For many people, launching a startup is a dream. The experience of creating a company from the ground up can be incredible, and if you are one of the lucky few making that collective dream your reality, congratulations. You have a lot of excitement - and a lot of hard work - ahead.
One of the biggest decisions you'll make in the early days is what to name your business. The name you choose will have a big impact on the future of the company, and many people find this a stumbling block.
Why is your business name important?
It goes almost without saying that your business name will be present in everything you do. It will be on your website, your shop front or office, and on all of your marketing materials. It’s how your customers will refer to you, and what you’ll call yourself when you pitch to new clients or funding sources. It needs to be something you're going to be comfortable saying over and over again in a whole range of different environments.
The name of a business is a key way that potential customers will make a judgement about it. A good name will inspire confidence in your customers, while a bad one will make them think twice about working with you. A business name is also a key way that you will make yourself attractive to your target market.
One thing to be wary of is that names can become limiting as time goes by. If you choose one that relates to a specific product or service, you may find that makes it difficult to expand into new lines.
This is equally true if you choose a business name that includes a geographic reference, as it might make it tough to expand into new territories.
A good business name will be resilient enough to be used over and over again, will fit into numerous different situations, will inspire confidence, will attract your target market, and will be flexible enough to allow your business to grow. With all these requirements, it’s not surprising that many people struggle to name their start ups!
What do you need to consider?
Look at your competitors
Your business will not exist in a vacuum, and it’s important for you to invest time in researching who your competitors are and what their businesses do. During this step you should also take into account the name of your competitors and how this may affect what you name your business.
Some industries generally stick to a certain type of name. For example, many electricians and plumbers stick to simple surname or place-based names. In cases like these, it may be wise not to stray too far from convention.
Alternatively, choosing a name that is too similar to that of your competitors can be a problem. Not only can this cause confusion, it can also lead to legal problems if your competitor decides to take action against you.
Avoid using slang and fad terms
Start ups often make the mistake of using slang or fad terms in their name. Examples of this would be companies who have tried to emulate names such as ‘iPhone’ by adding a small ‘i’ to the name of their product, or companies who have used text speak such as ‘4’ instead of ‘for’ or ‘U’ instead of ‘you’.
It’s great to be current in your choice of name, but be wary of anything that might go out of style quickly. Not only can these names become embarrassing over time, they can also date your business prematurely.
Using a play on words
Business names that include a pun have always been very popular. These can be really fun names, but there are things to be aware of.
When you choose a play on words for your business name, there will always be people who don't get it! Be aware of this when you are choosing the name, and make sure your chosen name does not cause confusion.
How should you test it?
When you’ve chosen a name, it’s a good idea to make sure you test it thoroughly before you commit to it. Some names can bring up problems over time, and it’s best to be aware of these before you buy your domain name or get it emblazoned on the sign above your door!
Consider alternative meanings
Sometimes the most innocent sounding names can have less-than-innocent alternative meanings.
Avoid an accidental double-entendre by making sure this is not the case with your chosen name!
One of the best ways to do this is to Google the name and see what comes up. You might discover your name is already in use, or in rare cases you might discover something NSFW!
Will it work online?
Naming a business has only got more complicated with the growth of the digital world. Not only do you now need to list your name on your business cards and brochures, you’ll also need to use it to get a website, Facebook page, and Twitter profile. You will want your customers to be able to find you quickly and easily online, and getting your business name as a domain is a big part of this.
So if you can’t get a URL or Twitter handle for your business name - in reality it needs to be out.
How do your potential customers react to it?
Just because you think your name is a good one, it doesn’t mean your target customers will. You’ll need to invest time in market research anyway, so make sure you use this time to run your chosen name past your potential customers and find out what they think of it. Remember, names affect people differently. A name that spells efficiency and excellence to you might stand for poor quality and insincerity to your target market.
Naming a new business can be a really fun exercise, but it can also be tricky. If you’re currently naming your start up, make sure you take your time. A little extra research or some careful thought and input from other people could save you from a costly naming mistake.