This post has been updated multiple times based on many personal sagas as well as helping others go through it.
Warning: It’s because of this experience that I think you MUST have a success state or finish line in mind before you go through this.
This process can be as painful and long as you let it be. And looking for ‘the perfect name’, without a tool to measure if you’ve found it or not, is a recipe for frustration. And this taking forever.
My recommendation is to start by writing out an explicit finish line. So that you can easily figure out what the ‘right’ name is (I did say naming it fast afterall).
Start by listing out the most relevant categories of people that your business will involve. For example, all businesses will have ‘Employees’ and ‘Customers’, some might include ‘Suppliers’ or ‘Vendors’.
Then I would suggest that you list out the things that each of those groups of people would appreciate about the name, starting with your customers as they’re the most important. Typically for customers that means things like:
- Understandable (they can figure out what you do by the name)
- Company sounds trustworthy
- Desirable (they want what the company might offer)
Because afterall, if your ideal customer hears your brand name, they understand it, they trust it, and they want what the company provides, what more do you want? That’s a very effective brand name.
Those things I just listed above are the types of benchmark metrics that you should be sorting your name options by when actually making a final decision so you can actually launch. This should often be as simple as showing a list to your target market and asking them “which one is easiest to understand or trust?”.
The only other factor beyond the Customers and Vendors is whether the name is also say “attractive for career reputation” to the ‘Employees’ group mentioned above. “Jimbob’s Popcorn” doesn’t look good on their resume, but even “Carnival Foods” looks better.
These are things that you should consider in your search, even if a name is totally available.
Cleverness vs Clarity:
You sacrifice one to get the other. Please don’t be clever. Strive for the utmost level of clarity. The average person should be able to figure out what you provide and be interested just based on the name alone.
Adjective + Noun
Adjective + Verb
Verb + Noun
Don’t reinvent the wheel, make it simple and clear, and it will be a winner. Most companies rebrand at least once, so focus on choosing something solid that won’t cost you customers or employees from a bad perception, and roll with it.
You can use tools like Rhyme Zone to check for alliterative words that rhyme, especially under a certain amount of syllables (2-3 max usually). This helps with catchiness even while still being clear.
I also built this spreadsheet template (use this link to easily make a copy), that can help take the most fundamental concept words that describe your business effectively, and combine them automatically. This can help speed up seeing options and ruling out ones that might have problems when in a domain name form etc.
It needs to be under 5 syllables to remain easy to say and isn’t a drag to repeat.
If you can’t control the domain, you can’t control the brand and marketing. Generally speaking, I would strongly recommend you don’t skimp on this one with an alternate domain other than a “.com” domain. You can use Namecheap.com’s bulk search tool to check domain availability for a number of concepts at once, and purchase them for one of the best prices around.
Good connotations check:
Google the name, search social media, news, and crowd sourced dictionaries for the name and make sure it doesn’t have any bad connotations. Think about the companies naming their products “Isis” before that was well known, that’s a bummer.
Acronym connotation check:
Make sure the connotations of your acronym aren’t bad. For example, the acronym for Helpful Systems is “HS”, which at worst means “High school”, which is acceptable. Can’t be perfect on any of these, but just don’t name your business something like “Perfect Process” which has an unfortunate acronym.
Duplicate connecting character check:
Now that we’ve checked the easier stuff, hopefully it’s survived the checklist this long! Now we’re getting to the more thorough tests. This one is does it have a confusing character combo when smooshed together. For example, Joshua Anderson is an unfortunate name because www.joshuaanderson.com has two “a” characters next to each other:
So now it looks like it’s misspelled when it’s a domain. And trust me, the amount of people that will misspell this is immense. Unless you want to risk people getting your email and website wrong constantly, skip these kinds of names. Don’t even think about this unless it’s absolutely required. So be sure to check that the last character of each word doesn’t match the character of the first letter of the next word. At the least if this is your name for example and you can’t change it, make sure to purchase the domain name with a single of the characters. So if it’s johNNelson.com, also buy johNelson.com (with one N in the middle). This way even if people type it wrong, it still works. Obviously this is a hassle and to be avoided when possible.
Social media handle check:
Check social media platforms for availability of that name, or at least other pages that might pose a risk of confusion or brand perception. At least check platforms that you believe will be useful for your business. You can use tools like Namecheckr to speed up the process, but there is a risk of people harvesting the search data and registering those handles (or domains as well) before you do. I would also recommend checking hashtags as well, since even if the name is available, or you plan to purchase the name from someone else (a risky strategy that hasn’t worked much for me in my experience, but more power to you), the name could be used in a way you didn’t expect in the hashtag.
Intellectual property check:
There’s usually 4 main types of intellectual property; trademarks, copyrights, patents, and trade secrets. In terms of business naming, you should probably be concerned with the first 2 typically (copyrights and trademarks). You can do at least a preliminary check on websites like the USPTO. You will however probably want to utilize a Intellectual Property attorney for either large projects, and/or when there’s a potential conflict and you aren’t sure. Many otherwise good businesses have been harmed by this factor when left unchecked.
Originally published 2017