How To Name Your Business
Photo: What should I name this little fellow? Caught him out of Boston Harbor. I put him back in the water, but we said hello to each other first.
[Wrote this back when I was opening my fitness studio…way, way, back. Some great tips that haven’t changed.]
So now the dreaded task of deciding on a name…
I’ve struggled to name everything from blogs and websites to classes and seminars. Why is naming the hardest thing to do in business? (really, I think it is)
Your name isn’t just a sign outside the door or a .com…it is the face of your brand. And your brand is everything! Your brand is what people talk about, refer to, buy into, and most importantly feel when they think of your company.
If I say “Monsanto”, what did you just feel?
Your name, unlike the paint color on the walls, can’t be changed whenever you feel like it. You may not be able to change it at all. Tweaked, perhaps, but that’s it. You are stuck with it. And it needs to last and grow with you and your business.
I have spent months (OK, maybe years) trying to think of the perfect name for some of my projects. Here is a list of some criteria I have come up with. This list has been generated from what I’ve read, heard, experienced, and personal observation of branding.
1. THE NAME NEEDS TO REPRESENT YOU (THE VISIONARY), YOUR CUSTOMERS (SO THEY CAN RESONATE WITH THE BRAND) AND YOUR VISION/PURPOSE.
2. THE NAME NEEDS TO BE SHORT.
No one wants to say something like “The Get Healthy Fitness Club”. Way too long, way too many syllables. IMHO, a name should be no more than ONE WORD with no more than THREE SYLLABLES. Two syllables is ideal. However, a second word can be used if it is generic and describes the business. For example, “Apple” was once referred to as “Apple Computers”. That is fine.
3. NO FUNKY SPELLINGZ!
I understand some people like to think cute, but these misspellings just make you look unprofessional and like you don’t really take your business seriously. This certainly applies to adding numbers inside of words to make the sound of the number, which sounds like a letter (OK, that was confusing). Like spelling “Innov8” instead of “Innovate”. Listen, if I’m tired, it may require too much work for me to figure out what it is you’re trying to spell. Don’t make the customer work at reading your name. Not a good first impression.
4. KEEP IT SIMPLE, BUT BE ORIGINAL.
I am a thesaurus addict. And in keeping with point #1, I try to think of simple words that define my vision. For one fitness project, I liked the word gravity. The Wikipedia definition states “Gravitation, or gravity, is a natural phenomenon by which all physical bodies attract each other…”. I thought this word was cool because it was different. Have you ever heard of a fitness club with the word gravity in it? It’s fairly original.
On the other hand, another word I like is balance. But balance is used in dozens of names for fitness studios, yoga studios, etc… It’s simple, but not at all original.
5. IT NEEDS TO BE EASY TO SAY.
When I come up with something that has promise, I repeat it to myself a few times and see what I think. If I struggle to say it, I bag it. The name needs to flow easily when spoken.
6. YOU NEED TO LIKE IT TOMORROW.
Another thing that happens when I think of a name that I like, is that I like it, at first, but then a few hours, or a few days later, I get that feeling in my stomach saying “nah…don’t really like it so much anymore”. Make sure once you think you’ve decided on a name, to keep coming back to it. For days, maybe even weeks.
7. GETTING THE .COM MATTERS, BUT DON’T VIOLATE #3 IN THE LIST TO GET IT.
You need the .com. It’s how we will search for you. Don’t hyphenate, don’t misspell, don’t abbreviate. Your .com name needs to follow all the rules above. The trick is to add a suffix that makes sense, if you can’t get the exact .com you want.
Using my example of Gravity, clearly I wouldn’t get gravity.com, but I could possibly get gravityfitness.com or gravityhealthclub.com.
8. YOU NEED TO ENVISION YOU ARE THE NEXT AMAZON…DOES YOUR NAME STILL WORK?
While there are many people starting local businesses, the truth is, you never really know how much you will grow. Can you use the same name?
9. HOW DOES THE NAME MAKE YOUR CUSTOMERS FEEL?
You ever read a baby name book? Usually they contain a list of popular names and what people associate with those names. For instance, the name Lindsey evokes the image of a pretty, young female. The name Adolf brings an image of Hitler. What will your customers feel (and think) when your name is spoken. Is it what you want them to feel and think?
10. IT MAY BE OK TO ASK FOR HELP (USE CAUTION), BUT IN THE END, YOU NEED TO MAKE THE DECISION.
Asking friends and family to help could back fire. First off, they are not you. They don’t understand your passion and may not be able to really give you good advice. More than that, if you don’t use their suggestion, they may feel hurt, so be careful asking for advice. The truth is, your business is more than a P&L sheet. It is your purpose, your passion, and your life. The name really needs to come from within you.
Quiet your thoughts and allow it to come to you. Don’t rush it, be patient, and be open to possibilities.