing Communications helps companies shape brand identity

One way to develop a clear idea about who you serve is to create an avatar. That’s just another name for your audience or target market. An avatar typically includes a stock photo to represent your customer and a name to humanize him or her. It’s a lot more friendly than referring to your audience as a “target.” And before you get too concerned, yes,  you can have more than one avatar. Many businesses reach more than one group and help alleviate more than one pain point.

When you’re creating your avatar, get specific. Male or female? Is she 25 or 35? Is she married? Does she have kids? Did she go to college? Does she drink Starbucks or Red Bull? Is she in a BMW or a Jeep? Would she prefer to get a manicure or go hiking next Saturday? Is she motivated by being a super mom, a super businesswoman or staying in great shape? 

When your company has a clear sense of who your customer is, to know what they live for and what they care about, you’ll show them that you “get” them. Connect with who you want to serve and your ideal customer will seek you out. And as you deliver on your brand promise, you will grow.

If you’re ready to take your business to the next level with a strong brand identity, I’m thrilled for you! If you’re looking for support, tell me all about your why and your who so ClearWing can help your brand fly.

Want more information? 

Read our follow up brand identity post with tips on developing key messaging and brand voice. If you’re interested in receiving ClearWing’s future tips on brand storytelling and how to let your brand fly, sign up for the occasional e-blast here:

Does your feedback get good results?

Does your feedback get results?

Work with creatives to hit your brand bull’s eye

Give good feedback for great creative results that will hit the target!
Give good feedback for creative results that will hit your brand’s target. Icon made by Freepik from  www.flaticon.com.

My creative partners and I love constructive criticism. Yes, really. When you give us good feedback, it helps us create something great to support your business goals. With the right feedback, we’ll all get the best possible outcome. But when your feedback leaves us in the dark, there’s a chance your message will miss the target.

How do you give creative feedback that gets you the best creative to achieve your goals?

In a nutshell, avoid general statements and be clear about what you don’t like and what you like. Invite people close to your brand identity to critique with you, but be choosy who you ask. Too many opinions can slow down the process and add confusion.

Good feedback helps get great results. Avoid general comments like "This isn't what I was going for..."
Good feedback helps get great results. Avoid general comments like this one.

Screenshot what you love

Chantelle Catania of graphic design firm Annatto said designers are visual people and love examples, especially when getting started on a new project. (This can apply to writing styles too.)

“If there’s something that you’ve seen that you love, take a photo or screenshot of it and share it with us. Let us know why you love it. It doesn’t need to be a long explanation. A simple, ‘these colors rock’ or ‘it’s easy to follow’ will offer so much insight into the look you are aiming for.”

Generally speaking

When a client says “this isn’t working,” creatives have nothing to go on. But rewriting or redesigning with that kind of feedback is like shooting darts at a target in the dark. We might hit, we might miss. That’s not great when we all want a bull’s eye.

Details, details, details

Specific feedback, like "Could you soften this language" can help a creative understand how their creative will best fit your brand.
Specific feedback, like “Could you soften this language?” can help a creative understand how their creative will best fit your brand.

I recently helped a consultant launch his first website after a number of years in business. He had been so focused on his clients, he had no existing branding. For him, I wasn’t just writing website copy. I was shaping his company’s voice.

The site was for a male business owner who offers professional services. He wanted his brand identity to reflect his hobby as an outdoorsman. I started with his About page – it’s one of the trickiest website pages to write. Even though it’s “about” the company, it really needs to be about the customer/audience and how they’ll benefit from working with the company. I knew if I got the tone there right, the rest of the site would follow.

His initial feedback: “It feels too much like a Mountain Dew commercial.”

Essentially, he told me to de-steroid. You may be thinking, “Ouch!” But this is good feedback. Paired with comments on what he liked, it helped me get the tone right.

Praise can guide (and energize)

Just as important as establishing what you don’t like is what you like. Not only will it make your creative team feel great and want to do more great work for you, it will also help guide future content.

It’s as simple as writing comments as you edit or proof to let them know they hit the target.

After I submitted a concept for a recent project to the client for review, she gave good feedback, “The tone is perfect, and the concept is fun without being overbearingly clichéd or ‘cute.’ Excited to see how this progresses!”

Not only did I know I was on track and to keep going, I was excited to do my best for this client.

Pick your team carefully

Chantelle (lead graphic designer) said critiquing shouldn’t be a team sport for everyone around you. If you plan to ask for opinions, she recommends selecting your team carefully.

“Yes, you want everyone to love your brand but asking your neighbor, your mail carrier or even your coffee barista isn’t necessarily going to make your brand better,” she said. “It’s more than likely going to delay the process. Keep relevant minds on the project – select a few people who know your company’s messaging and goals to consult with when making decisions.”

At the end of the day, your creative team is here to support you. We want to make you look and sound good. And most importantly, achieve your business goals. The better your feedback, the better chance we’ll help you do what you do best. A confident creative will appreciate your constructive criticism and will use it to make something you’ll both feel good about.

Do you have a target you’re ready to hit? Give me the details!

How to tell your brand story to engage your audience

How to tell your brand story to engage your audience

Storytelling can be a powerful way for an organization to connect with its audience and inspire action. I’ll give you some ideas on how to tell a brand story through the story about a boy we’ll call William.

How a story about a boy caused urgent audience action

Photo of a piggy bank and change lying on the floor.
A story about a boy with a heart problem inspired my 6-year-old daughter to donate her own money.

When my daughter was in first grade, she came home from school one day and shot up the stairs to her room. You could cut the intense determination in the air with a butter knife. Wadded ones, quarters and pennies spilled from her money jar onto the bedroom carpet. She stacked and lined up the coins, flattened the ones and counted out how much she could donate to the American Heart Association (AHA). It was close to $10. Then she asked me to pony up.

Picture of Shopkins toys.
For the curious, these are Shopkins. They’re a bit bigger than a quarter. My daughter – and many girls in elementary school – have hundreds.

I was proud that she wanted to give her own money to a good cause. She earned that money. She brought in groceries, cleaned bathroom vanities and did general housework. Instead of buying Shopkins, she wanted to GIVE HER MONEY AWAY.

As businesspeople, we want to capture the hearts of our audiences like this, don’t we?

So what made her rush upstairs that afternoon when she could have been on the swing in the backyard? What made a 6-year-old donate money instead of cashing it in for toys?

I was sure I knew the answer. She wanted to win one of those silly plastic duck prizes they give students for hitting fundraising benchmarks. And I said as much as I pulled some cash from my wallet.

She looked at me with a mixture of disgust and pity.

“No mom. I want to help this boy.”

She held out a brochure. A little boy with big blue eyes stared back at me while my daughter’s own brown eyes gazed at me from the other side of the brochure.

“He has a heart problem,” she said. “The American Heart people can help him.”

This money wasn’t about the AHA. For my daughter, it was about the boy we’ll call William.

How companies can tell stories

Companies exist to serve a purpose; to resolve a pain point for someone else. Whether it’s an educational institution, an arts organization or a business-to-business tech company, there’s a human behind it.

If you want to tell your organization’s story, where do you even start? Here are a few tips to keep in mind to find and tell your brand story:

  1. Start with goals and people. State what you need to accomplish. Do you need to get people to download a new app? Then think about the people involved. Who came up with the idea for the app, and why? Who beta tested it? How did it help them and what did they say?
  2. Find your Williams. People connect with others like themselves. My daughter wanted to help the AHA when she heard the story of a boy she could picture swinging on the monkey bars at recess. It’s good to have multiple stories to represent one goal. Why?
    • Most media outlets want unique content, and may not agree to do a story if another station or newspaper is doing the same human interest story.
    • If you have two (or more) people representing the same story, you can take the story to more outlets.
  3. Make your brand the hero. A strong brand story should include a person with a problem, a solution (your brand/employees) and a great resolution/positive outcome.
  4. Show the story. Remember William’s blue eyes? Storytelling is as much about visuals as words. If the story will appear in written format, it needs to include eye-catching visuals like photos and infographics. Don’t wait until last minute to ask for photos or set up a photo shoot. You will reach a higher percentage of people through visuals and the key messaging you place in captions than you will through the story itself.
  5. Leverage your story. Will you pitch the story to the media? Or will you self-publish and share it through your own channels like your website/blog, social media, newsletter or annual report? Remember, multiple human interest stories for one goal help the story go further.
  6. Use high-quality storytelling techniques. Should you choose to publish the content yourself, make sure it’s strong writing or high-quality video production. A great story goes nowhere fast with bad grammar, industry jargon, bad lighting and poor sound. Work with a strong storyteller who can make use of the senses to give a sense of place, create emotional impact and knows when to keep and delete details to keep the story moving.

When you connect with your audience on an emotional level, you’ll discover one of the most powerful ways to inspire someone to act.

Every company has a William. You just have to do some work to find him. When you do, share his story in a way that truly inspires your audience.

Interested in telling your brand story? Let’s talk. 

How to name a business in 17 steps

How to name a business in 17 steps

how-to-name-a-business-look-everywhere-for-inspiration
Read on: inspiration for your new business name could pop up anywhere. So step away from your desk!

No doubt, you’ll get a rush from everything that comes with launching your business! There are so many things to do and think about other than the tasks of your trade. One of those tasks is to figure out how to name a business.

When I completed the month-long naming process for my freelance marketing business, I felt relieved and ecstatic to move forward. But I also felt like a Nova with an empty gas tank.

For about a month, I would wake up in the middle of the night shouting names. I kept a notepad and pen next to the bed for those 3 a.m.-ers. And I lost focus on conversations with everyone around me. Something mid-story might spark an idea and I’d run off to write it down. I share this so you don’t feel alone if you’re experiencing those highs and major lows.

Researching how to name a business and going through the process is a lot of work. And very personal. What one person praises, another will tear down. But if you follow the steps below, they might help your naming process fly and add a little pep back to your step.

  1. Lean on your village. You’re about to begin a difficult process. There will be ups. Many moments where light bulbs appear above your head. And downs when you realize that great idea you had is already taken or when you think you just can’t be creative anymore. It’s good to have trusted advisers and good friends who will lift you up when things get heavy.how-to-name-a-business-ideas-notebook
  2. Write it down. Get your hands inky and jot ideas on a notepad. There’s something about the old-fashioned way of writing that jogs a brain. A laptop works too. Or hey, maybe even a napkin.
  3. Include everything. The ideas might just start flowing at first. Stream-of-consciousness is good, so write down the crazy words even if they seem like a stretch.
  4. Start with what you know. You might start with things related to your business. What do you do? Why? What benefit does your audience get from you?
  5. Expand your list. Visit a thesaurus and find more words for the words that you’ve already written down. Scribble the ones you like on your notepad.
  6. Play with words. One tool I like is the idiom dictionary.Plug in words you like to see if they’re in any phrases in an idiom dictionary. Rhyming words are good too. Cross-reference rhyming words with the idioms dictionary. Then substitute your word of choice. Here’s a fun and slightly inappropriate example… Let’s say I’m selling pies. The thesaurus suggests the synonym tart. One word that rhymes with tart is heart. I use the idiom dictionary to come up with expressions, say, “Home is where the heart is.” Then substitute the word you really want to use. Now it reads: “Home is where the tart is.” Now that’s a fun ad headline!
  7. Look everywhere for inspiration. Your hobbies, favorite books, poems, movies, music. What was the street of your favorite author? The name of your favorite hiking trail? Numbers with meaning. I got my idea for a name from a garden creature called a clearwing hummingbird moth. I adopted the name and made it work for what I do. ClearWing tells a story in itself – clear & concise messaging that gives your brand a lift.
  8. Create a name list. Now look at your word lists and start playing. What words do you like? Can you combine them? Can you create new words by combining parts? By the end of the process, I examined around 700 words or name ideas on my list.
  9. Check availability. Once you create a name list, you’ll want to check availability. Look to see if there are already businesses with those names. Get ready – this is the worst part of the process. So many creative names are claimed. If a business in a similar industry to yours has the name you like, keep brainstorming.
    • Check to see if your idea is trademarked on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website. If not, it’s still not an all-clear. Lots of businesses are active online without trademarking.
    • Check to see if the URL is available.
    • Google the name to see what comes up.
    • Look for the name in LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
    • If someone parked a URL you’re interested in, but no one trademarked or uses the business name, you can still consider the name. You’ll just have to get creative with the URL if you can’t buy it. You might consider adding “WeAre…” to the front of the name or a verb like “Creates” to the back that describes what you do.
  10. Step away. At this point in the process, you may feel stressed and less creative. Go for a run, take your kids to a movie or do whatever it is you love to do. Maybe that involves wine. You’ll be surprised how more ideas come your way when you’re trying NOT to think about it.
  11. Audio test. Once you’ve come up with an exhaustive list of names that are legally available, you’ll need to narrow it down. Before you start reaching out to people for opinions, do an audio test of your favorites. Listen to yourself saying it aloud. You’ll rule some out just because they’re awkward to say. It’s helpful to record yourself and listen to the playback. I used a voice recorder app on my phone. I “introduced myself” at a networking event and “recorded” a message on my phone. I was able to hear how my business sounded on a recording, which was quite different than how it sounded to myself in the moment I said it. I was able to rule some out this way too.
  12. Survey people. I kept track of the men and women because I wanted a name that would appeal to both groups. I tested people from different age groups in my industry, but also people in businesses that could be potential clients. Keep your audience in mind when you survey. You can use SurveyMonkey for a more formal survey process. I did the survey more informally by email, text and Facebook. I asked people to vote for as many as they liked.
  13. Tell somebody on the phone. When I narrowed the name down to the top votes, I mentioned it to a few people on the phone. I ruled out one of my favorite names because several people asked me to repeat it. Then they would ask me what it meant. Once they understood, they had a positive reaction to it. But the initial “come again?” reaction was a clear sign that the name would be a hassle when networking.
  14. Let go. You might need some time to think over your finalists, so if you can, give yourself time to just chew on it.
  15. Trust yourself. At some point, you might get opinion overload. During the voting process, opinions helped show which names sparked positive associations. But when you’re down to the final selection, very smart and successful business people may differ with each other on what makes the best name. So, if you invented the name, it’s available, you like it, and it got a lot of votes on your list, you have to trust yourself at some point and choose a name. You will never make everyone happy.
  16. Commit. For businesses that have a good amount of lead time before the launch, you’ll have time to create, think, survey and repeat if needed. But time is a luxury that many people don’t have. So go with your instincts and pick the name that you feel you can own with pride. And buy your URL as fast as possible.
  17. Thank your village. Luckily, I had guidance from a number of wonderful people throughout this process. And, my family who had to listen to my bright ideas and grumblings. My four-year-old son even got in on the action. He recommended I name the business “Cheese Boop.” It was a joke that went on for days and helped lighten the tension. One of my most emotionally supportive villagers was Chantelle Catania. She knows how to name a business. She renamed and re-branded her graphic design firm, Annatto after doing the same thing for many clients. My final name choice was far from her pick, but she pushed me to go with my gut and cheered me when I made a decision. She said if I owned it loud and proud, it would be a success.

So, thank you to everyone who helped me figure out how to name a business. You were patient through a grueling process. And, invaluable sounding boards. Together, we narrowed down a lot of good choices.

This process is not for the faint of heart! If you find yourself in the midst of a rebrand or a new business launch and would like professional help (as in the brainstorming/marketing kind), fill out this form to email me or call 404-409-7759.

And for more inspiration on how to brainstorm a business name, check out Annatto’s blog on naming a business here.