The definitive guide to naming your company

The definitive guide to naming your company

A rose by any other name [might well] smell as sweet,” but a company hangs a lot more than just scent on its name. You might have thought that coming up with a viable business idea was the hardest part of the start-up process, but you’d be mistaken. Ideas are a dime a dozen, while great names are worth their weight in gold and can easily be the linchpin that determines whether your brainchild will stay the course.


Why is a great name so important?

Everyone knows that first impressions are critical. Since, more often than not, the name is the very first thing people will hear about your company, it carries a lot of responsibility. The right name captures your potential customer’s attention all while giving them a taste of what you do and who you are.

As John Williams says in his Entrepreneur article on the subject, “Not only does your company’s name serve as a first impression of your business, it serves as the heart of your brand.”


How long should you take to find the right name?

While it often feels as though you should choose a name and nab the URL as quickly as possible so you can get on with other, more pressing matters, like actually launching your business, it’s definitely not something you want to rush.

Simply put, much like those high school essays always ended up being as long as they had to be, finding the right name will take the time it takes. Better to put in the right amount of effort and time and end up with the perfect name than to rush through the process and regret it just a few months down the road. Trust us, it’s much easier to start off on the right foot than it is to rebrand after you’ve launched.


So, how do you find the right name?

Finding the perfect name is a multi-step process that can’t be done alone. Ready? Let’s go.

1. First gather up a few trusted people for a good old fashioned brainstorm

Three or four people should do the trick. Make sure they’re people with a vested interest – business partners, your spouse, your best friend, anyone who is willing to put in the time and effort needed to come up with sheer brilliance. If they have a creative mindset, even better.

Tape big sheets of paper to the walls and start writing down words that relate to your industry, to your product, to the feelings you want your products to inspire. In this phase you don’t want to judge, just write. Capture everything everyone says, no matter how silly. You never know what might inspire genius.

Questions that can spark more ideas and words:

  • Who’s the target audience?
  • What are they looking for?
  • What edge to you bring to the space?
  • What problem are you looking to solve?

2. Second, lay down a few objectives you’d like your company’s name to meet

Approach the naming of your company as you would any other business or marketing decision. Your name has to meet some tangible objectives. What would you like them to be?

These objectives are going to be entirely subjective and personal, but we suggest starting with some of these:

  • Your name should be memorable and easy to read, say, and spell.

Cuil, launched in 2008, was pronounced “cool.” Hard to spell, challenging to explain, and definitely not memorable.

  • Your name should be engaging and create interest in your business.

Thoof was going to be the hot new search engine in 2007. Bummer they picked such a terrible name.

  • Your name should be unique, easily searchable online, and not offensive in other languages.

It would be a shame if your global expansion were to be slowed down because you inadvertently picked a name that meant something nasty somewhere else. Just be glad you weren’t on the team that had to launch the Lumia phone in Spain.

  • Your name should correlate to your business and industry.

Oddly, Fairtilizer sells music, not that stuff that makes your garden grow green.

  • Your name should convey your brand message and evoke the pertinent emotions.

Jiglu. Anyone want to venture a guess as to what that software does? And no, it has nothing to do with jiggling jello.

  • Your name shouldn’t limit your potential for growth.

1-800-Flowers and CompUSA are just two examples of the countless companies who forgot about expansion and market evolution.


3. Now it’s time to evaluate the words that came out of your brainstorm

Grab a marker and circle all of the words that fit with your chosen objectives.

Narrow down your list to the top 12 words that speak the most to you and play around with them to see what you and your naming team can come up with.

4. Then, thoroughly investigate your top choices

By now, you should have a solid list of options that could definitely do your dreams and objectives justice. One not so minor detail remains; you have to see if the name is available.

First, run a quick Google search for the names you’re considering to make sure nothing unsavory turns up.

Then, take your list of 12 and start checking to see if the URL is available, if the name has been trademarked, or if anyone is sitting on the social media handles.

  • Keep in mind that you might want to think of a new name if the .com URL isn’t available to minimize confusion for your potential customers.
  • Take a little time to check on names that are similar to the ones you’re investigating so that you’re not registering something just a letter or two off from a potential competitor. Aside from losing clients to them, you might also be opening yourself up to unwanted legal action.

5. And last, but not least, run the finalists by people who matter

Yes, your spouse is emotionally invested in this venture, but they might not be your target customer. So, once you have a solid list of names that you love, that are on brand, and that have passed the investigation test, it’s time for the final test.

Identify a handful of potential customers and show them the names you’ve selected. Ask them what the name evokes, how it makes them feel, if they’re compelled to learn more, and what it tells them about your brand.

Early on in the process you’re bound to find a name that speaks to you and grabs your attention. Don’t let yourself become obsessed with this name. Keep an open mind and trust in the process. Just like you can’t run a company on your own, you can’t pick a name on your own. But if you run through the steps one at a time, we’re pretty convinced you’ll come up with something you’ll be proud to share with the world.

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