Every business needs a name.
The right kind of name can depend on the type of business and the industry it's in.
A life insurance company will benefit from a name with a totally different vibe than a new social media app for editing and sharing pictures of your pets.
Coming up with a name isn't always easy.
Sometimes, you have something catchy, memorable, and on-brand in mind early on, when you're first brainstorming about your business.
But sometimes, you have to sit and think a bit to come up with something good.
This is further complicated by the fact that you might come up with an incredible name, only to find out that pretty much every trustworthy-looking, customer-friendly domain name you find for it is already taken.
In a recent blog post, Shopify walks you through a step by step process that you can use to come up with a great name for your new business.
The Steps: Coming Up With the Perfect Business Name
Despite all the ambient knowledge and advice, the actual process of coming up with the name for a business is pretty straightforward.
Here are the seven steps that take you closer to coming up with that perfect name for your business.
STEP 1: CREATE GUIDELINES FOR THIS PROCESS
While you might want to jump in and get right to it, first sit down and think about what you want to achieve through this process; it’s easy to lose focus and get off the right path without a few guidelines.
Start by creating guidelines for this process by noting down open-ended questions rather than hard and fast rules.
For example, instead of making sure that the name is about something specific, try thinking along the lines of, “what do I want my company’s name to represent?”
These questions will help you stay on the right path by keeping true to your company’s ideals without restricting your creativity.
A few other questions you could ask yourself are:
* What feeling/emotion do I want my business name to evoke in my target audience?
* What are my company’s priorities?
* Do I want my business name to be unique or something easy to remember?
* Will the length of the name really affect the company? If so, what works best?
Once you have the guidelines as a framework it will make the business name process more efficient.
STEP 2: THE BRAINSTORMING SESSION
Get those creative juices flowing: Think about your company, the brand ethos you want to portray, the products and services that you will offer, the personality of your team, your competitors and your idols.
Don’t forget to also keep in mind the aforementioned guidelines you just created.
Now make three distinctive lists:
* The first should be a list of keywords that resonate with your brand, team, personality, product and services. This should include technical terms, phrases, words that strike a chord with you or possibly with your audience. Learn more about keywords in our Ultimate Guide to Keyword Research article.
* The second should be a list of names of your competitors and/or your idols. Take these names apart, put them back together and try to figure out how and why the names work or don’t work. Make notes alongside so that you can apply the same fundamentals to your own business name.
* The third should be a list of names that you probably thought of or created while making the previous two lists. Try to keep your unique selling proposition in mind and figure out a way to convert these into keywords.
You will most likely end up making these lists simultaneously due to their co-dependent nature.
Some people find it easier to work with mind maps, spider diagrams or even doodling – find the method that works for you and use it to brainstorm your ideas.
STEP 3: TAKE A BREAK
This step might seem counterproductive to many people, however, it is essential to take a break from the process to avoid getting boxed into any one particular mindset.
If you can’t keep an open mind during this step, it may result in you not being able to see a major flaw or issue with the name.
On the other hand, tunnel vision may also result in you losing out on other great ideas for a potential name.
So go take a walk, hit the gym, watch a movie – you never know where or how inspiration might strike you.
STEP 4: COME BACK TO THE LIST
Were there any particular names that stuck to you at first or even when you walked away from your list?
Further refine and organize this list by crossing out names that aren’t working for you, sorting the similar ones out and highlighting the ones that did stick.
When you have narrowed down your choices and are left with only a handful of names, sleep on them and review the list with a fresh perspective.
In most cases you should be able to point out the right option for you, however if it still seems a bit off, go through the brainstorming session again, maybe even with a trusted friend or colleague.
STEP 5: CHECK THE AVAILABILITY OF YOUR CHOSEN BUSINESS NAME
A lot of people do this after they’ve finalized their business name but don’t wait until you find the “perfect” name before you check for availability, check earlier on in the process so you know whether you need to head back to the drawing board or not – and sooner rather than later.
There are three ways that you can check for availability – the simplest way is to run the name through a search engine such as Google and check for search results and sponsored ads by companies with a similar name.
Another way to check if the name is available is by cross checking it with the patent and trademark database that is relevant to your location. The United States has a Trademark Electronic Search System (Tess), that lets you check for business name availability.
Once you know that your chosen business name is not a Google search result and isn’t already a registered company or a trademark/patented name, the next step is to run a domain search. As an ecommerce business, having the right domain name to promote your brand and products is absolutely crucial.
In case of unavailability, an alternate option is to use mnemonic devices such as abbreviations and initials or an alternate top level domain (for example: yoursite.net or yoursite.co.uk instead of yoursite.com), however, there is still a strong preference for .com domains.
Moving away from the commonly used top level domain .com, can sometimes make it harder to remember the website URL.
Alternatively this can also mean that two or more extremely similar domains can exist, which can be harmful to the brand – eg. xyz.com or xyz.biz or xyz.net – be sure to keep an eye out for different variations of your own domain name.
If none of these options work out, it may be advisable to look at the other names on your list. But before you abandon your favourite business name just because the domain name isn’t available, it may be advisable to check out multiple domain portfolios as they may have abstractions or variations of the your chosen name that you probably hadn’t thought of before.
Note: KnowEm is a great tool to run an availability check through because it’s a social media brand search engine, a trademark protection service, a brand marketing platform and a social network all rolled into one!
They offer a lot of different services, ranging from free username searches, domain searches and trademark searches.
KnowEm allows you to check for the use of your brand, product and username instantly on over 500 social media websites.
Another platform that can be used to check the availability of your username for your business across dozens of the most popular social network websites, is NameChk.
STEP 6: TEST THE NAME AND GET FEEDBACK
This step is perhaps the best way to gauge how your chosen business name will do.
* Pick a sample group of a minimum of 20 people (preferably the closest resemblance to your actual target customers).
* Split the group into two and ask one half to spell your business name after you tell it to them and the other half to pronounce it after showing them your business name in writing.
This is an important exercise to see how your customers may engage with your brand’s name in conversation or otherwise.
These frequent errors in such commonly used words suggest that any business name that might be slightly trickier to spell can cost your company web searches, organic searches, verbal referrals and thus both traffic and revenue.
You want your business name to be customer-friendly, not customer-confusing.
A surefire way of testing out the better name between two or more solid options is A/B Testing.
Create landing pages that are identical in nature but have your different business name options on them and run targeted traffic to these landing pages using Facebook or Google Ads.
While this step requires a small monetary investment (between $50-$100), it will provide you with the most accurate and unbiased opinion on which name will work the best for your business.Bonus: For getting feedback on your name and/or deciding between two final business name options, PickFu is a useful platform that can help you obtain actionable and audience driven data.
STEP 7: REGISTER YOUR BUSINESS DOMAIN NAME
Once you have done the necessary testing for your chosen business name, you need to commit to locking it down and register the domain name for it.
The problem with domain names is that they can be picked up by anyone around the world at any given time thus they need to be secured at the earliest possible moment.
Even if you’re not 100% sure that it is THE domain name for your company, register it.
In fact, it may even be smart to purchase a couple of domain names (if they are affordable and fit in your budget) while you’re at it as this gives you lots of options.
If you end up purchasing more domains than you actually need, you can either sell them later or keep them for alternate linked landing pages for specific offers, products, etc.
Most domain registrars will also provide the option of registering multiple top-level domains with the one that you have chosen.
This is a great way of leaving options open for your brand while securing the domain name, too.
In case the domain name that you want is already owned by someone else, you can you this practical guide to getting around this issue: Buy a domain name that someone else owns by Domainr.
These steps should help you find and secure the best possible name for your business!
You can get more info about business names, including different types of naming strategies and advice about how domain name availability might affect your naming options, in the full blog post from A Better Lemonade Stand.