That Which We Call a Rose May Do Okay, but Your Business Will Not Smell as Sweet Without These Tips

This is part one of three in our Naming 101 series. In part two we’ll uncover the avoidable naming mistakes that will cost your firm time and money. In part three we’ll visit the Hall of Fame, the Hall of Shame, and the Hall of How’d They Manage With That? of Naming. For links to all the articles in this series, click here.

Naming your business is very personal, very thrilling, and very sensitive to many business owners. It is often a heartfelt choice but sadly, at least as often, it has little consideration or critical thinking behind it. Common sources of business names:

  • From a dream
  • From a song
  • From a cliché about the industry
  • From a favorite (color, feeling, vacation spot, pet…)
  • From previous owners (without thought as to whether the name is worth keeping)
  • From the owner’s name
  • From the owner’s kid

Can these be good sources? Maybe, if well thought out, with good business sense behind them.

After you’ve got your business concept, naming is the most important decision for any start-up business. This will significantly impact your Customer Experience for the life of your firm. Have I got your attention?

Your name is a one-second ad for your firm that will be played dozens of times, every single day.

In it, you can and should convey price, value, feeling, attitude, and scale.

In it, you can and must tell what you do—either literally, or with a tease or hint at what you do.

Your name should mean everything you aspire to be as a company, and everything you want your customers to aspire to with you. It should be fresh and intriguing. It should suggest benefits to be gotten from working with or purchasing from you.

All this, from a one-second ad! This takes hard work and luck—lots of companies throw big money at the problem and get counterproductive nonsense from their efforts. Here’s what you can do to get a name that makes great business sense:

13 Naming “Do”s

1. Research: Your field, your region, your immediate and future competitors, your business heroes, and unrelated firms/products/services you admire. No hunches! Think about which elements you should adapt to your own circumstances and which you should avoid. Develop a critical eye.

2. Brainstorm: Make a long list and narrow it. Think about your Vision for your firm, and try to embody that with your ideas. There is no substitute for free association, and there are no stupid answers at this stage.

3. Be descriptive. What do you do? You’ll be saying this name all day, every day. Make your name work hard to introduce you to prospective customers.

4. Be evocative. What do you think of when you hear TruGreen Lawn Care, for instance? Create a mental picture with your name.

5. Be emotional; be a little edgy. Avoid evoking a yawn in folks you want to pay you money.

6. Be positive. Gorgeous Smiles ‘R’ Us is better than Pain-Free Dentistry, because you’re leading with a benefit, instead of with the word “Pain.” (Warning: Both names are bad clichés. *Yawn.*)

7. Be short. If you aren’t, people will shorten it for you, and perhaps not flatteringly. Don’t make it a mouthful.

8. Make sure it’s easily spelled, and easily pronounced. My original idea for what became VisionPoints, years ago? Ojo, which means “eye” in Spanish. It looks beautiful on a page, its meaning is close to what I wanted for the firm, and it sounds lyrical when spoken. I was in love with the name for quite a while, until I realized that to someone who speaks little Spanish, it may feel like a quiz, while to someone who speaks no Spanish, it is confusing, not beautiful; on the page it is meaningless; and it sounds like “oh-joe.” Bye-bye.

9. Make it catchy/ memorable. If you followed steps 3–8 this should be a no-brainer but check yourself anyway. If you can’t remember it, who else will?

10. Check that the web address is available: This is crucial in the Internet age! (More in part two of this series.)

11. Step back. Put it away for a week. Now review steps 1–10, and make your short list of 10–20 likely candidates.

12. Let others choose the finalists. This is related to #11, Step back, but not the same. You’ve researched it, lived it, breathed it. At this point you can’t see the forest for the trees! Get help from people not so closely tied to the project to tell you what really works and what really stinks on your short list. Supportive, widely-read, aware colleagues, friends and family can offer good opinions on what the public will think of your name. Don’t just get thumbs up or down, ask Why? Their answers may lead you to a more pinpointed solution.

13. You choose the winner: You have to live with it every day from now on. Once you have done all this work, you need to take your research, development, and the considered opinions of others, and tweak your finalists until the name you will happily live, breathe, and believe in emerges. Make it fresh, make it fun, and make it unforgettable.

Choose a great business name: Work hard, self-edit, and make the good fairy of naming smile upon you.

Let’s break for some Inspiration. Then Thursday, Part 2: Do Not Name Your Business After Yourself & 7 Other Blunders

What other “Do”s would you add to this list? Is one of these points causing you night terrors? Share your thoughts below…


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson