10 Tips for Coming Up With a Killer Business Name
“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
In one of Shakespeare's most famous lines, he reminds us that a name really is just... a name.
But is a name more when it comes to business?
Let’s for a moment look at some of the perks of a smart business name.
A creative business name can:
- Create curiosity: A good business name gets people intrigued about what you actually do.
- Be unforgettable: A good business finds its way into a person’s memory bank.
- Offer heart: A business name that displays the heart of your brand reveals your character.
- Pack a punch: Sometimes people only have a couple of seconds to remember you.
- Make people smile: A smart, creative or funny business name can make people look twice.
- Provide a point of difference: In a sea of competitors, a smart business name can make you stand out.
- Tell your story: Your business name can say a lot about your brand.
- Evoke emotion: A powerful business name can encourage people to feel something.
- Create opportunity: If you sound interesting, people will ask about you. Bonus promo tool!
- Build trust: A trustworthy-sounding name can offer a great first impression.
So with this in mind, maybe you should spend a little time deciding on your business name. After all, it’s going to stay with you throughout your business journey.
Tips for choosing a stand out company name
1. Think about your audience
It’s important to choose a name that’s going to sit well with your audience. When venture capital business CB Insights was initially founded, co-founder Anand Sanwal wanted to name it something cool and funky. He settled on “Chubby Brain” without properly thinking about who he would be working with. After speaking with the investment banks and other institutional clients that would be citing his startup’s data in their marketing materials, he soon learnt they weren’t happy with the name and so it was changed to CB Insights.
2. Make it simple
A business name shouldn’t be a challenge to spell, recite or remember. It should be simple and to the point. A number of leading companies have all chosen names between five and ten letters, and all are easy to say, spell and remember. Think Google, Starbucks and Kodak.
Do remember, however, that short url names are in high demand, so check your name is available before you become too settled on it.
3. Enlist a focus group
Once you have a shortlist of names, it could be a smart move to see how your target audience responds to them. Survey as many people as you can and gather opinions. Remember, the right business name might not necessarily be the name everyone likes best - it could be the one they remember the most.
By enlisting a focus group, you also open yourself up to possible suggestions you may not have thought of. When Richard Branson was about to launch his mail order record retailer, one of his workers suggested they name the company “Virgin” to reflect the notions that they were virgins of the business world. Branson loved the idea and decided to embrace their naivety rather than conceal it.
4. Don’t obsess over a descriptive name
The name of your company doesn’t have to make it clear what your business is - think Apple. When Steve Jobs wanted to create a new line of personal computers in the 70s, computers were considered foreign and inaccessible. So when it came to choosing the company name, Jobs searched for a friendly, inviting name that people were familiar with.
5. Think about what people can gain from your company
When consumers are shopping around, they want to know the benefits of choosing a particular brand. That’s why when in 1971 Bill Bowerman and Philip Knight (the founders of Blue Ribbon Sports) were to launch a new line of soccer shoes, they settled on the name Nike. Nike is the Greek mythological name given to the Winged Goddess of Victory, and the duo wanted their customers to feel that by choosing their product, they would become victorious. In fact, the name was so powerful that in 1978, Blue Ribbon Sports officially changed their company name to Nike.
6. Be original
If you want to stand out from your competition, think of a name that no other business has or can replicate. That’s exactly what Reuben and Rose Mattus did when naming their ice cream store Häagen-Dazs. Not only was the name unique, it used a completely made up word! They settled on it because they thought it sounded exotic and would appeal to those looking for foreign-sounding brands.
7. Don’t narrow your focus
A common naming mistake is to focus on a name that reflects what your business does now, rather than where you plan to go. Avoid picking names with a specific geographic location or product categories that won’t allow you to expand your product line.
8. Check your competition
This might be an obvious point, but check the availability of your name where you will be operating. Free searches are available online to determine whether your proposed company name is similar or identical to another already registered.
9. Use a thesaurus
A thesaurus is a great way to come up with a whole list of words that may be relevant to your startup company. Create a long list of options and then test out combining words with others. If nothing else, it’s a great way to get the creative juices flowing.
10. Look at your name from a personal perspective
As the founder of your startup company, it’s wise to choose a name that means something to you. Many companies choose names based on founder surnames - think BuzzFeed (named after founders Jonah Buzz and Mark Feed) or startup location - think Duane Reade (whose first warehouse was located between Duane Street and Reade Street in Manhattan).
Don’t overthink it
When all’s said and done, it’s your product and service that will make your customers fall in love with you, so make sure that they are your main focus and don’t spend too much time obsessing over your name.