A recent conversation with some fellow journeymen—also on their way to becoming entrepreneurs—brought up the topic of naming one’s organization. The question was how to come up with a name for your business.
I have a few various thoughts on this. Based on a few books and articles I’ve read—as well as my own subjective opinion—there’s a few key things to look for. Before you start to over analyze every business name as you come up with them, I’d recommend coming up with a list of 10 or so names before putting them through the following filters.
Note: If stuck on coming up with names, here is an article with links to a few name generators.
Business Name Availability
When checking to see if your business name is available there are a few places you need to check:
- Is the business name taken in your industry?
- Is the business name taken in your area?
- Is there a trademark associated with the name?
- Is the domain name taken?
- Are the social media tags/handles/usernames open?
Brand Name Businesses
Honestly, this one is probably the trickiest to check especially if you’re building a startup you hope to expand one day. The reason for this is that various nuances can cause problems down the line that you definitely want to avoid. Honestly the most important check is to be sure that no one has trademarked the name.
To check to see if someone has trademarked any names associated with your business name idea go to your countries trademark site. For the United States, that site is the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Check a few variations of the name to be sure there’s no partial overlaps.
So if you’ve discovered there’s no trademarks on the name, the next thing I would recommend is simply going to Google then typing in your business name and a keyword associated with your incoming industry. This is to make sure there’s no competitors who simply haven’t TM’ed the name yet, but are moving up fast.
A Case of Mistaken Identity
Now this one is a bit more specific. If you plan on keeping your business local, one thing you should consider is conflicting names. Regardless if there is a local competitor, it is possible that a local business shares a similar name. The reason I recommend checking on this is to avoid confusion among locals when you are first starting off.
There’s little worse than having a customer walk in your door to turn right around realizing they found the “wrong business.” Even worse, is having your prospects accidentally go to the wrong store and leave frustrated and therefore stopping their search.
Enter the Matrix
Now, although you may have scathed by step one of the process, it’s not quite over. Due to the popularity of brand bundling and selling, just because a business with your name hasn’t been used, doesn’t mean it hasn’t been acquired. For example, the long form name of this company is Artistic Development and Design, while the short form is A.D.D. (I know, clever). However, when I went to purchase add.com, I discovered that this domain had been purchased and was on sale for a measly $1,000,000.
Now, I assumed this from the beginning as almost every 3 letter domain was bought decades ago as they carry an amazing value. So in order to get around this, I did the next best thing and created a new short name ArtDevDesign. Easy to say and guess what? Available.
However, a domain name isn’t worth as much without social media accounts to match. Because of this you would need to go to every social media page and check for the username’s availability. Luckily, there’s way to do this with little frustration. There are many site’s out there such as: Knowem, namecheckr, and namecheck.com. However my favorite one is Namech_k. This checks over 100 different sites with account names available as well as various domaIn names with varying primary domains (.com, .co, .net, .org, .biz, .io, and more…).
Can You Say That Again?
Although points 2 and 3 are written separately, they kind of go together. When you’re coming up with a business name, the name should be easy to read, understand, and recognize. That can be difficult when the name is almost as long as fully written Twitter post. Large companies know this and so if you look at the top 25 or so companies in the world, they all have less than 12 characters (assuming you can use their acronyms or abbreviation).
Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS)
If stuck between two names, go with the simpler one, even if it’s less relevant (or even irrelevant) to your business. Try to avoid making up new words. There have been a select few companies able to do this that have become successful, but nonetheless, it’s a marketing hurdle that’s unnecessary to create. Keep your name to fewer than 12 characters, or if needed, create an abbreviation to be used in place of the longer name.
Do You Hear What I Hear?
Be sure your name is easily spoken out loud. Not only should it be easily spoken, it should also be written so that the first “guess” on your name is correct. If you show your name to 10 friends and only 2 of them guess the name correctly, you may want to try another name.
Additionally, you want to like the name of your business. So if you keep hearing the name and aren’t proud to stand by it, you may want to try for another name. So, if you’ve narrowed the names down, try repeating them over and over again. Introduce yourself as owner or founder of it. Get comfortable hearing the name.
Square Peg in a Round Hole
The last few things to consider are whether or not the name fits. When naming your company, most often the name matches the product or service being provided. However if this is not the case, you want to at least make sure the name isn’t a mismatch or confusing.
You Don’t Carry That?
If the name heavily implies a certain type of product, it should match what you are carrying. Similar to the case of “Mistaken Identity,” you also don’t want people coming to your business confused about what you offer. Either in-person or online, this can be frustrating.
Expanding Your Horizons
A final consideration when picking a name: Don’t be too specific. If you use your current location in the name or a single product you currently sell, this may limit your future growth. By picking a more versatile name, this will allow for expansion in the future, or even a pivot in product idea.
I would note that the only exception to this rule would be if the business you plan on starting is location specific and therefore would not be easily moved to a different location. In that case, having the keyword of your locale can be beneficial for SEO and marketing.
Just to Recap
- Is your business name available?
- Is it simple?
- Can you easily pronounce it (the first time)?
- Do you like the name?
- Does the name match the business?
- Does it have a broad application?
It’s important to think carefully about your business name, but also, don’t think too long it. Many often delay their endeavors do to feeblish things such as these. Pick a name, spend no more than a day or two on reviewing it, and start hustling.’