Naming a start-up business isn’t easy. Unless you’re co-opting your own last name, or something realllly clever came to you in a dream one night, chances are you’ve struggled with that task. It stands to reason. There’s been all sorts of ill-fated names in the start-up business, and for every Google that flourishes and becomes part of the common vernacular, there’s an I’minlikewithyou that ends up changing their name because the original one sucked. Given that, there’s a lot of pressure on entrepreneurs these days to come up with a catchy name for their business. And even if you’re not starting a global tech business, or a clean tech company, you still want a memorable name for your business that’s easy to brand and that will resonate with customers.
One of the first places to start with the task is to determine whether you want to make up a name (a road fraught with all sorts of challenges—see I’minlikewithyou) or whether you want to use an existing words or phrase (which has its own challenges). Here’s where this useful tip sheet from HP’s Small Business Marketing Guide comes in: it lists the pros and cons of each side, and helps you narrow down which direction you should go. We’ve swiped some of the most useful points from the article and listed them below.
1) Inexpensive to convey what business you are in. “With a name like Smith’s Towing, for instance, people will know exactly what your company does based on the name alone.”
2) Easier to get found in the search engines. It’s common sense: “If your business name is Toledo Plumbing, you already have a natural advantage for getting found when someone searches for Toledo plumbing companies.”
1) Descriptive names may seem unexciting. It goes without saying—Susan’s Car Wash isn’t that most titillating name.
Unique (aka made-up) Name
1) “Made-up words set your brand apart – Think of some of the Web 2.0 business names: YouTube, TechCrunch, Squidoo, Gizmodo.”
2) Easier to trademark and get a matching domain name. “Many descriptive dot-com domain names are long gone…”
3) “Flexible enough for strategic business changes – If your business is named Mary’s Bakery, but later on you decide to open a deli or develop a line of mail order gift baskets, you may find your name is too limiting. Whereas, something like Toodleberry’s does not limit you to a single line of business.” (ed note: This example also inadvertently illustrates why made-up names can be…bad. Toodleberry’s? Ouch.)
1) See all of the advantages of a descriptive name above. A made-up name doesn’t necessarily convey what your business does, and you also run the risk of sounding, well, ridiculous.
For the entire list of tips, as well as some other useful information about business naming, click here.