Choosing a name for your e-business requires just as much time and effort as naming a brick-and-mortar store. Here’s how to get started.Q: I’m opening an online store and was wondering how important the name of an online business really is. Should the name reflect what the business sells, or is it better to come up with something catchy and easy to remember?A: What’s in a name? When it comes to your business, a lot more than you might think. Deciding on a name for an online business is no less important than deciding on a name for a brick-and-mortar business. In each case, coming up with the business name is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make. The right business name can help you rise above the crowd, while the wrong business name can leave you trampled in the rush. With the economy in a slump and competition on the rise, now more than ever it is important that you put considerable thought into coming up with the perfect name for your business.Unfortunately, this is a task that is easier said than done. We live in an age when a business called “The Body Shop” might repair wrecked cars or sell bath products to teenagers, so before you send your letterhead to the printer, consider the following points to help you select the business name that’s right for you.The first thing you should do is determine if the name is already in use by someone else. You’d be surprised at how many entrepreneurs forget to research this point and open a business with a name that is already in use. If the name you choose is available, you should immediately reserve the name and apply for legal ownership.Another important thing to consider, especially for an online business, is the domain name for your business. The domain name is the Web site address (or URL) a customer will use to find you on the Web. Is the domain name for your business name available? If not, is there a domain similar to the business name you’re considering?You’ll undoubtedly discover that securing a suitable domain name is actually harder than choosing a business name. Most logical domain names are already reserved, but you might get lucky. Keep in mind that domain names should be short and descriptive. Whatever you do, don’t use a domain name that is a confusing amalgam of letters and numbers that’s hard to remember and even harder for your customer to type.One good way to approach the task of naming a business is to do so from your customers’ point of view. Your business name should clearly define your offering and communicate your message to customers. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes for a moment. If you were looking for a business that provides your product or service, what would you expect that business to be called? The name of your business can also spark subconscious reactions in customers that may drive them to you or drive them away.Finally, let’s talk about things to avoid. Experts agree that you should avoid using generic terms like enterprise, corporation, partners and unlimited as part of your everyday business name. These terms are fine for the legal business entity name, but are often too unclear for everyday use.Here’s to your success.
You have a great idea for a new business, you have a plan for how you’ll go about it, you may even have funding, customers and a web site design… Now you’re only stuck on one thing – choosing a name!We’ve spoken to entrepreneurs, marketers, strategists, branding experts and design gurus to get some structure on how to go about picking a name that will last, that you’ll still love in 10 years time and that will come to hold value in the mind of your customers.
1. How Do I Start?
Initially, begin by brainstorming a list of keywords that relate to your product/service, company or blog. Then hit the reference materials, look at dictionaries, thesaurus and online for more options around your chosen theme. Try to think of all different types of names, compound words like “Facebook”, blend together words like “RedStorm”, add affixes “coComment”, make up words like “Squidoo” or even phrases such as “StumbleUpon” or “GoToMeeting”Once you’ve got a healthy list, start cutting it all back. Begin by asking yourself:
2. Does It Mean Something?
Names can be classified on a continuum based on how they communicate to consumers. There’s a spectrum from descriptive names which speak directly to a product benefit or attribute, “Organic Supermarket” to empty vessel names, where it doesn’t mean anything about the product “RedHat Linux”.Descriptive names, such as “Murphy’s Ice Cream”, immediately convey information about what you do. They are simple, intuitive and help consumers easily identify the mission of your business.The downside? They can sound generic and boring, and the accompanying domain name is usually taken. They are also limiting in a fast-moving industry like technology, where what you do now might not be what you’ll be doing in a few years. Don’t forget, a name can be a prison… it can restrict what you offer and to whom you offer it as you move through the phases of development.
3. Or Does It Mean Nothing?
Empty Vessel Names can be completely made-up words (Kodak or Squidoo), words in another language “Hulu” which roughly translates both to “holder of precious things” and “interactive recording” in Mandarin), or those whose meaning is so obscure that people interpret it as an invented word “Google” (sparked from “googol,” the name for the number consisting of a one followed by a hundred zeros).Empty vessel names can be fun to say, can separate you from the crowd, and can be subtler than descriptive ones.But you may need to put in more money to get the word out initially. And a word to the wise: Check to see if the word means something in another language — you don’t want unintended meanings to make a mockery of your carefully crafted name.If neither descriptive nor empty vessel names appeal, try a suggestive name, which lies somewhere in between. Names like Apple which indirectly alludes to the simplistic and perfectionist values for which the brand would like to be known.
4. Will It Work Online?
Nothing kills a name faster than finding out someone else already has it, a competitor or even an totally unrelated business — and in the online hunt for domain names, it sometimes seems like every possible option is taken.More and more, search engine issues and domain availability are affecting the style of names businesses can launch with. Some people consciously try to create names with unique keywords so theirs will be the only result in targeted Google searches. Although it can be dangerous to go down this road as keyword incorporation can be viewed as spam by search engines.
5. Is It Sticky?
Amidst all the search engine and domain name drama, consider that names are memorable when they sound good. Names like “Bebo” and “Yahoo” are great sounding memorable names.You can also use poetic devices to ensure the names stick. Names based on rhymes (TopShop, HotSpot), repetition (Bebo,LaLa), and alliteration (FireFox,BlackBerry) tend to be memorable.For the advanced namers out there, try what’s called the “Part of Speech Test.” Look at whether potential names can be used in multiple parts of speech. These are stronger because people will use them in speech more often. LinkedIn, for instance, can be used as a noun “We connected on LinkedIn”, as an adjective “Did you look at her LinkedIn profile?”, and as a verb “I am going to LinkIn with him”. When a name passes the Part of Speech test, it becomes pervasive.
6. Is It Simple?
Any name should be easy to pronounce, easy to understand, easy to spell when you hear it, and easy to know the pronunciation when you see it written down. However, you can mitigate confusion by also holding domain names with likely misspellings and redirecting users to your correct site. Remember, although almost all single word domain names are gone, try to keep your name short as it has to appear in email addresses and on business cards as a www.Punctuation is trickier. Although adding hyphens to domain names or underscores to Twitter handles may allow you to get the name you wanted, people are likely to accidentally leave them out, especially when typing on mobile devices. You’re better off avoiding punctuation if you can.
7. Forget the Rules
If a name is really meaningful to you, it might work even if it doesn’t quite meet all the other criteria. So don’t be intimidated by the rules — just grab your thesaurus and get going. Check with friends, ask them to describe what type of business the name suggests, can they spell it? Pronounce it? And can they remember it a week later?
When choosing a name for your new company, keep these tips in mind to help you find one that will work now and in the future.Naming a business is a lot like laying the cornerstone of a building. Once it’s in place, the entire foundation and structure is aligned to that original stone. If it’s off, even just a bit, the rest of the building is off, and the misalignment becomes amplified. So if you have that gnawing sense that choosing a name for your new business is vitally important, you’re right. To help you get off to a good start, read on to discover the top 8 mistakes people make when it comes to choosing a name for their business:Mistake #1: Getting the “committee” involved in your decisionWe live in a democratic society, and it seems like the right thing to do, to involve everyone (your friends, family, employees and clients) in such an important decision. This approach, however, presents a few problems. Mainly, you often end up with a consensus decision, which results in a very safe, very Vanilla name. A better method is to involve only the key decision-makers – the fewer the better – and select only the people who have the company’s best interests at heart and those who have experience in this naming process.Mistake #2: Employing the “train wreck” method of creating a nameWhen forced to come up with a catchy name, many aspiring entrepreneurs simply take part of an adjective and weld it onto a noun, essentially colliding the two words head on to create a new word. The results are names that have a certain twisted rationale to them, but look and sound awful. Someone starting a high-end, service franchise becomes QualiServe. Someone starting a classy day spa becomes TranquiSpa. Fundamentally, there’s nothing wrong with either word, but they just don’t go together. The problem with this approach is that it’s forced–and looks and sounds that way.Mistake #3: Using words so plain they’ll never stand out in a crowdThe first company in a category can get away with this one. Hence you have General Motors. But once you have competition, it requires differentiation. Imagine if Yahoo! had come out as GeneralInternetDirectory.com? The name would be much more descriptive but hardly memorable. And with the onslaught of new media and advertising channels, it’s more important than ever to carve out your niche by displaying your uniqueness. Nothing does that better than a well conceived name.Mistake #4: Taking the atlas approach and using a map to name your companyIn the excitement of starting a new company, many businesses choose to use their city, county or region as part of their company name. While this may actually help in the beginning, it often becomes a hindrance as a company grows and reaches farther afield.Mistake #5: Turning your name into a clicheOnce past the literal, descriptive word choices, your thought process will most likely turn to metaphors. These can be great if they’re not overly used. For example, since many companies think of themselves as the top in their industry, the world is full of names like Summit, Apex, Pinnacle, Peak and so on. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with these names, they’re overworked. Instead, look for combinations of positive words and metaphors, and you’ll be much better served. A good example is the data storage company Iron Mountain, a name that conveys strength and security without sounding commonplace.Mistake #6: Making your business name overly obscureIt’s great for a name to have a special meaning or significance – it sets up a story that can be used to tell the company message. But if the reference is too obscure or too hard to spell and pronounce, you may never have the opportunity to speak to that customer because they’ll simply pass you by.So resist the urge to name your company after the mythical Greek god of fast service or the Latin phrase for “We’re number one!” If a name has a natural, intuitive sound and a special meaning, it can work. If it’s too complex and puzzling, it will remain a mystery to your customers. This is especially true if you’re reaching out to a mass audience.Mistake #7: Selecting an awkward nameDriven by the need for a domain name, many companies have resorted to awkwardly constructed or purposefully misspelled names. The results are company names that sound more like prescription drugs than real life businesses, names like KwaliTronix. It’s amazing how good some names begin to sound after searching for available domain names all night. But resist the urge. Avoid using a “K” in place of a “Q” or a “Ph” in place of an “F”. This makes spelling the name–and locating you on the internet–all that much harder.You may argue that “Xerox” and “Kodak” are pretty awkward. Keep in mind that many of the companies that successfully use this approach were either first to market or have large marketing budgets. “Verizon”, for instance, spent millions on their rebranding and education efforts. So did Accenture. So check your bank balance before you decide on these types of names.Mistake #8: Choosing the wrong name and then refusing to change itMany business owners know they have a problem with their name and just hope it will somehow magically resolve itself. Often they began with a regional name “Dublin Cleaning Services”. Having expanded nationwide they needed a change but how to do this with out losing the trust and brand value they have created over the past years of service? “DCS – nationwide cleaning”.And Finally…In the fever to start your new business or expand a current one, take time to think through some of these issues. By tapping into your creativity and avoiding these potential pitfalls, you’ll be able to create a name that works for both the short and long term. Like the original cornerstone of a building, it will support upward expansion as your company reaches new heights.
Naming your business is one of the hardest tasks when you are starting up – no matter how creative you are. Carol O’Kelly, founder and CEO of Redstorm, a marketing company in Dublin, Ireland, that specialises in branding strategy, has been an expert in naming products and companies for over a decade. Here are six steps Carol believes every entrepreneur should follow when choosing a business name:Step 1: Identify who has a voteEverybody involved in your startup has an opinion and will want to participate in the naming process. Leave the decision in the hands of those who know the business best.Step 2: Know yourselfUnderstand the essence of your company. Find a hook – something that’s compelling about who you are-and build on that from a vocabulary perspective.Step 3: Know your competitionUnderstand what other people are doing, and dare to be different. You don’t have to jump into the middle of the pack and use the same language or style as that of your competitors.Step 4: Be creativeDon’t come up with just two or three names. Push the envelope, and try to expand beyond the obvious by not getting stuck in generic naming solutions.Step 5: Do your homeworkBefore you form an emotional bond with any name, find out if it is legally available for use; and make sure it won’t translate oddly or offensively in another language and check if you can secure the domain name.Step 6: Select a nameIt’s an obvious step but often the most difficult to make. If you’re waiting for an epiphany, a moment where you say, “This is the one,” you could be waiting forever. Print out each name, in colour, on a separate sheet of paper and put them around your home and/or office. Let them catch your eye as you go about your daily tasks, look at them as “Company Signage”, live with them all for a week or so, then set a deadline, and just choose a name.And Finally…Remember, names should be simple, memorable and catchy. They should not constrict your future expansion and you should not need to educate the market expensively as to what you do.