Sometimes people are brilliant at what they are doing but overlook an opportunity that is right under their noses. So here goes some hopefully useful thinking …
What is the absolutely easiest free marketing and sales pitch any company can make in the real estate world – or really in any world?
Answer – your name – i.e. the name of your company!
Every single time someone says it, asks for it, googles you, emails you, gets your business card, tells someone else about it, your name is used. You can’t get away from it.
If done right a name can be explosively useful (which I will discuss below), yet oftentimes I come across companies that name themselves with acronyms like:
Possibly the CEO’s kids are named Xaiomi, Beth and Toby, but the problem is that the name is almost impossible to remember; accordingly, the CEO loses out on a marketing opportunity every single day many times a day.
Sometimes – going too far in the other direction, people come up with a name that covers all aspects of what the company does, such as:
American and European Realty Debt and Equity Partners and Investors
This name – although on the surface informative – still results in the same result – that no one can remember it, nor does it achieve the upside that I will describe below.
Along these lines sometimes people come up with an acronym. If they want to be real estate investors that invest in debt strategies throughout the capital stack they use:
This stands for Real Estate Debt Strategies, but once again, is not memorable and doesn’t achieve the upside that I will describe below.
Finally, sometimes people hire a naming specialist or marketing or advertising agency to come up with a “name”. This can be useful, but only if the third party consultant is thinking in the manner I outline below. And it is critical that senior management be deeply involved.
Okay – I apologize if I have inadvertently insulted some people’s company’s names. I mean no harm and I am trying to be helpful. Here is what I think you “should” do in naming your real estate company.
Let’s think of what a great name can do for you, which can be dramatic, and I am not exaggerating here. Let me peel away the onion and show you just how to do it. There are just three steps:
First – consider “why” you are in business – see the great book by Simon Sinek, Start with Why, for some guidance. What is the purpose of your business? What is your message – internally to yourself and your employees – what gets you and your team excited to go to work every morning? If you don’t have an answer for this, see my prior article on this subject, as you have some work to do.
At the same time, consider your external message, to customers, lenders, investors, borrowers, landlords, tenants, buyers, clients, etc.
It is critical – and excellent – if the two messages are the same and dovetail together.
One way or another, hone your message down so you can say it in just a few words.
Second – once you have your message – your name has to be edgy, provocative and memorable. Don’t worry about offending people; instead, worry about getting noticed and remembered and telling people the entire story of your company in a couple of words.
Third – and finally – do not delegate this initiative! The owner, principal, CEO, top girl/guy has to do this project by his/herself. There is no way out of it. It is fine – and good – to brainstorm with a ton of people and keep an open mind into the workings of your own mind. Even hiring a third party expert could be very useful. But be honest about who you are and what you want to do in your business and “why” you are in business. If you just want to make a zillion dollars and really don’t care about anything else, well, I guess that’s what you’re about. Don’t try to fake being something you’re not. People will figure it out.
So here is an example of exactly what I am talking about….
Pretend your message is that you will look at making loans or investments that no on else would consider. Your theory is that the borrower or sponsor should come to you when they have exhausted every single possible alternative. When everyone turns down this borrower/sponsor, then the borrower/sponsor should come to you. Your theory is that when a borrower/sponsor comes to you, you will hold all the cards since, by definition, everyone else has turned them down. You will then be able to write your own terms for the loan/investment that could range from (i) just saying “no” because it really is a bad idea, (ii) charging a ton of interest or other upside to compensate for the risk, or (iii) changing the structure and nature of the investment so that it is not so crazy after all, i.e. you box the risk.
Is this smart or dumb? That is not the question here and I am not advocating this strategy – it is purely a metaphor – but right or wrong that is your strategy.
The first step is a short statement of the message, which is something like “when everyone else says ‘no’ give us a call”.
Now for the second step, which is making the name memorable and edgy and exciting. Here are some ideas:
Whacky Capital (hard to forget the name and implies you will do things others won’t do)
Effing Fearless Capital (see above)
Crazy Capital (but of course you’re not really crazy are you?)
Boxy Capital (implies like a fox and/or boxing risks)
The Last Resort Capital Company
Are these great names? Maybe. Maybe not. But they tell a story.
When someone gets hired by Effing Fearless Capital and – with raised eyebrows – asks why is that the name, someone at the company has to tell her that the CEO is the opposite of fearless and instead has the business model described above. There are even stories about how everyone said making the loan was nuts, but then...
And that same story registers with potential sponsors and borrowers, doesn’t it? Everyone will remember it. How many times will a borrower go to a “normal” lender for a loan and the lender might say something like….”well I don’t see how we could do something like this. Why don’t you try Whacky Capital. They’ll do almost anything.”
Try forgetting the name Whacky Capital, after all.
So that’s it. Have an amazing name that is the fulcrum of your business – that tells everyone internally and externally the story – keeps the heart of the company beating – and is unforgettable.
Of have a not-that-interesting name that people have to just strain to remember and does nothing at all for you.
The choice is yours.
By the way, naming things is my hobby. If you want to brainstorm with me about the name of your new company – or maybe a re-name of your existing company – I am here to help. It will be fun.
PS: Oh – and my law firm’s name – you might be wondering about. Ummm, Bruce, if you the great and wonderful Real Estate Philosopher are so smart, how come your law firm is named Adler & Stachenfeld. Well you have a great point, but there is a great answer and that is that in New York we lawyers have to name ourselves with partners in the firm. Or – believe me – I would have a different name for our enterprise. Dang!