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May 2, 2016

5 Things to Remember When Naming a Business

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by Gini Queen
Congratulations! You have taken a leap of faith and decided to start your own business.
A new business is an exciting venture, but have you considered what you’re going to name your new company? A lot of thought and consideration needs to be put into the name that will launch you to greatness!
There are numerous books and multiple websites that offer hundreds of names for boys and girls to help proud new parents name their bundles of joy. The result? Four Sarahs and three Michaels in any given third grade classroom.
Although you view your new company as your “baby,” the most important thing when starting out is finding a name that is both unique and not already claimed in a domain format.
You may have a catchy, clever name in mind that means a lot to you. It was a childhood nickname, the blending of two of your favorite hobbies, or an acronym that only you know the meaning of. All of this is well and good, but unless you’re Google, Pepsi or IBM, or have an exorbitant budget for naming/branding/ exposure, let’s stick to a more practical (and successful) approach to naming your new business.
Interesting tidbit: Nike is a household name, but very few people know that Nike happens to be the winged Greek goddess of victory, which is exactly what the company strives to have their products convey. In 1971, co-founder Phil Knight was kicking around the name “Dimension 6,” but the company officially became Nike—named by the company’s first employee, Jeff Johnson.

Consider Your Audience

First and foremost, identify exactly who your audience is. After all, they’re the ones who ultimately will be your greatest recruiters. Take the time to build out two–three personas of the individuals who will be seeking out/using your product or services, and keep them at the top of your mind when starting the naming brainstorm. What are the age demographics? Gender? Education levels? Lifestyles? All these factors play into an appropriate business name that will attract the right customers. If your prospective audience can’t immediately relate to the name, they’re not going to take the next step to try it.

Unique, But Simple

As a general rule of thumb, keep your company name to two to three easy-to-pronounce syllables. If your customers can’t pronounce it, or it it’s too long to remember when doing a Google search, it defeats the purpose. If your company is going to have exposure to multi-cultural audiences, make sure that your chosen name is not translated into something offensive to someone from a different cultural background.

Avoid Acronyms

Start-up companies need to let people know what you do without having to explain it every time you mention your name. A lot of well-established brands that go by acronyms—IBM (International Business Machines–named in 1924), CVS (Consumer Value Stores–founded 1963), AT&T (American Telephone and Telegraph—started in 1885)—spent millions of dollars over the years in branding and marketing to earn the privilege of having their customers recognize them even though their full company name is not spelled out. Also, notice how long the original business names were—good reason to pare down to acronyms—the original names were just too hard for customers to remember.

Conduct A Focus Group

This doesn’t have to be a huge endeavor, but testing name options on a select group of potential customers, investors and co-workers can alleviate a lot of stress about name options. It’s recommended that you not include family and friends in this study who are already familiar with you, your background or your personal vision for your company. Take candid feedback constructively and keep a “Pros and Cons” cheat sheet with comments made about each considered name. Remember, the name of your company needs to resonate with your customers first and foremost.

Don’t Fence Me In

A lot of people love where they live and work. They love it so much that they pin the location on their company name, never thinking that in five years, expanding could be an option. It’s extremely hard to introduce “Pleasantville Plumbing and Heating” into a market outside Pleasantville. Sometimes entrepreneurs who have made this mistake are lucky enough to be able to “morph” the original name into something workable without starting from scratch (i.e. turn Pleasantville Plumbing and Heating into Pleasant Plumbing and Heating). Other times, companies are forced to reinvent themselves when they outgrow their original geographically designated name.
Interesting tidbit: The Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co. began in 1902 with one simple purpose: harvest the mineral, corundum, from the Crystal Bay mine near Baptism River. After company growth and product re-direction, the company renamed itself 3M.
Hopefully, this article has shed some light on the complexity and importance of a start-up company’s name. Unfortunately, unlike babies, there aren’t books out there with hundreds of naming ideas.
Have you been involved in naming a business? Share your experience in the comments.