How to simplify your slate of product names

Dear Karen: Our business has a lot of products with names all over the map. How can we simplify?

Answer: You’re running a “house of brands,” with multiple product identities that share no organizing principle, said Steve Cecil, a verbal branding professional at This contrasts with a “branded house,” in which all products draw on the master brand, like Purina Dog Chow and Cat Chow or Apple’s iPod, iPad and so on.

Reference your driving brand as you add new products. And use existing product names to appeal to your customers’ geographic and demographic preferences, Cecil said. Because they don’t reference your corporate identity, those products may be easier to spin off or sell.

Choose the right Web-conferencing service


Dear Karen: We’re considering virtual meetings. How do we evaluate the options?

Answer: Because many small U.S. companies don’t have the staff to support extensive travel, audio- and Web-conferencing facilitates communication on shoestring budgets.

Determine what your company needs and don’t be tempted to pay for expensive, complicated extras, said Glenn Fleischman, executive vice president of Arkadin Express, a Web-conferencing service. “There are amazing collaboration tools in the market, but some are very complex, have a steep learning curve and are loaded with features most small businesses don’t need,” he said.

Choose the right plan for your service. Unlimited-use plans are for companies that hold multiple videoconferences each month. If you’ll use the service only occasionally, opt for pay-as-you-go.

Small-business questions? Email Karen at