My top tips to naming your business
Coming up with a name for your business can be such a fun yet stressful exercise. It comes at the very start of your journey into entrepreneurship when you feel so free — you can do anything you want — but you are also terrified of making the wrong choice.
I have a few clients who have been wrestling with name choices of late so I wanted to share some of my top tips for coming up with a business name. Let me preface this with a quick announcement that I am shortly going to change the name of my business (!!!) While the reasons for this are numerous (stay tuned) I wanted to highlight in this post that while names can be changed it is good to exhaust all possible ideas and views from the start because rebranding is a messy process.
1. Start with your business’s purpose
It is vital to know what you and your brand stand for before you pick a name. This doesn’t just mean what you do or sell, it is the greater vision you have for how your business will impact others and change the world (yes that big!). This deeper idea should draw upon the emotional connection you want to create with your customers and how your brand will make them feel. This doesn’t mean the name has to have huge gravitas but it does need to fit in with your purpose.
For example, a name like MailChimp gives you an immediate sense of fun. ‘Fun’ is a core value of their company and they want that to flow onto you and experience lots of fun while creating with their service.
2. Think about your long term goal
I know this is hard to have clarity on when you are just starting out, but it is good to try and envisage where you would like to be in the future and think about names that will work well in that position.
A great example of this is Netflix. When the company was originally named, their vision was to deliver movies streamed over the Internet, but the market and technology were not ready and so they used DVDs. Regardless, the name reflected the long-term goal, and the company eventually grew into it.
One simple tip is to not constrain your name by adding descriptions that might get outdated. Don’t limit yourself with a geographic name if you are planning on going worldwide or associate yourself with a specific service that you mightn’t offer in the future.
3. Know your customer
When naming a business you need to think about your ideal customer. Are they early adopters and innovators or are they traditionalists who like the classics? This will inform your decisions around what direction you take with your name. If you are creating a tech startup then dropping some letters or making up your own word might fly with your audience. However, if you are starting an accounting business perhaps you should move forward with a more traditional name that leans heavily on the use of surnames. If, however, you are turning accounting on its head and going after an innovative market, then maybe you should find a balance of the innovator and trust languages. An example of this is Freshbooks.
4. Look to be emotive and not descriptive
While a descriptive name can help with the findability of your business (search marketing is the classic reason) these names can result in something that will limit your business aspirations. If you have big ambitions then a more abstract name will allow for brand extensibility. If that name is also emotive then it can forge a stronger bond between you and your audience.
An example of a classic abstract and emotive name is Apple. It is truly amazing that many people can hear the name Apple and technology products come to mind before the common fruit! According to Steve Jobs the name originated from a visit to an apple farm. Afterwards he thought the name sounded “fun, spirited and not intimidating.” And that is part of its beauty: Jobs took the name of a common but beloved piece of fruit and applied it to technology that the average 1970s consumer could not begin to fathom.
5. What do you want your brand to communicate?
While this relates to your purpose (tip number 1), communication goes beyond that and encapsulates your brand, culture and service.
I did my coaching certification through the Beautiful You Coaching Academy. After reading that name you straight away know a lot about their business. The Beautiful You brand is obvious in the personalised and loving service they provide, their email conversations, their magazine, blog posts and I am sure it represents their internal company culture. This is the power of names if they truly align with your mission.
6. Using your own name
It is always good to consider if you should actually use your own name as your business name. Yes, this is a growing trend but there are good reasons for that. For example, if your business represents you as the expert, you as the craftsperson, you as the talent, then naming it after yourself will quickly tell that story. Also, using your name can provide you with flexibility so you can apply it to whatever direction you decide to take.
But using your own name can be limiting for some businesses. If your ambitions are to take a product to a global market or build a big team then using your name is probably not the best umbrella for that objective. Or perhaps you know that one day you might want to sell your business — selling your own name isn’t that appealing to you or your buyer.
7. Test your name
This is getting into the nitty gritty but it is a crucial step and something you must do. It is one thing to think up names in a brainstorming session but in the reality of todays domainified and trademarked world we must run it through an obstacle course of checks and registrations. The difficulty of meeting all these checks is also the basis for some of the more out-there and unusual names we see in the market.
Important checks include:
- Getting the domain name (or several)
- Obtaining all the social media handles and usernames
- Checking and registering business names
- Checking and registering trademarks
8. Run it past others
Naming your business shouldn’t be a democratic process where everyone you know gets to vote on what they like, but running your name past a few people you respect and trust can highlight issues and ideas you might not have considered. However, when you do present your name, do it with context. Explain to them what your business is about, what its objectives are and what audience you are going after. Don’t just throw it out there as a flippant suggestion and hope they just say “I love it”.
9. Naming is just the very beginning
Naming is important and it can be time consuming, but it is only the start of your business journey so don’t get too hung up on finding the perfect name. Don’t let it stop you from getting on with the actual process of building your business. Sometimes coming back to it after working on other aspects of your business can bring greater clarity. Remember: coming up with a name is only a small part of your brand. The value that you deliver and how you serve your customers *really* determines what people think of your business; no matter what name you have on your website, business card or billboard.
If you have naming tips please share them below or let me know how you came upon your own business name. If you want more help naming your business send me an email and we can talk some more!