Lyft. Drizly. Posh-mark. X.
Some startup names evoke feelings of joy and convenience, while others evoke controversy. But whether you’re launching a cutting-edge startup or a local business, many of us can agree it’s important for business names to be catchy, pack a punch, or at the very least, be memorable.
It’s a tall order, especially when it seems like the economy is flooded with so many awesome and epic startup names. It causes many of us emerging entrepreneurs to wonder whether the best company names are the product of a single cofounder’s genius creativity, or a result of strenuous market research?
The truth is, creating a memorable business name requires some mix of creativity, relevance—and even some legal considerations. Here’s a structured process to help guide you through finding a memorable name for your startup:
1. Brainstorm, but within parameters. Brainstorming can be a blast but it should be a productive session, especially when it enlists the time and brainpower of paid employees or consultants. Even if you’re brainstorming alone or with a cofounder, you want to allocate a reasonable amount of time to finding a company name, and don’t let it hold you back from launching and building a business. Consider giving yourself a deadline for compiling a working list of potential names, then another list for selecting the final winner.
The first step to productive brainstorming is to focus on keywords relevant to your business. Start by listing keywords related to your product or service, industry, values, or unique selling points. Focusing on keywords can help you arrive at suggestive terms that give a hint about what your business does. This is great for marketing and reaching your target audience.
2. Get creative! Incorporating keywords and suggestive names are an important part of smart branding, and should provide a solid framework. But it’s also okay to have some fun and encourage creativity during your brainstorming phase. Combining keywords is one way to get inventive and clever. Mix and match relevant words to create unique variations. While you want to be distinct, avoid any words that are difficult to read, spell, or type.
You can also take some time to brainstorm words that spark certain emotions. What is your startup’s mission, and how will your company name strike a chord with your target audience? If you’re a clean energy organization aiming to address climate change, your company name should carry some gravity or encourage action. If you’re a fashion business you want to sound sleek and stylish. Building a dessert empire? Companies like Sprinkles, Crumbs and Chip City have thrived for many reasons, including their sweet and catchy business names.
3. Let simplicity and scalability guide you. While you strive for a unique title, consider opting for a name that’s easy to spell, pronounce, and remember. Leave out words that are commonly misspelled or mispronounced. Simplicity will also help you find a business name that can scale with your company. If you expand your service area or product line, will your business name appropriately grow with you? You also want to think about how the name will fit into branding efforts. Can the name be easily incorporated into a logo, tagline, and your overall company culture?
4. Check for availability on all fronts. Ensure the name is not already trademarked or being used by another business. The US Patent and Trademark Office website can be a helpful resource, as well as a simple Google search.
No matter your business name, make sure the domain is available online. It’s best that your business name and domain name match so that customers can easily find you online. To ensure that both align, consider using alternative top-level domains such a .biz, .CO, .US or .club, as they often have more availability for exact match domain names.
You also want to make sure the name is available on all relevant social media platforms. Make sure the profile name as well as the handle are up for grabs, and available for you to use.
5. Get feedback. Getting a second opinion on your chosen business names should also be done within certain, strategic parameters. While you value the opinion of many friends and family members, it’s important to remember that choosing a company name is a serious business decision. Clouding your judgment with too many opinions can be time consumingand hold you back. Consider sharing ideas for potential names with trusted professionals, associates as well as your target audience to gauge their reactions. No matter who is part of your sounding board, take a structured approach to collecting feedback be it organized notes, surveys and data.
6. Get legal. Before launching, purchasing any storefront signage, or publishing any business websites, it is absolutely critical to take all legal considerations. Hire a legal professional with a background in serving startups and small businesses to ensure the name doesn’t infringe on trademarks or violate any laws.
7. Focus on your mission. It might be tempting to chase trends, especially when you want to appear cutting edge or innovative. But the truth is, trends can fade, so choose a name with long-term relevance. Last but not least, it’s important that your selected company name echoes your business mission. Remember, your business name is a significant part of your brand’s identity, so take your time and choose one that resonates with your vision and values.