Finding the right name for your startup can have a huge impact on your success. A wrong name can be worse than failing to communicate with customers; It can also lead to insurmountable commercial and legal hurdles. In turn, a clear and strong name can be very useful in your marketing and branding efforts.
Here are 12 helpful suggestions on how to come up with a successful name for your business:
1. Avoid names that are difficult to spell.
You don’t want potential customers to feel confused about how to find your business online. (I’ve never understood why “Flickr” is pushed as the name of the photo-sharing site.) You want to avoid having to constantly correct the misspelled version of your name. Keep it simple.
2. Don’t choose a name that can be restrictive as your business grows.
Picking a name too narrow can cause problems down the road. Imagine if Jeff Bezos chose the name “OnlineBooks” instead of “Amazon”. So avoid names like “Wedding Dresses of San Francisco” or “LugNuts Unlimited.” You don’t want your business to be limited to a specific product or city.
3. Do a thorough internet search.
Once you have selected the name you like, perform a web search for the name. More often than not, you will find that someone else is already using that business name. Although this won’t be a full show, it should give you pause.
4. Get the .com domain name.
I strongly prefer that you secure your company’s “.com” domain name rather than alternatives such as .net, .org, .biz, or other potential domain extensions. Customers tend to associate the .com name with a more established business. Undoubtedly someone will already own the .com name you want, but many domain owners are willing to sell their names at the right price.
Consider getting your desired .com name as a business investment. You can check domain name availability on sites like GoDaddy.com or NetworkSolutions.com, and if the domain name is taken, you can often track down the domain name owner and see if they’re willing to sell it using GoDaddy’s Whois Tool or Network Solutions.
Also, make sure to get your desired business name on popular social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
5. Use a name that conveys some meaning.
Ideally, you want the business name to convey something meaningful and positive about your business. Can people get what your business is about right away? While nonsensical names like “Google,” “Yahoo,” or “Zappos” have some appeal due to their cuteness, these types of names will cost you a lot more on the brands.
Some examples of clear, simple, and interesting domain names include Canny.com, Cling.com, Afire.com, and Administer.com. A domain name like “OnlineTickets.com” is genius because it conveys business meaning and is useful for search engine optimization purposes.
6. Conduct a trademark search.
Do a search on USPTO.gov to get an idea of whether you can obtain a trademark or service mark for a name.
7. Conducting a FM search.
Since you will likely want to structure your business as a corporation or LLC, you should do a search of the Secretary of State’s records to ensure that your name will not be confusingly similar to an already registered business name. If it is too similar to an existing name, the Secretary of State may not allow you to register it. Your company’s attorney can help you conduct this type of research. (See “10 Big Legal Mistakes That Startups Make.”)
8. Evaluate whether the name is attractive.
You obviously don’t want a boring name for your business, but you also don’t want to pick something that “is there” either. You want your employees to be able to locate their business without hesitation, and you want your name to resonate with your target audience.
9. Get feedback on the name.
Create 5 or 10 names and then play them up by trusted friends, family, and colleagues. Get feedback from your target audience, too. And make sure the name doesn’t have any negative connotations (like when General Motors called its new car model “Nova” without realizing that the name means “don’t go” in Spanish).
10. Make sure the name sounds good when you say it out loud.
Sometimes names sound good on paper, but they sound awful when spoken out loud. And if it’s pronounced out loud, make sure you don’t confuse people about how to spell it.
11. Use the resources available for brainstorming names.
There are a number of sites that can help you exchange names, including:
There are even brand experts like Alexandra Watkins at Eat My Words.
12. Make sure you are personally happy with the name.
As the business owner, you will have to live with the name for a long time, so make sure that you are happy with it and believe that it will resonate with your customers. Take the time to do it right from the start.
Copyright © Richard de Harroch. All rights reserved
Read all of Richard Harroch’s articles on AllBusiness.com.
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