Education & Training

Before Selling: Branding Your Name

by Bob Maschi

There's an old hypothetical story that goes like this: Coca-Cola could lose everything--every factory, every truck, every bottle, every piece of office furniture. Everything from its bank accounts to its paper clips could simply vanish. (Now wouldn't that please Pepsi?) Then, company officials could walk into any bank and, using only the Coke brand name as collateral, borrow enough money to replace all that Coke had lost. The moral? A brand name that's recognizable to buyers is worth investing in. It brings you more sales, higher prices, and repeat business.

This fictional scenario seems even more relevant these days in our virtual world. Does anybody doubt that the most valuable commodities eBay, Amazon.com, or Yahoo owns are their domain names? To follow is information and advice on how to brand your name when setting up an online store to get people to remember you and encourage repeat business.

What's in a Name?

First of all, consider whether you have a name that's worth branding. If you aren't getting repeat business on at least 10 percent of your customers, you have a problem. It means buyers are accidentally tripping over you, or not seeking you out. The problem could be as simple as your choice of a username.

If you aren't getting much repeat business, a name change won't hurt anything but your ego. Too many names blend in--JustAnotherSeller or frank@drab.dul. Or they inadequately convey your online personality. Once you've determined what to sell online, consider how your name reflects your product assortment. You might love Garfield the cat, but if you're trying to sell old books, BigGarfieldLover is a lousy name. Moreover, you don't want to sound like an elderly widow if you're selling computer equipment or a teenage rap artist if you're selling vintage dolls.

Short is usually good, perhaps as many as eight characters. These letters don't have to form a real word, but they should be pronounceable. Long can work as well, especially if you add dynamic keywords. Depending on your specialty, you could try adding atomic-, cosmic-, compu-, super-, or mega- to another word or name (remembering that AtomicCosmicCompuSuperMega is far too long). Avoid adding numbers to your name. While many e-companies encourage this, numbers are harder to remember than a name.

Specialize It

Once you've got a memorable and relevant online moniker, you want to start spreading that name. One good way to brand your name is by specializing. If you take a shotgun approach to selling, don't expect that many buyers will remember you. You can't sell banjos, Barbies, baseballs, and bras the same week and expect that you'll stand out. Focus on a major category, with one or two minor specialties within it. For example, sell old toys, specializing in board games. Or sell computer parts, specializing in mouse pads and printers. This way, you attract people who are interested in many of your items, not just the first one they encounter.

Sure, you'll have odd products outside of your specialty to sell. You can blend these in with your items or set aside a week out of every few to display these odd lots. Or maybe you can set up an alternate seller identity to unload all those miscellaneous products. Most online sites will allow you to have more than one account, as long as you don't give yourself feedback or bid on your own products.

Think about it: Specializing is far easier than trying to sell bras, baseballs, and Barbies to a banjo collector.

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