Your name is the first thing anyone hears when you talk about your company. It will follow your business around forever. Your name is your pitch-- it better be good.
But in pursuit of the elusive .com, entrepreneurs and small business owners sacrifice great names because of price and availability.
How can you name your business perfectly if you’re relying on what's left over? Well, you can't.
That's why we're here to help you come up with awesome names that satisfy your goals.
Here are some best practices and ideas for success.
Naming a Business: What You Need to Know
A business name is much like a book cover. People say it doesn't matter, but when it comes down to it, judgment is passed when people hear or read the name. They decide whether or not they're going to do business with you based on what you're called.
It's crappy, I know.
Your business name can make or break you, and there are tons of strategies to take. We've done our best to compile proven tips in this post.
What you call your business isn't necessarily what it will be registered as when you incorporate or become an LLC.
People do judge businesses by their names.
You may face trademarking issues, so get ready to hire a lawyer.
Be creative. You can do all kinds of fancy things to make names work. Don't be afraid to add or remove letters (or even words) to make things work.
Don't be a slave to URLs. Consider .net, .io, and other web addresses. Be wary of choosing a name just because it's a leftover .com.
1. Choose a Kooky Name to Get the URL You Want
Because so many URLs are taken, entrepreneurs are starting to pick out random made up words for their business names. Kaggle, a platform for data scientists, is a good example. The word is completely random-- and its founders chose it for that reason.
Anthony Goldbloom of Kaggle wrote an algorithm to find a startup name. He wanted to find all pronounceable combinations of letters whose URLS weren’t already gobbled up. When his program spit out Kaggle and Sumble, him and his colleagues chose Kaggle.
You don’t have to create an algorithm, but it might be a good idea to make up a random (but pronounceable) word for your startup. Entrepreneurs who’ve done this are happy their name is distinct, allowing them to build a totally unique brand.
2. Be Relevant and Relatable to Your Audience
Names like Kaggle are fun, and distinct, but … wait … what does Kaggle do again? If your company does something unique, then you might want to stick with a conventional name. Otherwise, you might confuse people.
When people hear or see Garment Valet, they get the hunch that someone’s about to do their laundry. The name Unbounce is another great example, as the company helps reduce bounce rates for landing pages (effectively unbouncing them).
You can try out Bust-A-Name to see if you can couple your specialties with an available domain name:
You want your company to be uniquely branded, but it’s also a good idea to have a name that tips off your audience to what you do. It’s up to you, though—we chose Grasshopper which has nothing to do with phones!
3. Use .Co,.Io, .Net or Another Alternative
We’re all after the elusive .com, but tons of successful startups have opted for other endings such as .fm, .net, .co, .org, and others.
If you have your heart set on SillySusie.com, try out SillySusie.is or SillySusie.me.
Clarity.fm, HelpScout.net, canary.is, and directr.co have all opted for alternative endings because many .coms come with hefty price tags or are simply unavailable.
Get creative. Sometimes you can incorporate your business name into your web domain. We know a guy whose name is Tim Willis. His personal photography website is TimWill.is. Clever, right? Makes us want to get Grasshopp.er.
4. Change Your Name if You Have to
Changing your company name from CuteCoffeeCups to Camby is a huge undertaking, but don’t shy away from changing your name if it’s just not working for you.
Just make sure you have a good reason (or multiple good reasons), as well as a PR strategy in place to get the word out about the change.
SEOmoz recently changed their name to Moz in an effort to rebrand and shed the weighted SEO label. Although Moz is passionate about SEO, they felt that their brand embodied so much more than optimizing websites for Google search results. They wanted a company name that would reflect that.
Not only did Moz make the change, but they launched a new product at the same time, and detailed their reasoning in a lengthy blog post by the CEO. The new product coupled with the transparent reasoning helped Moz to gain ground when they made the change, rather than lose it.
5. Pick Names that Make People Feel Good
Your customers are the most important people in your company, so pick a name that makes them feel good. If they feel fun and free when they’re using your products or services, they’ll be happy they chose you.
You can pick a name that makes people feel cool, smart, fun, or kind. Consider using an animal in your name to boost happiness. MailChimp has Freddie, a monkey mascot, that pops up in the user portal. MailChimp is a B2B product, but it’s still fun, playful, and lighthearted. (We think Freddie really helps).
Choose a happy-go-lucky name that makes customers feel as though they’re at play, rather than at work.
6. Pick a Word You Like and Add an Ending
Whether it was inspired by Flickr, Spotify, or some another company, the idea of adding on a ending has become a popular practice in the startup community.
Many companies are cropping up with -co, -biz, -able, -ly, and -ify tagged on.
These tags are cute, easy to say, and allow you to use a relevant word with a creative ending. Consider going beyond the conventional endings and giving yourself a totally zany and unexpected one. (We haven’t seen many names ending in –zo, -eep or -hopper).
7. Make it Easy to Spell and Say
One of the reasons we changed our name from GotVMail to Grasshopper was because it was hard for people to spell. We do radio advertisements, so it’s important that people understand our name when they hear it.
If your name is easy to spell and say, it makes it that much easier for people to find your website, connect with you on social media, and gush about you to colleagues and friends.
A lot of people run into trouble when they incorporate their last names into their business names because they can be hard to spell. If you believe it’s the right choice, go for it, but remember people might have trouble when it comes time to search you on the web.
Avoid numbers, letters, abbreviations, alternate spellings, and anything else that might trip people up.
8. Avoid Being the Butt of a Joke
Ever hear of the automobile named Chevrolet Nova? Sounds like a good name, right? Well, think again. The Spanish translation for “no va” means “it doesn’t go.” Ouch, not the best name for a car.
With over 35 million Spanish-speaking people in the United States and more throughout Latin America, “Nova” clearly isn’t the best name choice, despite Chevy's starry-eyed intentions.
Analogic is another example of a so-so name. It's hard not to see the first four letters when reading it, despite best intentions (tee-hee).
Check to make sure the name you choose works in different languages, especially if you plan to market your products and services globally. Be sure to look into any unexpected and compromising meanings and connotations when selecting your business name.
9. Rely on Testing & Real Data
Will Mitchell, serial entrepreneur and founder of StartupBros recommends that you A/B test a couple of different names to figure out what really resonates.
'It seems everybody thinks they should get their naming advice from friends, family, and Facebook friends – I suspect out of desperation.
That is a stupid thing to do.
I would much rather A/B test my possible business names to find out exactly how much more or less receptive my target audience would be with each name.'
Will tested StartupBros against a host of others to see which ones were best. He recommends using Unbounce's free trial and making quick logos using Creatr.cc.
After a few days and $50-100, you’ll end up with something like this in Unbounce:
As you can see, the StartupBros name performed 13% better than our original name idea, IncomeLabs.'
Take a hint from Will. Taking the time to test a name can make all the difference.
Now It's Your Turn
Go forth and get naming. Check out these resources to help you out:
What is your company's name? How did you decide? Does it follow these best practices?