How to Name a SaaS App, or How to Avoid the Bloody Mess That Brought Us, at Last, to “Disco”

Perhaps you’ll recall seeing this widget on CopyHackers.com and a few other sites in the summer of 2013:

Kyvio on Copy Hackers

That’s the little incentivized survey we’ve been building for, oh, ever

At first, we were calling it Kyvio, which stood for:

Know
Your
Visitors
Inside
Out

We liked the name. The domain was available. And “Kyvio” seemed relatively easy to pronounce + not overly quirky, which the names of online / digital services can too often be (more about that later)…

So we felt good about the name Kyvio going into our alpha testing last summer…

…at which time the entire idea for Kyvio fell spectacularly to pieces. And, for quite a while, the mother-effing name was the least of our worries…

What Went Wrong with Kyvio

The reason we created Kyvio was because we love using surveys to learn about visitors and prospects – and we allllllways recommend our clients use them – but survey response rates can be very, very low. So low as to make the data basically useless…

We saw, in our CRO experience, survey response rates hover around 5%…

Which means that, if you’re running a website with 1000 visitors per day, you might get 50 responses to your survey per day.

Which doesn’t sound bad, right? Totally not…

…Except a lot of the businesses that most need to learn from their visitors are lucky to get 1000 visitors per day…

…And let’s remember that 1000 visitors to your site in a day is not necessarily 1000 visitors exposed to your survey. If you expose it to 25% of your traffic to prevent ‘annoying’ the whole works, then you’ve got 250 prospective respondents and a max of 13 respondents per day. If you expose it to 100% of traffic but only on your site-proper – not on your blog because you want to keep data about your blog traffic separate from your sales-site traffic — then you could have as little as 100 prospective respondents per day. And 5 actual responses. Even though you’ve got 1000 visitors to your ‘site’ per day.

How can a startup learn — or hypothesize — with so little data?

So we thought, okay, well, what’s the big objection to visitors completing surveys on sites? It would be in the answer to that question, we believed, that the solution to better response rates lay.

How we went about answering that question is the subject of another post entirely – although it really came down to asking and observing users – but what we found was this: Surveys are not only interruptive, but they’re also thankless work. It’s hard to avoid interrupting visitors… but perhaps there was something we could do about the thankless part.

Like, y’know, we could thank people.

And what if the thank you was bigger than the word “thank you”? What if it was… a reward? Like… a coupon code?

The wheels began turning. Then they turned faster.

We saw Kyvio taking shape in our heads. We wireframed it. We spoke to a great developer we know about building it. We applied what we know about persuasion and gamification to make the survey more engaging. And along the way, we had this glorious… incredible… amazing… genius epiphany. Here it is:

We would feed all the survey responses
into a Visitor Avatar
that would clearly and definitively
show marketers exactly who their visitors really are

The heavens opened. Angels. Harps. High-fiving. All of it.

THAT was something people would pay for!

We built a prototype with the help of these cool peeps.

We put it on CopyHackers.com, and the results were beyond awesome. More than a 12% response rate to a whopping 5 questions. Kyvio could get people to answer FIVE QUESTIONS IN A ROW! And the data appeared to be good – only one “yer tits” comment in the lot. Plus, our paid conversion rate nearly doubled, thanks to the coupon codes people were earning. Whaaaaaat?? Holy shit. It was a CRO consultant’s dream.

So we asked a few of our friends if they’d run the Kyvio alpha on their sites. We told them they would learn sooo much about their visitors, it would blow their minds…

To which they said…

“Um, yeah, sure.”

And then they asked, “How long do you need it to stay up for?”

And then, when it was running, they asked, “Can we take it down soon?”

And we were like, What’s going on here? Sure, the Visitor Avatar part wasn’t built yet. But they were getting great feedback – and lots of it – from their visitors. Where was the enthusiasm? Where was the love? This stuff was gold. Why didn’t these smart business owners see that?

So we asked them to tell us what was up.

And, by and large, we heard this: “I’m not really sure what to do with the data.”

Business owners have more data right now than they can shake a stick at. But we leave it in their hands – often rightly so – to figure out how to use that data to better their businesses, their products, everything.

With ho-hum interest from the people we considered to be good prospects, we were dejected.

We sadly put Kyvio on pause… and went through a mourning period… and then tried to move on.

The Realization That Revived Kyvio

Over the next six months or so, as Lance went to work on the very-cool User Hue, I’d get a tweet every so often about Kyvio.

Or an email about it:

You had that cool survey thing with the discounts. I’d love to use it for my visitors, when is it coming out?

And those would make me go look over the great feedback we’d already had about Kyvio – like the 100s of super-positive things survey respondents told us about using Kyvio:  

“Great hook with the savings, feels like you’re giving something back in exchange for my feedback”

“I love how fast it was and how it let me stop at any time. But how could I stop? Really, I was compelled!”

“thought it was cool and want it for my site. Advise how to implement”

And while I was drowning my sorrows over the good idea that just couldn’t be, I’d reflect on tweets about Kyvio from people like @thedavecollins:

Kyvio became something I couldn’t let go of. Like the proverbial monkey on yer back. I tried to talk myself out of it. I told myself it was the bad ex-boyfriend, it would only bring me pain, it would steal my youth and zest for life and give me tired blood, and there is no cure for tired blood…

After years of chronically watching Shark Tank and Dragon’s Den, I had the voices of brilliant business minds in my head telling me to give up on it. I could visualize Kevin O’Leary telling me I’m dead to him if I move forward with a solution that businesses have shown they do not get and/or do not want…

…It was around this time that a guy with a 100,000 person list emailed me to ask when Kyvio would be ready. He wanted to use it. I was like, “Why? Use some other survey. Stop bothering me.” And he was like, “I don’t want the survey, fool! That’s just a means to an end. I want the coupon delivery.”

Lance and I were like, huh?

Turns out the guy thought we’d built Kyvio to cleverly disguise incentive-delivery as a survey. He thought we’d seen its core value and built it with that in mind. He thought we knew it was a smart way to compel visitors to buy from you by ‘earning’ a coupon code…

New question #1: Could we be the blindest people alive?

New question #2: What if the survey is only PART of the solution? What if the real solution is not to “know your visitors inside-out” but something else… something more directly tied to the bottom line? What if people could increase their conversion in two ways: by learning, and by incenting?

We decided to do the thing they mock on Silicon Valley: we pivoted. A little.

Renaming the Survey-Thing Now That the Survey-Thing Was Only Part of It

In truth, no one knew what KYVIO stood for as a name, so we could have kept it. But Lance and I hesitated to keep it because:

  • A meaningless collection of letters is just that: meaningless
  • Kyvio had no brand equity, so keeping it would only be for the sake of convenience / laziness / saving $9.99 on a domain
  • We’ve seen that a name sticks better when people ‘get it’, like when a story of some kind – whether clear or the stuff of legend – is behind it

Bear with me while I go to potentially eye-roll-inducing places… but Steve Jobs could name Apple “Apple” way back when because restrictions on naming were not what they are today. It’s hard as hell to name a startup now! Imagine trying to get a 5-letter domain using a real word like “Apple” today? There are million-dollar auctions for that sort of thing…

You’ve probably already experienced the frustration of feeling cornered into a name based purely on a) its availability as a domain and b) its short length (yay for short Twitter handles).

When we started revisiting the name Kyvio, we first landed on this semi-cute name, and we thought we had a winner: Incentee.

Domain available? Check. Twitter handle available? Check. Understandable value? Check. Easy enough to pronounce and remember? Check, check. Not super-long? Check.

Then we asked some people who’d signed up to be Kyvio beta users what they thought of the new name – because, hell, why not ask?

  • 19% of people said they loved Incentee
  • 23% said they didn’t care what the name was
  • 14% said they hated Incentee

Others said Incentee sounded “cheap”, “grammatically suspect” and “like t-shirts”.

…So maybe we didn’t have a winner?

It was around that time that the very awesome Justin Vincent, who’d just sold Pluggio and whom we knew from TechZing, came on board. He didn’t like Incentee, either.

And so began my transformation into Dante and the beginning of our long, arduous walk through the levels of Hell that are naming a solution when multiple people are involved

Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here

Among the many, many names we considered over the longest week of my life:

  • KickBack
  • KickGiant
  • KickBaby
  • GiantKitty
  • Kicker
  • rewoot
  • lightstack
  • disko
  • stacker
  • fabcount
  • thankup
  • thankseed
  • thanker
  • thanks.io
  • thanky.io
  • thanksy.io
  • DiscoBox
  • IncentiveBox
  • RewardBox
  • DiscoDot
  • IncentiveDot
  • RewarDot
  • UserDot
  • bluedot
  • basket
  • sweeten
  • arigato
  • recipro
  • gratify
  • shortladder
  • runaway train
  • orchard
  • brightspot
  • bamboo
  • fatfruit
  • thankspot
  • curveball
  • sliderd
  • slidreward
  • poppy

For a while there, we thought we’d landed on something with Blue Dot. After all, many people who’d used Kyvio had commented that the “blue dot”, which is the dot where the incentive increases, was awesome. And then there was the whole connection to Carl Sagan’s pale blue dot, which made star-gazer-geek Lance pretty happy – and I liked the nice cleanliness of those simple, unassuming words: blue dot. But Justin didn’t think it sounded very powerful or aspirational. Plus, weren’t we going to let people change the color of the blue dot to match their brand?

So we scrapped Blue Dot.

In our frustration, we stumbled on a post – which I’m sorry but I can’t find now – that said that great names a) use alliteration, b) are iconoclastic, c) rhyme or d) are self-describing. And so:

ALLITERATION:
AntlerAsk
PeachPicker
SweetSurvey

ICONCLASTIC:
survana
vaxa
survboard

RHYMING:
Crogrow
Firelight
ThinkThank
ThankTank

SELF-DESCRIBING NAMES (easy to understand and remember):
Saleboat
Hook (hooksurveys.com)
Unstop

Perhaps you’re starting to smell our desperation?

Nothing was sticking. Nothing was working.

What the F**K was the name supposed to be???

Although I’d been through about a hundred thousand business- and product-naming projects back in my agency years, I was having a hard time articulating exactly what a great name needs to express. What it needs to do. What qualities it needs to have. And, of course, there was the fact that my agency days were a good while back… and the startup landscape had certainly changed since then.

So we did what any copy hacker does. We researched. And we decided that our name had to do the following, ideally in this order:

  1. In some way speak to the unique value proposition of our incentivized survey
  2. Be a name we could confidently say to a large enterprise C-level or a VC, without feeling like idiots (which came to be known as passing The Fred Wilson Test)
  3. Be easy to pronounce
  4. Be easy to spell / remember
  5. Have positive connotations for our audience… but avoid confusing foreign audiences
  6. Be fewer than 10 characters
  7. Be available as a .com – even if we had to add a word like “try”, “use” or “get” to the front or “surveys” to the back
  8. Not limit us to the product as it is today but rather leave a little room for flexibility / interpretation / further pivoting

Yeah, just a short little list…

No pressure.

Easy to get a name right when it has to tick all those boxes. Suuuure. Easy.

Choosing Disco

To be fair, Justin and I seemed to be far more fixated on selecting the right name than Lance was… which is why it sort of came down to me and Justin and our fave ideas…

I liked survana, SurvBoard and BlueDot. Justin liked Disco. When we measured those 4 names against the 8 criteria above, only Disco ticked all the boxes. Plus, we liked the feel of it as a word. The motion built into it. The action of it. After all, part of the charm of Kyvio – or, sorry, of Disco – is that it moves really, really fast.

Naming Disco by Copy Hackers“Disco” was a fit.

Did we all KNOW it was a fit immediately? Nope! Justin had presented it early on, when we were talking about our value prop and using these words a lot:

Discount

Discovery

Although we all liked it early on, we were waiting, I think, for something major to hit us. An epiphany, like we’d had at points in the creation of Disco. But if we were to be honest with ourselves, the oh-so-great epiphanies of our past had hardly produced fruit. They’d just been ideas. Not even good ones, when played out. So waiting to be smacked over the head with the most genius name in the history of names would warrant a smack all right…

Disco felt good.

It still feels good.

And our pre-launch / beta signup page is now up – so check it out by clicking here

What do you think? Cool? Awesome? Lame? Back to the drawing board?

(Please, dear Lord, not back to the drawing board!)

~jo

 

I Want to Try Disco Incentivized Surveys
Thanks for promising not to spam me. :) Let me know when Disco by Copy Hackers is ready to knock my socks off...
  • http://restartyourstyle.com/ Robert van Tongeren

    Haha, I see what you did here, Joanna, and you still persuaded me. Nicely done :)

    Especially love the cleverly disguised social proof. Might have to steal that from you ;)

    • Joanna Wiebe

      haha! Steal away. :)

  • Ruben Aguirre

    So when’s Disco coming out!?

    By the way, been reading all 7 of your ebooks and they are aaaaaaaaawesome! I’ve only applied, maybe like 5% of the action items and I’ve already seen significant improvements in our messaging.

    • Joanna Wiebe

      How cool, Ruben!!! Email me — I wanna hear more. :)

      Disco is still being built and beta tested. We do hope to have the landing page up this weekend though — hahaha! How crazy for website people not to have a landing page for their product yet, right??

  • http://www.patenteducationseries.com/ Lisa Parmley

    Not sure I like the name, but I love the idea of the tool and signed up to get more info on it when it goes live. All the best with it … Lisa

    • Joanna Wiebe

      Thanks, Lisa. Names are tough. But I think that, as long as we don’t change it again, we’re good. I can’t handle another name change!!

  • http://workado.com/ Justin McGill

    This was a very engaging read! I personally liked Survana, but that might have been due to the fact that I was a big Nirvana fan :) Rewoot is pretty awesome too. When I see Disco, I have no clue as to what it is. Learning about it through this blog though definitely excited me to sign up to be alerted when its released, but I personally don’t know that Disco nails it…and I feel like if it did you would have known when it was originally brought up.

    • Joanna Wiebe

      I know, right? It was totally, like, an homage to Nirvana, mixed in with a bit of yogi-type love. :) As for whether Disco nails it, hell, only time will tell! Sometimes, it seems, you’ve just gotta stop brainstorming and go with something.

      (BTW, the name Copy Hackers happened in, like, two iterations of an idea over the course of about 17 seconds. I said to Lance, “I’m thinking of calling the books Copy for Hackers” and he was very Social Network in his reply when he said, “Cool, but drop the ‘for’. Just Copy Hackers.”)

  • http://www.copy-cat.co/ Momoko Price

    Okay, okay, so I love the epic story of Disco, but right now, pre-caffeine, I just want to say that I LOVE that you linked to my FAVE scene of my FAVE character in Silicon Valley so far :)

    “How much would it be worth to you if I told you I had a GPS app called Pied Piper tracking the location of your child??” Omg I love Jared/Donald so much.

    But back to the matter at hand: Disco is good! Def better than Incentee, and I personally dig the chunky happy logo font you went with. Rounds it out well. The 100% red colour treatment might be a little visually intense over the long haul, but that’s just another design feature you can play around with later.

    Kudos on your perseverance!!

    • Joanna Wiebe

      I KNOW! I love that guy. He’s so nuts.

      I love the logo / type our designer Jane Portman came up with, too. The color is supposed to be bright orange, not red, so we’ll have to keep our eyes on that…

  • http://www.decalmarketing.com/adwords-book/ Iain Dooley

    The team at Working Software were all so proud to have been a part of the initial product prototype. It was a really exciting project and we all enjoyed working with you and Lance. Can’t wait to try out Disco … you couldn’t have found a better partner than Justin to make it happen! Great work on the name … although rewoot is also pretty awesome :)

    • Joanna Wiebe

      “rewoot”? Damn, was that one of the options we were kicking around? haha! It was. I totally forgot about that one.

      Thanks tons for your awesomeness with Disco, Iain. We’d be lost without ya!

  • http://pandadoc.com Sasha Kovaliov aka nlupus

    I had so much fun reading this Joanna and it took me back about a year ago when we were thinking of a name for our pivot (that’s a curse?) from Quote Roller.

    We brainstormed for weeks and cut down to 7 variants out of hundreds of possible names and went through all the ordeals you’ve listed in the post. I pushed for PandaDoc and we finally agreed to go with it.

    How do you name an app to quickly sign documents online and not be boring at the same time?

    Reasons we went for PandaDoc: #1 was an emotional connection (everyone loves pandas); #2 was story behind the name (going paperless, saving trees); and #3 was a differentiator (almost all competitors have sign in their name).

    I also recommend going with either one word, or if it’s a two letter word, just spell it without spaces. I was ready to kill people who kept spelling Quote Roller without a space and searching for mentions is so much easier.

    Regarding twitter handles and facebook addresses being taken, this can be easily solved, just like we did for PandaDoc.

    Congrats on nailing it with Disco! Very groovy ;)

    • Joanna Wiebe

      I guess time will tell if we’ve nailed it :) , but I’m hopeful! For what it’s worth, I like PandaDoc quite a bit – the charm of the panda is, like you say, nice to play off of. (Who doesn’t love a panda??) The one-word vs two-word thing is also interesting; I never thought about the challenge of searching for mentions when people are likely getting your name spelling and/or spacing wrong, Sasha. Great point!!

  • yazinsai

    “I could visualize Kevin O’Leary telling me I’m dead to him” — haha THIS was hilarious. Big Shark Tank fan :)

    Your posts rock!

    • Joanna Wiebe

      hahaha! Next I’ll write a post about how he’d compare Disco to established solutions and say, “They’re going to crush you like the cockroach you are!”

      • yazinsai

        Sometimes I think he just needs a hug (just NOT from Barbara — still haven’t gotten over the kiss from a few seasons back)

  • http://tutorialgirl.com/ Melanie Richards

    Boy can I relate! Your email about this post showed up in my inbox just as I was rethinking my own brand. I’m going through the exact mind-numbing process. It’s so subjective, everyone will have their own preference. Relevant, memorable and easy to spell is what I think is most important. Thanks for sharing your process and thoughts. Thinking I should do the same with my list and get some feedback.

    For whatever it’s worth, my top pick was Survana. ;)

    • Joanna Wiebe

      Oh my gosh, I really liked Survana. It came to me as I was falling asleep, and I was totally excited about it the next day. But then as soon as I mentioned it to Lance, he was like, “Oh, yeah. Neat.” And I was like, “Neat? It’s genius! It’s perfect! Surv-vana. Get it? Like nirvana for surveys?” He tried to support me there, but, alas, the name didn’t fly with Justin, either.

      It’s so smart that you mention easy to spell. That’s what’s particularly bad about all the cutesy / clever names that startups seem forced to adopt today just to get the .com. Names with two As where the real word has one, or three Bs in a row, or an extra E at the end, or an X that sounds like a Z. Confusing. How do you recommend a site to someone when you can’t remember what it was called ‘cos it was just a jumble of a bunch of letters??

      • http://tutorialgirl.com/ Melanie Richards

        Totally feel your anguish!! Disco is really easy to remember that’s for sure! Now for brand image, you could have Travolta in his classic pose, but his hand is checking a box! ;)

  • http://www.makementionmedia.com/ Jen Havice

    First off, choosing a name for a business or a product is a nightmare. Glad you came up with a good one!

    Second, I remember when I had that Skype chat with Lance, I mentioned the incentivized survey. I got that you were doing it to get info on your customers but all I could think of was what a great idea to get people to buy. It’s the ultimate killing 2 birds with 1 stone. Plus, there’s almost a game like effect to it. Keep answering questions and you increase the amount of savings. I felt like I was winning something when I got the discount on one of the bundles I bought from you guys.

    Anyway, it’s very cool that you’re pursuing this. Good luck and I hope it takes off!

    • Joanna Wiebe

      I really wish we’d seen what you saw, Jen! It would have saved me a lot of crying in m’beer. :)

      • http://www.makementionmedia.com/ Jen Havice

        I guess I should have piped up sooner. But, I don’t think I would have expressed it that clearly. I just thought it was really cool that I could answer questions and get more and more of a discount as I went. I have to say that the question box did inspire me on that occasion to buy another book when I hadn’t intended to. Gave me an excuse to round out the whole library.

  • vint

    I like, love the name. Curious how you’ll be solving getting a .com for it – or what .com you’ll get. (something our investors find crucial). –Looking forward to more Disco news, Ann

    • Joanna Wiebe

      Why thank you! We’re going with trydisco.com for now. Our friends + peeps we admire in the startup world are doing this sort of thing more regularly now, and we’re cool with taking that approach, too. For now at least. Until we can afford >$100K for disco.com! ;)

      • vint

        Neat. And for twitter (and such) handles? If you can grab godisco.com for under 1K, i’d give it a go! ;) (or DoDisco? #alliteration #calltoaction and all that)

      • http://pandadoc.com Sasha Kovaliov aka nlupus

        godisco.it :)

      • Joanna Wiebe

        Yes, but I read that as God Is Co. (And I don’t think God is co, unless “co” is short for “cool”, but it sounds like God is incorporating or something.) That’s one of the reasons we didn’t take usedisco.com — because it looks like Used Isco. The challenges of naming! I tell you. They’re not to be underestimated. :)

  • http://www.vsellis.com Scott Ellis

    Joanna, Love the name, particularly the way it ties into “DISCOvery” as per surveys. I can see some fun things to do to promote the name and convey the idea.

    And for those of us who were at least alive in the Disco era it instantly grabs your attention.

    Your post is an interesting look at the process you went through and not all that different than the one I’ve gone through many times (and again just this week). I’m sure a lot of people will relate.

    What I haven’t done, but will now, is use the list of 8 things to measure the name ideas against. This will make a great reference post for anyone trying to name something.

    • Joanna Wiebe

      Cool, Scott — yeah, the list of 8 qualities a name should have is really the point of the post :) but the story just had to be told to get us there, methinks.

      Glad you like the name Disco! We’re big Bee Gees fans around here, which is yet another reason to dig it. :)