What’s in a Name: Picking a Business Name

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So, you have the passion, energy, and even the money to start a business. You even have the perfect product or service in mind. What’s the only thing missing? Well, you do not have a great name yet, one that your customers will remember the first time they see it. Think of the way Google, Facebook, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and McDonald’s are household names. That’s what you’re aiming for.

Names can be as simple as Apple, and they’ll have an impact no other brands can have. They can be as complicated as Flickr and still be mildly successful though always with correcting misspelling. Your business name will be the most important element of your company, so make sure that people will not only remember it but also be drawn to it.

However, remember that you also need to register your name, so you can’t use ones that have already been used by other companies (even inactive ones). A small business lawyer can advise you on intellectual property rights. Once you’ve thought of a name, be quick with applying for its intellectual property so others cannot “steal” the idea.

Avoid Hard-to-spell Names

It’s not only that names have to be easy to remember. They have to be easy to spell, too. Flickr, though popular, will always have to correct misspellings. Many people who originally wanted to visit their sites will also be rerouted to other sites because they spelled Flicker rather than Flickr. Keep the spelling simple and avoid intentionally misspelling a name to make it more unique.

Don’t Put Limits on the Name

Imagine if Jeff Bezos used Bookstore instead of Amazon or Steve Jobs named it Touchscreen Phone instead of Apple. Don’t limit your business to one product or even to one location. Too many businesses use the location of their first branch in their names. Yogini of California will make customers think you’re operating in just one location when you already have several locations.

Create Mash-up of Names

What are the two or three words that are meaningful to your brand? You can make a combination of these words. For example, Netflix is a combination of “internet” and “flicks,” and ParkNFly is a play of words for “park a car” and “fly on a plane.” By combining these words, you tell your audience what to expect from your business in as few words and syllables as possible.

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Get Inspiration from Literature

Do you know that Nike is the goddess of victory in Greek mythology or that Hermes is the ancient Greek god of trade, luck, wealth, fertility, and travel? You can draw inspiration from great literary works or authors such as the Hemingway App. Try to check the etymology of words and find out if you can work something up for a business name.

Use Acronyms

Can the acronym for your business name stand on its own? Can it form another, much simpler word? For example, ROX stands for Recreational Outdoor Exchange. It can stand on its own, and people will refer to it as ROX. When they want to figure out what it means, they only have to follow the letters to Recreational Outdoor Exchange. Some companies became more popular using their acronym. CNN stands for Cable News Network and AOL for America Online.

Consider the .com Domain Name

While you can use .net, .org, .co, and .biz, people have better association of a .com domain extension. Before finalizing your business name, check if it’s still available for a .com extension. Otherwise, reach out to whoever owns the domain name and ask if you can purchase the name. Unless the website is truly successful, many people are willing to sell their domain name for a price.

Get Feedback

Pick a group of people to comment on the name. Tell them not to hold anything back. You need to know if the name is culturally appropriate and if it doesn’t have any negative connotation. The problem with some names is that they mean a different thing in another language. GM’s Nova, for example, means “doesn’t go” in Spanish. Stay clear of those.

At the end of the long and winding process of picking a name, ask yourself this: are you happy with the name? After all, your confidence in the name you choose will impact the way you manage the business. You have to take pride in the name. If you don’t, go back to the drawing board and repeat the process until everything clicks.

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