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 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.
“Being memorable equals getting picked.” Jeffrey Pfeffer
9 Things Not to Do When Naming Your Business
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 an 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 Hard to Spell Name
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). For more about the power of the ‘K’ click here.
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 plenty of professionals who specialize 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.
From Least Distinctive to Most Distinctive
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.
NameBounce – Business Name Generator
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.
Cheap Names – Use to check URL availability and purchase domains.
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. Here 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 http://www.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.
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.
Examples of Names That Work
I still remember the name of the Thai restaurant in Houston, Nit Noi, even though I haven’t lived there since 1996 (and it’s not only because of the night I was there and the heels 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 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, http://www.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 and so you can create a life you love. The URL is http://6monthstolive.me/ since the .com was taken, another example of how to work around the domain issue.
This one 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 was available http://www.secondfirsts.com.
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.
Use these tips to select an effective name that will support you in growing a long-term business that is meaningful and prosperous.
Still want more? Check out this post about naming by marketing master Seth Godin.
© Stephanie Ward
WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Stephanie Ward is the Marketing Coach for Entrepreneurs who want to create meaningful and prosperous businesses. Grab your FREE copy of the special report ’7 Steps to Attract More Clients in Less Time’ plus business building tips, at: https://www.fireflycoaching.com.
What’s behind the name of your business? Share your thoughts and questions below in the comments section.
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Nice list of naming tips, Stephanie.
Your tips #3 and #5 remind me of what naming Anthony Shore calls “good mouth” in naming. The better a name sounds when you say it out loud, the more it will be talked about.
That’s one reason alliterative names (like Google and Coca Cola) are so successful.
None of these things are deal-breakers, but every one helps.
Thank you for your feedback Rob! Your post added some excellent content, well done. I love that, “good mouth” a new one for me. And you’re right, they aren’t deal-breakers and they can make a difference.
Great list Stephanie! Concise and full of things to consider! Naming is always a struggle and I’m going through this process with a team right now. I’ve forwarded your article to them and hope we get unstuck soon! Thanks!
Thank you for your feedback Suzy! Naming is indeed quite a challenge, hope my post helps you, and your team, move forward. Curious to know what you’re working on. I would love to hear about your new name when it’s ready.
This is a great post. I sell brandable domain names so I read alot of articles about naming. I like the point especially about making sure the URL is available. I think I’ll take you up on your offer to repost this on my blog with the appropriate attribution!
Appreciate your feedback, David! And thank you for your interest in reposting it on your blog.