Tips, tools & examples for naming your business

28 August 2014, by
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You may not be a mega brand (yet), but choosing an amazing name for your business is still critically important!

What not to do when naming your business

I’ve got a laundry list of rules about naming for you below. And don’t worry too much, it’s virtually impossible the name you choose will pass the test for all of these rules.

Simply use them as a guideline to steer you toward the name that will work the best for your business. Bonus! These rules can also be applied when naming a product or service.

Remember, your name doesn’t have to explain everything. A killer tagline can provide insight into what you’re business is all about.

Don't ignore the power of alliteration

Alliteration is just a fancy pants word that means that the same letter, or sound, appears in words that are used together. Examples are: Krispy Kreme, Coca-Cola, and Weight Watchers.

For more examples, check out Rob Kelly’s post, The Best Examples of Alliteration in Business, Brands & Other Stuff.

Don’t make it about you

Make your business name about what the client will get. The benefit they will receive.

Recently I had a conversation with someone who is in the process of renaming her business (more on when it’s OK to do that below). She described her role as the link between her client and the client’s ideal clients.

So instead of making the name something about her and her role in the process with a name like, Bridge Works, it’s better to choose something like, Your Client Connector which is about what her clients will get - a connection to the clients they want. And this name is also strong because it’s an alliteration.

Hard to pronounce

If you can’t say it you won’t be able to remember it. When you make up names that aren’t real words you need to make sure they are easy to pronounce. Don’t try to be clever at the expense of being understood.

Hard to spell

If you can’t spell it you might not be able to find it or remember it. Again, made up names need to be as simply spelled as possible.

Weak sounding

You don’t want something that fades away as you say it. Sounds that are sharp and powerful make a deeper impression. Words that start and end with consonants or start with back to back consonants (Br, Cr, Gr, Kr) are really strong.

The letter "K", and the sound it makes, always packs a punch and many successful companies have used it in their names. Think of Kodak and the cereal Cap’n Crunch (spelled using the letter c which shares the k sound and is also an alliteration). For more about the power of the "K" click here.

Too narrow

If you plan to never to expand your products or services you might be able to get away with choosing a name with a very narrow focus. But most businesses evolve over time and need some space to shift and expand without having to change the company’s name.

Too generic

It’s hard enough to stand out so don’t choose a name that is too generic. Generic names include acronyms, stay away from them. You want a name that will provoke curiosity and the desire to learn more about the company behind the name.

A generic name will also make it difficult to buy the domain name and to register the name for social media accounts.

Don’t choose a name if the URL isn’t available

Of course the best option is if the exact .com domain name is available. If it’s not, there are ways to work around this.

You can choose a different extension like .me or .info or .net. Another solution is to add a word at the start or end of the URL for example if you want to buy chickendinner.com you could buy bestchickendinner.com or chickendinnernow.com.

Don’t infringe on someone else’s name

If you plan to grow your brand you want to be sure you’re not violating someone else’s trademark. Check the registry for trademarks in the countries you want to do business. And if you don’t want to do it yourself, there are professionals who specialise in work like this, one of whom in the US is Mary Shapiro.

How to be distinctive and stand out

As you brainstorm names for your business, check to see where your ideas land on the Spectrum of Trademark Distinctiveness.

Generic


A common name that is not distinctive. Examples are: Northern Dairy and Central Insect Control.



Descriptive


An actual word is used to describe the business. Examples are ChapStick and Fresh Roast.



Suggestive


Words that suggest rather than describe exactly. Examples are Whataburger and Coppertone.



Arbitrary


A real word that means something else. Examples are Delta and Amazon.



Fanciful


A made up word. Examples are Xerox and Google.

Tools

Here are some tools that might come handy:

Nameboy


Allows you to enter two key words and then create domain names and shows you which ones are available.



Wordoid

This resource will crank out made up words in English, which are no more than 10 letters long.



tips tools examples naming your business

Changing the name of your business

Don’t change your name once you pick it unless you have an excellent reason to do so.

Here are three good reasons you might want to change your company’s name:

When you don't have much to lose

First, if your business is relatively new, and you haven’t built up much name equity or links on the internet, and you decide to change the focus of your business then you don’t have much to lose by changing your name.

Switching to your name

Second, if you decide to switch your brand from the company name to your name. An example of this is whitehottruth.com which was Danielle LaPorte’s previous company name and website. This website now redirects to her current website daniellelaporte.com which she rebranded to her name.

Quick tip: go ahead and buy yourname.com now and redirect it to your company’s website. This way you’ll own it in case you want to change your company to your name in the future.

When your business focus has shifted

Finally, another good reason to change names is if your business focus has shifted and the new name will better reflect the new direction.

An example of this is 37 Signals' decision to stop creating new products and change their company name to their most popular product, Basecamp. For more detail, check out this post.

Business names that work



Here are some examples of business names and why they work:

Nit Noi

I still remember the name of the Thai restaurant in Houston, Nit Noi, even though I haven’t lived there in over 17 years (and it’s not only because of the night I was there and the heel of my vintage suede sandals broke off and I fell down the entire flight of stairs, but that’s a story for another time).

The name sticks with you because it’s fun and easy to say as well as short. It is also an alliteration which is cool and it means "little bit" in Thai so you can connect meaning to the words.

CRAVE

CRAVE is memorable because it is easy to say, spell, and it’s short. It also has the "K" sound followed by another consonant. It also has a powerful meaning. It points to what the client gets, something that they desire greatly - something they crave.

Owner Melody Biringer picked a name that is broad enough to allow for development of new ideas. CRAVE is an example of having a business name that is slightly different than the URL, thecravecompany.com.

6 Months to Live

This name certainly makes you curious to know more. Owner Jacqueline Boone was asked a question that changed her life, "What would you do if you had 6 months to live?" And that launched her business where she, and her community, explore what makes you come alive so you can create a life you love.

The URL is 6monthstolive.me since the .com was taken, another example of how to work around the domain issue.

Green Graffiti

This sustainable advertising agency’s name is an alliteration and has the back-to-back consonants at the start of both words. It’s descriptive about its values with "green" and that, combined with the rebellious edge of "graffiti" which makes the name exciting and memorable.

And because it is so original, owner Jim Bowes was able to nab the .com version greengraffiti.com.

Second Firsts

This name might seem a bit confusing at first because these two words aren’t usually put together in this order. But, once you know what it means, you won’t forget it. It’s about the second time you experience something for the first time, after you’ve experienced a loss in your life like death or divorce.

Even though both words are considered generic, they become a specific brand when used in this order because owner Christina Rasmussen was the first person to use them this way. And because of the original combination of these words the exact .com URL (secondfirsts.com) was available.

And if you’re curious about why I picked Firefly for the name of my company click here and scroll down almost to the end of the page.

Good luck!

Use these tips to select an effective name that will support you in growing a long-term business that is meaningful and prosperous.

"Being memorable equals getting picked."
Jeffrey Pfeffer

 

How did (or will) you pick a name your business? Why?


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Stephanie Ward

Stephanie Ward is a marketing coach who helps passionate small business owners attract more clients ...

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