What’s in a name? When it comes to naming your new company, it could mean the difference between success and obscurity. Coming up with a rich, engaging company name can be a complex process, which is why it’s good to read up and understand the basic best practices involved. Even if you only take the first steps in naming your company, you’ll at least have accomplished some basic research and brainstorming before consulting with an expert.
Getting Started Naming Your Company
First, realize that you don’t have to rush the process. Even companies that specialize in naming companies caution that it can take six weeks to six months to complete the process. One important caveat is to keep working on other aspects of the business as you get closer to picking a name in case a fundamental shift in your business model affects the naming process.
Next, take some time to think about what emotional story underpins your business. Take five minutes to write from prompts like these:
- “I started this company because…”
- “The most important thing I want this company to accomplish is…”
- “I feel [kind of emotion] when we…”
See what intriguing words, phrases, and concepts emerge from this exercise, and separate them from your responses.
Next, think about what you want the company name to convey to your target audience. Whether your business is business-to-consumer (B2C) or business-to-business (B2B) might make a difference in the name you choose. Keep in mind that your company’s name is an extension of your company’s identity and will appear on marketing materials, communications, and social media to identify its products and/or services.
Best Practices for Naming Your Company
As you begin brainstorming company names, keep in mind some best practices for naming a company, like:
- The name should be memorable and simple to read, say, and spell.
- Think about how the name will appear in the subject of an email, or how it will sound when spoken aloud.
- The company name should be engaging and possess the ability to generate interest.
- It should be unique, easily searchable online, and inoffensive in other languages.
- Stay away from puns and insider jokes that only you understand.
- Remember that simple, generic terms will evade search engine optimization.
- Be cautious with geographic names, which could hinder growth or expansion later.
Once you’ve narrowed your choices down to three or four options, assemble a focus group of a few people with a vested interest in the company. People with a creative mindset and trusted advisors are both good to bring to this step in the process, as are potential customers. It’s good to rank your top choices, for reasons we’ll explain next.
Do Your Due Diligence
In addition to branding considerations, there are concrete investigatory steps a company founder must take to find out if the name is even commercially or legally available. The first step is a basic Google search to see if anyone else is using the name already. Next, you’ll want to consult a county database, like this one from Hillsborough County, Florida.
You’ll also want to investigate your domain availability, which is critical to nearly all businesses in the modern age. Whois.net is a free, useful starting place to check for domain availability. It’s also prudent to screen your company name against the federal registry maintained by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to ensure you aren’t venturing into a potential conflict. As a final step, it’s worth seeing how your company name looks alongside other business names from the same industry in order to ensure your name stands out from the crowd.