To the uninitiated, naming a business seems easy. Stressless. Fun, even. But if you’ve ever tried to create a company name or product name, you’ll know that the process can quickly take on a life of its own. How important is a name?

Would you still love your Diet Coke if it was called Slim Soda? Would you still shop at Amazon if it was known as Colorado? Did Nike’s name shape the company or did the company shape the name?

It Just Came to Me

Some names fall out of the sky, so to speak. Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx and worth over $1 billion now, recounts that she was driving in her car when the idea for her new company’s name just came to her. Comedian friends had told her that a hard “k” sound always got laughs, and she knew she wanted a made-up word. Spanx was the perfect blend of cheekiness and trustworthiness.

Other companies pay small firms (like Lexicon, located in California) big money to do the naming for them. Names like BlackBerry, Pentium, and Swiffer have come to life on our shelves in this manner, but if you don’t have deep pockets, what should you do?

A Guide to Choosing the Right Name

Today, we’re discussing six things you need to know about naming your business. We’ll talk about name generators, business names searches, and everything you need to know about putting together a great name without the help of highly paid consultants. Your new business idea is worth taking the time to get the name right. Let’s get started!

1. Think About the Story

Did you know the Chilean Sea Bass, a high-end fish prepared by renowned chefs, used to be called the Patagonian toothfish? Probably not, because nobody wanted to eat a toothfish! “Chilean,” however, sounds exotic, and “bass” provides a high-quality connotation, and that’s our point: think about who your brand serves and how you want to target your core customers.

You need to be laser-focused on how your company and brand will solve your customer’s problems and be able to communicate that in a small handful of letters.

2. Focus on Creativity

One of the most valuable things you can do during the naming process is to tap into your creative side. If you don’t feel you’re a naturally creative person, this can be difficult for you, but if all else fails, grab a bunch of junior high kids and start brainstorming!

We love the idea of using a Mind Map to help unleash your brain’s creative potential. Start with the key ideas you want to communicate. If you’re opening a new juice bar, for example, you might want to communicate your ironic sense of humor, your insane commitment to high quality, or your impossibly amazing combinations.

You’ve heard that no idea is a bad idea, and this holds true during the brainstorming process. The firm that created the name “BlackBerry” for Research in Motion decades ago started with the idea that email stressed people out, and they wanted a playful, almost rebellious way to counter that stress. Imagine if the BlackBerry had been called the ProMail? No thank you!

At this point in naming your business, using a business name generator or company name generator is a great way to help you develop ideas that you would never have thought of on your own. There are many paid options, but there are also quite a few free options available.

Most generators will require you to input some basic details, such as a keyword and the sounds you are drawn to, and then it will spit out a variety of answers. Should you rely solely on one of these? No, but they’re fun to use and can be very useful!

3. Analyze Your Options

Just when you’ve let your imagination run wild and become a creative genius, we need to pump the brakes a little! Well, not exactly; we want you to keep working on naming your business, but now that you’ve got a list of twenty or thirty possibilities, it’s time to start analyzing your options!

You probably don’t have the funds or experience to run focused test groups (or to hire that job out), but you can do a simple test that we love: the eyebrow test. It’s notoriously difficult to get your family and friend’s real opinion on your new business idea or name idea because they want to tell you what you want to hear.

The trick is to not listen to the words coming out of their mouths. Instead, watch their eyebrows. If their eyebrows go up, they’re indicating their natural excitement over your idea. If their eyebrows go down or stay normal, even if they’re telling you great things, they’re not really into what you’re pitching and it’s time to keep honing your idea.

You should also be testing your business name with your target customer. Don’t worry about keeping things formal; you’re just trying to get insight into the names you’ve brainstormed. Ask open-ended questions: what does the person look like who drives a “Picnic?” What kind of store do you picture when you hear “DayDream?”

Finally, don’t forget to use the internet. You need to check for trademarks that include your name, but you also need to google to see who has the name you’re thinking of. If you have friends that speak other languages, run your name by them, too.

4. Make it Easy

Studies have shown that easily pronounceable names might perform better, especially in situations where the company is new and people don’t know what it is. That’s not always the case (there are always exceptions), but for heaven’s sake, don’t make the name impossible to pronounce or difficult to spell!

You’ll also want to steer away from uber-trendy names, as these give a sort of transient, “we’re trendy today and gone tomorrow,” vibe. The opposite thing happens with a set of initials, which gives off a stuffy, “this was my grandfather’s firm” sort of feeling. Short names that are easy to pronounce and not difficult to spell are the gold standard!

5. Look to the Future

Dunkin’ Donuts, created in the 50s, never foresaw the coffee craze of today, but now the company is experimenting with dropping “donuts” from its name so that it can better communicate its coffee offerings to potential customers.

Nobody minds a donut with their coffee but try not to pigeonhole yourself with a name. Good companies become adept at pivoting and the best names allow those pivots to happen naturally. A name like “Johnson City Marketing Agency” will be difficult to take to another city or market to global clients, for example.

Other examples might be using your name; will you be able to sell this company later? Will you want this company to be closely associated with your name? There are pros and cons to using your own name (it sure makes the business name search easier!), but it’s something you need to give a lot of thought and consideration to before you take the plunge.

Even if you don’t have current plans for world domination, leave the future open-ended in the name you choose.

6. Do Your Homework

Even if you’re in love with your new company name and can’t imagine any other name for it, it’s imperative that you conduct a trademark search before registering your company. You can go to USPTO.gov to do so and learn more about trademarks.

Also, if you’re structuring your business as an LLC, you will need to conduct a search on the Secretary of State website. If the new name you’ve chosen is similar to an already registered business name, it might not be accepted. If you’re concerned, consider hiring an attorney. It’s no fun paying the money up front, but it can be incredibly costly to have to pay later.

What’s in a Name?

Starting a successful business involves a lot more than just getting the name right, but naming your business is still vitally important. It forces you to face some of the key questions you’ll need to know if you’re going to get this business right: who are you serving and what do you want your customers to know about you?

If you can answer these questions and still manage to create a name that conveys it all, you’ve done great work. Make sure you focus on your company’s story, stay open to future evolutions, focus on creativity, bring smart analytics to bear, and make it easy for your future customer.

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