Don't Name That! Whatever You Do, Please Don't Name That!

(Or: Do you know what you are naming? And does it actually need a name?)


Companies name too many things. Customers are confused. Sales teams are confused. 

This is not another post insisting that naming be handled by professionals. In a vacuum, many product names you’ll come across in B2B companies are good enough. The problem is that the vast majority of names don’t exist in a vacuum; each is one part of an ever-expanding portfolio. 
Product names intended to create clarity and deepen connections often to do the exact opposite. In B2B markets - where products are more complex and decisions more layered and considered - too many named things will simply get in the way of your story.  Stop the madness.
Sure, many companies can use some help in determining HOW they name things. Yet the bigger challenge I see for many B2B companies happens “upstream” - that is, in establishing WHAT they choose to name in the first place.

The issue often comes in communicating not what we do – but how everything fits with everything else we do.  If a new thing comes along, you want to show where it fits. But then we name it – and that has the opposite result.
IT Services Sales Executive

If you’re explaining, you’re losing
There is a saying in politics: “If you’re explaining, you’re losing.” Well, if your sales teams need a cheat sheet to help them understand the portfolio and they have to spend precious pitch time explaining all of the different names in your portfolio, you’re losing. 

It seems to me that as soon as they have an idea the first thing they do is name it and then they start developing it. They have started backwards.
Product Marketing Executive

I get it. Naming a new product can be exciting, rewarding and satisfying. Creating a name can help to establish an identity among internal peers as you look to gain support/funding/mindshare about the initiative you’ve been working on for the past several months. Yet before you embark down the road to name your new product, ask yourself this: Is this actually a product? For many B2B companies, the answer tends to be: “not really.” This may be some great new enhancement to existing functionality. It may be a new feature. It may, when combined with other offerings, be a new solution. But is it actually a product – and should you treat it as such?

How do you define a product?
Or a service, or a solution, or a platform or a feature? For many companies, such definitions quickly get muddled. This is the root of the confusion for sales teams, customer support teams and customers themselves.

Name proliferation tends to be most acute in B2B technology and tech-enabled markets, but you see it in financial services, industrials, healthcare and elsewhere.

None of these things are straightforward products. And I don’t understand how they fit together. Do I need all of these things? What if just buy one? Could I even do that?
B2B Technology Customer

How do you know if you have a problem?
Here are a few kitchen table approaches that can indicate potential for concern:

  • Get product teams and sales teams together in the same room. Do they speak the same language with respect to the product portfolio? Are they using the same words to describe the different types of offerings? Do they share a common understanding of the customer journey and the buying process?
  • Speak to customers. Do they use and understand the product names – or do they tend to ignore them and mix them up? When they discuss your company with peers as they seek internal support, how do they talk about your portfolio?
  • Review web pages and product brochures. Are all of the names helping you tell a bigger story? Is there consistency in the overall naming approach or does it begin to feel like more like a collection of parts than a cohesive whole?

At the end of the day, if names are not helping your customers buy - nor helping your sales teams sell - who are they for?