Naming Your Business – part 2

The world is full to the brim of every type of service, commodity and consulting firm. This doesn’t mean there’s not room for one more smart company that fits into a niche already saturated, but it does mean that any new company, be it a service or commodity, needs to work harder to differentiate itself from the competition.

There was a time that a car company could call itself General Motors, and make a name for itself with such a tag. In today’s Internet-search-driven market, however, few customers would choose General Motors over something more exciting and exotic sounding-such as Lexus, for example. Naming your business is branding your business; it’s the single most important step you’ll take as you start the entrepreneur journey. It’s what will identify your company to the world, and the building block for your construction, development and advertising strategies as your company continues to expand. Naming a company is a lot like naming a kid-and not like the current celebrity trend to come up with the craziest and oddest name yet.

First off, you want it to be something that people can remember without needing to search through their stack of business cards to find it. Avoid choosing a made-up name unless you have the advertising budget and know-how to brand it properly. An obvious counter-example of this is Google, though even “Google” sounds somewhat like the action provided by the company. Something that people can’t phonetically pronounce isn’t your best bet-Google might not have taken off if its creators had opted for something more like “Cogogle,” though it conveys the same sentiment. Repeat the word back to yourself several times over several days and weigh the possibility that it sounds like something negative. If you’re starting an extermination company, for example, though it seems a solid, memorable wordplay, De-pest Pros isn’t a wise choice. Shortened words that serve as prefixes or suffixes (such as Ameri) should also be avoided-not necessarily because they’re a bad idea, but because they’ve largely been played out throughout the years. The same goes for mismatched mash-ups, in which companies opt to link two words together which describe the business to form a new word.

Work with a small, close-knit “naming committee,” and keep the decisions within the group. Too many cooks in the kitchen, so to speak, can create an indigestible dinner. Brainstorm adjectives or ideas that your company wants to convey. Once you have a few selects, double check that the URL associated with each one is available. Strike anything without a “.com” available from the list. Don’t get too clever for your audience, however-choosing an erudite or esoteric Latin name for the everyman auto-repair shop, for example, won’t drive business. Also keep in mind how people search for new business (primarily the Internet; the Yellow Pages, to a lesser degree), and choose something that will come up when people look up your industry. And recognize that the name is never set in stone. If you make a mistake in naming your company, and discover it’s too difficult to brand or market, don’t be afraid to change it. This is especially true when it comes to early-stage start-ups. What’s in a name- A rose might smell as sweet, but when you’re talking business, the company’s on the line. Choose wisely.

Read more: How to name your business – part 1