Last Updated Dec 20, 2010 12:35 PM EST
In 2003, I designed a piece of Internet software that allows technical support staff to view clients' computer screens from a remote location. In two-and-half months I had sold enough copies to make $25,000. I brought in a couple of buddies from college, and we decided to form a company. We were great with computers, but when it came to naming and branding our new company, we fell flat on our faces.
We chose the name NetworkStreaming. A lot of our competitors were naming their companies by smashing two loosely related industry terms together, so we did the same. Bad idea. It quickly became evident that people didn't know what it meant or how to spell it. The final straw was when, in 2005 and 2006, YouTube and other online video providers co-opted the term "streaming" to mean streaming video, leaving many people even more confused about what our company did.
We knew it was vitally important to find a name that helped us stand out from everyone else in our niche, or we risked sinking into obscurity. Fortunately, our search for a new name evolved into a complete reinvention of our brand.
We consulted an expert
At the time, I was reading a great book -- The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, by Al and Laura Ries. It listed all the attributes of a good company name: easy to spell, easy to remember, unique, short. And most importantly, a good name should have a story behind it.
My staff and I brainstormed a list of 400 names -- none of them fit the bill. We needed help, so I did the only thing I could think of: I gave Al Ries a call. Surprisingly, he agreed to meet, and after a brief chat, he said, "Joel, you're sitting on a fantastic company name: your own last name."
The only problem was my last name was Bomgaars. It was hard to spell and hard to pronounce because of the double A and the S on the end, which people left off as often as not. Al had a solution for that, too: knock off an A from the middle and the S from the end and you get Bomgar. It's punchy, short, easy to say and spell, easy to remember and now it had a great story -- about how we rebranded our company -- attached to it. I was convinced.
Now my name appears as Bomgar on everything but my license and passport. Everyone but my closest family and friends knows me as Joel Bomgar.
At first I worried that my employees would think I was arrogant if I named the company after myself. But I learned from speaking with them that they actually saw it as a reassuring sign of my commitment to the company. Naming the company after myself was like making the company my baby -- it meant I was in it for the long haul.
We refocused our company around the new name
We used the opportunity to rename our products as well. Before the change, I was Joel Bomgaars, CEO of NetworkStreaming, which sold NetworkStreaming software and a remote support appliance called SupportDesk. Afterwards, I was Joel Bomgar, CEO of Bomgar Corp., which sells Bomgar remote support software along with the Bomgar Box remote support appliance. Want to check us out on the web? Go to Bomgar.com.
Renaming the company also inspired us to choose a new color to represent our brand. Previously we had used a combination of dull gray and blue -- our competition used muted colors so we did, too. Now we use a single shade of bright orange. We redesigned our letterhead, business cards and website to include the color wherever possible. We even painted the walls in the office orange. Everyone at the company was totally into it. The color is so bright that even after clients navigate away from our website, the color stays in their mind.
Our final move was to kill our side projects and spend 100 percent of our resources on our remote support software. We had been dabbling in some other areas, but we realized that branding is about getting rid of anything that dilutes a company -- whether it's confusing names, boring colors or extraneous side projects.
Our rebranding worked
In 2006, the year before we completed our rebranding strategy, my company had $5.7 million in sales. Two years later -- at the same time the market was crashing -- we had $21 million in sales, and we are continuing to grow at a rapid pace. We're on track to reach $30M in revenue for 2010.
Inc. magazine's Inc. 500 ranks Bomgar as the sixth-fastest growing computer and electronics company in America.
--As told to Harper Willis