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What NOT to do when naming your business

What NOT to do when naming your business

What NOT to do when naming your business

Just because you’re not a mega-brand (yet), choosing an amazing name for your business is critically important. I’ve got a laundry list of rules about naming below for you below. And don’t worry, it’s virtually impossible to make sure the name you choose will pass the test on all of these rules. Simply use them as a guideline to steer you towards 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.

“Being memorable equals getting picked.” Jeffrey Pfeffer

9 things not to do when naming your business

When it comes to naming your business, here are some handy tips!

1. 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.

2. 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 alliteration.

3. Don’t choose a name that’s 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.

4. Don’t choose a name that is 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.

5. Don’t choose a weak sounding name

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). 

6. Don’t make it 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.

7. Don’t choose a name that is 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.

8. 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, .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.

9. 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.

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.

Reasons to change the name of your business

Don’t change your name once you pick it unless you have an excellent reason to do so. There are three good reasons you might want to change your company’s name.

First, if your business is relatively new, and you haven’t built up very 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.

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

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. 

How did you go about naming your business? If you have any tips, share them below!

Stephanie Ward

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Stephanie Ward

Stephanie Ward is a Business and Marketing Mentor (fireflycoaching.com) who helps passionate small business owners attract more clients and grow their businesses. She offers a free special report, 7 Steps...

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