Names carry a lot of weight. We make assumptions and judgements based on names before we even know anything about the person/band/movie/business/product.
If your friend tells you that you should check out Michelle Johnson and gives you no other details, you may be surprised upon meeting Ms. Johnson to find out that she is a pit bull who sells pet snacks.
You might be less inclined to accept an invitation to “Quick Cow Meat Sandwiches” and more inclined to visit “In-n-Out Burger.”
Or maybe not; perhaps quick cow meat sandwiches are your thing. That’s fine, but can we agree that it doesn’t make a great business name?
Here are some tips on naming your business.
1. Before you let yourself get attached to a name, check for domain availability.
As a self-employed person, you are almost certainly going to need a website. (Unless you are starting an Amish cheese-making business.) The hair you will rip out trying to find a good website name once you’ve settled on a business name is not worth it.
No matter how excellent your business name is, no one will ever visit “www.excellentname/yay/yes/mybusiness.2017.net.” And while we’re on that note, there are a lot of top-level domain extensions, but everyone knows that .com is still king.
It can be harder to snag a .com.
That’s because people have bought up a lot of the short, quick domain names and are flipping them for big money. Like, thousands of dollars.
You can still buy a few of the fun ones (.marketing / .rodeo / .unicorn) for the future in case they take off one day, but your domain name is basically your online storefront, so you’ll want a good “location.” If the .com you want is already taken, there are still some things you can do.
Add a suffix to the end of your business name, such as a word that describes your business.
For instance, if your business name is “Voomie,” and you’re selling lamps, you could probably snag voomielamps.com.
Or, add a prefix to your business name. Here are a few examples:
2. Check trademark TM availability.
This may not seem like a big deal, and maybe you don’t plan on building a big enough brand to ever deal with trademarks. But it’s still good to trademark a name just to keep some other schmo from starting a business with your name and yanking it out from under you two years down the road.
Trademarking your name gives you exclusive rights in all 50 states and lasts a lifetime– as long as you keep up with the renewal. The super official place to do this is the United States Patent and Trademark Office. You can find this wonderland of trademark info here.
3. Test out the name on people who will give you honest feedback.
(And who will still love you if it’s a horrible name.)
It can feel very personal and vulnerable to reveal the name you’re thinking of using.
Think about it.
There are thousand-page baby-naming books, and often parents keep names secret until the baby is already born (and stuck with it) to avoid unsolicited criticism and suggestions.
However, in naming your business, you want people to love the name, and the only way to find out if they do is to share it often and get lots of feedback.
4. Say it out loud.
Any good business name looks good on paper and rolls nicely off the tongue. Alliteration is gratifying to the ear and tends to make things easier to remember.
Chuck-E-Cheese. KitKat. Porky Pig.
If you choose to go the alliterative route, though, it’s important you don’t wind up in a “how much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?” situation.
Simple is almost always better.
5. The 5-10 Rule.
Here’s an incredibly specific tip from Entrepreneur: piles of successful, well-known companies in modern history have had 5-10 letters in their name, a repeating letter, and at least one hard consonant.
Twitter. FedEx. Starbucks. Toyota. Apple. Target. Kellogg. PayPal. OshKosh. Mattel. Coca-Cola.
Obviously, there are zillions of wildly successful companies with names that don’t fit into this very specific set of guidelines. It’s not some kind of rule that you have to follow, or even should necessarily; it’s just an observation on some super successful, iconic companies.
Choosing a business name isn’t easy.
But with some creative thinking and a little help from your friends, you’ll find the perfect match.
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