Are you starting out or rebranding and need to name a business? Coming up with a name for your business is something that can seem incredibly difficult. We all have those aspirational businesses in mind with super-cool names and hope to come up with something like that – thinking that it will help make our business an instant success. And while the name of your business isn’t everything, it’s often the first impression that people get about your business so you might as well put a bit of effort into it.
If naming your business is something you’ve been stuck on for a while, here are some tips to come up with a great business name.
Types of Business Names
Business names tend to range between being highly descriptive, to cool but completely meaningless. The first type will usually tell you what they do, but are fairly boring (and therefore easily forgotten). While the second type can sound cool and fun, but unless they are tightly linked to your business, they will need A LOT of money and time to make them memorable.
One of the first businesses my husband started (and I helped name!) was called “Tailored Software Solutions” – this obviously falls into the first group – highly descriptive but very boring and easily forgotten!
On the other hand, some of the meaningless names include: Google, Uber, Yahoo, Bing, Nike, and Adidas. None of these words actually mean much (or anything), but yet these businesses have all been pretty successful. However, we need to be careful in attributing cause and effect. Have they been successful because of their names or in spite of them?
I would argue it’s a combination. On their own, these names wouldn’t have helped much – especially in the beginning stages as the businesses would constantly need to explain what they do and what their name means (if anything). But as these businesses have grown, the uniqueness of their names has helped them carve out a space in their customers’ minds.
There’s also the approach of naming your business based on a name (most commonly the founders’ name/s or sometimes a fictitious name). There are lots of examples of businesses that took this approach including;
- Ben & Jerry’s
- Ralph Lauren (the founder actually changed his name from Ralph Lifshitz as he thought it would sound better as a business name)
- Tupperware Products (named after Earl Tupper)
- Victoria’s Secret
While there are certainly lots of successful businesses here, most experts advise against naming businesses after your own name as it’s seen as a bit short-sighted and perhaps even a bit arrogant. Although if your name sparks some kind of idea, by all means follow that train of thought and see where you end up.
For some more detailed analysis on types of business names and perhaps some different approaches to name a business, have a look at this article.
To Name a Business, Start Here
In order to come up with a name for your business, you need to actually dedicate some time for this process. It seems like a lot of people continue to go about their day-to-day business and expect and idea to just come to them out of the blue. Allocate at least 1/2 hour per day for a week where you think about nothing but business names. (Spreading your time across a few different sessions is better than trying to do it in one session as your brain needs time to build on previous ideas.)
Then, aim to come up with a lot of bad ideas. It’s often only after you’ve flushed these out do you stumble into the good ideas (this is true for all kinds of brainstorming).
Once you’ve had a go at doing this off the cuff, then you might want to consider the two-word approach…
Name a Business using Two-Word Compound Business Names
The consensus seems to be that combining real words is the best approach to name a business. This is because these types of business names are often very successful as they are able to achieve a balance between be descriptive enough, but also adding colour and feeling to the business. Importantly, it’s also far more possible to attain an elusive .com domain name than a one-word name (in fact, all but some longish one-word .com domain names are actually taken!)
If you look at many of the most successful brands and you’ll notice they’re names are actually made up of two short words – often with;
- one word that directly relates to the product/services offered in a literal sense
- and the other word being some kind of adjective to add life and feeling to the business
Some examples of businesses you might know with compound names include;
So, with this in mind, you should evolve your brainstorming efforts a bit. Create a page (or spreadsheet) with 2 columns – one for base words that are descriptive in some way, and the other for adjectives that you like or that accentuate your business. These can be colours, sounds, numbers, movements or any other type of adjective. Try matching them up and see if you can come up with some good combinations.
Name Generators and Domain Name Tools
Fortunately, there are HEAPS of online name generators and domain name tools – many which combine the two functions. If you are operating online or in the US, a .com domain name is much more preferable that the other alternatives. If you operate in another market, you’re lucky as the competition may be a bit lower (eg for a .com.au domain name).
These days there are a lot of alternative suffixes to just .com, but the majority of people would still say that a .com or .org is far more respected than some of the newer types. Although that may change in time.
Here are a few of the tools I have used to name a business;
- Lean Domain Search – this one is particularly good for finding compound names
- Bust A Name
- Shopify’s Business Name Generator
There are lots of other out there too.
BUT a word of warning when using these tools… Don’t totally rule out names just because the domain is taken. Check to see if they’re actually being used by physically going to the website. If there’s no website or it redirects to a squatter, you may be able to email the owner and negotiate to buy the domain. I have done this successfully on several occasions just by asking. Sometimes I’ve been met with either a ridiculous price or no response, but more often I’ve come to a very reasonable arrangement. You can usually get a contact email address for the domain name by going to WhoIs.
Outsource the Naming
A friend of mine recently used Branditory who probably lie closer to the second group. This service is geared towards small businesses and for only $97 they come up with a business name and a domain (and then follow up later with logo designs and business cards). My friend was really impressed as they came up with the first 3 names in 24 hours and then had 2 more rounds based on feedback.
Business Name Checklist
To help you finalise your new business name and choose between the various business name ideas that you and your team have hopefully generated, we’ve created a checklist. You simply enter your shortlist of business name ideas and then give them each a score against 9 different criteria.
Testing Your Business Name Alternatives
Once you’ve got a good shortlist of potential business names, it’s time to test them on your market. Even if you have a clear favourite, it’s worth getting some external feedback. One of the easiest ways to do this is using Facebook Groups. Find a group that is similar to your target market and simply ask the question (don’t give them more than 5 options though). Let them know that you’d really like their advice and to give you their honest feedback on which name they prefer. Posts like these are usually very popular and you’ll often get some very clear direction.
Don’t Get Stuck – just Name It!
Having outlined quite a lot of criteria and a reasonable process for coming up with a business name, I should also say that naming a business is not SO important that it should cause you to be stuck for weeks. A good business (idea and execution) will succeed with virtually any name so don’t let naming your business become a sticking point that slows you down.
Often, when a new business is starting, the direction may change fairly early on based on customer feedback and demand. So while you might think you know what your business will be, it’s reasonably likely that you’ll end up tweaking this or pivoting towards a totally new direction. And that’s ok. Business names can be changed and before you’re too big, it’s really not too hard to do this.
So if you’re not starting because you haven’t found the perfect business name, give yourself a deadline (which is less than a week away) and then just run with something.
Now go, and name a business now!
What have your experiences been with naming your business? Was it something that happened easily or did you have to get creative? Is your business name something that you’re still pleased with or would you rather change it? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook!