The modern entrepreneur is faced with a broad spectrum of challenges when establishing a new startup. From perfecting the products and services on offer to building a robust business plan, securing appropriate investment and conducting market research, the list of requirements may at times seem endless.
At the top of the list, however, is perhaps the most important: naming your company.
While diligent planning and a detailed strategy will ultimately guide your business forward, its name will undoubtedly shape its identity, and determine whether consumers' first impression of the company is memorable. Therefore, it is one of the most significant decisions you will make for your startup in its infancy.
Far from being purely a creative process, there are many potential branding, perception, logistic and legal issues to be aware of, too, all of which should be navigated carefully to avoid future troubles.
To ensure a smooth path, this is how to name your company.
Envision your brand as a whole
What do you want your startup to be known for? Which professional and ethical values do you want to have associated with your work, to remain in the minds of customers, partners and stakeholders? These questions should form the basis of the wider brand you create around your company.
Focus on positive, motivational and impactful principles or qualities which inspire support and loyalty.
While your company's name will make up a significant portion of your brand, many other components will follow, such as your logo, typography, website design, app and more. All of the above must fit together seamlessly to create a long-lasting impression.
Creating the vision behind your brand is the perfect starting point for brainstorming potential names which represent your startup. List the keywords which come to mind when discussing your brand as a whole, and add related words and synonyms as you go along. At this stage, consider adding alternative spellings of common words to your list, too, as well as combining short words. This will form a pool of names for you to narrow down and, eventually, shortlist.
Get others involved in the process
So you have a long list of possible names. Now what?
Naming a business can be a daunting task, but you should know that you don't have to go it alone. While you may be the owner or founder, responsible for seeing your budding business idea come to fully-fledged fruition, the more outside input you can gain at this stage, the better.
Turn first to your team – if you have one – or any relevant professional partners, associates and existing stakeholders. Together, you should examine the various angles of your startup, as well as its objectives and its growth potential.
Together, brainstorm further keywords which fit your business and its purpose, and add any new suggestions to the list. Use your colleagues as a sounding board for your initial name suggestions and get their feedback on which sound like a good fit. Now is the right time to begin eliminating the non-starters and shortlisting to a carefully selected few that tick all the boxes.
Once you have this shortlist, run them by friends and family who are not yet familiar with your startup. Honest feedback will be critical here and help you reject names with any negative implications, difficult pronunciations and misleading or confusing connotations. This third-party insight will give you a valuable indication of how your business' name will be interpreted once introduced to consumers for the first time.
Keep things simple
At this point, you should now be working with a few potential winners. Evaluate them for simplicity. A short, memorable moniker will serve you well and should allow for possible growth and expansion of your business outside of its starting product and service offering.
The most recognisable brands and businesses of today have short names with deep meanings attributed to them. After all, you don't necessarily need a fancy name to justify the detailed inner-workings of your new company.
This step should help you arrive at the final stage of deciding on a suitable name.
Perform due diligence
Now that you've selected the best of the bunch, it's time to do your due diligence. Run it past the tests below to make sure it's the right one for you.
Are you the one and only?
Copyright infringement is serious. Do your homework to make sure you aren't stepping on another business' toes by using a name already secured and protected, regardless of whether used in an industry not related to your own. A legal case as a result of copyright issues could severely damage the progress of a budding startup.
Parlez vous Francais?
There is a common problem with short, memorable words with a catchy ring to them – they are often used, or recognised, across regions in one form or another, sometimes with drastically different meanings in other languages. The last thing you would want is for your new name to be translated to, or misconstrued as, an offensive or negative word in another language.
Be sure to check appropriate online resources such as WordSafety to confirm that you aren't giving your company any unwanted, obscene associations in any of the commonly spoken languages in your wider geographical region.
Is there another meaning?
Following the same concept as above, make sure your startup's name doesn't have a separate and undesirable double meaning in your language. Never assume your consumer audience will interpret a word in the way that you intend – always remove the possibility that such a second meaning could have a damaging effect on the image and reputation of your business.
Dot the coms and cross the Ts
A fantastic name is worthless if you can't obtain the tools needed to put your brand out there. A domain name for your website comes in at the top of this list. Additionally, you will need your associated social media channels, apps and online resources to have the same name as your registered company name.
Use an online tool to check if your desired domain name is available. Though it may be tempting to lengthen or adapt your URL if it isn't available, you should consider how this may affect consumers trying to find your site. You want to make it as easy as possible for them to locate and contact your company online. Your page should be easily found in a simple search, leading the way for increased effectiveness of future marketing and advertising campaigns.
In the same vein, be sure to prioritise your domain extension. Dotcom is still the reigning champion in inspiring confidence in consumers that your business is serious, reputable and reliable; alternatives such as dot net, dot-biz and others do not have the same impact. In a worst-case scenario, they can even be perceived by consumers as secondary sites, so try to avoid them in your domain search process.
The same name availability research should go into exploring any existing social media page handles using your company name. Though it seems obvious, it is incredibly important to ensure all social channels linked to your company have the same username, using the exact name of your company if possible, for the sake of marketing purposes.
If your chosen name has made it this far, it’s time to move fast and make it yours:
- Seek out a lawyer to help you register your company and its name. They will guide you through the full process.
- Consider trademarking your business name for the specific goods and services you are offering. Global Brand Databases, such as WIPO, are a good place to start.
- Purchase your chosen domain name internet address and secure related social media handles.
With the formalities completed, you should be ready to proceed with the exciting journey of getting your business off the ground and working towards success!
Though the process of naming your startup can be both lengthy and challenging, don't be afraid to take your time throughout the steps above before deciding on a perfect fit. Remember that you will only go through these steps once, and creating a valuable identity which will remain with your company for good is a top priority.
Do you have any other tips for naming a business? Join in the conversation below and let us know.