Finding a great name for your business can be a P.I.T.A, but it doesn’t have to be!
This article will walk you through how to nail an awesome name.
So you’ve come up with a brilliant idea for a business. Hooray! Go you.
You’ve spotted a space in the market, you know who your future customers are and you’ve already watched Simon Sinek’s inspiring video on how to define your ‘why’. Your purpose in life is sealed.
Shortly after you came up with the business idea a perfect name popped into your head. You couldn’t believe how damn good this name was and you even considered having it tattooed on your ankle.
Hold up… waaait. You just did a quick Google check and there’s already a business with that name. In fact there are five other businesses in your category with similar names. Maybe your awesome sauce just started to run out.
Take a step back… naming is tough
It’s amazing how unique we all are as individuals, yet how many of us come up with the same ideas. Take a look at any business category and you’ll probably see a wide variety of versions on a theme.
A quick search for a local plumber produced the following list of names:
- Easy plumbing solutions
- Quick plumbing solutions
- Mainline plumbing solutions
- Inline plumbing
- Everything plumbing
- Advanced plumbing
All solid names but all so similar that I wouldn’t remember any of them if I had to find them again.
But there were also some creative names:
- The pied plumber
- Coo-ee plumbing
- Water Ratz plumbing
These are the type of names I’d be more likely to recall if I had just flooded my boyfriend’s bathroom the first night I moved in with him while he was at a work dinner (yes, it happened).
Your business name isn’t just about you
Your business name needs to work for your customers too.
It represents you
Before they’ve met you it should convey something about your business – perhaps give an inkling about what it is you do or what you stand for.
It can open doors
It needs to appear trustworthy and credible. If you’re going to be selling something, customers want to know that the product will be worth the money.
If you’re applying for a loan or investment, it could be the difference between a potential investor reading your business case further or flicking over it and binning it.
It needs to stand out
If it’s similar to all the other names, people will find it hard to recall. A unique name may not spell out what you do as clearly, but it will be more ownable and memorable.
In many cases when businesses choose a unique name, the descriptor becomes very important to begin with. In time as your brand becomes known, you may not need to use the descriptor any more.
Ensure it’s easy to pronounce
Domain names are so important these days, they’re your best way of getting found by new customers. If you have to create an advertising campaign just to help people find your business on the web, you’d better have deep pockets. I do love the Wynstan with a Y jingle though…
The shorter the better
You need to consider how your name will work in a URL address, Twitter and Instagram handle. While it’s OK for people to shorten McDonalds to Maccas, you don’t need people shortening your new brand name in order to try and remember it.
I once worked with an ad agency that had joined with another agency, who had already joined with a third. The receptionist answered the phone ‘Euro RSCG WNEK Gosper’. It stuck in my mind but for the wrong reasons. A name with 1-2 words is best. If your heart is set on a one word name, you’d better get your creative hat on because you’re going to need to get crafty and make something up.
So where do I start?
Now that you know what you need to consider when naming, you can forget all of it… for the time being.
A good name brainstorm will adopt the ‘no idea is a bad idea’ approach. You need as many names as possible to throw into the bucket before they filter down into the short list.
Step 1: Review your brand documents
Make a list of your brand personality, visions and values. These are great starting points.
Step 2: Describe how your brand will affect and benefit people
Write down what you want people to think and feel about your brand, these emotive words can be great ignition points.
What does your business do for people.
How does the category or product benefit people or solve their problems.
Step 3: Understand the competition
Make a list of your competitors and agree/decide on which types of names are working in your category and which types you want to avoid.
Is there any known jargon in your category?
Step 4: Create brainstorm platforms or buckets
Start to identify areas that you can brainstorm from.
Example: You might start with one area covering the geography of where your business is from, a second covering one of the ways it makes people feel, a third area may be based on what the industry does.
Step 5: Write as many names as possible
Use post-it notes, note pads or the shower screen. Give yourself or your team at least a week. Keep those words buzzing around in your head and write every name down that comes to you.
Step 6: Bring it all together
If you have a team, get together and bring all of your names. Create a long-short list of around 60 names. Mash some together and make new names. Make sure that you have a good number of created or made-up names.
There are roughly seven categories of names you can dive into:
- Descriptive – tells you what a brand or business does. Examples include Toys ‘R’ Us and Easy Plumbing Solutions.
- Acronyms – these are abbreviations of words or names such as HP or KFC.
- Evocative – ones that give you a feeling about a brand or what it stands for such as Virgin or Apple.
- Created – this is the area that is probably going to offer up the most options for you these days. It’s where you can get really creative but also go very off track. Names such as Google, Kleenex, Band-Aid are examples. This category includes my favourites which are alliteration and rhyming names. You can also use the term ‘neologisms’ or newly made words which could include joining two existing words and creating a beauty like YouTube.
- Founder/owner names – Cadbury chocolate, need I say more?
- Geographic names – Bondi Bather, Bondi Chai, Bondi Born (can get overused very quickly).
- Personification – creating a mythical founder such as Betty Crocker.
The majority of your names should fall into the ‘created’ area as it’s very difficult to register, trademark and secure a domain name for names in the other categories. I know this from experience!
Step 7: Agree on a short list of around 10 names that you can put through a thorough availability check.
If nothing in your short list is available, and it’s possible this could happen, get ready to go back to step 6 again.
Other things to think about
Don’t box yourself in
It can be tempting to include your industry/category in your name but if you decide to expand into other areas in future, things could get a little tricky. Zappos could have called themselves Zappos Shoes.com, but maybe they wanted to leave the option open to sell other things in future? Wynstan sells blinds but they also sell awnings and curtains. I considered adding digital to my business name, but didn’t want to remove myself from copywriting or other areas of passion.
Make sure the name is available before you devote any money, time or emotion to it
1/Start with a quick Google search, that will rule out 90% of your names before you have to dig too deep.
2/Next go into the ASIC website and conduct a business name search.
3/If your name is still clear, head to a domain name seller website and check whether the .com or .com.au domains are available for your name. I use GoDaddy but there are loads of places you can search. If you find that your name has been parked but it’s not being used, you may be able to negotiate a deal. You’ll need an ABN and registered business name in Australia to purchase a .au domain.
If you do find that your desired name is not available but you are really set on it, consider adding a small ending to the name such as co.com.au/ biz.com.au or your category.com.au.
Example: Someone had parked the .com version of my Hummingbuzz domain name. I ended up buying the .au version but if I wanted a .com I could purchase www.hummingbuzzco.com or www.hummingbuzzmarketing.com .
Warning: This tactic can make it more difficult for people to find you in organic searches.
4/Trademark that puppy. Just because you’ve registered your business name, it doesn’t mean someone else can’t trade under the same name or sell a product with the same brand.
A business name is only used to identify your business. Registering your business name doesn’t give you full rights over that name-only a trade mark can give you full rights.
Trademarking is the only thing that gives you legal protection. Head to the Australian Government Trademark page for more information.
Conduct a final sanity check
Send the name to your friends and family along with the description of what the business is about. Make sure you haven’t missed a connotation or link to something negative.
Set up your socials
Don’t forget to nab your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram handles – if they’re available!
Hurrah, now that you have your shiny new brand name you can go do all the fun things like get your logo designed, your website up and running and start making some cash!
Need some help with naming? I can provide you with a long list of names and walk you through the process or run a brainstorm with you to get the ball rolling.
Contact me here so we can chat about how to find you a name that sets you up for success.
Find out more about my brand and blog naming services.