Do you want to increase your business’ chance for success?

Names have power. The best ones mean something. They make you think. They take you to a place with a story.

The name you select for your business should come from the core of its being.

It’s true that the name isn’t everything, but the right name helps. Let’s face it, you need every little bit of help for your business to succeed.

Would you think of the name of your business differently if you knew that X percent of your success rides on it?

Although a name doesn’t guarantee success, the right name can push you a step closer to success.

The ToDo list for any business is long, naming it should be very close to the top.

Sounds easy? Not really.

Without a systematic approach name selection can be an overwhelming and frustrating experience.

The following is a step-by-step guide to developing the right name for your business.

Step 1: Prepare – What’s an ideal business name?

Naming your startup sounds like a simple task. Creating the “right” name is difficult. Careful planning and preparation is a must.

The name of your startup can be one of the most important factors.

You can easily screw it up, hurting your chances for success. But, if you get the name right, your startup can easily become the talk of your industry.

What’s in a great business name:

[custom_list style=”list-9″]

  • Original – When you see it you know that you are looking at something unique.
  • Memorable – The best startup names stick with you. Even after an initial brainstorming session, you will notice that some of the names are remembered without having to refer to your list.
  • Short – Google, Apple, Twitter, and Dropbox are a few examples. Even companies with long names will shorten their names eventually like IBM and KFC. Yahoo sounds a lot better than “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle”. Doesn’t it?
  • Gravitas – You want your name to create the right perception about your startup.
  • Functional – Great startup names describe the business, think WordPress or Hotmail.
  • Tell a story – Get your name to tell or support your startup story.
  • Inventive – Can you invent a new word for your startup? This is one of the best ways to distance your startup from the rest.

[/custom_list]

Step 2: Take time.

Naming your business is a huge task. It will take time. Don’t rush it.

It’s unlikely that you will come up with a great name in one sitting.

Fortune 500 companies spend millions on naming brands.

I get it, you don’t have that kind of money, but that won’t stop you from coming up with a great name.

It is a process with a beginning and an end. Go from one step to the next and you will get there. Be patient. Expect challenges and be ready to scrap an idea and move on to the next.

Step 3: Make a list.

The list is developed by asking some key questions:

[custom_list style=”list-9″]

  • What is your niche?
  • What solution are you offering to what problem?
  • What differentiates you from the competition?
  • What words best describe your product(s) or solution(s)?
  • If you had to describe your business with pictures what images would you use?

[/custom_list]

Answering the above questions will help you to reach the next step.

You can also use Thesaurus.com to find synonyms of your favorite keywords.

Step 4: Ignore trends.

A trend is like a sugar high. It feels great for a moment with but you’ll pay for it later. A trendy name can make your business look irrelevant. Strive for an evergreen business name.

A trendy startup name might seem like a great idea today but turn into a strategic disaster a year or two in the future.

Let me give you an example, “cloud” is a current trend. Even though the concept is old, but the words itself is new. A few years from now most people will be over the “cloud” and have moved onto describing similar services with a new word. If you name your startup “cloudsomething”, get ready to become obsolete as business language evolves. Avoid trends.

Step 5: Look at defunct business names.

When startups form in the United States, they usually register with the Corporations Division in the state they do business in. That information is kept within the database of the Corporations Division – or something similar, depending on the state. The great news is that all of that is a matter of public record. Even if the business ceased to exist, you can still find information about it.

After your research, you might find a gem of a business name that is no longer used but would be a perfect fit for your startup. The founders of the business might have come up with a brilliant name, but lacked the skills necessary to make the business a success.

There are a few important considerations:

  1. Check with your state’s Secretary of State, to make sure the business name is available.
  2. Make sure the name hasn’t been trademarked by another company. Keep in mind that trademarks do expire.
  3. Check the reputation of the defunct business. You don’t want your startup to inherit bad reputation.

Businesses take the names of defunct businesses all the time. It is smart strategy and it might just work for your startup.

Step 6: Search expired domain names.

A great place to search for potential startup names through an expired domain name search.

If you are lucky, you could find a great name that someone had already registered in the past. If they let it expire, it could be your win.

I recommend using a site called Justdropped for your expired domain name search. It’s a free tool and you could find some amazing domain names.

Important note! The website allows you to search for all kinds of domain extensions, but I would only seriously consider .com domains. The .com is still the strongest business domain option in the USA.

As a test, I have done a search on Justdropped for domain names that are 10 characters or less and start with “bio”. I have received 252 results.

Does this mean that one of them will be the name you use for your startup? Maybe, but most likely not. The bigger point I am trying to make is about discovery. Read through the domains you find, and think about which ones you like and why. Which one draws your attention? Which is memorable? Which one tells the story about your startup?

Step 7: Search domain auction sites.

Secondary domain auction sites have thousands premium domain names for sale. Sedo.com is one of the many out there.

You can filter by price, so you only see domains that are within your budget. Many entrepreneurs are against paying a premium for domain names, but it could be a huge mistake. A great domain name could save you a bundle in marketing and branding expense in the long run.

Even if you don’t buy a domain name at one of these marketplaces, they can serve as a great learning experience.

Step 8: Create new words.

Great startups are not afraid to invent their own words. Some of the best startup names are words that haven’t existed in the past.

I recommend experimenting with some new words, using tools like unique-names.com or dotomator.com. Tools like these make the process fun.

Step 9: Evaluate spelling and pronunciation.

Consider the spelling of your startup name. There are many words such as belief, conscious acceptable, and definitely that are often misspelled. A great resource to make this process easier is the 100 most often misspelled words. Startup names including often misspelled words will hurt your word of mouth marketing efforts.

In addition to spelling, consider pronunciation. An excellent free resource for that is the 100 most often mispronounced words.

Step 10: Check for registered trademarks.

Before you get excited about a startup name, check to see if another business has it registered. You can do a quick and free trademark search on The United States Patent and Trademark Office website.

If your search yields a result that might conflict with your mark, you should check the status of the mark. If the the mark is “live” you should find another name, but if the mark is “dead” it cannot be used to block a new application.

A little due diligence could save you a lot of money on trademark litigation in the future.

Step 11: Check to see what it looks like.

A great way to check to see what your startup name will look like is by creating a logo for it. Even if the logo won’t be the final version you end up using, it will give you a visual idea.

If you don’t have a designer on your team, you can use some spiffy tool like free logo creator tool.

If you don’t want to spend the time, hire a professional to do it for you.

Step 12: See what people think.

By the time you settled on two or three potential names, it is time to test them.

Some of the most popular ways to test names are through Facebook ads or Google Adwords. It’s worth spending a bit of money upfront to see how your market responds to the names. It is money well spent.

It is key to focus on the right audience. Target decision-makers who are most likely buy your products or services. Ask people what they think about your name.

The following questions will be very useful:

[custom_list style=”list-9″]

  • What do you think when you see the name?
  • Does it remind you of anything?
  • Can you easily pronounce it?
  • When do you see the name do you want to know more?
  • What do you think the business with this name sells?
  • Do you confuse the name with any other business names?

[/custom_list]

It is important to remember that you are not “selling” the name when you ask the above questions. You don’t want to force your thoughts on people. You want input. If people give you answers that are unexpected or undesired, it is not too late to get back to the drawing board.

I also recommend performing an A/B split test for you final two startup names you are considering.

Also, make sure that your team is on board. Does the team love the name? If they don’t love it, they won’t support it the same way as if they did. If your team members aren’t happy with your name, you won’t be either.

When you test you are taking the guessing out of the equation and you increase your chance for success.

Step 13: Decision time.

You have put in the hard work. You didn’t wing it. You had a systematic approach, and it is now time to make your final decision.

Setting a deadline will help you. If you know from the very beginning that you have to make a decision by a certain date, you will more likely make it.

It really shouldn’t take you longer that 30-days from start to finish if you follow the steps above. If it takes longer, you are wasting valuable time. After all, you are building a business and this is only the beginning of a very long list of things you must do to succeed.

In conclusion

Naming your startup is a lot like laying the foundation of a building. It is an early step, but it is a crucial step that will have an impact on everything else you do in the future.

The right name doesn’t guarantee success, but it shows a real commitment to the success of your startup. If you want your startup to succeed, take it seriously from day one.

Your carefully selected business name will be the first key action you take in order to set you apart from other startups.

Want more help with your business?

If you like the above tips, you are going to love working with Success Harbor.

See the many ways we can help your business on our “Hire us” page.

The following two tabs change content below.
George Meszaros is the editor and co-founder of Success Harbor where entrepreneurs learn about building successful companies. Success Harbor is dedicated to document the entrepreneurial journey through interviews, original research, and unique content. George Meszaros is also co-founder of Webene, a web design and digital marketing agency.