I’ve been busy again on yet another secret project, this time creating a brand new virtual business with a friend. One of the many tasks required by a new business is the selection of its name. This, you might think, would be a straightforward piece of work.
And you’d be wrong.
The name of a business is an extremely critical step that should not ever be taken lightly. The name of the business is important because:
- It is the way clients will find you; if wrongly formed, they’ll have a hard time finding you
- The imagery conveyed by the name will flavor (or stain) your business’ reputation forever
- Length: your business name should not be very long, perhaps 7-12 characters. Compound names could be a bit longer, more about them later on
- Spelling: the name should be spelled as unambiguously as possible. Think of it this way: anyone mis-typing your name into a search engine won’t find you. Avoid losing those customers by making it as easy as possible
- Availability: Obviously, your name should not be in use by someone else in world. Make a list of competitors’ names so you can compare with your ideas. You might also consider snagging the corresponding domain name (the .com at least), and if you’re really serious you could even search (and register) the legal name with your jurisdiction’s authorities - but make sure you follow any required legal regulations
- Pronounceability: As most in-world advertising is done by word-of-mouth, your business name had better be something that people can actually say aloud. Say it aloud yourself to make sure it works. How many ways can it be pronounced? Try to select a name with a single, obvious pronunciation
- Positivity: Your name might look great, but what does it mean to those using other languages? Best to do a quick check to ensure you didn’t select something silly. A great tool to do this is http://nicetranslator.com
- Uniqueness: Yes, we already made sure your name is not a duplicate (or even similar to another business), but you must also verify the name is not similar to any common words. Consider the search scenario again if you use the name “Fashion”. How many hits would be found? Your name would be mixed in the results somewhere. Avoid that scenario by selecting a name that is totally unique and has only one possible search result: you
The name’s flavor should not only have some relationship with the products or services you provide, but also evoke professionalism, positivism, quality, confidence and of course, hipness. The best way to test this property is to clear your head, then quickly stare at the written name. Ask yourself, “What was the first image that came into my head?” and “How do I feel when I see that name?” Then imagine what your customers will think and feel when they do the same.
There’s one often-forgotten aspect of name-flavor: Expandability. While your business name might match your products and services very well today, what happens in the future when you expand your product line? Will the name still make sense? Take a few moments to consider where your business might end up, and make certain your name still fits.
But how, exactly, can one come up with a name that meets all these needs? You can stare out the window and hope for divine intervention, or use one of these awful online generators, but there are a few tricks that can help the process immensely.
Get a thesaurus, or better yet, use an online thesaurus, such as http://thesaurus.com. Think of words that describe what your business does or produces, and use the thesaurus to identify alternate words that meet the criteria above. Hopefully you’ll end up with several candidate words.
Still with the thesaurus, search for words that evoke the qualities you want your business to exude. For example, if you sell intricate clockworks, I’d search for words like “sharp”, “precision”, etc.
Armed with a bundle of good words, try producing compound names by putting the words together in different combinations. Don’t just think them; write them down and look at them. Say them aloud, and cross out the ones that don’t feel right. You will soon have a short list of pretty good names.
An alternative to a compound word is to use either a suffix or prefix. Like words, suffixes also convey feelings, so the same process can be used: write down combinations, say them aloud, throw away the lousy ones. A short list have you soon will.
Which one should you choose from the short list? You don’t. Your friends and trusted associates will. That’s right, gather up a small group of friendlies, hopefully from different backgrounds, and throw the short list at them. Don’t give them a lot of time, because you’re looking for initial reactions, just as potential customers will react. You might be surprised what they say, but trust them.
You’re done, right? Nope. Open that browser and register the name. Right now!
(image courtesy of GapingVoid)