The idea of naming your business or product can feel daunting and overwhelming.
The whole thing feels so… permanent, doesn’t it?
Believe me, I’ve been there. But the goal of this guide is to lead you through a simple step-by-step process that will eliminate that pressure as much as possible.
If you invest the time in each section of this guide, it will provide you with the prompts necessary to come up with a name that offers a meaningful, clever and timeless foundation for your brand.
Let’s look at four tips for making the most of this naming process…
Naming Your Business Tip #1: Set The Mood
Make sure that you’re in a motivated, energized state when you sit down to begin. We want those creative juices to be flowing like crazy, and if you’re trying to tackle this guide after a 12-hour workday when your mind feels fried, you may not be in the best frame of mind to reap its benefits.
Naming Your Business Tip #2: Go Easy On Yourself
In order for ideas to thrive, they need to feel free to roam. As you dive in, try to limit the pressure you put on yourself to come up with the Best Business Name Of All Time – at least at first. This open-minded approach will give your brain the safe space it needs to form connections and set fire to sparks of inspiration.
Naming Your Business Tip #3: Give Ideas The Time They Need To Marinate
There may be times during this guide that you feel you’ve hit a creative wall. That’s okay. Don’t try to force it. If you find yourself stuck, walk away for a bit and let your ideas marinate. You want to build in the necessary time to let your mind mull things over and to sit with your ideas so that you feel you’re making the best decision for your business.
Naming Your Business Tip #4: HAVE FUN!
This is YOUR business after all. It’s your idea that you’re ushering into existence and this should be an exciting part of that process, so enjoy it!
Before we dive in and start brainstorming, let’s briefly review WHY coming up with a great name is so vital to your business and your brand.
Why coming up with an effective name for your business is important
Your business name is the foundation of your brand. It’s one of the most important ways you can make a first impression on your potential clients or customers.
When people hear or see the name of your business, they’ll begin forming an immediate perception of your company.
- Are you trendy and cool, or trusted and professional?
- Is it easy for someone to understand right away what you sell or what service you provide?
- Is your name memorable and something they can recall (or Google) later?
A great name can also contribute to the marketing of your business.
Is it catchy? Easy to remember?
A name is important because it’s the foundation that you lay everything else in your brand over top of. In fact, it’s likely the single most defining element of your brand because it informs all other parts.
Once you’ve decided on a name, it can be extremely difficult to change down the road, and if you do, you run the risk of losing any brand equity that you might have built up over time. That’s all the more reason to come up with the right name right off the bat – one that not only feels aligned with the business you want to build, but one that can grow and adapt to your various business goals in the future.
The good news is, this guide will walk you through these important considerations, and many more. The result will be a name that provides you that excellent foundation and first impression you’re looking for.
Naming Your Business Part One: Brainstorm Bonanza
In order to arrive at that perfect name – whether it be for your business, your product, or your latest e-course – you want to start with as much relevant inspiration as you can.
To provide you with that inspiration, we’re going to come up with as many words as possible as potential jumping-off points. Think of these words as little seedlings that will hopefully grow into one fully mature, grand oak of a name.
The important part here in allowing your brain to get its creative juices flowing is to take the pressure off.
You want to create an environment without criticism or judgment. So, as you move through this phase, don’t worry about which words you like or dislike right now or what sounds like a great business name and what doesn’t. This stage is one of those rare instances when quantity outweighs quality.
At this stage, there is no such thing as a bad idea.
We don’t mind “bad ideas” at this stage of the process (brainstorming). Bad ideas can often spark the inspiration necessary for good ideas, so try to keep an open mind with yourself!
To get this brainstorm party started, write down a list of words based on the following prompts. If you can, try to come up with at least 20-30 per list!
A. List words that come to mind when you think of the products you want to sell, the service you want to provide, or WHAT your business does. As many as you can! (Example: Are you a coffee shop? Some words that come to mind: beans, hot, brew, pour, mug, foam, grounds, roast, cup, etc.)
B. List adjectives and attributes that you want people to associate with your business. (Example: Is your coffee shop all about quality coffee sourced from around the globe and giving back to those farm communities? In that case, your words might be: caring, kind, good, giving, helpful, grateful, delicious, global, quality, craft, etc.)
C. (Optional): Is your business personal to you? Maybe it’s a personal brand or a family business? Also write down words that have personal meaning to you. (ie. names, nicknames, street names you grew up on, areas of your hometown, words that have significance from your childhood, etc.)
Warning! If you choose to incorporate a personal name or place into your business name, be careful. Do you plan to sell your company in the future or transfer ownership? What happens to Uncle Bert’s Bistro when Uncle Bert wants to retire? If you’re a video production company in Michigan and want to go by “Michigan Media House” are you limiting your potential customer base? If you decide you’re willing to travel for projects, will customers think you only service the Michigan area? These are things you want to be mindful of if you decide to include these personal elements in your name.
D. Now go one step further and think of metaphors or related words for some of the words you wrote in A + B above. Think of what other words come to mind when you think of those words (eg. quick >> rabbit; jewel >> precious; cute >> button.) Let your brain run wild! (Based on my coffee shop example: craft >> maker, blacksmith, apprentice. Giving >> hands, heart. etc.)
Pro tip! Don’t be afraid to use Thesaurus.com or The Free Dictionary’s Idiom Search tool. They can lead you to unexpected words and phrases you may not have thought of!
Naming Your Business Part Two: Playing Favorites
Remember how in Part One there were no bad ideas and everyone was welcome at the party? Well, Part Two is when we hire a bouncer to work the door and bad ideas start being asked to leave. This stage is when we take your list of words and narrow it down.
Revisit your list of words from Part One and pick out the ones that stand out to you.
Pay attention to the gut reaction you have when you hear a word or read it.
- Does it feel interesting or familiar to you?
- Does it give you a good feeling when you say it out loud?
- Does it have positive images and connotations that immediately come to mind?
If so, circle those words on your list, and re-write them down!
Naming Your Business Part Three: Creative Combinations
Once you have a solid list of words that you feel good about, then it’s time to take those seeds and finagle/arrange/combine/transform them into a business name.
Imagine that your words from Part Two are your Legos — they’re the building blocks of your name. Now it’s time for us to put them together in different ways and see what we can create.
Explore each of the following prompts using your “building block” words and write down potential names that you can form:
- Combine two separate words to make a compound business name. (Ex. SkillShare; Salesforce;)
- Take just parts from two separate words to make a one-word business name (Ex. Groupon [group+coupon])
- Adjoin two words with a “+” or “&” to come up with something more unique. (Ex. Wit & Delight; Crate + Barrel;)
- Combine one or two of your words with a more descriptive, business-related word to give people an idea of what you do. (Ex. Rifle Paper Co.; 9th Letterpress;)
Heads-up! Make sure that if you go this route, your business name is conceptually sound and not overly trendy. (For instance, even though I’m a coffee shop that sells high-quality coffee, “QualiCof” is probably not the most timeless brand name.) Put yourself in the shoes of your consumer and ask, would I scoff or roll my eyes at this name? If the answer is yes, then don’t choose it!
Naming Your Business Part Four: Picking “The One”
Once you have some different potential names written down from Part Three, go through each one using the following questions to narrow down your list even further:
A. Does this name sound good to me when I say it out loud?
B. Does this name align with the mission of my business and how I want people to perceive it?
C. If I told people this name in passing, would they find it easy to remember/easy to spell?
D. Do I plan to expand my business to include other products or services in the future, and if so, does this name give me the flexibility to do so?
As you go through your list, prioritize your favorite names by writing a 1, 2, 3, and so on next to them. You’ll want multiple options in case your name’s domain isn’t available or your social media handles are taken. These are important factors that we’ll go through in Part Five.
But first, take a moment to look back at your list.
Do you still feel like you haven’t found “the one?” when it comes to naming your business?
Do you have a few good leads but nothing that feels completely right? That’s okay! Sometimes these things need a little bit of time to marinate.
Try walking away for a while and letting your subconscious stew on your list from Part Three. Play a game, do some exercise or tackle an art project. Allowing your mind to activate different areas will give your creative muscles a rest, and it’s likely that when you come back to this guide, you’ll have a renewed perspective on things.
Tip: We recommend getting out in nature if you’re hitting a mental roadblock. It ALWAYS helps us!
You may even want to go back to Part One and start the process over again.
Try adding new words to your list. Are there words that continue to come back up over and over again?
As I mentioned in the beginning of this guide, your name is the foundation for your brand so you want to make sure it feels right. Have patience and keep the ideas flowing until you reach a conclusion that feels like it fits.
If you DO feel like you’ve found the right fit, continue to on!
Naming Your Business Part Five: The Final Checklist
Now that you have a name you feel confident about, you want to make sure that it’s viable in terms of intellectual property, marketing, and social media. Here is an important list of factors to consider when making sure your business name is available for marketing purposes:
Is your domain name available?
You can use a free tool like Lean Domain Search to search for your business name and several other domains including your desired name.
Is your business name available on social media?
Is your new name or a version of it available across popular social media platforms in case you want to use them to promote? You can use Namech_k to easily check ALL social media sites in one spot (pretty neat, huh?)
Does your business name already have a trademark?
Search in the federal database if you’re in the US to check the trademark database (wow that website is awful!) You can also Google your business name to make sure that another popular business isn’t using it even if they don’t have a trademark.
Lastly, does this name differentiate you from your competition?
Is it memorable and different enough that you will stand out? Does it feel like it can stand on its own above anything similar? For us, there are other sites that use the phrase “Wandering Aimfully” but it’s verrrry far and few between.
And guess what, if you make it through all those questions unscathed?
Congratulations, you’ve succeeded in naming your business or product!
You’ve put in the work necessary to create the best possible foundation for your business and brand. Now it’s time to buy your domain, grab your social media handles and launch your business!
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