15 Steps to a Great Business Name

The right business name could give you a real advantage.

Every business has one, yet very few of them have a great business name.

If there is one that should keep you up at night, it is the name of your business. Coming up with a name for your business sounds easy. Not if you want a business name that will make it easier for you to succeed. I recommend that you read Hello, My Name Is Awesome: How to Create Brand Names That Stick.

The ideal business name should include as many of following as possible:

  • Stickiness
  • Distinctive
  • Descriptive
  • Memorable
  • Imaginative

Going into this task unprepared will overwhelm, frustrate, and exhaust you. Worst of all, you choose the wrong name, your business might fail.

Naming your business sounds simple, but coming up with the “right” name is hard.Tweet This You can do it with careful planning and preparation.

The reality is that the wrong name can doom your startup to obscurity and failure.

If you don’t take this task seriously, you will screw it up. But, if you do it right, it can become a competitive advantage.

Use the following game plan to come up with a million dollar name for your business.

You have countless options

Do not settle for a weak name due to competition. Just because you are short on ideas at first, it doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to find a great name.

According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), there are over 28 million small businesses. Does that mean that all the great business names are gone?

Of course not.

Consider this, there are over 1 million words in the English language. Add combinations of two or more words, or parts of words. The possibilities are infinite.

It is true that many of the “easy” names have been taken, but you can still come up with a great name.

Respect the challenge at hand

Naming your business is a process that will take time.

It’s unlikely that you will come up with the right name during your morning run.

Fortune 500 companies spend millions to develop new brand names.

I understand that you don’t have that kind of money. But, that shouldn’t stop you from coming up with an awesome name.

But only if you do it right.

Let me show you how.

Start with a list

Brainstorm to generate your initial list.

A great way to do this is by answering some questions like:

  • What is your product?
  • Who is buying your product?
  • Where will they buy it?
  • Why do they buy it?
  • What problems do you solve for your customers?
  • What differentiates you?
  • What adjectives and nouns best describe what you do?
  • Is it important to include your own name?

 

All of the above questions are going to help you to go on to the next step in the process.

Important note: Including your own name in your business name might make selling your business much more difficult, but if you know that you will never sell it might make sense.

The one thing that characterizes trends is that they come and go. A trendy name might be great today, but once the trend passes it will hurt your business. You don’t want your business to be associated with outdated trends.

Just as sagging pants and chain wallets are passe so will be gluten free one day. The lesson is to avoid tying your business to a trend.

As much as you can, try to come up with an evergreen name.

Consider the alphabet

You might not have considered this but the right business name can get you on top of many lists.

By default, many lists are sorted alphabetically. Therefore, if your name starts with an A you will get greater visibility.

Don’t go crazy and name your business “AAAAAAlways” just to get on the top of the list. Your name should still make sense for your business.

Don’t limit your market

You might start out as a “San Diego web designer“, but don’t use that name for your business if you plan to serve businesses in other parts of the country or the world. Unless you know for a fact that you will only do business in one area chose a name that is wide-ranging.

The same is true for the services you offer. Using the above example, a web designer is also limiting because you might also offer SEO services, e-commerce websites, logo design, brochure design, and other related services.

Craft new words

A great way to come up with business names is by combining words or word snippets. I once started a business for professionals where trust and integrity were our core values, and I came up with a new word “Trustegrity”. It is a new word, yet it has done a perfect job to describe the business. Even though I have sold the business, I am still proud of the name we have created for it.

Here are some powerful tools to generate new words:

  • business-name-0205bustaname.com – This site give you an opportunity to type a few words and it combines them. The site also checks for available domain names.
  • namemesh.com – Namemesh is another great tool that combines words and displays them immediately.
  • dotomator.com – I really like this tool for its simplicity.
  • hipsterbusiness.name – If you feel like playing around with some random business names, try hipsterbusiness.name. I only recommend this tool as a brainstorming idea.
  • rhymer.com – If you want to come up with some rhyming names, use rhymer.

Don’t forget your domain name

I would not recommend a name where the .com is no longer available.

I hear you that there is .net, .info, .co, and . whatever else you can think of. I still think that the strongest brand is the .com.

Before you seriously consider a name, make sure the domain name is available.

Take your social media spots

After you have registered your .com domain, claim your custom URL on the most popular social networks.

Avoid long names

Short names are better than long ones. Even companies with long names do everything in their power to shorten them. For example, IBM sounds a lot better than International Business Machines.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should choose an acronym to name your business. You don’t have the kind of marketing power to educate your market on what your acronym means.

Here are the names of some of the biggest recent IPO names and the number of characters:

  • Truecar – 7 characters
  • Zendesk – 7 characters
  • Coupons.com – 7 characters + 3 for .com (I am not sure what is the best way to count this one.)
  • GrubHub – 7 characters
  • OnDeck Capital – 13 characters
  • Virgin America – 6 characters We know that the brand really is “Virgin”.
  • GoPro – 5 characters
  • King Digital Entertainment – 24 characters
  • Lending Club – 11 characters
  • Alibaba – 7 characters

I think you get the picture. Short names are more common. Does this mean that you must come up with a name that’s 7 characters long or less? Of course, not, but it is just one more thing for you to consider.

If you are working with a very low budget, it will be tough to find a short domain name. Unfortunately, the majority are taken by legitimate businesses or squatters.

Look at spelling and pronunciation

Before you make a decision on your business name consider spelling. Words like acquire, argument, believe, collectible, and committed are a few examples of often misspelled words – misspell is one of them.

Consider the 100 most misspelled words.

If your business’ name includes a word that is often mispronounced, it will hurt your word of mouth marketing efforts. Look at the 100 most often mispronounced words, and avoid them.

Consider globalization

Your business might serve customers globally and it is important that your name works internationally. It is almost impossible to come up with a name that is perfect for every language and culture. If your business is based in the USA, but you will do business in other English speaking countries you have less to worry about. But, there are many examples when companies named products that hurt their international business.

Here are some brand names that were epic fails internationally:

  • pee-colaPinto – It means “male genitals” in Brazilian slang.
  • Schweppes Tonic Water – In the Italian market was translated as “Schweppes Toilet Water”.
  • Pee Cola – A bottled soda in Ghana is less than popular with English speaking tourists.
  • Lumia – A Nokia smartphone, named Lumia, translates in Spanish slang to a prostitute.
  • Barf – If you are ever in Iran, don’t be afraid to buy the detergent called Barf which means “snow” in Persian.
  • Pajero – When Mitsubishi launched the rover vehicle “Pajero” in Spain, they had to find out the hard way that it means “jerk”. The car’s name then was changed to Montero, imagine how much that mistake cost the company.

Search for registered trademarks

You shouldn’t seriously consider any name before you had a chance to do a trademark search. Even if you don’t plan on trademarking, you should still do a search to make sure that you are not infringing. If the business name you want has been trademarked, it is best to avoid it.

You can do a quick trademark search at The United States Patent and Trademark Office website. Spending a little time on a trademark search could save you a lot of money on trademark litigation down the road.

Make a logo

The best way to see what your name will look like is by creating a logo. Once you have your name finalists make a quick logo.

You can try to design it yourself, but I recommend hiring a professional.

Test

By the time you get to the testing phase, you should have at least two but no more than three finalists.

Because domain names are so cheap to register, I recommend that you register the .com for all. It would be crushing to finally come up with a name that someone snatched from you before you had a chance to register.

Once you have registered the names it’s time to start testing.

You can run some Adwords and Facebook ads to see which names best connect with your target customers. Yes, it will cost a little bit of money, but it is well worth it.

Reach out to your target customers and ask for their feedback. Don’t go into a long explanation about your business. You will get the best feedback if you mostly listen instead of talking.

Ask questions like:

  • When you look at our logo what does it remind you of?
  • Did you have any problems pronouncing the name?
  • What businesses are you thinking of when you see our logo?
  • Is the name confusing?
  • Do you confuse the name with any other business?
  • What do you like about it?
  • What do you dislike about it?

You have several more options to test:

  • You can try to do an A/B test with your final two names.
  • Create a survey.
  • Call people on the phone.
  • Email, it works.
  • Interview, in person, on skype, where ever.
  • Listen socially, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Testing will provide you with invaluable market intelligence. Don’t take any shortcuts there.

Now make a decision

It is true that you want to find the right name, but you have to do it within a reasonable time frame.

There is no reason why it should take you longer than 30-days to come up with a great business name. If it takes you longer you are wasting your time.

Use the following checklist before you make your final decision:

  • Is the name sticky?
  • Is it easy to spell?
  • Can people easily pronounce it?
  • Do people easily remember it?
  • Is it simple? – Think Google.
  • Does it make sense? – not to you but other people.
  • Is it descriptive?
  • Does the name limit you to a product or service?
  • Is the domain name available? – Remember, you want the .com.

The bottom line

A business name doesn’t guarantee success in business.

As a matter of fact, there is not one thing that you will do in business that will.

Finding the right business name is only one of the many steps you will take toward success.

If you are smart you will treat this task seriously.

Don’t minimize its importance, and make a decision in a timely manner.

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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.

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