The task of naming your startup is an underestimated and daunting task. Like law firms, entrepreneurs often choose to use their personal names as the first attempt to name their businesses. Adams and Adams, Sanford and Son, Deloitte and Touche, Dlamini and Son etc, these are some of a couple of examples of businesses named after their founders. This trend continues to prevail and probably there is not much untoward about it.
The names of today’s celebrity tech companies seem almost obvious and inevitable. How could Google be anything other than Google, with its fun and colorful logo? What would Twitter be like without the cute little bird.
But there was a time when these names, too, had to be thought up. Google was named after a “googol” [10 to the 100th power]. Twitter describes phones buzzing in pockets around the world and was allegedly picked out of a hat.
Apple was named by Steve Jobs after he and his friend spend time at an apple farm where they decided to go on an fruitarian diets and they thought the name sounded “fun, spirited and not intimidating.”
If your startup’s at the naming stage, here are four steps to bring you closer to a memorable name.
1. Identify your culture and values
Naming your startup may take place around the same time that you’re forming and shaping your brand. Do you want to be less formal or serious, funny or intellectual, happy or helpful? Before you start thinking of specific names, set some guidelines for the emotion or personality you want to convey. Or, if you already have a few ideas in mind, see if you can identity a common tone or connotation.
You don’t want to just brainstorm a cute name with your friends, partners, or family members and leave it at that, consider listing the problems that your target market has, and then coming up with adjectives about the type of person they’d want to solve that problem – like trustworthy, fun, exciting, or personable. Then, look up synonyms for those words, and mix and match different combinations.
2. Talk to customers
The reason you can’t just “brainstorm a cute name” with your team and family is because you’re too close to the company.
You already know what it does, so you attribute meaning to the name that it might not have. The question really is: what impression will the name give to people who don’t know your company?
Pay close attention to the people you are talking to; they just might give you more than you asked for.
3. Check the tech: SEO [Search Engine Optimisation] and URLs [Universal Resource Locator]
You have a choice of real words or made-up words when coming up with a name. And they both have different effects on SEO, or search engine optimisation. When people google your business name, will it come out on the first page.
The question of real vs. made-up words raises a related debate: should your startup name be straightforward or mysterious? Aliens would have no idea what Google does, but Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Pinterest would give them at least some clue.
If you are developing a relatively new concept, you are better off having a name that is moderately descriptive of what you do. This helps your users get a handle on the general area in which you are operating, reducing one of the barriers to adoption [e.g., YouTube vs. Vimeo, SlideShare vs. RockYou].”
In the end, the question of SEO may be less important than making sure your name resonates with customers. That will guarantee you more traffic, which helps you rank higher in search results anyway.
4. Test your name
Finally, don’t forget the fun part – testing! Can your name be made into a verb? That’s been helpful for Google, Twitter (“tweet”), and Pinterest (“pin”).
Is it easy to pronounce? It will get old fast if you have to write “Clicue [pronounced as Click]” every time you mention your company.
Is it easy to spell? If you will be doing advertising on radio or TV, it’s better to have a name that’s spelled like it sounds.
Can you pivot or expand? Choosing a name like Bookacoach that locks you into a specific product means you’ll have to rebrand if you pivot or add new verticals.
Does it work in different languages? Do a final check to make sure your name isn’t funny or offensive in a foreign language, so you don’t get picked for lists like these.
Naming is an art and, as much as you may want to do it overnight, it takes time. After a frustrating brainstorming session, you may just have to take a break and let your subconscious do some work. If you’re still stuck, consider giving yourself a nickname and letting the real name emerge over time.
In the end, while naming is critical, it’s not the most critical thing. Your product or service you offer is the most critical, you can have the best name but if your product/service is not up to standard you will not be in business for long.