Like naming a baby, naming your company needs some proper consideration. Your company name will likely exist for the duration of its lifetime (mergers, acquisitions or complete rebrands aside).
Your company name is possibly one of the most important parts of your brand communications. It’s the first way you can make an impact and it’s an easy way to stand out and be remembered.
How to name your business
Invite stakeholders or a trusted friend/partner to help. Crack open a bottle of wine if it helps get the creative juices flowing!
Get a large piece of paper and a marker pen (or your tablet/laptop).
Ask someone to take notes and ask questions and push for more information as you talk.
Write down what you do first and who you do it for. Then talk about your story, how and why you started the business, the problems you solve, why people buy from you, your brand values.
‘Mindmap’ connected words from the centre (or make a longer list!).
Think about your customer problems, the solutions you provide, their life after they’ve worked with you, the transformation you bring.
Explore in more depth why they really buy from you. What are they really seeking? (Is it blackout blinds for better sleep…or what better sleep brings – helping their child’s development and feeling more capable as parents?)
Write down all the notes from your discussion. There will be words in there that might spark a thought or name.
A lament I often hear is that “All the good names are taken!”
It may seem that way as you’ll come up with the obvious ideas first – but you need to keep going and get those first rubbish ideas out before you can get more creative (more wine, anyone?!).
Ways of naming your business
- Name by desire: describing what you do or an experience, USP or a benefit of using you, e.g. SlimFast. This is a great one as it tells people what value you bring straight away. I love a Ronseal ‘does-what-it-says-on-the-tin’ kind of name. Anything that helps customers understand what you do from the off is a GREAT idea. Get your business name working harder for you!
- Name by problem: tapping into the customer’s pain – e.g. Weight Watchers. Maybe because I’m a positive person, I prefer to focus on the outcomes rather than the problem, but this is still a valid route. (Mind you, Weight Watchers rebranded to WW.com at the end of 2018 – apparently now standing for Wellness that Works. This bizarre rebrand reportedly wiped 34% of their share price almost overnight as it went from a really strong name, recognition and brand promise to one people didn’t even recognise!)
- Alliteration: names which have the same letters can have a real ring to them and trip off the tongue nicely: e.g. Fitness First, American Airlines…
- Own a word out of context: e.g. Apple, Amazon, Pandora, Sharp. However, it may be harder to copyright, trademark or establish a ‘real word’ brand name, and you will need to educate the market as to what you do. However, if you are in a crowded marketplace and everyone’s taken all the obvious names, this is a great way to stand out in your industry.
- Invent a word: e.g. initials from the founders’ names (IKEA), an acronym or two words blended together (Facebook, Lego – ‘leg godt’ is Danish for ‘play well’). It’s a great way to go and you can get a really meaningful, unique name this way (my client Rebecca Godfrey named her company Etheo after her two sons Ethan and Theo, a constant, lovely, reminder for her of why she started her business). Be aware that you will need to work a bit harder to let the market know what you do, but uniqueness will be easier!
- Mis-spell a real word– e.g. Google (a deliberate mis-spelling of ‘Googol’, which is a one with a hundred zeros after it – after all the possibilities the internet would give us). Be prepared to always have to spell it out though – until you get well-known at least! Possibly a risky one when it comes to being found online (people will mis-type it), unless you have a strong personal brand and lots of followers and fans already, who’ll promote it for you. But it does mean you can have a unique name and it’s a very popular strategy,
- Wordmashes: where you get two words about your business and make a word up! e.g. Microsoft (Microcomputers + software), FedEx (Federal + Express), Groupon (Group and Coupon). These are pretty clever if you can come up with one. It might explain a bit about what you do and it will likely be unique and memorable too.
- Use a foreign word e.g. Uber. Do also check its meaning though and if you are planning to go global. Make sure the word you use doesn’t have any negative connotations in other key territories you may wish to enter. The story about the Vauxhall Nova not selling well in Spain because ‘No va’ means ‘doesn’t work’ in Spanish is unfortunately just an old marketer’s tale. But it illustrates my point perfectly so we’ll ignore the minor detail of it not being true just this once 🙂
Whatever method you use… remember:
- No idea is a bad idea. Write them ALL down! No judgement yet – getting all your ideas out of your head is the point.
- Use an online dictionary and thesaurus to explore other connected or similar words if a business name or particular word you like isn’t available.
- Don’t try and be too clever. Keep it simple, interesting, meaningful and/or memorable.
- You may want to use your own name but consider your exit strategy if you wish to sell the company in the future.
- Make it easy to spell and/or pronounce. If people want to rave about your company online or to their friends but can’t spell or say your brand name going to affect internet search and word-of-mouth recommendations.
- Say it out loud, lots. Check it makes sense to others and doesn’t sound weird.
- Write your business name down without spaces to avoid unfortunate URLs like ‘penisland.net’ or ‘therapist.com’ or ‘molestationnursery.com’ (these are real website addresses!)
- Check availability as you go of any names that ‘stick’, using Companies House. There might be another company with the same name in a different industry and that will usually be OK. For example, there are lots of companies with Peace of Mind in their company name, so our client took Peace of Mind Properties.
- A dot com address is still desirable from a global business perspective. Dot co dot uk is fine if your business is definitely going to be based in the UK. Dot global is getting popular too.
- You can trademark your brand name and logo via the Intellectual-Property Office on Gov.uk . Important if you are planning on scaling the business to any level.
- Don’t worry about it starting with an ‘A’. One of my clients wanted his company to start with an ‘A’ so it would be at the top of any alphabetical list. But people don’t use The Phone Book or Yellow Pages anymore! It’s all about search now so alphabetical doesn’t matter.
A word of caution – especially if you took my tip on the wine: do sleep on any name you decide and don’t register it until the next day, no matter how much you love it!
If you’re struggling for a business name we offer a ‘no-name, no-fee’ business naming service. Get in touch with us here