Tips for Naming Your Business

Today we’re remaking one of my most popular old videos – some tips for helping you choose the best name for your business.

Choosing the name for your brand new business can be a super personal experience or a mere annoyance, depending on the entrepreneur. Some will agonize over it for weeks or even months while other will go with the first thing that pops into their heads. Whichever camp you fall into, this week we’re going to talk about a few things to consider when you’re selecting the name for your new business.

Anyone who’s ever had a baby or known someone who has is familiar with the super thick books of baby names that try to provide some guidance and/or inspiration for expectant parents as they try to decide what name to stick their child with forever. If you’re an entrepreneur, your business is almost like your baby, so one of the first things that new entrepreneurs need to do when getting ready to launch their business is to come up with a name for that business – one that customers will remember and that you’ll still love many years from now.

While Shakespeare may have you believing that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet – that’s not entirely true. There are many studies that have shown how our preconceived notions about something affect our experience of that thing – the same wine tastes better when test subjects are told it’s expensive vs. when they’re told it’s cheap, for example, or the same resume gets pushed to the side if it has a woman’s name or an “ethnic” name at the top and chosen for the finalists pile if it has a “traditional white male” name.

That means that what you name your business really does matter, so you want to make sure you choose wisely before you lock down the company name that will travel with your business into the future. With that said, here are some tips for choosing a great name for your business:

First up, you want to make your company name memorable. There are a few quirks of the human mind that can help with this. A business name that rolls off the tongue and just sounds nice is easier for your customers to remember. If you can alliterate or rhyme without sounding like a complete cheeseball, go for it.

You also want your name – if possible – to look pretty when written, not just sound pretty when said aloud. This is called letter-form beauty and is especially important if you offer something that is meant to make a customer just feel good. For example, you don’t want a spa to have a name that looks ugly on the sign, people would rather go to the spa down the road with a pretty sign. While you’re focused on making the name look and sound pretty, you should also try to add in some unique letters. For whatever reason, words with letters like J, K, Q, V, W, X, Y, and Z – basically letters that would help you crush it in Scrabble – are more memorable.

Finally, it’s helpful if the name you choose both relates to what you offer and conjures up a mental image of a physical thing – for example, the Sea Shore Spa give you a bit of alliteration, makes it clear what your business is, conjures a mental image of a physical thing, and looks and sounds pretty. It just doesn’t have any of those point-grabbing Scrabble letters, but you can’t have it all.

Next up, consider the markets you want to have a presence in and double check that your name works just as well in the language and culture of all of the markets you want to enter. The most infamous story about this relates to the Chevy Nova. Nova is a pretty innocuous name in English but in Spanish it sounds like”no va,” which means doesn’t go, probably not the best association you could have with a car name. Another example is when I was working at an internet advertising startup and we were supposed to promote an online game that was basically the old-school Nintendo game Duck Hunting, but on Facebook. No big deal overall, but the word for duck in Spanish is also used as a very derogatory term for a gay person in Puerto Rican slang and given that the game was about hunting ducks, the team clearly decided to make changes to the promotion once I pointed this out to them. As you choose your company name, just be cognizant of how that name will come across to all of your potential customers, not just those who are from the same culture and speak the same language as you do.

You’ll also want to check that this perfect name you just chose is actually available. Is the domain name free? How about all of the social media monikers? Can you trademark the name or is someone else already using it? Do some research online to make sure you can take control of whatever name you choose online and off and be sure that it’s easy enough to spell that people will be able to find you easily when they search for you online.

Finally, take every bit of this advice with a grain of salt. These tricks are guidelines to help you select a memorable name – they shouldn’t cause you to obsessively try to find a name that includes every single one of them and ends up sounding forced and weird.

Also, there are obviously examples of companies that ignore pretty much all of these rules and are still memorable and have become a part of the language – like Google. You can break all of the naming rules and still be successful and you can follow all of them and fail, but if you want to give yourself a leg up, consider some of these naming tips as you choose your company’s name.

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