Any parent considers at least a hundred names before deciding one for their baby. Well, every startup is its founder’s baby. I say their names require the same amount of attention. The name will lead the startup throughout its career and is the first thing people will come in contact with. This article will discuss some guidelines and methods to answer your question - How to name a startup?
Pick a corner. Grab a notepad. Write down what your business is about. A very short one-line description of your business. Pick the defining aspect of your business. Is it customer service? Or integrity? Or customization? Play with words. Search for the word in different languages. It is necessary to have an idea of what your name should be like and what it should represent before you seek inspiration.
Now, for the inspiration. When you have an idea, it is necessary to seek inspiration. I know that the process is usually reversed but hear me out. It is important to be uninfluenced before you start deciding on a name. Seeking inspiration at the start will lead to constant comparisons of whether your name will be better or equal to that of your competition. Inspiration can be from anything- that depends on your product.
Remember when I discussed wordplay. There are online name generators available that ( you guessed right ) generate naming options for your startup. Generators like the one Shopify offers, or Namelix give you a variety of choices. All you need to do is enter the keyword, the ones you wrote down while brainstorming. The options range from misspelled words to catchy phrases. Some generators even check for domain availability at the same time. I’ll discuss domains in a little while.
Keep your name simple. Don’t exceed more than twenty-four letters. Something that captures the whole essence of your company with one word. And try to stick to a single word. It can even be a compound word and if it has to be two words, make it catchy, for example- Dunkin Donuts or Krispy Kreme. A tall order; taller than a Starbucks latte, unfortunately. If it is more than a few words, make it your catchphrase, like McDonald's- ‘I’m lovin’ it’ or Nike’s- ‘Just Do It’. Keep it simple and keep it memorable.
Originality is something important. Not only does that give you creative bragging rights but also makes it easier for you to use the name without competition and escape unnecessary lawsuits involving copyrights. Your originality reflects a part of you. While you don’t have to stress over the name, it is something you need to be original about, because the name and how you describe your product is important.
Spelling is one of the most important aspects of your name. Unless you deliberately misspelled your name like Flickr or Lyft, spell it as it sounds. Even misspelled names merely replace letters that do not change the pronunciation of the word. Don’t use silent letters. And most importantly, understand the language of your target audience and name accordingly. It makes no sense to use a french name for a product targeting a Spanish audience unless it is relevant.
Say It Aloud
The name needs to sound as good as it is spelled. If your name is mispronounced one too many times, it’s a sign you need to change it. Also, your name shouldn’t associate or rhyme with any negative connotations. Simply put, your name is not something that should be made fun of easily.
Unless you have the means to oversee a huge marketing campaign, stick to names with relevance. Google, Yahoo, and oracle make no sense by themselves but since they are popular, they needn’t be self-explanatory. In fact those names have developed their own definitions.
For instance, If you are opening a coffee shop,your name should be something such as coffee bean, or coffee hour, or anything relevant.
Feedback from your circle will give you a new perspective. Your circle is the closest you can get to your target audience before launch. They will also offer valuable inputs from a customer point of view so be sure to take them into consideration.
Don’t Be Obsessed
There’s always this feeling of dissatisfaction when it comes to creativity. A better design, a better logo, a better color scheme, a better…stop. Don’t obsess. If it fits all your requirements stick with it. And don’t hold out hopes for changing names in the future. That will give you the unnecessary hassle because there are legal aspects involved. A name is surely important and worth a few sleepless nights but doesn’t obsess over it.
The name shouldn’t restrict your growth. Don’t tie your name to a place or a single product. Names such as ‘Jonah’s books’ or ‘Madras Apparel’ won’t do you any favors when your aim is to scale. Stick to non-confining names. Unless of course, the place is tied to the brand. Kumbakonam filter coffee is one example. Kumbakonam is a place in Tamil Nadu renowned for its delicious coffee.
Once you have your name all set, it’s time to put a TM on it. Look up the procedure on how to register your brand for a trademark to prevent others from using your name. And if anyone does copy your name, they’ll be liable to pay you. Register your trademark as soon as possible.
If you need an online presence, check for the availability of domains. If your domain is available, great. If not, and if you require an online presence, you have to change your name, unfortunately. Or if your domain name is available for sale and if you don’t want to go through the process of choosing another name, buy that domain. And always, always go for a .com rather than a .net or .org because .com implies credibility to the user.
Once you choose a name, you have to register your business. The procedure varies from location to location but a lawyer can help you with all the legal aspects of the business.
Social Media Handles
Retain the same name across all social handles. Don’t change it from one medium to another. Familiarity helps with memorability. Different names will make your customers question credibility. If special characters are part of your name, include them as well at all handles.
Are You Satisfied?
Don’t kill me for making you think twice but are you satisfied? Because it is important to be happy with the name you have chosen so that you can focus on other important aspects of your business. Seek validation from trusted ones and make sure you are happy with the name before you proceed to a point of non-reversal.
The process of finding a name is really nerve-racking. Don’t stop until the name feels right to you. If you have a team, consult them. Your business name is not just the business’ identity, but yours as well. The name will also influence the marketing campaigns and investors. Find your niche and choose (or create!) a name to represent it. Whatever name you choose, stick with it, and do not second-guess it too much.