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How to Find the Perfect Name for Your Business

Jun 10 '13

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How to Find the Perfect Name for Your Business

Finding the perfect name for your company is an excruciating process that almost every entrepreneur goes through.  Especially if he/she wants to create a brand that has a strong and memorable voice and that’s available. So what do you do when after hours and hours of sitting, writing, and brainstorming you are completely drained of any brilliant ideas and  almost on the verge of giving up?

Recently I was facing the dreary notepad with a bunch of chicken scratches and a trash can full of crumpled papers. Yep – I was trying to come up with a cool name for… well, Tangerine5. While I had the Tangerine part down, I was conflicted on whether I should name our creative and web design firm something that says that we’re a “creative design firm that does everything from logo identity to website development and management to e-commerce to promotional products”.  But guess what?  There’s no all encompassing word that describes what we do.  And besides, what’s so creative about a company named that anyway? So I wondered and researched what other design firms, web design companies, creative agencies or other small business entrepreneurs were doing when they had to come up with clever names for their company.  The answer – being clever and creative.

Besides your brand, you also have to think in terms of the domain name and not necessarily “A” name. Why? Because nobody really cares what the name of the company is anymore unless they can remember it and plug it into a web browser to read about what you do.  So catchy, common and easy to spell is a must.

And that’s rule number 1 in your process – if your company name is: “the-greatest-company-on-earth-that-I-thought-of-and-I-think-it’s-cool” don’t even consider turning that into your domain name – you’ll gain no clients and probably lose the ones you have because they won’t be able to find you.

The Other Naming “No-No’s”:

1. Anything more than 2 words; today moves too fast and most people have some form of  online ADD.  You’ll be lucky if they remember one of the words let alone all 3, spell everything correctly and then add a “dot com” at the end.

2. Drop the thought of having a standalone 3 letter, even a 4 or 5 letter word for your domain name; they’re taken and nobody will give them away or you’ll pay a fortune to purchase. By the way xyz.com is taken.

3. Even if you add something like “international”, “networks”, “group”, “& associates” to your 3 letter name it’s too much,  might as well come up with something cool like… “Google” or “Tangerine5”

Now – A Few Tips to Start the Business Naming Process

1. The most obvious one – open your dictionary or thesaurus:
Lots of words and synonyms – that lead you to more words and synonyms and… IDEAS.

2. Think of your business and exactly what you provide, then let the masses (your friends & family) vote:
Here are the thoughts of one entrepreneur who found an unusual way to attack the problem:
“…once I decided I wanted a brand, I started thinking about my characteristics. Why? Because ultimately, my clients receive a service that’s inspired by me. I’m my business. So, I found a word that described me in my current state…then, I just added prefixes that I thought would be memorable. As I thought of ideas, I cross checked at domainsbot.com. You can get good suggestions there just looking at available domains. Oh, then I asked my kids to vote on which one they liked the best. So, I have my name all picked out and I love my decision everyday. I don’t think this is the normal process, if there is one…but it worked for me…”

3. Think of your business 5 to 10 years from now and write about it:
“Try this. Tell the story of your successful business five years from now, best case scenario. Be descriptive and entertaining. Write it down, and when you’re done look for recurring themes or visual words that paint a picture. Once you have a list of recurring themes and visual words, start looking up catchy domain names based on them.”

4.  Look for inspiration in unusual places like:
Songs, street names, medieval characters, weapons, cool sounding restaurant names, cities, realms or places the science fiction authors are so prolific in their books.  And don’t feel you have to justify your creativity.  When Tangerine5 was founded, many asked “what’s that mean”.  I often found myself feeling as if I HAD to seek approval of why we named Tangerine5, Tangerine 5!  We do have meaning behind our name and it’s a culmination.  While tossing the name Tangerine around from the Led Zeppelin song of which is a favorite, my daughter came home excited about a book her class was reading in her language arts class called “Tangerine“, by Edward Bloor.  After seeing her excitement about the book, that sealed the deal on Tangerine.  And the 5?  That’s simple.  We want to be the “who, what, where, why and how” for all things creative.  The name was fun and creative; the domain name made sense, it was simple, easy to remember and it was available.

Here’s what one business name searcher said in a forum: “…I took my forum username at the time which came from the name of a street I used to live near when I was in London. So my tip would be to choose something that’s personal to you maybe. Doesn’t really matter if no-one else gets it.”

And more original ones: “I came up with my original company name quite by chance after flipping through a clip art book years ago. I guess browsing through stock photos online could help the creative process too.” “I bought a list of all unregistered 4-letter .com names on NamePros, chose the only nearly-pronounceable one, and made that my company name. To avoid having to pay for a proper name check before registering the business, I added some words to it to ensure it was unique and unlikely to infringe any trademarks even if there were someone else with a similar name. “Awio Web Services LLC”. Awio.com/net/info/etc, awioweb.com, awiowebservices.com…”

“As a creative person myself, I like to visualize things – specifically by color. I’ve seen a lot of businesses and sites with a major color included in the name and used as the overall theme of their site. (IE: BlueNile.com, etc.) Adding an adjective to a common noun could help relieve your ‘thinkers block’.”

And a confession of one who just gave up after a bad naming decision. In other words, don’t do this: “…In the end I got so fed up and felt so much urgency to move forward that I “just picked” and chose a name whose spelling is very ambiguous. Very few people know how to spell this word. (I didn’t realize this until after spending money on a branding campaign.) The downside: When talking to people I always have to spell the domain! I have to say “Just visit www.blah.com; that’s B-L-A-H.com”. Of course, this sucks, but I’ll tell you right now: I’d still be thinking of a name! (And that was 2 years ago!) Take it from someone who is living a ‘bad’ decision – just pick *something* you can work with and move forward! A name is such a tiny part of the recipe to the success of your business.”

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