How technology start-ups get in trouble
When a technology start-up finally releases product, it often feels like giving birth. It only seems natural for the founding team to give this new creation a singular and inspiring name that could become a brand on its own. In some cases, the company may have developed a wider product platform that leads to the packaging of multiple solutions. It continues to feel just natural to give these product offspring singular names as well… That’s where some companies get in trouble with their branding and their visibility in the marketplace.
These start-ups suddenly find themselves promoting a company name, a platform name and several solution names, sometimes with little regard to coherent naming conventions. Prospects, who are looking for a solution to their specific problem get exposed to these multiple brands from the get-go and have to spend precious mental energy and time trying to understand what solutions provides what features.
You hear sales reps leading with technology and product names in presentations trying to convince customers that one particular solution is the perfect fit for their problem. Many of the prospects flinch as they are not ready to buy yet. They are just trying to learn more about the company’s core capabilities and assess if these could be of help. Others just get confused and have a hard time to remember what name matches the solution that was presented to them.
The Internet has made the problem worse
In a world where the buyers begin their search for solutions on the Internet and will not engage a vendor until they are somehow educated on the subject and are 60-70% through their purchasing cycle, supporting multiple product ‘brands’ is a real problem. Here’s why.
In emerging, immature technology markets, most Internet searches for technical solutions mostly start by typing descriptive terms of the problem or the solution in your favorite search engine and are led by questions such as: Are there others out there that have the same problem? How did they overcome the problem? Did they find solutions that addressed that problem? What are the pros and cons possible alternatives? What are their reviews of those solutions?
In such a world, pushing multiple brands can become a real problem for 2 main reasons:
- Poor search results: If most prospects start their search with descriptive terms (example: “best storage management for SMB”), it is very likely that the company’s branded product will rank very low in the search results and be ‘invisible’ to the prospect. The prospect did not search for the product brand and the search engine did not index the description of the product. Attaching keywords to some key pages may help some, but the fundamental problem remains.
- Brand dilution: Pushing multiple brands inevitably dilutes your recognition in the marketplace and makes it more difficult to be memorable and immediately recognizable. Some prospects refer to the solution by the company name, same refer to it by the platform name while others use the actual product name. That doesn’t make for an efficient replication of the signal and the association between who you are and what you stand for is much more tenuous.
This is what the market leading companies do
The market leaders focus on one main brand and give descriptive product names to their products, to capitalize on:
- Search Engine Optimization: they want the description of their products to be indexed by the search engines and to rank high in searches for those terms. They want to be found by customers that rely on the internet to search for a solution and for their market education.
- Strong Brand Identity: they want their company name to be easily identified with the market they operate in. Descriptive product names preceded by the company name reinforce the company brand.*
An example of this is HubSpot. HubSpot is a software company that has become synonymous with Inbound Marketing. Their naming conventions is pretty simple:
- Their company name/brand is HubSpot
- They platform name is HubSpot
- Their product names are descriptiveandare preceded by the company name
- HubSpot Analytics
- HubSpot Workflows
If you look at companies as diverse as Oracle, IBM, Apptio, Metricstream,… you will notice the same pattern.
This has been proven over and over. So keep is simple: focus on one company brand and use descriptive terms for your products.
* Note: just make sure not to choose a descriptive name for your company name. That doesn’t work, as you will be indistinguishable from the generic use of that name by everyone else in the market.