Names can conjure up all sorts of emotions. Just think about people’s reaction to hearing a baby’s name. Business names are no exception and could make the difference between your business flourishing or failing.

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as picking up a baby-naming book. There are several issues to consider and sometimes going with a name you just really like, isn’t going to cut it.

Here are a few things to consider.

Name types. The main three categories for names are: descriptive – those that describe an attribute, function or use of a company (e.g. Speedy Delivery, Graphics Ltd.); arbitrary – common words that don’t actually suggest or describe anything about the product (e.g. Apple, Amazon); and fanciful – those that are made-up words (e.g. Google, Nike).

Descriptive names sell what you do, and if you choose well, can convey attributes that sway customers to pick your business over others. On the other hand, descriptive names tend to be difficult to trademark, commonplace and, consequently, often quite forgettable.

Arbitrary and fanciful names provide flexibility in the future. If your business expands, your products or services can too. For example, Amazon can expand into selling clothes whereas Book Depositary may find that more of a challenge. However, arbitrary or fanciful name can also be risky, particularly for small and new companies. The business can be hard to find and it can take time and money to build a brand around the name.

Audiences. To choose your name, know your audience. What will they find amusing? What do they look for in a product or service? Create a survey on Survey Monkey, for example, to investigate what people look for in your type of business. Ask a test audience (rope in friends and family if appropriate) to select three out of a list of attributes that would make them choose your business over another.

Details. A good name will be interesting, easy to remember and write, have meaning, convey benefit, and be short and simple. Make sure it sounds good out loud too. Don’t use strange spelling, text language or initials; it just makes you more difficult to remember and find. And watch out for any unintended connotations or word plays.

Homework. Just do it! Plug the names you are considering into Google and see what comes up in images, articles and even in Google Translate. Use the ‘find keywords’ tool in Google AdWords to check out the popularity of particular words, the traffic they generate, and similar terms or phrases. And use Google Trends to see when and why people have searched for the names you are considering. Don’t forget to check out any legal issues too. Has someone else already nabbed your brilliant name?

A story. Many successful business owners recommend having a story behind your business name. That way, when you get asked about it, the reason for your choice is meaningful, adding value to your brand and also making the name and your business easier to remember.

Whether your business name comes to you easily, or has taken many months of deliberation, make sure you run through the checklist above and think about what the name means for the business now and in the future. Although businesses often re-design their visual brand, names tend to stick around. At the same time, if you decide your name isn’t working, take a deep breath and make the change. It could open new worlds for your business.

We’d love to hear more tips and stories about business names. Share some with us!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jo Walker | Content Creator for Executive Support NZ Ltd. Jo is a Psychologist by training and an all-round go-getter! She is a fun-loving traveller and an adventurer who likes to get things done.

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