What Is In A Name? What You Need To Know When You Name Your Company

One of the hurdles you will undoubtedly run into when starting up a small business is choosing your company name. The quick and easy advice is to find something catchy, relevant, memorable, short, and unique, but I don’t want to leave it at that. What you call your company is very important and there are many reasons why. Follow me as I address considerations that may not have crossed your mind.

Just as with you product or service, the first thing you want to think about is your target market. Your customers will care more than anyone about your company name. Your target demographic and market positioning should be well-defined; if they are, you may be able to fit your primary competitive advantage into your name. This will help your customers visualize the benefit of your business.

Think about the idea you want to give people: You want to sound like you know what you’re doing right? A funny name may be fitting for a dog kennel but would be less fitting for a law office.

For ideas, you can start by looking at your competition. Each industry may have a common convention or approach to company names. As an example, it is often easy to tell when a company is related to computers and technology–they often incorporate things like “Sys” or “Tech.” Ohh… SysTech… I wonder if that name has been taken?

Appropriate Scope

Don’t’ be too narrow or too broad in scope. If you are starting up a landscaping business, you may want to focus on just lawns. If that is the case, a name like “Lil’ Jimmies Lawn Care” may be appropriate. If, however, you are into moving dirt and want to focus on commercial accounts, a name like “Rocky’s Landscapes” may be a bit more fitting.

Keep in mind where you will fall in directories or the phone book. Names starting with numbers or letters at the beginning of the alphabet may be desirable. AAA services vs. ZZZ Services. This concern is becoming less and less of an issue as we move towards a semantic web, in which case descriptive words will carry more weight.

Keeping It Local

It is advisable for local businesses to adopt a title associated with their town or city.  Doing this builds instant rapport and credibility as well as a sense of community. Google has been very intentional to list local companies when searches are made regarding local services. New York Window Cleaners may rank well for a search such as “window cleaning services” made in the New York area.

Can it be abbreviated? People will naturally shorten the name. Pink Puddles Dog Care becomes the Pink Puddle.

To Build or Not to Build a Brand

Building a brand name = money, money, money. Regardless of what name you choose, building you brand will take a good deal of time and money. Most small businesses won’t need to worry about brand recognition, at least initially. Brand recognition holds more weight in highly saturated markets. Smaller firms by nature won’t be competing in highly saturated markets.

When everything is said and done and the dust settles, the name means nothing if you don’t have a good product or service. Your product is your greatest advocate, so be sure to push a product or service that you believe in. Success will be knocking at your door if you have a business that exists to fulfill a true need.

Lastly, before you decide, get a list of many possibilities and compare them to each other. Have anyone you know that is familiar with the industry give their opinion. Seeking the thoughts of others is always a prudent move.

If after everything above you are still stuck, you can try the method used to come up with domain name variants. I did not come up with this complete process on my own; it is a compilation of my own method and ones adopted from others.

The Matrix Method

Set up a matrix in Excel, on a sheet of paper, or a whiteboard. Start with 5 columns and 5 rows. Grab a dictionary, thesaurus, and Google.

In the first column write down all the words associated with your business. When you think of your business, what are the main things you thing about? Include products, services, names, and any other iconic embodiments of your business.

In the second column write down words associated with the first column. Synonyms can be quickly generated by typing the word in Microsoft Word, right clicking, and hovering over “Synonyms.”

In the third column write down verbs associated with your company, products or services. These would be action terms. It is ok if a term is a stretch–this is simply a brainstorming session.

In the fourth column write down any words that have a double meaning. Draw upon words in other columns and find double meanings, insinuations, and variations. Alternative spellings or clever phrasings can be used to create a witty name that people will remember.

In column five you will write down external references. You are looking for any phrases, quotes, or book titles associated with your industry. Identify existing manners of speech that are common knowledge and well-known. This will be especially helpful for businesses that are competing in a more ambiguous market.

Once you have a good chunk of words and phrases, get rid of anything that is obvious garbage. Pair up words from each column, and mix and match to see if you can come up with a keeper.

If this has been of any help let us know, and it would also be cool to see what names you came up with.

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