6 critical things to consider when naming your new start-up or business

It is a challenge to come up with just the right name for any business or product. I will say it is a lot easier to name something for another person than it is to come up with a name you feel represents yourself or your product. Our agency often works with start-ups to help walk through the naming process. I haven’t encountered the magical unicorn naming tool that will help you arrive at the perfect name but I would suggest taking these elements into account when you think you have found a name that works.

1. Make sure it feels right

Find something that feels right. I know this is subjective but I have encountered many business owners that hate their name but have invested a significant sum of money into building that brand. Put the time and effort into coming up with something that you like and feel good about. You will have to scream it from the mountains so make sure you like the sound of it on your lips.

2. Find a solid domain name

Find something with a logical domain name. A good domain name is still extremely important. I don’t believe it needs to be a .com. With all of the newTLDs, you can get creative and find something that will stand out. Regardless of the domain you choose, make sure it is easy for people to remember and type in. If you’re having trouble finding a domain that is available remember there are tons and tons of great names that people have already registered either for a business that never started or a business that failed. You might be able to talk them into selling something great that they aren’t planning to use even if the domain is registered. We have had great success approaching people about purchasing domains and have paid anywhere from $25-$10,000 for the right domain for a new product or service.

3. Make sure your name doesn’t have a bad history

Once you find a name and a domain combination that works, make sure you scour the Internet Archive and other back history checking tools to make sure the domain was not used for unethical activity in the past. I have encountered previously registered domains that were used as part of web spam networks or link farms. Starting with one of those could hinder your ability to rank in search. You want to find a domain name that is fresh with no history, or even better, one with a good solid reputable history you can build upon.

4. Make sure a competitor isn’t using it

Make sure that nobody else in the marketplace is using the same name. With all of the new TLDs out there lots of duplicate business names are being created. This can cause trademark issues because the trademark generally goes to the person that used the name first in the market. I would suggest performing a number of Internet searches with different combinations of the name to see what comes up. If you have a great name but feel there might be a conflict with another business in the marketplace consult an attorney.

5. Make sure it isn’t already ‘owned’ by someone more important

Avoid names that are already fully or partially used by huge corporations, government entities, schools, and other large businesses in different industries. As you’re working to build your company and brand it is important that people can find you through search. If you choose a great name that is already extremely popular for another reason when people search it is likely the more popular entity will own the search results. You don’t want to be in a situation where potential customers are trying to Google your name and you are unable to show as the first listing because the search engine is confused. As search engines have improved their ability to show local listings this has become a less important issue but one I believe should not be ignored. We have a client that chose the name “Spalding” but they had both a large local business in their market that uses that name and several large national businesses including the sports equipment manufacturer. While our client is in a different market than either of these similarly named companies, when someone searches Spalding locally or nationally they were not the even on the first page of the search results. It took us a lot of effort to help them resolve this problem.

6. Make sure to own the trademark

Make sure whatever name you choose is not trademarked. You can search the USPTO database for free. If there isn’t an existing trademark for your name in the industry you’ve chosen, you have a potential candidate. If you decide to use this name, I would suggest trademarking it as soon as you have determined you would like to move forward with the domain. This process can be relatively quick and painless if your name does not have any conflicts. If it does, you will either have to prove that they’re not true conflicts or find another name. It is best to go through this process early when it is still easy to switch to an alternate name.

I hope these elements help. If you’re able to find a name that meets the above criteria you should be ready to get down to business. My final suggestion is not to let not having the right name hold you back from developing your business. I have seen far too many people get mired in trying to come up with the right name, become overwhelmed and never get their business off of the ground. Take time to figure out your business, your strategy, your competitive point of difference, and write a business plan. As you work through this process the right name may just come to you.


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