The Name Game: How To Pick a Business name that will be successful for years to come

Part four of a series – The Yahoo Smart and Simple Guide to Starting a Business.

Once you pick your company name, and throw yourself into branding it, it is hard to change the name. Not impossible, mind you, but changing midstream can be confusing for your clients, and potentially expensive for you. It is best to pick the right name right from the start.

Do make sure a pun will continue to be funny for years to come

There are some funny business names, ones that make you laugh when you first hear them. However, there is a fine line. Will you and your clients find it funny in two years, five, how about twenty? That’s really a judgment call.

A few examples are:

  • Carl’s Pane in the Glass (Window glass repair service)
  • Sew What? (custom embroidery)
  • Nincomsoup (A soup store)


Personally, I like these. What do you think?

Don’t Name a company after yourself, unless…

According to Alexandra Watkins, founder of Eat My Words, a company that creates brand names for clients, you should not name your business after yourself.

Yes, you see it all the time, but what does it really mean to your client? Gayle’s Flowers or Pete’s Pet Store. They just aren’t memorable, imaginative names.

Watkins goes on to give an exception to that rule, “The only time to use your name as your business name is when it lends itself to wordplay, such as a consultant named Steven Lord. His business is called 'Lord Knows!' The Wynn Hotel in Vegas is also a great example of when it makes sense to use your own name.”

Often your name will get forgotten in the mix of all the other company names if you simply use your personal name.

Do create a name with impact

You want your business name to create an immediate impact. It must be memorable. According to Jay Walker-Smith of the Marketing Firm Yahkelovich, “Everywhere we turn we're saturated with advertising messages trying to get our attention." He estimates that we’re inundated with about five thousand ads a day.

If you want a chance to stand out in that noise you must find a winning name, something that people will remember five minutes after you talk to them. If you do it right, they may even pass it along to others, giving you free word of mouth.

Don’t pick a long business name

According to Forbes Magazine, “No one remembers a long business name (and translating it into a domain name can be impossible to recall). Imagine what the name will look like on a business card or advertisement.”

The names that are the most successful make people smile with a sort of “Ah!” expression. It doesn’t have to be extremely clever, but it should be clear. Some examples of great company names are, Paypal and JiffyLube.

What are some of your all-time favorite names?

Do tell your customers what you sell

When I started my chess instruction business, I struggled over the name. There were so many choices and I wanted something super creative and clever.

I almost went with Mind Castles. In hindsight, it’s hard to believe I almost made that error. When I started running it by people, I discovered that many had very negative connotations from that name. They thought of mind games and oddly enough, drugs. Ack! Not the message I wanted to give.

The big problem, of course, is that it doesn’t have the word “chess” in it. It didn’t say what I did. In the end I settled on Your Chess Coach, which worked well and told my customers what I did. in a short breath!

Don’t rush the naming process

Are you a patient person? If not, you may be tempted to select a name for your company quickly, so you can move on to really creating your business. After all, without a name you cannot select a domain name, or get all your marketing material, etc. Some people tend to rush the process, which can land them with a mediocre name.

It’s a good idea to make lists of candidate names and ask others for their opinions. You may find a good combination of ideas that make the perfect name. It’s funny what brilliant ideas people spit out when you ask them for their opinions.

Do check the list of trademarks if you plan to get one

Not every company needs trademark protection. If you’re considering one, you probably should seek guidance from an attorney.

To learn more about the basics of trademarks, you can go to the United States Patent and Trademark Office. If you do decide to get a trademark you must apply for one. Remember you might not get it.

Make sure you don’t settle on a name that has already been trademarked. You can do online searches.

Note: Getting a DBA (Doing Business As) does not give you exclusive access to a name. It just allows you to do business under a fictitious name (and it allows you to open a bank account under that name).

Don’t put your foot in your mouth

It’s important to say your company name out loud. Trust me, you don’t want to learn that you’ve committed a faux pas after you’ve handing out ten thousand promotional pieces.

Sometimes I wonder if the owner is aware of the giggling going on. For instance, the popular Vietnamese chain called Pho King. Hm…my guess is that he didn’t say that one out loud.

Take the time to review your name, write it out a few times, say it, see if there is any way to misinterpret it.

Do select a name that can be used as a domain name

Very few businesses can operate successfully without a website. Most likely you’ll be using internet marketing to reach new clients and will need a good domain name. And you can always select more than one and point them all to the same page.

If you’re considering a name, go ahead and do a domain search to see if your name has been taken. If you can change it slightly, thereby securing an original domain name, that would be a good plan.

There are differing opinions as to whether you should get a dot com extension. Some feel that it is important, as most people type “.com” and won’t try “.net” or “.biz.” Your name could get lost in the shuffle. If they remember your name, but forget the extension, your customers won’t find you.

However, other experts say it doesn’t matter. The name is far more important and people are getting used to alternate extensions.

If you can get your ideal name with a dot com extension that would be far better.

Do you enjoy the process?

As you go through the naming game process, stay flexible. Enjoy it. It’s a bit like naming a child.

Most likely the name that you started with won’t be your final choice. Take the time you need to pick the best name, the one that you’ll love for the next ten years. It is an important decision. To make the most of your naming decision, also see our worksheet article that will step you through the naming process and help you make the best decision. Also take a look at our resource guide for more naming articles and links to helpful websites.

 

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