Plans for your new company are underway, but a great name for your venture still hasn’t sprung to mind.
That’s troubling since it can be daunting to find a catchy, meaningful, attention-grabbing moniker that will stand the test of time and cast your company in an all-positive light.
The criteria for the perfect company name are mind-boggling. It must fit your company personality and bring to mind the right connotations without being too trendy, too complicated or too boring. It must be memorable, easy to pronounce and have initials with a non-controversial acronym. And your new name can’t be spoken for, or you’ll find yourself in legal trouble.
“You really want a name that will get you, your staff and your customers excited and talking about the business,” notes South Carolina-based based startup consultant Peter Gasca in Entrepreneur. “(It’s) a creative platform for telling a long-term story to the world, so it is worth spending some time and effort on finding the best fit. If you are of the mindset your name can be changed down the road, consider how much easier it will be and how much brand equity you can retain if you start with the right name.”
That said, the world history of bad name choices is well documented (and mocked) on the Internet.
“A bad name will hurt you, and there’s no reason to inflict this damage upon yourself when you can avoid it with only a couple days’ worth of work,” advises Julian Shapiro, founder of domain portfolio NameLayer, on Thenextweb.com. “Never forget your name is the first thing to come out of your mouth every time you pitch your company. You should never underestimate how many choices consumers have. Stand out. It can all start with your name, which people will be typing, clicking on or tapping on every day.”
Check out how these 17 famous companies got their quirky names, courtesy of Steven Brenna and Skye Gould of Business Insider.
Making the right choice could intimidate even the most seasoned entrepreneur. Fortunately, the enormity of the task has attracted a number of experts. Here are some of their ideas for finding the perfect name.
- Consider hiring a professional firm to do the job. It may charge as much as $80,000 and require anywhere from six weeks to six months, says an article in Entrepreneur, but fees usually include other identity and graphic design work.
- Online guides can walk you through the DIY process from inspiration to trademarking. Shapiro advises setting aside a few thousand dollars in case you need it for domain privileges.
- Seek inspiration by perusing online business and startup sites, and listing company names and keywords that strike a chord. Check a thesaurus for keyword synonyms. “Think about your company’s market, what makes your company unique and what your value proposition is,” says Shapiro. “Spend a few minutes converting each of these concepts into keywords.”
- Run your keywords through these helpful websites provided by Shapiro, including LeanDomainSearch.com (for word combinations available for registration; Domai.nr (for general clever abbreviations) and Wordoid.com (for fictitious word derivations.) “The purpose is to study the generated results in order to build an understanding of how your keywords can be branded into company names,” he explains. He also points to domain portfolios like NameLayer.com and Namecore.com for ideas not based on obvious keywords. Finally, avoid irrelevant keyword connotations, mismatched suffixes, unintuitive spelling choices, overused keywords, borderline stealing and names intimidating to your customer base, he says.
- Finish your DIY search by perusing top aftermarkets for your keywords on sites like BuyDomains.com and Sedo.com, Shapiro says. Then filter results for names available in your price range.
- Your name may not automatically require trademarking if state regulations allow it and you aren’t infringing on another trade name, notes Gasca. But you still may want to hire a trademark attorney or trademark search firm to be sure.
- Opinions conflict regarding whether made-up words are more memorable than real words, according to the Entrepreneur article. Regardless, avoid names that are long, confusing, geographically limiting or made from obscure puns. The article recommends a “comforting or familiar name that conjures up pleasant memories, so customers respond to your business on an emotional level. Choose a name that appeals not only to you but also to the kind of customers you are trying to attract. And the more your name communicates to consumers about your business, the less effort you must exert to explain it.”
- B2C and B2B names should be crafted differently, Shapiro advises. “Many B2C businesses are supercharged by a company name that can be easily communicated, remembered and liked. Conversely, many B2B businesses are grown exclusively via existing partners and connections who couldn’t care less about the company’s brand, but instead focus on the company’s team, pricing and ability to execute on their services.”
- Many successful companies like Apple, Nike, Facebook, Twitter, Dreamworks, Pixar and eBay have two syllables in their names, observes Dave Smith in Inc.com. He points to research showing brevity leads to memorability.
- Shapiro says the best company names are highly brandable; unique; logical; evoke wonder by triggering emotions; marked by clear and professional word combinations; and unmistakable once heard.
- Consider whether your long-term goals and/or future advances in technology might make your name obsolete, advises Nikolas Contis, director of naming at global branding firm Siegel Gale, in the Entrepreneur article. Slang words or phrases may eventually do the same.
- Instead of flat-out describing your business, Contis says, consider a name that prompts the customer to seek more information. “Great names engage but do not declare, and they evoke rather than explain,” he explains.
- Before making a decision, spend time doodling your proposed name, reading it aloud and imagining how it may sound in advertising campaigns, advises Entrepreneur.
- Shapiro recommends gathering feedback on your final choice(s) from honest family members, friends, colleagues and employees, asking what the name connotes in their hearts and minds. But others, including Will Mitchell of startupbros.com, believe it’s more helpful to directly approach your target audience by vetting your ideas on easy-to-use sites like LeadPages or Unbounce. Entrepreneur also points to the focus groups or other consumer research.
- Allow at least a week between the brainstorming and the selection to mull options, Smith advises. “Good company names have a certain ‘stickiness’ to them. The best names are remembered without needing to refer to the list.”
Once you make your decision, advises Entrepreneur, go forth with enthusiasm and get started generating some buzz. Your employees will be looking to you to establish comfort with your new name and making it seem like it’s been around forever.
“Your name is your first step toward building a strong company identity — one that should last as long as you’re in business,” it says.
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