I love this topic. I’m a sales and marketing guy at heart so naming a business for me feel like naming one of my kids. There’s actually quite a bit that you need to think about before you get to slapping a name on your company. As we move through the workshop, we’ll discuss some of the best and worst practices when it comes to naming a business.
You want to get this right. Your name says a lot about you, the problem you propose to solve, and why you’re special in the market.
The road trip game
My wife and I have a game that we play when we’re on road trips. We play this game unconsciously, but none the less, we both seem to enjoy it. As we drive along, we gaze at all the billboards and business signs that litter the view. Every now and then, we’ll come across a business name that throws us for a loop. We always end up laughing and wondering what the entrepreneur was thinking when he came up with that humdinger.
It keeps us busy and gives us a good laugh every now and then.
Have you ever done that? Have you ever walked past a business, read the name, and the shook your head in disbelief? A lot of people don’t put any thought into their name, and it’s a crying shame. After all, it’s part of your first impression, and you really need to make a good one.
Keep your name out of it
It amazes me how many people do this. I’m not sure if they do it to see their name in lights, or if they’re truly uncreative. Either way, they stick their name in there, and we as the consumers are left wondering why they did.
If you name your store Jenny’s Jeans, what is your customer supposed to get from that? Sure, they know that you sell jeans, but that’s it. The name doesn’t inspire the customer to investigate further, and every good business name should do just that.
If I saw a store named Jenny’s Jeans at the mall, I would walk right past and probably never see the store. If, on the other hand, it was named “Stiches”, or “Thread Bare”, or “Frayed”, I would pay more attention.
It’s ironic that I’m taking about this given that I own an accounting firm. Most accounting firms are named after the founding partners. Something like Smith, Johnson, Dilbert, and Gooney, PLLC. Good grief guys! Could you come up with a worse name for a business?
Our accounting firm is called Ignite Spot. Why? Because we believe in taking the finances far beyond delivering monthly reports to our clients. We use that information to ignite their businesses to the next level with coaching and performance tracking.
Besides, Ignite Spot is a lot easier to remember than Smith, Johnson, Dilbert, and Gooney, PLLC. It gives you a competitive edge when everyone else has a terrible name. You’re the one guy the customer can remember when it’s time to buy.
Long e-mails suck
Assume that you work for Smith, Johnson, Dilbert, and Gooney, PLLC. Can you image the dang email? You would say, “Yeah, go ahead and send that over to email@example.com and I’ll take a look at it.” Holy crap! Companies often try to make an improvement by turning the whole thing into an acronym just to have a manageable email. Now it’s firstname.lastname@example.org which is stupid as well. What the heck is SJDG? That doesn’t tell me anything about your business.
Have you ever been the person on the other end of the conversation trying to write down someone’s ambiguous email? It’s murder. You find yourself wanting to reach through the phone and smack them.
In essence, be kind to your email recipients and give them a business name that they can type without getting carpal tunnel and a serious hangover.
Paint a picture
It’s not always possible to do, but if you can get your name to paint a picture in the minds of your customers, you’ve got a real winner. Let’s look at some examples of great business names:
Twitter: It’s short and sweet. It paints the picture of a little bird tweeting away which is essentially what the software allows people to do.
PayPal: Again, it’s short and paints a picture. You now have a pal you can trust that helps you pay for stuff online. Who wouldn’t want that?
Under Armour: Seriously… Can you think of a better name for this product? I can’t.
JiffyLube: This is so much better than every other oil change company name out there. I mean, come on people, they’re jiffy at it. Fantastic!
Wasn’t that fun? When you think about a great business name, it’s like tasting fine cheeses. You can sit back and savor how brilliant it is. I’ve never had alcohol so I can’t relate to tasting fine wine, but I assume it’s a similar experience.
All of the above names have the following in common:
- They help you understand what they do
- They are short and memorable
- They are fun to say
- They make for great emails
In all seriousness, keep your first and last name out of it.
Speaking of stories, a great way to come up with your business name is to literally write down the story of your company. It will give you new insights for possible names. For help writing your company story, get our tips here.
Get it in a URL, get it in social media, and get it before it’s gone
Here is where I’m going to make getting a name a little harder for you. Actually, I’m going to make it a lot harder for you.
It’s one thing to say, get a name that paints a picture, and it’s a whole different problem trying to find a matching URL.
A URL is a website address. What I’m trying to say here is that if you’re going to name your new jeans company “Frayed”, wouldn’t it be ideal to have "frayed.com" as the URL as well? That’s the problem. Almost all short URLs for the .com addresses have been taken. You can always make it a .co or a .biz but I really favor .coms for obvious reasons.
If you want to see if the URL is available, you can’t just type it into a browser and see what pops up. The best way to do this is to head on over to GoDaddy.com and do a URL search on their website. These guys sell URLS to people like you and me. Once you find one that isn’t taken, you can buy it, giving you the rights to put up a website at that URL in the future.
You also want the name to be easily accessible in social media. Down the road, you probably should have a company Facebook page, Twitter page, and anything else that will help you to get the word out. As such, you’ll want to create accounts at each of the social media pit stops, and you’re going to want the URL to be easy to remember. When you sign up with them, you can customize the URL. In the example we’re using, we would want the following to be available:
The best thing to do is to go to each of the major social media spots and check to see if people have taken that name. It’s not always possible to get the social media URLs to work so it’s not a huge deal breaker. The main thing is that you get a great name and a matching website address.
Last, but not least, you’ll want to make sure that your name is available on the state and national levels. Take some time to Google “Business Name Search” for your state. Each state will have a database that you can search for free to see if the name is already taken.
It’s important that the name be available in your state. Outside of your state, it’s not as important but I still like to know that my business names are unique nationwide if I can manage it. To make sure of it, I Google “trademark search” and click on the link that leads to the USTPO.Gov site. It should be the first link on the page.
Once inside, I do a trademark search for my name to see if others have it.
Don’t lose sleep over it
Trying to find a business name can be exhausting. I think that’s why a lot of people take the easy route and come up with something long and off the wall.
I have stayed up until the wee hours of the morning banging my head on a computer trying to find the right name. Don’t do that. Go to bed. The name will come to you. Ignite Spot took us a few weeks of searching. In the end, we found our name, got the URL, the social media channels, and a fun brand. We get comments on our brand every day and it was well worth the effort.
To make life somewhat more bearable, may I suggest getting a small notepad to keep in your pocket or a digital note you can keep on your phone? Every time you come across an idea in conversation, at work, or while lying in bed, write it down. You never know where you'll get your name.
When you’re looking for a business name, the best thing you can do is to stop racking your brains and simply open your eyes and ears. Listen to words, read signs, and pay attention to messages all around you. Eventually you’ll have a whole list of possibilities.
Action work: Start taking down names
What will you name your business? I can almost guarantee that the homework below will keep you busy for a while, so you may need to move on to future workshops until the name materializes. Have patience and know that a great name is worth the wait.
- Get a notepad or a digital note that you can keep with you.
- Begin writing down everything that sounds interesting and remotely useful.
- Once you get a list of options, head over to GoDaddy.com and see if any of the URLs are available.
- Make sure the name is available within your state and, if possible, nationwide.
- If you do find a URL that’s available for a name you really like, buy it at Godaddy.com. You’ll end up spending roughly $15-$20 on the URL but now it’s yours. If you come across a better name in the future you can always let this one expire.
- Once you get your name, see if you can get it on the social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube. If you can’t, it’s not the end of the world.
Coming up with the right name is stressful. Again, let me echo the sentiment of not losing sleep over it. The name will come. Now is a good time to start thinking of ideas, though. We waited until Workshop 18 to find a name because you didn’t know enough about your business earlier on. Now that you know who you are serving and what problems you will fix, you can come up with the perfect name to paint that picture. Get to it, Van Gogh.
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