Naming your business or product is a crucial element in the marketing process. A good name enhances your image and opens up all kinds of promotional and branding opportunities. Here is a step-by-step approach to finding the right name and some helpful tips to consider when launching your business or product online.
Step 1: What’s Your Business Personality?
Before you can find a good name you’ll need to develop a road map for success. Create a naming brief, which is simply a written document detailing your business or product’s “personality,” and sets out your objectives for a good name. This is how the big guys do it, and it works!
Some questions to answer in your brief:
- What does my shop or product do? What problem does it solve? What need does it fill?
- Who is my target audience?
- What is my business image? (i.e. friendly, forward-thinking, traditional, child-focused, quirky, crafty, etc.)
- What makes it unique?
- Are there any personal connections I want to feature? (i.e. a family, a geographic location, a historic nod, etc.)
- What are my boundaries? Decide what you DO and DON’T want in this name. (i.e. easy to spell, serious not silly, not too long, etc.)
Answer these questions on paper (or your smartphone’s note app) and you will already be halfway there. It’s the most important step, but the one that’s most often missed in the rush to find a name and get the business launched or the product to market.
I know you want to print up business cards TOMORROW but just take a deep breath and lay the groundwork first. Believe me – it will pay off because a good name is one of your best marketing tools, whereas a mediocre name (or one you just “settled for” because you were in a hurry) will bore you and your customers from the get go. You will end up wanting to change it later.
Step 2: Initial Brainstorming
Using your naming brief, sit down, grab a cup of coffee and start brainstorming! Write down some words and catch phrases and preliminary name ideas that come to mind as you look over your goals and business image. You might even list some objects, animals and adjectives that capture the spirit of your project. For example, Dave Ramsey, a captivating and hugely successful financial expert and teacher, often uses the gazelle to describe the intensity and speed with which a motivated individual can get out of debt. Here are some more examples of how businesses have used animals, adjectives and objects to inspire a name:
- Sir Speedy – a company that specializes in printing with a quick turnaround
- The Brown Rabbit – an artist’s studio that is frequently visited by bunnies
- Dove – the white bird underscore’s this skin care brand’s commitment to purity and gentleness.
- Reddit – used a play on words to create an easy to spell version of the phrase “Read It.”
- Craigslist– although this sharing/selling site name might seem boring, it actually suits the brand perfectly, because it sounds simple and people-focused. Craig Newmark is its founder.
- Wayfair – created this breezy, adventurous name to encompass their huge line of furniture and home goods. The word “fair” simultaneously suggests both an outdoor market and reasonable prices.
Step 3: Pick Your Favorites
Now that you’ve got a list of words and names to work with, highlight your favorites. Choose the ones that communicate best what you’re trying to say to customers. Use these to prepare your final list of official names. A list of 10 names or less is ideal.
Ask for feedback from others with this step.
Step 4: Play Around With Slogans, Logos and Domains
Looking at your final list of name possibilities, think about each one and what kind of logo or slogan will go with it. Imagine what the “dot com” will be. Playing around with logos and slogans is a great way of feeling out your name choices. You might find that a name you thought was good doesn’t have very good marketing potential on printed and published material. Or that there’s no possible domain available for a particular name.
Step 5: Your Free Trial Begins!
Once you’ve picked the name you want, try it out for a day or two. Design some imaginary letterhead. Use the name in your speaking and writing to see how much you really like it. Bounce the idea off on friends, family and even strangers and get some feedback. If it starts to fall flat after a day or two, go back to your list and pick the second best. Repeat your test.
Step 6: What if I’m Still Stuck?
You may go through this step-by-step process and find yourself still stuck. Why does this happen?
- Limited Manpower: After all, you’re just one person. Two heads are better than one! Bring another trusted person (or two) into the brainstorming process. But stay true to your goals and boundaries. Remember it’s your business or product.
- Limited Scope: Don’t be afraid of branching out. If you’re too narrow in focus, this isn’t going to produce many name ideas. Remember that a name can be pretty much ANYTHING. Think of all the companies that have made words and logos up out of thin air. Think of images and animals that are rarely used. Be very open-minded while executing steps 1 and 2 above.
- Burnout: Just getting a business started is stressful enough; the pressure to find a perfect name can be overwhelming. Sadly, too many business owners fail to seek outside help and settle for a boring name because they are tired of brainstorming. How unfortunate! Your name says so much about your business or product! In fact, a poor one can potentially cost you customers. Even if you’ve already picked a name and it hasn’t worked out, you can make a fresh start! It’s never too late to start afresh. Try a random name generator like this one or consider a pre-made name (they’ve already done the work for you.).
My next project is to collect all my naming advice and guidance in a booklet that will be available online and in print. So keep your eyes open for that, and please share your questions and feedback in the comment section below.