When it comes to naming your startup, there is no formal methodology, or set of hard and fast rules to follow. This can make the process as frustrating as it is fun. Undoubtedly, giving the world a name to go along with the face of your company will be one of your most important early decisions.
So, how do you make the right call? Here are three tips to help you win the name game.
Make It Easy For Customers
Unconventional names can be distracting and confusing, and you don’t want people to get hung up on the name instead of what you can offer. Traditional words will more easily create clear visual associations of the product—hinting at what you do. Additionally, avoid misspelling your name purposefully—this only adds to the confusion and more importantly, misspellings make it difficult for users to find you online.
Short, two-syllable compound words have a history of success when used as company names. Try combining words that are illustrative and work to effectively describe what your company offers. TaskRabbit, an online marketplace that matches freelance labor with local demand, does this well. The word “task” is associated with work that needs to be completed, and rabbits are obviously associated with quickness. So, the company assists customers with accomplishing tasks quickly—get it?
Mashup names can also be very effective. The virtual discovery tool Pinterest is a combination of “pin” and “interests. And real estate database Zillow is a mashup of zillions (data points) and pillow (where you rest your head).
Whatever style you choose, it helps to have a names that is simple to pronounce, spell and remember. This makes it much easier to find you online. And of course, you should make sure you like the way the name sounds when spoken aloud. You’re going to be repeating a lot over the next few years.
Don’t Set Limits
Whenever possible, you should avoid names that will limit your future brand extension. Including things like geographic locations or product categories within your company name runs the risk of confusing your customers if you pivot later on. Instead of linking your name to a specific place or product, choose a name that has the ability to evolve alongside your company.
Remember, you don’t fret over finding a domain name that matches your company name exactly. Naming your company should be about more than a URL. Focus on the story and mission you want your name to convey, and allow a name to develop from that. If the company name you decide upon is unavailable, simply pair it with another word to create your unique website name. There are lots of recognizable brand names that started out using this tactic, including Square (squareup.com), DropBox (getdropbox.com) and Facebook (thefacebook.com).
Put Your Name to the Test
Performing a trademark search to ensure your name doesn’t infringe on another’s business trademark is a crucial step many forget to take. A trademark acts as legal protection of an organization’s name. So instead of being forced to surrender your name down the line, make the small investment and trademark your business name as soon as possible.
Also, don’t forget to solicit opinions of others. Hold brief, casual conversations with those you know—and even those you don’t. Describe your business to them and the end of your conversation, ask if they remember the name of your company. If the majority don’t, chances are the larger public won’t find your name very memorable either. Keep tweaking the name until you find one that sticks.
Your company name is a direct representation of your business, and should project the exact image and meaning you desire. Your name is also first step in establishing a strong brand identity, so don’t rush the process and take the time to do your homework.
For more useful tips on getting your venture started the right way, check out JumpStart’s helpful Entrepreneur Toolkit. And don’t forget to sign up for Connect for Entrepreneurs, our monthly newsletter giving you more helpful advice along with local success stories and lists of local funding/networking opportunities.