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Hurricane Irene: What’s in a name?


Fortunately for us here in Chicago, we were nowhere near the path of deadly Hurricane Irene, whose aftermath is still wreaking havoc for millions up and down the east coast.

But that doesn’t mean we didn’t pay attention to its progression – especially those of us with friends, family and/or business associates who were and continue to be affected by the storm.

Weather buffs and emergency government agencies can certainly learn from Irene, but what about small business owners and entrepreneurs? Are there lessons for us that will lead to future profits?

Note: By profits, I’m not just talking about the multi-billion dollar windfall realized by east coast hardware and grocery stores as the storm approached, or the even bigger paydays all kinds of service providers and repairmen will be raking in for quite some time to come due to the destruction and flooding left in its wake. I’m talking about the kind of sustainable, long-term profits that come from learning and implementing effective marketing strategies.
Here’s a true story to illustrate my point…

Last Saturday afternoon, just after the hurricane first made landfall in the U.S., a friend of mine who happens to be one of the world’s top marketing experts (and who happens to live safely thousands of miles away) posted to his Facebook Wall: “L.A. prepared for Freeway construction with a cool name [“Carmagedon”]. What’s the disaster name for Irene?”

In reply, I posted that whether they’re considered “cool” or not, of course all hurricanes most certainly do have names – and some, unfortunately, even become memorable.

But my friend still insisted that “they (The National Weather Service) are wasting a great naming opportunity. Where’s the fun in using a person’s name?”

Okay, so let’s excuse him for suggesting that natural disasters that cost billions of dollars and cause dozens of deaths are opportunities for “fun,” and let’s focus on the key point that all small business owners should pay attention to:

Names matter. Names can be memorable. Names can differentiate. Names can attract.

So the question is: Are you taking full advantage of the power of a name?

Note: I’m not talking just about the name of your business. Everyone knows that’s important, even though far too many small business owners waste a huge opportunity by naming their business “Johnson Plumbing” – or something to that effect. But we’ll save that topic for another day.

An advanced strategy very few business owners give any thought at all to is to come up with a name for their offers – bundles or packages of products or services that their prospects may want. For example:

  • Boring, forgettable offer: “Burger, Fries, Soda and a toy.”
  • Memorable, differentiating offer: “Happy Meal.”
  • Run-of-the-mill, takes-no-thought offer: “Watch every single pro football game.”
  • Exciting offer that resonates with target market: “NFL Season Ticket.”
  • Typical, unimaginative offer: “Multiple attraction discount plan.”
  • Catchy, inviting offer: “Chicago Family Fun Pass.”
  • Plain vanilla offer: “Airfare bidding system.”
  • Irresistible opportunity for travel buffs: “Name Your Own Price.” ®

Want a sure-fire way to make life easier for you as a business owner? Think about what special deal and/or package of goods or services you can you offer to your prospects, and come up with a memorable, differentiating name for it. This could take time, thought, effort and creativity – but the results will be well worth it.
In fact, it’s a skill you want to get good at and use over and over again.

In business, a sure path to mediocrity and frustration is to be seen and thought of as “just another _____________” that no one would miss if you were gone. The key, instead, is to create a situation where your business is in “a category of one,” where you are seen by your target market as the one-and-only possible provider of your product or service.

Coming up with a unique offer – and giving it a descriptive, memorable name – can go a long way towards positioning your business as “The Obvious Choice” by your ideal prospects. And when that happens, you’ll start to storm into a dominating place within your market, and be practically unstoppable.

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